Salonika Mirrors Part IV.

10 Jul

I.

The more that Paris Xanthos wrote, the greater grew his need to see and consult with his grandfather. Who else could tell him whether he was taking the right road toward a usable film script? Certainly not his father, the director of movie production. He had lost faith and trust in Nikos Xanthos from many painful experiences with that parent of his.

The valet led Paris through the interior of the Ano Poli mansion, past the expensively furnished decorations, to the plain, simple patio area that the film magnate spent much of his daytime in. The grandson greeted the family patriarch, stepping up to the surprised and seated Spiro and taking his right hand and kissing it with reverence.

“Please, be seated, my dear boy.” mumbled the older one with surprise. “Tell me, are you feeling better now? Has this clinic you mentioned to me resulted in good results and helped you to write once more, as you had done when you started to occupy yourself in the production of movie dramas?”

Paris sat down across from his relative, smiling with joy at the news he was now able to report.

“Yes, it really worked,” he announced in a tone of triumph. “I did not anticipate that the therapy would succeed so much or so quickly, but I can boast that as of yesterday I have experienced full and satisfactory recovery of my writing abilities.

“I can create new scenarios and narratives at my old speed, and the results have been the best I have ever turned out.

“It is possible for me to claim that I am the beneficiary of what it would be justified to call nearly a miracle. What some might see as impossible has brought me back to being an active writer, as competent as I ever was at any time before.”

“I am thrilled to hear that!” noted Spiro with authentic emotion.

“Let me describe for you the film story that is almost completed, that I consider the best plot I ever conceived of, grandfather.

“It is a drama set in the mythological prehistory of the ancient Greeks. The characters are the primordial gods and goddesses, the ones that existed before the Zeus and the Olympians.

“The family conflicts and divisions, the murders and assassinations, the tangled loves and hatreds, the so-called War of the Titans, the rebellion against Ouranos, then the later revolt against Cronus, on and on…The story is an unending one that never becomes stale.

“Do you agree that the theme of warfare between the prime parents and their progeny can serve as a fascinating subject for filming?”

“Indeed,” replied Spiro with sudden enthusiasm. “But are actors able to enact such unusual roles? Is there a director willing to take command of such an unconventional story?

“It would be highly difficult to put together, manage, and carry out such a complicated, exotic project.

“I would have to investigate and explore the possibilities here in Salonika, my dear Paris. But yes, it would be a world-class wonder were we to execute such an idea.

“It is you who must write the primary script for such a film drama. Can you provide me a working version in the very near future, my boy?” inquired Spiro with energy and inspiration in his voice, now sounding almost youthful.

“Certainly, sir,” confirmed Paris. “You shall be able to read the entire work in just a few days time.”

“Het back to work on this story,” softly commanded the grandfather.

The reborn writer left in a trance resembling delirium.

Aglaia glowed with promising hopefulness as she shared a late supper with Athos at one of their favorite fish restaurants dockside in Ladidika. Both of them ordered the famed specialty of the estiatorio, cuttlefish. She told him of how encouraging her effects on patients, especially Paris Xanthos, were becoming.

“The more I lead him into ancient mythology, the greater and deeper his self-understanding and comprehension grow. The results are there, and I consider them incontrovertible. The young man has returned to his profession of writing with enthusiasm and inspiration. In fact, he is utilizing his new awareness of our cultural heritage with direct application of the fables and legends from our past in new dramatic, cinematic works that he has composed. And he continues to write without any previous inhibitions that plagued him when he first sought help in our clinic.”

Athos stared intently into her dark brown eyes. “Yes, what you say is good to hear, and it makes a lot of sense in terms of practical therapy. I have no doubt on that score.

“But I ask myself the question of how it affects our application of laser light and the mirrors. So far, it appears to agree with and parallel everything else. But how long with that be the case? I wonder.”

Aglaia smiled with confidence. “I plan to penetrate more fully into ancient mythology with time,” she explained to him. “For instance, Paris Xanthos will be encouraged by me to explore the Greek primordial deities who preceded Zeus and the Olympians.

“I am continuing my research into the folklore traditions of the pre-Hellenic Pelasgians and early influences from the Middle East and the Semitic peoples and nations. Nothing should be held back from our patients. It can only aid them in revealing the mental pathologies that we inherit from the past.

“Those early, quite primitive troubles and conflicts continue into the present, don’t they?”

Athos, wrapped in another path of thought, gave no direct answer but chose to change the subject.

“I am happy that Paris has progressed so far in a short time. And it appears that Despina will soon be able to function as a well-prepared clinic associate in every sense.”

II.

Spiro Argyros, as a rule, made it a habit of visiting his company’s filming studios on the northern periphery of Salonika only when he had some important or urgent matter to see to there. This particular morning he arrived in his chauffer-driven Chinese limousine with the outline of a potential script in the case he carried with him.

He made his way on his own past the outdoor model structures and street-like scenery to the hangar where indoor filming went on. His destination was the editing department where he expected to find his son-in-law busy with the formation of a final version of the film made out in the Aegean days ago.

Director Nikos Xanthos, who trusted no one to make final cuts and editing except himself, was involved with the review and evaluation of the raw footage shoot by himself on the island of Kos.

Turning away from his micro-electronic screening viewer, he gave a look of total surprise upon catching sight of his father-in-law stepping up to him. The two men exchanged greetings and Nikos invited the visitor to take a seat beside himself.

“You must view for yourself the magnificent sun lighting and maritime coloring we were able to film,,” smiled the director. “There can be no doubt of the market value of what has been done on this production. I am increasingly certain that we shall be enjoying success, both with the international public and inside our own industry throughout the world.”

Spiro made an ironic, cynical grimace of mistrust. “I have formed a definite, concrete idea of what our next big project ought to be. In fact, I already have an outline of the general plot and the main characters in a story outline.

“The film envisioned will be set in Greek prehistory, and the characters will consist of Olympian gods and their Titan ancestors. The focus will be on inter-generational conflict and problems. The actors would have to carry out many acts of behavior beyond the level of humans. But there are film characters capable of doing that.”

Spiro Argyros paused, staring fixedly at the director. “You will be surprised when I give the name of the screen-writer responsible for this scheme. It is your son, my own grandson, young Paris.”

For two or three seconds, Nikos seemed to gasp for air. His eyes turned blank and nearly empty. But the director speedily restored his self-control to its customary high level.

“I spend much of my free time worrying about my son,” he confessed as if thinking aloud. “He is still very young and inexperienced. I dare to even characterize the boy as green and naïve. It is the kind of vulnerability I think of as innocence, still unaccustomed to the rough pain and jolts of life.” He stared into the chocolate eyes of his father-in-law, searching for some sort of confirmation of his own judgment. “I doubt that my son is ready to produce a drama script for a serious or marketable film with substance to it.”

Not deterred by what Nikps had just said, the older man proceeded to describe the principle theme of his grandsons proposed script.

“This cinema would be unlike anything ever put on film before. I cannot find or remember anything similar. If nothing else, Paris promises to provide something totally original. No one has ever before created such a daring, I would even say dangerous, a cinematic work anywhere in the world.

“There will be the rebellion and overthrowing by Cronus of his own father, Ouranos. Then, almost as retribution, there is the revolution against Cronus led by his own child, Zeus.

“In the initial revolt, it is the Titans who follow their brother Cronus and make him the new supreme ruler of the gods. In the second instance, Zeus leads and liberates his brothers and sisters from Cronus and the Titans. It is like a repetition, a second version of the same pattern, the same drama.

“In both these wars, Gaea as the wife and mother at first and in the second case as grandmother, inspires, advises, and encourages the dethronement of her own mate and then of his successors, Zeus and the Olympians. In the first act, the provoking figure is Gaea, in the second example, it happens to be Gaea again who organizes the overthrow of the Olympians by the Titans and the Heterogens,

“This pattern provides a scenario that reflects much of the internal conflict always present in a family, a prima; human tension and opposition. Children against parent and vise-versa. Husband and wife, wife and husband in different configurations with and against their own progeny.

“As I think more about such a film drama, I become convinced that it will enjoy a worldwide, a universal appeal, both consciously and subconsciously.

“Our young Paris has caught onto a subject of enormous potential interest everywhere. And it can all be found in our earliest Greek mythology and folklore.”

Nikos, realizing that no argument from himself could influence this enthusiasm in Spiro Argyros, decided to stay silent and say no more of a doubting or critical nature about his son and his film script.

=

Paris, looking forward to his scheduled therapeutic treatment with the laser mirrors operated by Aglaia, first met with Dr. Gavrion in the latter’s office.

“How are you feeling, how are you seeing yourself and your life after the experiences you have undergone with our mirrors, my friend?” began the psychiatrist.

Paris did not have to take time to make an energetic reply.

“It has been extremely impressive to me. I did not foresee any such immediate beneficial effects. My ability to write as I wish has felly come back to me. I am now doing what I feared had become impossible. And most of this resurrection of myself as a writer I ascribe to the ancient myths and legends brought to my attention my your therapeutic assistant, Miss. Chryseis. She gave me insights about my own unconscious feelings and thoughts that I had always been completely ignorant of.

“I have become like a different person with a new, unprecedented character to him.”

Athos felt himself free to speak to this enlightened patient without caution or inhibition.

“That is something that I did not perceive when I first opened this clinic.
ncient
“It is Aglaia, a serious student of early Greek culture and religion, who discovered the amazing parallels between the unconscious factors and forces of our mythology and legendary characters and our modern internal conflicts.

“There is much that we can apply and make use of in the thoughts and beliefs of our distant ancestors, my good man>”

Paris chuckled with anticipation. “I look forward to even more benefit to myself from what this next session under the mirrors will be revealing to me.”

III.

Behind the patient staring into the screen sat Aglaia, and next to her was her own assistant, Despina.

As the strength of the laser light grew within the treatment apparatus, Aglaia started to present further explanation of the fundamental relationships at the most abstract, universal level.

“Ancient cults like the Orphists had differing legends of how the gods and goddesses were born and came about out of original Chaos. There was more than a single version of how living beings, including the gods, goddesses, and the Titans came into existence.

“One simple legend held that the union of Chaos and the Earth Goddess Gaea resulted in the birth of Ouranos, or the Sky, and the rest of their children whom we call the Titans.

“A different legend held that the original progenitor of all life was Phanes, defined as the primordial form of Light. From him and the Chaos emerged his divine daughter, Nyx, known as the Night.

“In union with his daughter Nyx, Panes became creator of her first, primary son, the divine Sky we call Ouranos.

“The Titans and the Olympian gods to be ruled by Zeus came forth from Ouranos, their mother was recognized to be the Earth goddess, the mother known as Gaea.

“These are difficult and complicated concepts to understand and deal with, but one important aspect that all of them share is the crucial factor of duality, difference, and inevitable conflict involved in all of them.

“Light versus darkness, parent versus children, authority versus powerlessness.

“The parent fears being displaced by revolt or murder, the child fears being consumed, imprisoned, or killed.

“From the primordial beings and the Olympians, we humans inherit these examples of division, conflict, fear, and eternal suspicion.

“Is it a that the human mind and personality present a broken or shattered mirror deep inside so many persons”

All at once, Paris started to give expression to what his own mind was considering as he listened to what Aglaia was saying to both himself and Despina.

“I believe that I can fit my own mental troubles into such a theoretical framework,” he sleepily said. “It ends up as a matter of balance and consistency, that’s what it is.

“I came to this clinic with conflicting unconscious themes and drives in my unconscious. But the result of the mirror treatment and the legend analysis I have experienced here has led to rebalancing and harmonizing the internal inconsistences within myself and my personal thought.

“That is what makes it possible for me to be a writer once again,” he explained. “My imbalance problem has been solved, at least for the time being. But the result has turned out to be highly successful’

“For all of this, I have to thank the Asclepius Clinic and everyone connected to its therapy.”

Hylas Chryseis was surprised by who the visitor was appearing at his company’s headquarters. He was the president of the physician’s association of Salonika, Dr. Kostas Vergoula. What might be the cause of his coming here? wondered the industrial leader as he greeted and shook hands with him.

The two men sat down and tried to take the measure of each other.

“I take it that you are here because of the trouble posed by this psychiatrist Gavrion and his unacceptable type of treatment,” said Hylax with a forced, artificial smile.

Vergoula grinned back at the one before he was visiting. “I have been trying for a considerable time to convince my executive board to bring Gavrion before it to answer the charges against him. But they remain very reluctant to take that step of formal charges of malpractice. This has been extremely discouraging to me and others who agree with my evaluation of hum as a quack and imposter.

“I thought it wise to inform you of the frustrating situation that I face. It has been quite discouraging to me, I have to tell you, sir.”

Hylas Chryseis frowned and furrowed his brow. “Yes, I thank you from my heart for telling me how the matter rests at present. It is also troubling to me, I must admit.

“Is there any new course of action that your board can take against Gavrion?” he asked with desperation in his voice.

The physician’s face began to redden. “At the present moment, I see no way to overcome our lack of unity within our medical association. The situation has become a thoroughly tragic one, I have to confess.

“There does not seem to be any immediate answer to the puzzle that you and I both face.”

Both looked into the face of the other, seeing nothing beyond signs of hopelessness.

“We must make ourselves think and act with confidence and optimism,” finally murmured Hylas. “I believe there must be a way forward to our goal. We have not uncovered it yet, but I know somehow that it exists out there.”

Vergoula realized it was time for him to excuse himself and depart.

Paris felt himself in a state of unusual euphoria, of rhapsodic, inspiring enthusiasm,

As the noon hour approached, his hunger to eat grew and he prepared himself to exit from the clinic and find himself some sort of tasty, delicious food.

At the same time, another individual happened to be exiting the Asclepius Clinic with the same aim in mind.

“Are you leaving for lunch?” he asked Despina Ilias, walking immediately behind her. “Why don’t the two of us join together, Miss? I think you can probably choose the best place to eat in this part of Ladadika.

“Where do you intend to go got lunch at the moment? may I inquire of you.”

Despina stopped, turned around to him, and beamed a friendly, pleasant smile.

“I know a small, old-fashioned street café only two streets away,” she seemed to sing out. “I’m perfectly sure you will like the snack foods they offer, like spanakopita and tirokopita. Everybody enjoys eating simple spinach or cheese pies.”

“You make them sound very yummy,” joked Paris. “I must allow you to act as my guide to the best lunch café in the neighborhood,” he said with a soft laugh.

“I will lead the way for you,” replied Despina, stepping ahead out to the sidewalk.

The pair ambled on to the spot recommended by the new clinic employee, where they found a small round table in a back corner of the combined coffee shop and lunch room.

They ordered spinach pies and soon were busy eating and digesting them in silence. It was Despina who finished first and started to speak to the newest clinic patient.

“My connection to the Asclepius Clinic and Dr. Gavrion and Aglaia Chryseis has turned my life, my thinking, and my personality inside out. I am now like a reborn, recreated person. It is difficult to describe what happened to others. But I know that you are able to understand my story and experience, because it is plain to me that you happen to be going through a similar process of mental therapy.

“You are going to be as affected by the laser lights and the mirrors as was I, Mr. Xanthos.”

“Please, call me by my first name, Paris,” smiled the latter.

“And you must call me Despina,” she said in almost a whisper.Does

“As you know, I am a professional writer. Or perhaps I should say that I claim to be one. You see, I have never had anything of mine published, printed, dramatized, or filmed. That is my current project: to complete and perfect a scenario, a film drama of mine, and have it accepted by some producer or some company for cinematic staging. That is my hope and ambition, to see my story placed up on the screen worldwide.”

“I understand that your father is a famous director,” declared Despina. “Can your parent help you in getting your script accepted somewhere, by someone. Has he himself shown any interest in what you have created on your own?

“I would imagine that even if he is unwilling to film it himself, he could advise you which studies or producers might accept your work.”

Paris looked away, onto the street outside the café.

“My father has never involved himself with anything of mine, least of all a screen play. It is my grandfather, Spiro Argyros, who has spurred me on in my writing. And he has been interested and impressed by what I have I initially put down and composed.

“Grandfather is both my advisor and my personal literary agent. He occupies a prominent position in the movie industry here in Salonika. I feel myself much closer to him than to anyone else in our field.”

“Even your father?” said a surprised Despina.

“Unfortunately,” affirmed Paris with embarrassment.

The two, understanding each other, changed the topic of discussion to general topics away from heir personal matters.

TV.

Hylas Chryseis watched the Security Director of his corporations enter his main office and obey his request that he sit down.

“We are blocked and stymied,” grumbled the magnate. “Do we have any more alternatives we can turn to?” he worried, searching the face of Anastas Bazaras as if he hoped to find some hint of an answer on it somewhere.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, a reply was murmured by the lanky man with the haggard look.

“I did not dare mention it till now, because there are questions of legal values and proprieties. Yes, I have knowledge of how certain delicate subjects were handled in the past here in Salonika, even back when we were under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. There continue certain hidden, secret traditions that go back into past ages and centuries. These can serve as desperate examples to persons driven by matters to absolute extremes.”

“Can you be more specific, Anastas?” mildly demanded the one in charge.

“Yes, I shall get down to cases, sir.

“It is not impossible for our city police force to take actions, legal actions, that would not be acceptable by any court were an individual or a private group to undertake them. There is a variety of such initiatives that our public officers and law officials can carry out that would never be investigated or examined by any prosecutor or judge. Everyone who has ever been a police detective like I was knows about this shadowy realm of discretion open only to those who operate at that cloudy level.”

Hylas grew agitated and excited. “What in particular could the police accomplish that no one else can do?”

“There are infractions, even of the most obscure laws and regulations, that the police know how to exploit for any aim or reason given to them. They can label the Esclepius Clinic a public nuisance for a number of different reasons.

“For example, the establishment happens to be misleading and defrauding its patients be lying to them about the so-called cures that the therapy produces. All that the police have to do is find one person or several who claim that they were fooled and hoodwinked by Dr. Gavrion and his band.

“The psychiatrist sold a bill of goods that was completely lies and fantasies. His claims were nothing but a swindle and a fraud. As a danger to the innocent, naïve public, it must be closed down and put out of operation,

“If not the others involved, at least Dr. Athos Gavrion must be arrested and prosecuted qw soon as possible.”

“This can happen, without my daughter being endangered along with the psychiatrist.”

“I can guaranmenutee that Aglaia will remain safe from police authority. My personal ties rise to the highest levels of the department.”

A few seconds of thought was all that Hylas needed to reach a solid decision,

“Proceed onward with this plan of yours, Anastas,” guardedly whispered the industrialist.

Athos came that evening to the apartment of Aglaia, who had promised a meal that she had prepared from recipe books covering what is known of ancient Hellenic cuisine.

“I have tried to omit those dishes that we borrowed from the Turks during our five centuries of Ottoman rule from Istanbul, the Constantinople and Byzantium that we lost to them in war.

“It was quite difficult to try to be a cultural purist, but I have worked on an Epiriot lamb stew with shepherd’s salad from the Peloponnese. At least I can claim that I did the best I could with tonight’s menu, Athos,” he fold him with a small laugh at the end.

“Let’s eat,” he mumbled. “I am not at all particular culturally, only very hungry after a day at the clinic.”

Only after both of them had finished and felt comfortable did Aglaia start to describe a project she had in mind to begin on the following day.

“I have been doing research on a fairly obscure area of ancient Greek mythology, but I feel uneasy in exposing a patient like Paris Xanthos to the kind of family relationships exemplified by its unusual characteristics.

“Specifically, I am studying and considered the war of the ancient Gigantes, the tribe of a hundred giants given birth by Gaea, the primordial Earth Mother who provoked the revolt of the Titans against Ouranos, and after that the rebellion of Zeus and his Olympic brothers and sisters against their father, Cronus.

“My focus of interest has turned upon the Gigantomachia, the unsuccessful war against Zeus and his siblings on Olympus inspired by Gaea, her third revolutionary project.

“Are you familiar with its outlines, Athos?” she inquired with a subtle spark in her brown eyes.

He looked down. “Only a very little, and it is only general, I would say.”

“It is often claimed that Gaea was jealous of all the supreme powers exercised by Zeus and the others, or that she was driven by a passion for vengeance for wrongs and insults to herself.

“Do you recall how these hundred giant beings were created?”

“I am uncertain about that,” confessed the psychiatrist.

“Legend tells us that she was accidently impregnated by the blood shed by her husband Ouranos when the Titans, his and her children, succeeded in castrating their father at the climax of the rebellion the Cronus led for his mother, Gaea.

“But in the case of this third overthrow that she conceived of and inspired, Gaea chose a specific individual iant to oppose and attempt to replace each of the major Olympic divinities.

“For example, Porphyrion was set against Zeus himself, and Enceladus against Athena. Zeus and Heracles, the god and the demigod hero, destroyed Porphyrion with bolts of lightning and arrows.

“So, this specific rebellion ended in complete failure, in total defeat for Gaea and her Gigantes.”

Athos meditated a moment, but then told her what he was thinking.

“I have read somewhere that the War of the Giants, this Gigantomachia, was a continuation of the unending conflict between the male principle exemplified in Ouranos and th female nature founded in Gaea, the Earth Mother.

“Is that an interpretation that may have use in our mirror therapy in terms of deep analysis of subconscious and unconscious factors?” postulated the psychiatrist.

“Could that fundamental conflict lie behind the three cases of mythical rebellion: against Ouranos, against Cronus and the Titans, and finally against Zeus and the Olympians?

“Is that too simple an explanation of so complicated mythical events?”

Aglaia broke into a shining smile of confidence. “Simple answers are often the best and the easiest to make,” she sweetly murmured to him.

Athos grew distant as he groped for a generalized conclusion.

“This concept of the female earth goddess taking revenge on the male sky god can be combined with the image we have used about the conflict between parent and child. The two ideas fit together as explanations of the bloody conflicts in Greek mythology.

“The children, whether Titans, Olympians, or Gigantes, serve as tools, instruments, and weapons in the basic division between male sky and female earth,”

Anastas Bazaras entered the office of his employer with good news, visible in the expressive grimace on his face.

“What is it?” inquired Hylas. “Has something of importance occurred?”

“Indeed, it has,” affirmed the security director. “Everything is set to go at the Salonika Police department of fraud investigations. The chief and his main subordinates have all, without exception, agreed with my proposal that they take command over the Asclepius Clinic and shut it down as soon as practically possible. It will be carried out by a professional team. They aim to confiscate all records and documentation. There will be emphasis on completeness and preservation of all incriminating evidence.

“This raid will occur after midnight on Saturday morning, when it can be certain that no one is present there on the premises or about the building.

“No attempt will be made to make any arrests at all on the occasion. Your daughter will not be placed in danger of any sort. She will be perfectly safe elsewhere.

“What do you think of my plan, sir?” said Bazaras with a tiny smirk.

“Yes, it is all well-prepared and thought out. I am appreciative of what you have done,” smiled Hylas.

“One more detail, sir. It will help to have wide acceptance of the initiative to close this clinic, and that can be done by you yourself. It happens that a member of a prominent family of the Salonika business and industrial elite has been a patient of the Asclepius Clinic. This person is the grandson of the movie titan, Spiro Argyros. This young man is a writer of film scripts. He goes to the clinic for psychiatric treatment with light mirrors. He has become totally controlled and subordinated by the quack Gavrion and his hypnotizing mirror that have put the young man into a trancelike state of enchantment.

“Are you acquainted, sir, with the grandfather of this victim of medical fraud?”

The dark brown eyes of the industrialist brightened and sparkled. “Yes, I have known him for quite a few years. I think that if I spoke to him, I could easily get him to back and support what we intend to accomplish.

“I shall get in contact with the man immediately,” promised Hylas Chryseis. “His support can be critical in this project of ours.”

V.

Spiro Argyros had never lost his habit of spending most of his day at his downtown office or the suburban studies of his film corporation.

He was busy overseeing the construction of a special set for a pirate story located off the Adriatic coast of medieval Albania. That was where Hylas found him after a strenuous search by tele-unit contacts.

The excited industrialist surprised Spiro, rushing up to him in a small room that the movie king had taken over to write up his notes on what he had seen and uncovered in this scenery site.

The two moguls of the Salonika economy greeted each other and asked each about their respective health and wellbeing.

Spiro, surprised at this unexplainable visit by Hylas, asked the latter to take an ice cream chair next to the one he was sitting on.

“I have learned about how your only grandson has entered a certain bizarre, unconventional clinic recently opened in Salonika, and this immediately drew my attention. The reason it did so has to do with my one daughter, my dear Aglaia, who went to this establishment because of personal emotional problems, and was also enslaved by use of laser light and mirrors used in the so-called treatment she underwent.

“My child, a university student majoring in ancient Greek mythology and folklore, was convinced somehow to become an employee of th bogus clinic. She came to work as a therapy assistant to this Dr. Gavrion.”

Hylas paused a few seconds, formulating what to say going on and studying the small face with chocolate-colored eyes, He proceeded in a quiet, hollowed tone.

“I have arranged through employees of my companies to promote a solution to what you and I face within our families. Our effective weapon shall be the Police Department of Greater Salonika.

“In the very near future, specifically on Friday night, soon after the hour of midnight, there shall occur a direct investigative raid upon the premises of this Asclepius Clinic. There will be a search of all rooms and confiscation of all photic lamps and mirror apparatuses. Anything that could be used in a court action shall be seized by an elite squad of fraud officers.

“As soon as practically possible after that, the police will arrest and jail the founder and organizer of this clinic. There will be charges lodged against Dr. Gavrion within a few day or so. The plan is to bring him to trial as soon as it can be done. There should be plenty of material evidence in the records, documents, and the apparatuses that are confiscated in the course of this physical raid by the skilled fraud squad of our Salonika police.”

“You sound very confident that this action will turn out to have successful results,” thoughtfully commented Spiro. “What will be the fate of the persons under treatment as patients in this clinic under Dr. Gavrion? Will anyone guard their welfare and interests in any way?”

Hylas hesitated a moment before attempting an answer.

“My daughter, Aglaia, is connected to the clinic and its chief. She became involved there initially as a university student carrying out graduate research and ended up as a therapy assistant.

“The police have given assurances that she will be spared. They do not consider her a principle of the fraud being committed by Athon Gavrion, but as an innocent victim of his clever lies and subterfuges. The hope is that she will cooperate later on in the proper rehabilitation and treatment of the patients being hoodwinked at this clinic.”

“I see,” muttered Spiro Argyros, raising his right hand touching his chin. “Then, this police raid is a sure thing.”

“Friday night,” said the visitor. “A little after midnight, when the clinic is certain be empty.”

Despina showed clearly visible signs of enjoying her evening going to Ladadakia hot spots with Paris Xanthos. Only one matter bothered her, but she cleverly tried to hide it from the new acquaintance providing her such an enjoyable time in nighttime Salonika.

Paris had a faint, undefinable sense that there was something weighing on her mind.

The pair strolled along the waterside promenade, passing the dark shadow of white Eptapyrgion Tower, passing infrequent walkers like themselves, when he decided he had to pose a question, whether it was comfortable or not.

Despina made a sudden halt, compelling her companion to do the same and turn his face and eyes upon her.

“What is it?” he inquired. “Is anything bothering you?”

“No,” she forcefully replied. “I just decided to take a good nighttime look at the old citadel that the Turkish Ottoman officials used as a prison. It remains pretty infamous for how cruel and merciless its treatment was for so many centuries of past time. It was a dungeon of unending pain and loss.”

She turned her head away and began ambling forward once more. Paris smiled to himself and accompanied her steps.

All at once, Despina put into a few words the inner concern that haunted her all that evening.

“Paris, do you realize that I am quite a few years older than you are? There are people that you and I both know who would tag us an odd, different couple to be about with each other. They would consider us a subject worthy of laughter.

“Both of us, though neither of us ever mentions our gap in ages, has been silent about the fact that I am the older and you the younger one.

“Do you think that some will laugh or sneer at such a twosome as we are?”

The face of Paris grew red with wrath in the semi-darkness of the promenade.

“All that matters, Despina, is that we like each other’s company. I enjoy being with you, and I feel that you find me an honest, honorable bachelor. That is all that really matters, doesn’t it?”

While continuing to stroll beside her, her turned his head so that he could make out the silhouette of her head.

“Yes, if we like being with each other, that is only your and my business, Paris.”

Both of them suddenly shared a common sense of ease and relief.

VI.

Saturday morning proved to be a comfortably warm time for the inhabitants of Salonika’s Ladidakia.

Athos Gavrion was awakened by the chiming of his apartment door-sounder a little after sunrise.

He rose from his bed, threw on a light robe, and hurried to see who it might be, his guess and his wish being that it would turn out to be his assistant, Aglaia.

“Good morning,” she greeted him with fervor. “I had to see you immediately because I was up all night writing down all I could pertaining to the new framework you created for the ancient gods and goddesses and the possible use of such analysis in psychiatry.

“I want you to read what I succeeded in writing down, Athos,” she breathlessly announced.

“Have you eaten breakfast yet?” said Athos, purposely diverting her from the sheave of pages she held in her right hand. “If you haven’t, then you must join me in the kitchen while I get something for us out of my ice box. We have all day to talk about what you’ve been putting down on paper.”

Aglaia followed him into his small pantry, taking a seat at a wall-table while he took out several tyropita out of his freezer and warmer them on the hot-plate close to the sink.giving

His visitor seemed to ignore the food he set down in front of her, looking down at what she had been composing that night and reading it to him as if giving a classroom report.

“In the legends tied to Zeus, there exist examples of conflict between male and female actors, and also the divisions between parent and child. Both factors exercised influence on the course of the events touching the existence of the supreme Olympic god, the prime king and ruler.

“For example, Zeus had two formal marriages and two acknowledged wives at different times. The first one was the Titaness named Metis, and the second was his sister, the goddess Hera. With both of them and the children they gave him, Zeus experienced serious, even brutal conflicts.

“Metis is recognized as the Titan who specialized in wisdom and deep thoughts. She acted as his tactical advisor during the War of the Titans, furnishing Zeus the mixture of mustard and salt water that forced Cronus to vomit and spit out the children he had had with Gaea, the gods and goddesses he had come to fear would overthrow and take away his universal throne.

“But Zeus became frightened and anxious over the prophecy that she made for him, having to do with children to be born to Metis from the seed of Zeus himself.

“There would be a powerful daughter, then a son who was fated to replace his father and seize his all-powerful throne.

“The daughter proved to be the goddess Athena. What was Zeus to do to avert a threat from her?

“He swallowed his pregnant wife, Metis. But the immediate result to him was unending, severe, merciless headaches. The desperate ruler of Olympus begged Hephaestus, the god of metallurgy and forging, to open his head and relieve the infinite pain that Zeus was suffering.

“The goddess Athena was born directly out of the head and brain of Zeus, and she became his favorite child.

“But it was the husband Zeus who devoured his first wife, who had been his first love.

“There is also an ancient legend that holds that Zeus swallowed his first wife when she transformed herself into a fly in order to escape from his jealousy and anger.

“The second wife of Zeus, Hera, was the youngest of the three daughters of Cronus and Rhea, the Titans. Her older sisters were Demeter and Hestia, goddesses of agriculture and of the hearth.

“The younger brothers of Hera were Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus himself, who became her husband.

“Hera, like her siblings, was swallowed at birth by her fearful father, but she was also rescued and liberated from her father’s stomach by the brother concealed outside the Titan’s body, by Zeus. The latter tricked Hera into agreeing to their marriage by appearing to her as a cuckoo bird, her favorite pet.

“Though Queen of Olympus, Hera suffered enormous jealousy because of the unfaithfulness of her mate, a serial, unrestrained adulterer.

“In time, Hera became the center of a conspiracy to remove Zeus from the throne. Both Athena and Poseidon joined with her in the secret plot. The rebels overpowered Zeus with a drug and tied him up tightly to his bed. They stole his thunderbolts in order to weaken and disarm him.

“But the Titaness Thetis was the one who saved him, summoning the wind god Briareus to untie and free the king of Olympus and the universe. The restored Zeus revenged himself upon the defeated conspirators. Hera had to take a pledge never again to rebel against her husband. In future cases of adultery, she could only do things to her husband’s new lovers or their children, never directly to Zeus himself.”

At this point Athos interrupted her with a comment from deep inside himself.

“These features of both Zeus and Hera are dramatic exaggerations of aspects of human beings everywhere, in all ages and in all cultures. That is what I have to conclude from all you have said this morning, Aglaia.”

She suddenly smiled with intellectual pride in her specialty of Greek mythology and folklore.

“But there is even more of this hatred and conflict if we go on to the children of Zeus born beyond and outside of wedlock. In this report I point to the example of Zagreos, the son of Zeus and Persephone, who was his own daughter born by his union with Demeter, who happened to be his own sister and the goddess of agriculture.

“It is often held that Zeus came to Persephone in the form of a snake. His plan and ambition was to make the expected son, Zagreos, his successor as the king of Olympus and the ruler of the universe. As his sole heir, Zeus intended to make this son all=powerful and supreme.

“As she learned what was happening and what her husband planned, Hera grew maddened with anger and jealousy.

“She was able to convince the surviving Titans to join with her to destroy this menace to their positions and remaining powers. At her direction, they tore the infant Zagreos to pieces. The Titans cooked and ate the remains of this son of Zeus. Only the heart of Zagreos survived this massacre, saved by Athena. She brought it to her father, Zeus. The latter swallowed the heart of his demolished son.

“The infinitely angered Zeus blasted all the Titans with a volley of great thunderbolts.

“But taking hold of the surviving, still beating heart of Zagreos, Zeus implanted it into the body of Semele, who was a mortal woman.

“The newly born god Dionysus was created out of the heart of Zagreos. This was the only Olympic god ever born to a human female. This new god was later called the Second Dionysus, a reborn and resurrected version of Zagreos.

“Most of the Titans were turned to ashes by the lightning bolts that struck them. This second birth of Zagreos has always been interpreted as reflecting the dual, split character of all human beings. The nature of mankind combines the evil of the Titan ashes with the purity of the surviving heart of the dying divine son of Zeus,

“The Orphic mysteries of ancient Greece emphasized this double character of the reincarnated god, the second state of Dionysus.

“In this report of mine I underline the inharmonious nature of all humans, who often become mirror reflections of Zeus, Hera, Zagreos, and the other conflicted Greek gods, goddesses, and heroes.

“The strong, powerful figure of Heracles was son of Zeus and a mortal woman, Alcmene.

“As a bastard child of Zeus, he attracted the hatred and enmity of Hera, the formal mate and wife of the king.

“Zeus had treacherously deceived Alcmene by disguising himself as the husband of Alcmene, then lying with her the same night as her married mate did. Two twins were born, but two snakes attacked the joint cradle, dispatched there by Hera. Because the baby Heracles was strong enough to strangle these serpents, he could be identified as the true son of Zeus, not the mortal husband.

“Hera placed a heavy curse upon this bastard son of Zeus, which led to his Twelve Labors, in which jealous Hera opposed and harmed him beyond any help from his father.

“So, there are a multitude of examples of parents fearing and opposing children, as well as sons and daughters revolting against parents and attempting to replace them.

“The Olympians exercised our human fears and passions in exaggerated dimensions, but were they that different from the men and women of Salonica who come to our clinic seeking help and relief with the problems in their personal lives?

“What is your judgment on the matter, Athos?” she said to him with feelings from deep within her.

The psychiatrist did not dare present any direct reply to this, but rather thought it wiser to delay difficulties.

“I have to think more, and longer,” he mumbled. “Thank you for the report that you wrote. I will need several more days to consider all the study and thought you put into this paper of yours, Aglaia.

“But right now, at this moment, let’s you and I finish eating the toasted bread and kasseri cheese I placed before us a time ago for breakfast.

“We have the whole day ahead of us to go over all the material you have collected out of the Hellenic past.

“I foresee the two of us becoming the co-authors of an interesting, intriguing article on ancient character traits and archetypes, Aglaia,” he said with a chuckle at the end.

VII.

The door–ringer chimed in a continuous tone. “I’ll see who it is,” muttered Athos, rising from his favorite chair in the parlor of his flat, where he had been perusing and editing his assistant’s first draft for a research paper.

Two large figures in dark brown police uniforms stood like large rocks in the opened doorway.

“Dr. Athos Gavrion?” said the larger of the giant forms standing there.

Yes, that’s who I happen to be,” replied the psychiatrist. “How can I help you?”

“Can we speak to you inside, Doctor? Something of importance has happened that we must talk to you about at once.”

By now, Aglaia had come into the front room. “This is my assistant at the clinic I run here in Ladidakia,” explained the resident of the apartment.

The policeman who appeared to be in charge began to speak in a stiff, overly formal tone of voice.

“I am sorry to have to report to you, Doctor, that your office at the Asclepius Clinic was broken into last night, sometime a little after midnight, and seriously burglarized. Passing citizens notified our Ladadikia station that two large, heavy camions were parked directly behind your building, in the back supply alley. A team of men in working clothes carried out and loaded these truck vehicles with what we learned from witnesses were computer, medical equipment, electronic storage sets and files, as well as cases full of hard copy documents and papers.

“Our nearest foot patrols appeared at the office site only minutes after one a.m., but by that time the culprits had left and the two large camions had disappeared.

“Our downtown burglary department sent an experienced squad of investigators to survey the entire clinic and estimate the dimensions of loss and damage that the place had suffered.

“Police headquarters and our superiors in the city decided to wait until morning and daytime in order to apprise you of the material loss that was suffered last night.”

The police officer stared directly at Athos Gavrion and asked him a question in as an informal manner as he dared to in this situation.

“Do you carry full insurance on all the property loss that you probably suffered from such a major crime?”

“I will have to check with the agent who has helped me with such matters and questions,” mumbled the doctor.
“I will have to go and see for myself what the results are,” he added.

Aglaia then turned to him. “I think I should accompany you in order to figure out where the clinic now stands.”

The policemen excused themselves and made a quick exit.

“Have we suffered complete ruin and defeat?” whispered his assistant to him.

“I can’t say, because I don’t know what may lie behind this break-in,” he told her, his mind still awhirl from the unexpected, unforeseeable shock just experienced by both of them.

Anastas Bazaras knew he was going to have serious trouble explaining overnight events to the man who employed him.

Hylas Cheyseis was not an industrialist to be tolerant of failure to carry out a will-defined plan of rational action. This presentation he was about tnd o give his boss had to be smoothly, carefully spoken, with nothing to jar the thoughts or emotions of the father who was troubled about his daughter’s independence and separation from her surviving, remaining parent.

“I have some disappointing information to relate this morning,” ominously announced the security chief. “The investigation of the Asclepius Clinic did not go through to completion last night,” he gloomily announced. “In fact, it did not even begin. It was prevented by what occurred at the clinic of Dr. Gavrion before the agents of the Fraud Squad were able to arrive at the premises.”

“And what was that?” angrily shot back Hylas in astonishment.

Anastas leaned his head down. “It appears that certain unknown forces entered the clinic before the investigators could do so, and these unidentified interlopers stripped down the entire establishment, hauling away with two waiting trucks all the equipment and records that existed in the building.

“There was nothing left for the Fraud Section to confiscate or even look at. Anything that might have been of value as evidence of criminal activity was gone by them. Nothing that could be used in making legal charges against Gavrion and his clinic was no longer available. Everything was now in other hands, whoever they might turn out to be.

“That is the tragic situation that we face on our side, sir,” concluded Bazaras with a grimace of disgust.

Both men remained silent for a short time as each sensed their helplessness due to their ignorance of what they faced.

“What do the police think? Do they have any realistic suspicion of who is responsible?” questioned Hylas. “Could this all have been arranged by the Doctor himself?”

“It happened at night, not during daylight, as the owner himself might have moved out all the moveable property.”

“Could there have been an insurance angle that would be a benefit to Gavrion?” said the desperate Hylas.

“That is considered doubtful by the police authorities, since the clinic had little, perhaps minimal coverage of any kind, sir.”

The rich entrepreneur stared coldly at Bazaras. “I want you to get to the bottom of this puzzle,” he muttered in a hard tone. “I need to know who is creating such opposition to all my plans and hopes.”

=

Paris and Despina had a lengthy night and both of them were exhausted when they left their final Ladidakia cabaret just before 2a.m.

She gave her companion a deep, intense stare before she proposed to him what she thought he should do.

“It is going to be a tiring walk for you to return to your flat, Paris,” she cooed to him in a birdlike tone. :It would certainly be less a burden for you at this hour to go with me the short distance to my own apartment only a street or so away from where we are at this moment.

“I can put you up on my soft sofa there in my front living cove. You will not in any way be a bother to me, because my bed is in a room whose door completely shuts.

“Both of us can lie down in peaceful comfort in just minutes from now, if you agree with my idea of joining together for this night. I certainly enjoyed your company and all that we did and said together.

“Are you a late sleeper, Paris?”

“No, not at all,” he replied. “I like to wake up and do some important writing before the sun rises, even in summer.”

Despina burst out in a sharp laugh. “Then join me and enjoy some rest and relaxation. No one is going to notice what you are doing or talk about either one of us, my friend,” she chuckled with glee.

VIII.

Athos and Aglaia examined and searching through all regions of the clinic, every room, floor, and corner. This was carried out in minutes, since the take-away had been total and lacking any exceptions. Even the tiniest or least significant or valuable objects and items wee absent. There appeared to them to be nothing at all left for them to salvage.

“What do we do now?” pointedly inquired Aglaia as the pair began to leave. “How can the work we are engaged in go on after losses like these?”

He made a wry smile and thought a moment or two. “I wish I knew,” he softly mumbled.

“You and I will have to start all over again, from the beginning,” she declared with a moan. “It will be difficult and demanding,” she groaned.

“But at least we start with something that wasn’t there when the clinic first opened. I mean the models and archetypes that you furnished out of Greek mythology and ancient folklore. That will mean a lot in the days to come, believe me.

“And you are the individual who opened that particular door for the mirror method of analysis and therapy, Aglaia.”

The two of them meditated a little, looking into each other’s eyes, then made their way out of the burglarized clinic.

Paris was sitting with Despina on the small balcony of her apartment, looking down upon the streets of the dock area of Ladidakia, when his pocket-phone started a quiet, melodic ring that sounded like an Epirote folk dance. He pulled it out of its holder and pushed its control button.

“Yes?” he spoke into the speaker, bringing the apparatus close to his mouth.

Aglaia, on a lounge chair close to where he sat, looked surprised and anxious at this unforeseen intrusion from outside somewhere.

“Paris, this is your grandfather calling you. How are you? How is your writing progressing along?

“I have a matter that I wish to discuss and decide with you in person. There is some business of major importance to both of us that cannot wait.

“It has become urgent that we talk in person this very day. I can send one of the company cruisers with a driver to pick you up and bring you at once here to the house. Will you be ready in ten to fifteen minutes to come?”

Paris realized he had to explain that he was not at home in his own apartment. “Grandfather, I am at a friend’s flat at this moment. It would be much easier if I gave you this address for the chauffeur to find and pick me up.

“That would certainly avoid unnecessary confusion and complication, as well as save time all around. What do you think, sir?”

“Yes,” agreed Spiro Argyros with a spring in his voice. “You have a good idea, Paris, my boy.”

A sudden thought caught hold of the young writer’s mind.

“Grandfather, would it be all right for me to bring a close friend of mind along today? I’m sure you will find this pleasant and interesting. What do you say to another visitor along with me?”

“Certainly, Paris. I have no objection or problem with that.”

Paris, glancing a second at Aglaia, saw both surprise and apprehension reflected on her face.

Once the call was ended on both sides, the writer turned with a smile at Despina.

“Do not worry, you will enjoy my grandfather, and I can predict that he will come to like you the way that I myself do,” grinned the young man to the older woman.

Anastas Bazaras decided that the best place to obtain verifiable, dependable information was right at Central Police Headquarters for Salonika, a place where he knew that he had old comrades and knowledgeable acquaintances.

He went directly to the Fraud Section and was fortunate that some of his best informants happened to be present.

Blunt, unadorned language is needed, the Security Director said to himself as he approached the desks of those he was seeking.

After brief greetings, Anastas went at once to the case of the Asclepius Clinic and the projected raid on it that was not carried out as planned and promised.

“It is a sublime mystery to me and to everyone associated with me who or what organization carried out the confiscation of internal property at the Asclepius Clinic. No one I have spoken to has any explanation for the secretive event. At first glance, suspicion would logically fall upon Dr. Athos Gavrion himself.

“But how could he have timed it so precisely in terms of a police raid by this Fraud Squad? It makes no sense at all to place the blame on this psychiatrist.

“I take for granted that there was no leaking of information by any connected to this agency of the Salonika Police?”

“That would certainly be impossible,” boasted the head of this division. “Our people know how to keep such investigative raids perfectly secret. Even the rest of the police in this city were not aware of what we inyended to carry out last night.”

Bazarras grew red in the face with anger. “Then tell me, who took everything out of the clinic?”

The chief officer frowned. “As I told you, that is a mystery that remains to be somehow solved.”

The butler led Paris and Despina through the front chambers of the Ano Poli mansion, to the open, sunny patio where the writer’s grandfather sat reading a morning Salonika ephemeris.

The chocolate eyes of the old man sparkled and brightened as the grandson introduced Despina Ilias to him.

Spiro Argyroa welcomed her to his home, then asked the pair to sit down at the patio table.

Paris went immediately to the subject of the clinic that had done so much for his writer’s blockage.

“There has happened a strange physical attack upon the institution that created a psychological cure for the ailment that previously afflicted me so severely.

“All the apparatuses and electronic equipment of the Asclepius Clinic has been taken away in the dead of night. The police are completely in the dark as to who carried out this crime…”

Spiro interrupted his grandson, smiling with knowledge that Paris did not have.

“This secret action was not a crime, but a special kind of salvation and preservation. Let me explain.

“I am a close friend of the Public Prosecutor of Central Macedonia.

“Several days ago he informed me that the Fraud Squad of the Salonika Police had a tactical plan to raid this clinic for documentation of illegal activities. He told me all the details he was aware of. I came to know the precise night on which this was set to occur.

“My old associate also told me who was the sponsor of this unusual assault the seabed magnate Hylas Chtyseis.

“That is a man who has always been my business and personal enemy. I was determined that he not be allowed to get away with such a horrible outrage as this.

“So, I dispatched my studio’s best property team to take away and protect all the records and equipment of the endangered clinic. These teams moved what was there into a warehouse that my company owns near the harbor shore.

“Everything is safely there. It can be visited by the chief psychiatrist and anyone on his staff.”

A broad, confident grin crossed the face of the movie executive. “In fact, I am willing and able to turn this storage facility over to the Asclepius Clinic as its new home.

“It is very secure and convenient to all of downtown Salonika. I do not intend to charge any rent.

“If the two of you are free and willing at this time, I can take you along in my amaxa, because I am soon going to have a look for myself at the possessions of the clinic at present under my protection.”

Spiro Argyros sprang to his feet, followed by the startled visitors.

The three of them hurried out of the mansion patio.

Aglaia pressed the operating button of the body-phone she carried on her right wrist.

“Someone is calling me this morning,” she informed Athos in the latter’s front parlor where the pair were resting and exchanging opinions and ideas after their visit and inspection of the Asclepius Clinic in its empty state.

The spirit in the familiar voice of Despina surprised and intrigued her.

“I have something very important to report to you, it is a bit of news that you must deliver to Dr. Gavrion as quickly as at all possible…”

Despina interrupted, saying “He is right here next to me, because we are together here in his apartment.”

“Then, I can tell both od you that the whole problem is solved, and the clinic will soon be restored to even better condition. We will have a special sponsor and protector, one who will defend the right of Dr. Gavrion to continue his wonderfully successful psychiatric practice.

“Our angelic supporter is the grandfather of Paris Xanthos, the mighty mogul of our movie industry, Mr. Spiro Argyros.”

She proceeded to describe how the studio crew had arrived in the nick of time, before a scheduled police raid under the auspices of the Fraud Squad.

Athos came up close to Aglaia so that he clearly heard every word coming through the body-phone.

Despina ended by giving the exact address of the warehouse where she and Paris had been transported by Spiro Argyros.

“Get here as soon as the two of you can,” she ended. “You will be amazed at the space that will now be available for our activities.

“And Mr. Argyros tells me that he deeply wishes to meet both of you,” she declared with an audible sigh of relief.

IX.

A large argon sign on the front roof indicated the new location of the Asclepius Clinic, where it now resided rent-free with the head of Salonika’s prime film company as its supporter and defender.

The director operated from a comfortable, fully equipped main office.

Aglaia reported to Athon Gavrion that word had reached her that her father had fired Anastas Bazaras from his security post with his corporations.

She gave him a smile brimming with hope. “It may take a number of years, but father will finally become reconciled to what I have done, am still doing, and am planning to accomplish in the days ahead.”

“You and I as a married couple?” asked the psychiatrist. “Will he ever accept what has happened to us?”

“It really doesn’t matter any more, does it?” she said, raising her eyebrows.

“We can provide him some free mirror therapy, if he agrees to come under our care,” snapped Athos with a wink of his left eyes,

The End

Salonika Mirrors Part III.

22 Jun

I.

Aglaia had a small room in the main library of Aristotle University where she carried out research on ancient manuscripts having to do with her studies on early Greek mythology and religion. She favored this site because of the quiet isolation it provided her to read, think, and carry out original speculations.

It was a disconcerting surprise when a short young man with bushy black hair interrupted her one early summer morning, several hours before she planned to leave for her duties at the Asclepius Clinic.

“Miss Aglaia Chryseis?” he inquired in a soft, bashful tone, forcing her to look away from the manuscript, to the stranger dressed informally, resembling an average student of higher education at the institution.

“Could I ask you for a little help with a project of mine?” he meekly inquired. “I have been told that you have broad knowledge of the ancient gods and goddesses of our most ancient Hellenic culture. I promise you this will not take too much of your valuable time. It is a small, simple question that I need your help with.”

She studied his smooth, athletic face and large olive eyes. He has an honest look about him, Aglaia at once decided.

“My name is Paris Xanthos,” smiled the intruder to her. “I am a student of creative writing, and my need is to explore the strange, complicated relations between parents and children in the ancient Greek pantheon of divinities and deities. At present. I am attempting to go all the way back to the pre-Olympics, the so-called Titans.”

“That is interesting, let me say,” she warmly grinned. “What particularly do you plan to write from what I might provide or guide you to look at?”

“My goal is to construct modern characters for a photoplay centered on violent conflict between the most ancient Greek mythical beings, the Titans and the second generation of the Olympian gods that succeeded them. It was Zeus and his siblings who grabbed the primacy and power from Cronus and his brothers and sisters.

“I want to write a modern drama with similar drives, goals, and emotions lying at the center. What do you think? Is such a strange connection of character types at all possible?”

Aglaia hesitated a moment. “It is not easy to answer such a question, not at all. Greeks of today are so different. It is doubtful that people would understand or have sympathy with the extreme, wild thoughts and feelings of divine forms so outlandish and monstrous.

“Actions and drives that were so primitive, so primordial might have no connection to what is considered human in today’s Greece.”

“There is a lot of our mythology that is more ghastly and lurid than what happens in our modern literature and dramatic art,” dreamily said Paris Xanthus. “I can see many fascinating narratives that can be borrowed and relocated over many centuries of time.”

“One notes deep fear and suspicion between the different generations of gods, goddesses, and Titan divinities,” muttered the folklore specialist. “There are a large number of cases that can be studied and examined. You and I must meet and delve deeper into this subject.

“Are you going to be free tonight? I work at a psychiatric clinic and I am scheduled to have dinner tonight with the director I work for there. Why don’t you join the two of us? I am certain that he would like to meet and talk with you. And you will find that he can be of great help to you in many ways. You will find him an interesting person to converse with about many different things.”

Paris instantly accepted this invitation and Aglaia gave him the name and address of the dockside restaurant where the three of them would be that evening for a late meal.

The three met at the entrance, Aglaia making the introductions between the university student of creative writing and her employer, the unconventional psychiatrist.

As soon as they were seated had ordered different kinds of fish, Paris started to identify himself in terms of where he was located within the social hierarchy of Salonika.

“I should tell both of you who my father happens to be. He is a drama-film director right here in our city. In recent years, it has been Salonika which has won so many international awards, and our International Film Festival brings the cinematic elite of the whole world here.

“My father has, up to now, managed to direct nine features that have been sold and distributed throughout Europe and all the other continents.

“Have either of you heard of him or his work? His name is Nikos Xanthos.”

Both of the others at once made excuses and apologies for their inability to recognize the parent’s name or reputation.

“I have been out of Salonika, practicing in Athens, for the last several years, I’m afraid,” muttered Athos Gavrion.

“Being so busy with my studies and graduate research projects, I have been compelled to ignore all of the arts here in Greece, as well as all over the world as well. The time has not been available for me to see anything in any of the film theaters, or even the live ones, I’m sorry to admit,” declared Aglaia with a forced smile.

Athos leaned forward and spoke, attempting to relieve her uneasiness. “I can understand why your aspirations are in a cinematic profession. You must have grown up with the world and atmosphere of film creation present and close around you.

“Was your father the model and example that led you to decide to become a script writer for the industry in which he operated and made a number of films?”

Paris looked directly into the face of Dr. Gavrion. “Yes, that was a large part of what moved me in this particular direction. But there was another important factor. That was my grandfather.”

“Your grandfather?” said Aglaia with visible surprise.

The young man turned his olive eyes on her.
Yes, the father of my mother. She passed away when I was a small child, and I grew up in his large house in the Ano Poli. He had a great influence on all of my education and taught me much that I know about the film industry from my earliest years.

“You see, my maternal grandfather is Mr. Spiro Argyros, the president of the Axios Film Corporation. He was an early organizer and investor in this field, His company is today one of the three major producers of film-dramas in Greece. His standing and position is a very high one in all of Europe, in fact the entire world."

Both his table companions sensed the pride that Paris had in the film giant who happened to be his mother's father.

Aglaia gave Athos a serious, meaningful look that he instantly interpreted as a signal to change the subject of conversation.

“Have you heard of my new variety of therapy?” he asked Paris Xantos.
“I am something of a pioneer in that I promote self-analysis and self-mesmerizing by my patients, using therapeutic mirrors and special laser light to promote an enhanced mood and condition.

“What we are engaged in at the Asclepius Clinic may offer you some useful, interesting material for what you plan to write for out film industry.”

“Yes,” grinned Paris. “I can see a great deal that could lead me into deeper understanding of the characters I create in the course of writing film scripts. It would be a great help to me and my work if I could avail myself of presence and exposure to the innovative methods being developed in your clinic.

“I believe that could aid me in my progress forward as a writer.”

Athos quickly made arrangements for the young man to visit the Asclepius Clinic the following day. Aglaia volunteered to provide him a tour of the psychiatric facility.

II.

Early the next morning, Paris left his apartment near Aristotle University and made his way to the yellow stucco home of his grandfather in the Ano Poli sector of the city.

He knew he would not come across his father, the film director, at this site on this day. Nikos Xanthos was away at the Dodecanese Island of Kos, overseeing camera work involving a crew of Aegean Sea fishermen. These background shots were going to be included in a coming production project whose final script had not been finished.

Paris recognized his father’s character as one who postponed decisions about the final form and details of the narrative plots of the movies he supervised and claimed to be the primary creator of. Nikos proudly carried the title of “the most spontaneous, unplanned, and uninhibited major Greek film auteur”.

His grandfather’s valet greeted Paris at the front entrance and told him that his employer had arisen late and was eating breakfast in the rear garden patio. “He is expecting you and wishes to have you have some coffee together with him out there.”

The grandson found Spiro Argyros sitting at a round white table under a grapevine trellis. The chocolate eyes of the film magnate lit up with an energetic sparkle the instant he caught sight of Paris. A short man with small features, a leathery face, and thick silver hair, there was nothing physically imposing about the seventy year old. It was his mind and his personality that influenced, impressed, and commanded others.

Paris sat down across from Spiro, wishing him a good morning and inquiring how he was.

“I am well today, I believe, because I enjoyed a long and deep night of restful sleep, my boy. There is no doubt in my mind that I am ready for whatever questions or problems the world may present to me in the hours ahead.

“And how are you, Paris? How is your writing progressing? Will you soon have something you consider offering to one of my studios? A manuscript that might turn out to satisfy the tastes and the requirements of my son, your dear father?”

The grandson caught the twinkle in the other’s eye and the subtle smirk in his voice.

“It is extremely difficult to be original in writing the story for a future film, grandfather. Time and time again, I write something only to later discover that my work copies something that I read or saw on the screen. So, I must attempt over and over, trying out new concepts, new plots and narratives, hoping that this time I will hit my target.

“Who can foresee what I may come up with next?” asked the young writer with a slight chuckle.

The chocolate eyes of Spiro began to turn distant and abstracted. “Your father imagines that he can devise a means of winning top prizes at Cannes or Venice, that he can do better than the geniuses of world cinema art. His ambitions are outside Greece and Salonika. To him, the Hellenic tradition back to Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides must be transcended and forgotten. It is not good enough for our advanced time and age.

“What do you think, Paris? Do you, like your father, wish to soar beyond our borders and our inherited cultural tradition? To become a writer about world citizens, not recognizable Greeks like ourselves and our ancestors”

The beginning writer thought fast to conceive a satisfactory reply. “I try not to exaggerate what my skills or abilities are right now, grandfather. There is so much for me to learn, I tell myself every morning, every evening. It will take me years to prepare myself the way that I should, that I must.

“I am about to start having experiences in a Salonika mental clinic. My plan is to deepen my knowledge of interpersonal problems, complications, and contradictions. Do you think this can help me improve my capacity to create drama for the film screen? Can it help me to shape meaningful characters?”

“Indeed, I do,” said Spiro, beaming at him. “Yes, that could turn out to be exactly the experience that you need at this point in your career in film writing, my boy.”

The pair sipped their coffees for a brief time, then Paris excused himself and left.

Athos led the writer into his office and the two sat down across from each other at the doctor’s desk.

“It is gratifying to think that our clinic can help the creation of potential film dramas,” began the psychiatrist. “I have asked Aglaia to explain for you how she operates our mirror and laser equipment. I trust this will help you to understand what we seek to accomplish for those undergoing our kind of therapy.

“One of the most common events that happens here in the Asclepius Clinic is the unexpected coming of sudden, instantaneous self-enlightenment and self-knowledge to a patient as a result of exposure to the mirrors and the special blue light of the laser lamps we use. The patients will often refer to these experiences as surprising revelations about their minds and personalities.

“But then they are astounded that these happenings within the thoughts in their minds were genuinely such great surprises. The recognition dawns upon them that the insights were hidden, buried in their unconscious memories, but revived and brought to waking knowledge by the therapeutic treatment they were experiencing in our clinic.

“They came to realize that their own mental defenses had repressed this self-awareness they now possessed, that it was lying there, concealed and camouflaged, in the depths of their own unconscious existence.”

Athos smiled with joy and satisfaction. “So, all that we accomplish here is to aid individuals to unearth and understand what they have denied themselves conscious knowledge of.”

“There is much material that comes forth in your type of therapy that can be of great value to a writer like me,” thoughtfully noted the visitor. “My curiosity has risen to a high, enthusiastic level,” confessed Paris. “I intend to be careful and respect the rights of all patients to the protection of their privacy.”

The therapist stared intensely into the face of Paris. “I have learned in my practice that quite minor factors and forces can exercise colossal effect and influence on the mind and the personality of a man or woman. Very tiny causes can create a major catastrophe, a multiplied disaster within a person.”

“That is most fascinating,” agreed the writer. “I foresee great benefits to my dream of becoming a more sensitive and sympathetic portrayer of interesting characters.”

“I think it is helpful in writing about humans to look carefully for obscure, seemingly insignificant and overlooked influences matters. Nothing is too small to be considered when dealing with the mind.” Athos paused a moment, then decided to proceed further. “I wonder whether if you yourself underwent mirror analysis, it might have real effects upon your work as a creative writer.” He looked fixedly at Paris for a number of moments.

All at once, the writer’s face became stiff and inflamed as he started to speak in a slow, low-pitched whisper.

“I have, for a considerable time, been suffering a form of writer’s blockage, a drying up inside the center of my mind. There is no easy explanation for what has happened to me. No ideas arise for me, none at all.

“As I told you before, my father is a well-known film director here in Salonika.

“Is that the cause of my personal problem, my lack of a theme or idea to be making a film script about?

“Do you think that treatment with the mirrors can provide me a solution to this ailment I suffer from, Doctor?”

Athos replied with an expression of confidence on his face. “There are no guarantees of victory and success in any sort of therapeutic treatment. You yourself will be able to decide as you learn what it is that we do with our patients when they come to us for help.

“Aglaia Chryseis will today provide you a demonstration of what happens to our patients under our care. That will provide you some measure of preparation for your own coming experience with blue laser light and our mirrors.”

III.

Paris sat next to the assistant as she explained the way that she was going to adjust and control the mirrors and the laser lights during the treatment session about to began in several minutes.

“This patient is a young, unmarried woman whom I shall be addressing as Thalia. She is suffering what is often termed an identity disorder, uncertain what her future may hold for her, whether positive or negative.

“You shall hear me discuss her personal confusion and disorientation in a framework of ancient Greek myths and their Olympian level characters and personalities.”

In a matter of seconds, the door opened and a tall, thin woman in her twenties stepped into the treatmrnt room.

Aglaia introduced her to Paris and the latter to the patient. “He will sit here beside me in order to observe how the therapy proceeds today, Thalia,” she informed the new arrival.

The patient sat down in front of the mirror screen and looked into it, becoming spellbound as Aglaia increased the strength of the blue laser light streaming forth and reflecting off of the multiple mirror surfaces.

All of a sudden, the voice of the therapy assistant captured the attention of the patient and the visitor.

“Have you thought over the difficult decision you much reach in your mind, Thalia?

“As I told you the last time we met, your mind is driven in opposite directions by two different drives, two contradictory models by which to identify yourself.

“There is the example of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, courage, and divine inspiration, opposed by the model of Aphrodite. goddess of love, beauty, and personal passion.

“As you remember, I presented the dilemma of the coming of the Trojan War as the pivotal time of conflict between these two female Olympians.

“In that terrible struggle, the goddess Hera was on the same side as Athena, supporting the Greek warriors. But Aphrodite was allied to the God of War, Ares, backing the Trojan side.

“In the contest to determine which deity possessed the greatest, finest beauty, Zeua refused to act as judge, leaving the responsibility upon Paris, Prince of Troy to choose the Olympic winner. This golden apple of discord drove the three goddesses to extreme desperation, to utter distraction.

“Hera offered unlimited power to Paris if he chose her. Athena offered him sublime wisdom and unlimited knowledge. But the prize of beauty fell to Aphrodite when she promised Paris what was most valuable to him: the love of magnificent Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta, Meneleus.

“Ten years of horrible warfare and slaughter followed because Paris was swayed by Aphrodite and failed to obtain the wisdom offered him by Athena.

“Which Olympian goddess do you have faith in, Thalia? Is the voice of reason your guide, or the fancies of a heart captured by passion?”

The face of the young patient, which neither Aglaia nor Paris could directly see as it stared ahead into the mirrors shinning with laser rays of blue, became a ghostly white.

“That is not an easy choice, and I doubt that it is in my power to make for myself,” she slowly murmured. “Why should I favor one to the other? It might be simpler for me to keep the images of both Aphrodite and Athena within my mind. Can’t I stay under the influence of both of them? What if I try to balance them against each other, perhaps combine them together somehow?”

Aglaia decided to add no more to what she had already said to this particular patient.

Nikos Xanthos returned to Salonika from the island of Kos and the film shooting he had directed on the Aegean site.

The short, bulky movie-maker was too hyperactive and nervous to consider himself overweight. He even refused to tag himself as middle-aged. In his own mind, he saw himself as a heroic figure in one of his feature adventures.

But today he rushed to the mansion of his father-in-law first, before repairing to his downtown luxury penthouse apartment.

There were a number of important reasons that made it necessary to consult with the president of Axios Films, Spiro Argyros. Certain specific matters could not wait or be postponed. It was necessary to have certain important questions concerning the next big project settled before work on the major, blockbuster film began.

The pair sat down in the cool, open patio of the luxurious house and sipped at coffee for Spiro and ouzo for Nikos, his middle-aged son, the busy director.

“How did your project on the island turn out?” inquired the older man, his face stolid and serious.

“I would have to say it came to a satisfactory end,” said Nikos with a sour kind of smile. “At least I finished what I planned to do on Kos. It may never come to anything or have any kind of practical use in a future film of mine, but at least it got me out of Salonika for a short time.

“I had a good opportunity to think alone, in private, about what my next big filming feature ought to be. My ideas sort of filtered out and solidified into a limited few possibilities. Nothing is yet specific or definite, but I am considering looking for scenarios that deal with love stories on an international stage. Romances across borders, so to speak. Something that would have wide, broad, and distant vibrations.

“But I still lack a particular group of characters or a well-defined location and environment.

“That remains a variable in my mind, father,” grunted Nikos.

Both men paused as they studied each other for several seconds.

“I saw your son several days ago,” murmured Spiro Argyros. “He is very ambitious to develop his writing skills. That is why, he told me, he is visiting a mental clinic here in Salonika. To learn more about character types and quirks so that he can grow more skilled in dealing with dramatic problems and questions.

“My fondest hope is that you can find a way of making use of his talents and gifts in the near future, Nikos>”

The latter made an ironic smile. “Do you expect me to practice nepotism for his benefit, father?” he asked.

The head of the family unexpectedly gave a silent chuckle. “Can you say that you have never been the beneficiary of the slightest familiar favor, my dear son?” countered Spiro with injured feeling. “Surely, you have a good example you can follow in me.”

Father and son both laughed, each of them for different reasons.

IV.

Paris entered the Asclepius Clinic with an uncertain feeling that baffled him as to its meaning.

Was he losing his courage and passion to delve deeply into himself? Did he fear what the experience might reveal that he might not be able to handle or live with?

“I will see you later in my office,” Dr. Athos Gavrion informed him calmly. “It will be interesting for me to hear what you have to say.”

Aglaia led the new patient into the treatment chamber and pointed to the chair facing the console screen.

“It is today your turn to be the focus of the blue light and the mirrors,” she chirped in a cheery tone. “I promise that you will survive the ordeal and tell me that it was all worth the time and effort.”

Paris smiled and took his position, while she started to turn on the laser lighting from her seat behind him.

The assistant decided to ask the patient under photic treatment a question energizing his mental awareness.

“Why do you suppose that you are suffering an inability to write the way that you say you wish to> What blocks your will from carrying out what you think you dream of doing, of realizing your fondest desire and ambition?

“Can you in any way understand this inaction, this slothfulness that is crippling your creativity?

“Do you truthfully know what it is that your will actually aspires to attain, Paris?

“The truth may be that in the depths of your unconscious mind you do not choose to be a writer of film screens.

“You are troubled and unhappy because you do not recognize what may be hidden beneath your conscious mind.”

The patient turned silent a brief time, obviously concerned with searching for a way out of the trap holding him back from what he knew that he hoped for.

Aglaia decided to attempt guiding him forward with a piece of advice that surprised both of them.

“You should try to model yourself on the example of Dionysus. As everyone knows, he is the only Olympian god who experienced both death and rebirth. The theater, for which you dream of writing scenarios for with film dramas, falls into the realm under Dionysis. That is the direction that will release your writing talents and potential.

“Can you understand what I am getting at? You have to create yourself into the second you, leaving behind the original self and replacing it with a newly born infant, one enjoying a renewed character and being.

“Let me tell you a little about the double lives of Dionysus, the first and then the second. The clearest understanding of how and why it happened the way it did was given to us by the Orphic mystery cult of the Hellenistic period of our Greek history.

“Zagreos was son of Zeus and Persephone, his own daughter with the earth goddess Demeter.. He came to her in the form of a snake so that she would not recognize his true identity.

“Zeus dreamed of placing this son, Zagreos, on the throne of heaven when he grew to maturity, but this was not to be.

“The Olympian wife of Zeus, Hera, saw what happened and raged with insane anger. She recruited and convinced the Titans to sneak into Olympus and bring ruin onto this irregularly born child. They hoodwinked the boy Zagreus with toys to surrender the bolts of lightning that Zeus had endowed him with. They took hold of the child they had tricked and dismembered him with their Titan knives.

“The ancient monsters butchered, carved up, and ate up the body of Zagreos, all but the heart. Athena was able to intervene and save the heart, taking it to Zeus. The grieved father decided to swallow this heart of his beloved son.

“The maddened Zeus blasted all the Titans with thunderbolts of wrath. Many Orphic thinkers calculated that this was the moment when human beings of the present age were created out of two sorts of ashes: the evil remains of the Titans and the divine body of the destroyed son of Zeus, the lost Zagreos.

“Zeus implanted the still beating heart of Zagreos into the body of Semele, a mortal woman and a princess of Thebes. The child born was the second form and stage of the god Dionysus, ruler of the grape, ritual frenzy, and rebirth. This was the second, resurrected Dionysus that became homeless wanderer over all the earth.”

Aglaia paused a short time, gazing at the back of the head of Paris.

“There was now a second, reborn Dionysus, my friend.

“You, too, must be born into a different self, the same as Dionysus was back then in the beginning.

“You must imitate the divine creator of the theater and make yourself a second Dionysus.”

Paris, staring at the lazer-mirror screen, had nothing more to say till the therapy session came to an end.

Athos and Aglaia, as now was their custom, ate together late that evening near the docks for a typical Salonika dinner close to midnight.

The assistant clinic operative expressed her worried disappointment with the problems posed by the case that had captured her personal attention.

“I doubt that progress will be easy handling the difficulty plaguing Paris Xanthos,” she softly muttered as the two neared the end of their meal together. “There are large stumbling blocks to his creativity that resist exposure. They remain invisible and no one has yet gotten hold of or identified them.”

Athos drew a deep breath, deciding to express a thought he had been wrestling with since he last saw Paris Xanthos at the Asclepius Clinic that day.

“I think that the focus of our attention must become the position of the young man between his father and his grandfather. That particular situation is not as unusual as some think, not at all.

“Paris occupies a location of crossfire, a receiver of opposing influences from two differing generations of male models within the same familial cell. He is the third factor, the target of the two others, his elders in the arrangement, the psychological structure.”

Suddenly, Aglaia began to become visibly excited. “Yes, I have wondered about that particular matter of parent and grandparent roles and their effect upon our patient’s development and troubled mental state. The father is a prominent film director, while the grandfather is chief of several Salonika movie studios.

“Paris occupies a strange position, risky and vulnerable.”

Athos leaned his head forward and whispered to her. “I suspect that his two relatives are somehow at the root of what has happened to this film writer.”

V.

Athos sat in his office, reviewing the reports of previous sessions with patients scheduled to come back for treatment later that day. A knock at the door drew his attention. He looked up to discover Aglaia standing in the now open doorway.

“Someone came to see you this morning,” she beamed at him. “Guess who it happens to be?”

“You tell me and I’ll then know,” mumbled the psychiatrist, staring at her with curiosity and surprise.

“It’s Despina Ikias,” replied his assistant. “She has returned to Salonika after spending time in Athens and stopped to see us. Can you see her this very minute?”

Athos smiled and gave a little laugh of joy. “Certainly, there is always time for Despina. You come in here with her and we’ll have ourselves a highly pleasant reunion of sorts.”

Aglaia turned about and made a motion with her right arm. The unexpected visitor stepped into the office, followed by the clinic assistant. Athos had immediately risen to his feet and stepped around his desk in order to greet Despina directly. He offered her his hand, taking hold of hers and several times shaking it cordially.

The doctor welcomed her several times, asking both women to be seated facing his desk. In seconds, he was again positioned where he had been reading reports.

“How did you like living in Athens, Despina?” he inquired. “Are you back in Salonika for good?”

She answered in a high, dreamy tone. “I worked for a short time in a lawyer’s office doing secretarial tasks. But my memories are here in Macedonia, not down there. So here I am, where I was born and where I belong.

“Already, everything I see and hear tells me that I am back home once more.”

Aglaia then spoke, sitting to the right of the former pretender who had turned into a genuine patient.

“We have thought and talked about you and what you might be engaged in doing. Have you determined any sort of plan about your future here in Salonika?”

Despina turned toward the assistant and answered her in a solemn tone. “I have already taken up a sort of independent craft that, so far, has paid me nothing at all. It is more like a hobby than an actual profession of any existing sort. Let me explain.

“I began as a young girl to write poems, as first short but then longer and longer. Then I started to compose short stories and sketches of places in Salonika and its suburban region. This activity relaxed and calmed me down. It became a customary, regular habit that took root in me.

“I came across a writers’ circle in Athens, made up of amateurs like me. The members taught me a lot and provided useful, practical experience and knowledge. My new friends assured me that I was continually improving in this craft that had captured and now absorbed my attention and interest completely.

“It happened that I remembered and reviewed my experience with the police here in the port city of Salonika.

“Everything that I experienced in my years as an undercover agent of the law authorities. There were scores of stories that I have been able to record from memories of what I saw and took part in during that period of my life.

“It was a big surprise to me how many plots and characters came back to me.”

As soon as Despina ended her statement, Athos presented her an important but potentially embarrassing question.

“How will you make a living for yourself now?” he inquired. “Do you have any position anywhere yet?”

She looked away from the clinic director as she replied to this.

“Nothing definite, I have to admit.” She turned her face toward him and grinned warmly. “My hope. as of this morning, is that there are tasks that I can complete and accomplish right here in the Asclepius Clinic. It can consist of simple, general work like cleaning or arranging furniture and equipment of all kinds.

“What do you say to this informal application of mine, Dr. Gavrion?”

The latter, thrown off balance by this unexpected proposal, sensed that he had no easy way of avoiding approval and acceptance of her becoming a paid employee of his psychiatric operation.

A wide, emotional smile broke out around his mouth. “Of course, we shall make a genuine effort to organize and put together a position for you, Despina. It may turn out to be a part-time job, but it will be reserved for only you.”

All of a sudden, Athos bolted to his feet and went around his desk and approached the new employee.

Rising from her chair, Despina caught sight of the doctor extending his right arm toward her. As the two shook hands, Aglaia rose and stepped over to congratulate the former patient that she herself had earlier dealt with with the therapy mirrors.

“We will find plenty for you to do for us in our clinic,” cordially murmured the psychiatrist to the new recruit to the therapeutic movement that he was the founder of.

Nikos Xanthos decided that it would not look good to his father and others if he avoided seeing his son who had returned to Salonika. He found his cellular number on the central-net and phoned him from his studio office.

“Paris, how are you, my boy? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming back to live here? Why did you leave Athens? I thought you liked it down there. What are your plans now? Are you looking for something to do in Salonika?”

The son, feeling uncomfortable and at a loss, sat down at his tiny kitchen table, laying his receiver on the surface in front of him.

“I saw Grandfather and he said that you were filming for a time in the Dodecanese, so I decided not to bother you. But there was no way for me to know that you had returned home. That’s the reason I made no attempt to communicate with you. But it looks like you found me before I was able to get in contact directly with you,” the son alibied to his parent.

“You can’t and shouldn’t remain idle and inactive,” declared the movie director. “Right now, there is nothing I can think of that is open in any of our own company and its planned film projects. That is unfortunate, but is the way conditions happen to be. The entire Greek film industry is skating on very thin ice, so to say. No one knows what things will be like in future days or years. Nothing appears very fixed or settled.

“That is too bad, but all openings and new opportunities of all varieties have disappeared as far ahead as anyone, even your grandfather and I, can predict.”

“I understood that before I returned to Salonika,” admitted Paris. “But I preferred to be situated in the city and region that I grew up in and know best. Macedonia, here in the central district, is where I prefer to spend my life.”

The son realized that it would be more than futile to say anything his ambitions in writing. He was not going to mention ideas like film drama, theater plays, or fiction stories.

“Call me and talk with me, son,” urged the father in a passionless voice. “I promise to help you out however U may be able to. You know, of course, that I wish only the best for you…”

The conversation became one-sided as Paris grew almost totally silent. Nikos wished Paris good-bye and closed his end of their exchange.

VI.

Anastas Bazaras had kept an unnoticed but uninterrupted attention upon the activities going on at the Asclepius Clinic. He knew from his former experience as a police investigator the value of patience and constancy in the work of surveillance, and intended to find out the maximum he could about the daughter of his patron, Hylas Chryseis.

The Chief of Security for Chryseis enterprises made weekly reports on what was going on with Aglaia, now a therapeutic assistant working with the psychiatrist who was pioneering with laser light and photonic mirrors.

The troubled father never saw any kind of reduction in terms of worried concern about his only child. He eagerly questioned his prober about matters that had to do with the daughter who had deserted his house and paternal authority.

“A startling development has occurred at this odd clinic,” said Bazaras one morning in his employer’s private office at the Ano Poli mansion. “I would never have believed this possible if I had not so credible evidence about it.”

“What are you referring to, Anastas?” inquired Hylas with instantaneous curiosity.

The other sneered and grimaced. “My former agent, the woman named Despina Ilias, has come back to Salonika, according to my underground sources. And they tell me that she has just been appointed to act as an employee of this nefarious establishment, the clinic run by Dr. Athos Gavrion.”

Hylas Chryseis gasped with sudden excitement. “Are you certain about that? I find it hard to accept that as true.”

“It has been confirmed by the neighbors and people who watch the clinic for me,” whispered Bazaras. “Friends of mine who are still part of the Salonica police have confirmed this development to me.

“I myself have no doubt whatsoever that this employment of Despina Ilias has really occurred.”

The two men paused in silence for a short time, until the industrialist muttered a command to the security chief.

“Find out as much as you can about what this strange woman may be up to there,” he ordered. “This may turn out to be of importance for my goal of closing down this clinic of mirrors.”

Athos met with Aglaia in his office early the morning of the day when Paris Xanthos was scheduled for his second session of therapy. The director sensed that this was going to be the decisive crossroads in the therapy of this special, unique patient. Up to this moment, no one else had come to the Esclapius Clinic with a problem anything like the writer’s block complicating the life and plans of this member of one of Salonika”s leading families of wealth.

Athos spoke as if carrying out a game of theoretical speculation meant to guide the course of the treatment of the frustrated creative writer.

“I have thought and thought about the difficulties faced by this young man in terms of his immediate choices and long-range ambitions. Certain general conclusions, I believe, are by now possible.

“Most of what is holding him back and paralyzing his literary creativity has to do with his immediate family and his uncomfortable situation inside of it. Let me explain what I imagine to have happened to his mind and his personality.

“His grandfather has been one of the major successes of Salonika industrial enterprise, the magnate who built a spectacularly successful film company from nothing, the founder of a product enjoying worldwide fame, the Salonika style movie, unlike anything else produced anywhere else.

“There are many other film capitals, from Hollywood to Tokyo to Bombay, on and on. But the Greek studios can be identified by their uniquely Hellenic culture and atmosphere. This is often attributed by the ability of our screen writers and directors to adapt our mythological traditions to cinematic purposes. In other words, our national cultural inheritance fits perfectly the needs of film for themes, plots, and characters that can hold the attention of viewers everywhere on the planet Earth.

“So, I have decided that the psychology of Paris Xanthos reflects important elements of ancient family contours found in our historical past. Father and son, grandfather and grandson, three generations of a single family line.

“I believe this line of inquiry to be the most promising available to us.

“When I see the patient this morning, I certainly intend to pursue it as far as I possibly can. And I advise you, Aglaia, to explore aspects of ancient mythology and folklore with him during his laser-mirrors treatment.

“What do you think? Does what I say make sense to you?”

For several seconds, she did not reply as Athos stared at her, waiting to hear and see her reaction.

“Yes, there appears to be no better alternative,” she mumbled.

“Tell me what your results turn out to me,” said the director, suddenly rising out of his chair to signal that he had accomplished his purpose with this exchange dominated by his own thoughts and speculations.

=

Once Paris was comfortably seated at the console screen, Aglaia took the chair just behind him. The new employee, Despina, present as a leaner and observer, perched herself on a simple stool in back of the other two.

Aglaia remained silent until the blue laser lighting had reached a minimum level of intensity, then started to speak in a slow, low, extremely clear voice.

“Whenever any sort of birth creation occurred in the distant past, there usually followed some problem, trouble, or clash of wills as a result.

“What occupied the all at the very beginning? It was infinite Chaos. Endless, undivided Chaos was everywhere.

“Emergence out of this vacuum, this dark void was the original creative action, and Gaea, known to us as the Earth, was born.

“The original birth and division led to a second one, because Gaea and Chaos created their child, which was Ouranos, which we know as Heaven or the Sky visible even today above the Earth.

“Ouranos suffered terrible pain because of the emptiness of its mother, Gaea, shedding endless floods of tears. This infinite rain made the oceans, lakes, and rovers on the Earth, resulting from an unforeseen reaction of the birth of a child unlike its birth parent.

“Because the primal beings were limited to only these in number, their increase had all the negative, evil aspects and characteristics of what came to be termed incest whenever it existed between human beings.

“The mating of Ouranos with Gaea, of Heaven and the Earth, at first produced three Giants, each of them possessing a hundred separate hands. The ancient name for these gigantic beings was the Hecatonchires, but I and most modern students and scholars refer to them as the Hecatons, each of which possessed fifty heads along with a hundred separate hands.

Then occurred the birth of three one-eyed Cyclopes. Ouranos was so angry at seeing such ugly monsters as the Hecatons and the Cyclopes that he hurled them into the distant underworld of Tartarus, far beneath the earth itself.

“Because they felt a strong passion to create more beings, Ouranos and Gaea continued to conceive new creatures, making more acceptable ones, the twelve that they named the Titans.

“As a student of ancient Greek mythology, I made myself memorize the names of the group that became these Elder Gods, born before the coming of the Olympian Gods with which our early ancestors were familiar.

“The six male Titans came to be called Oceanus, Iapetus, Hyperion, Crius, Coeus, and Cronus. Their six sisters were named Tethys, Rhea, Thea, Phoebe, Themis, and Mnemosyne. Their leader became Cronus, the youngest of them all.

“Unions between pairs of the Titans resulted in the birth of children and grandchildren, all of them with the Titan character and nature of their parents in them.

“But as these familial relationships became enlarged, emotions of jealousy and resentment appeared and increased.

“Gaea regretted what Ouranos had done to the Heratons and Cyclopes she had given life to and continued to feel love toward.

It was the leading Titan, the Cronus who ruled over time, who had returned the escaping Cyclopes back to the underworld of Tartarus. Gaea, fuming with wrath, started to scheme to punish and gain vengeance on Cronus and the Titans for what they had done to her earliest children.

“She sought her allies among the children of the Titans, turning them against their own father..

“The key to her victory over Cronus became her grandchild, whom we know as Zeus, the youngest child of Cronis and the Titaness named Rhea.

“Cronus, though all–powerful, had paranoic fear of his own children and ate them alive. But his wife Rhea fooled him over the youngest one, Zeus, whom she managed to conceal and allow to survive. He was raised in a cave on the island of Crete by the goat Amalthea and grew up there. Later he served his father Cronus as a cupbearer, but his identity remained unknown to this parent.

“By placing a special mustard in his wine, Zeus compels his father to vomit forth from his stomach all of his brother and sisters. He organizes his siblings into a rebellion to overthrow the primacy and power of Cronus, freeing the Hecatons and the Cyclopes from the underworld so they can join in the ten-year war against the Titans.

“With his final victory, Zeus becomes the almighty ruler of the universe, and his brothers and sisters share in the varied regions, realms, and sectors of reality. Mt. Olympus becomes the central capital of rule and governing.

“The surviving Titans were imprisoned under the earth in Tartarus, the Hecatons and Cyclopes assigned to guarding and confining them there.”

Aglaia, exhausted from speaking, asked Paris a question in order to get a measurement of how he was responding to all he had heard.

“What do you think of this picture of parent-progeny dissention, of hatred, division, and conflict within the closest of possible bloodlines?”

The patient was not the one who answered, but Despina sitting spellbound behind the therapeutic assistant.

“Our Greek gods, goddesses, and demigods were not at all perfect models for us in modern times. They were bloody and bestial, driven by the worst and lowest passions, impulses, and drives.

“There was nothing Olympic or angelic about what most of them did in those early ages.

“Whatever influence they may have over our formation as human beings, was mostly a sick, negative one.

“I would think those mythological characters in need of therapy like what we are doing with laser mirrors here in Salonika.

“They were deeply disturbed characters, there can be no doubt about that.”

For the remaining time of this session, none of the three spoke again about what Aglaia had described.

VII. –

Late that afternoon, just before the closing of the Asclepius Institute, Athon met in his office with his primary assistant. She provided him a brief report on what she had presented to the new patient about the two early rebellions of divinities against their creator-parents.

“I told him about the fearful hatred that both Ouranos and Cronus had for their disobedient, disloyal sons, and the emotional forces that drove the younger generation of divine beings into violent rebellion.

“I demonstrated to Paris Xenthos how extreme fear can produce precisely the effects that are the most dreaded, and how bloody vengeance can repeat itself in a new configuration of personalities.

“But did my words carry me too far? I wonder.

“Was the patient, Paris, prepared to accept and absorb such lurid accounts of murder and warfare among the gods of Greek folklore and tradition?”

Athos furrowed his brow as he groped for an adequate answer for her.

“Neither I nor anyone else is capable of saying for sure.” He paused. “What you presented him were kinds of mirror images for him to think and reflect on. Perhaps this writer with mental blockage will perceive aspects of himself in the tales you told him. I would hope that if he comes to understand and sympathize with the figures of our mythology, his own unconscious drives, motives, and wishes will become much more clear to him.

“That is what I am hoping for, Aglaia.”

The latter broke out with a gleaming smile. “So am I,” she muttered in a subdued tone.

Paris Xanthos felt worn out and empty in both mind and body after the arduous session with the laser light and the mirrors.

Hunger beginning to turn into pain pushed him to enter a small seafood restaurant in the lower part of the Ladadika section of downtown, inner Salonika. He ordered a large plate of bakaliares hake with Samothraki salad and took a small, round table. Eating with fervor, a voice from behind him interrupted his ravenous feast of fish.

“Hello, how are you doing? I imagine that your treatment at the clinic today made your appetite for a good meal drive you in here.

“I finished my day there quite hungry for some tasty food, as well.”

Paris turned his head around and beheld the face of Despina Ilias, the hew employee who had earlier been present to witness his therapeutic session with the mirrors.

“Did you just come in here yourself” he asked her. “If you don’t have a table of your own yet, why not sit down here and order what you want for yourself.

“I am eating all alone and I would certainly welcome someone at my table, so that I would not have to dine alone.”

}That’s very kind,” murmured Despina. “Thanks a lot. I won’t remind you of your session or talk about the clinic at all, I promise you.”

“No,” he insisted to her. “That’s not necessary. It is best if I don’t try to hide or repress it from myself. I want to understand as much as I can, as much as is possible. I believe that is the best course for me to take.”

An aproned waiter appeared, giving Despina a small menu. She ordered a garida salad with shrimp and prawns. When he left the table, she spoke again to Paris.

“At one time I was at the clinic as a patient myself,” she confessed. “My experience tells me how it is that you now feel. But I advise you to take the treatments and what you hear and learn there in stride.

“Be assured that, with time, you will be feeling a lot better.

“I know and am fully able to predict that you are going to make some really big gains in how you think and feel.”

Paris beamed a bright smile to her as the waiter arrived carrying her food. “Thank you, for your hopefulness,” he told her almost in a whisper.

Suddenly, as if entering into a trance of some sort, Despina started to mumble as if ruminating all to herself.

“The clinic depends upon mirrors as its primary instrument of therapy. But I agree with Dr. Gavrion that I happen to be a mirror, and that all of us humans are also mirrors. Our minds and our personalities mirror those of our close relatives and companions. A large or a limited number of other mirrors create what is present in the reflections that each of our personal mirrors catch and retains.

“It is as simple but as mysterious as that, my friend,” she said with a laugh.

Despina looked down at her shrimp and prawns, compelling Paris to continue eating his meal.

VIII.

Nikos Xanthos was certain that he had a focal concept for a movie that his father-in-law would accept and approve. It will be easy to sell to the old man, the film director said to himself.

The pair sat together in Spiro Argyros’ favorite spot for daydreaming and relaxation, the little fresh-air patio of the Ano Poli mansion of the movie magnate.

“I have an idea that would draw viewer interest almost everywhere,” murmured the son-in-law as sweetly as he could. “It provides differing backgrounds of place and varied personalities in the major roles. Let me explain what I am envisioning in my imagination.

“A Greek family at the present time immigrates to America, settling down in New York City, in the Greek community in the area called Astoria. The eldest son of this family from Salonika goes to the Orthodox church there and meets the daughter of the priest. Romance follows, then a proposal of marriage to her. But the girl’s father objects, because the lover has no job, profession, or money of his own. The immigrant father and mother believe their son should wait ten years or even more in order to establish himself with the resources they calculate he will need to attain and keep the social-economic level that they themselves aspire to and moved to reach.

“A number of disputes and conflicts come about, and the two lovers start to separate with doubts and suspicions concerning each other.

“At the end, the girl finds and falls in love with a non-Greek.

“And guess what: the boy does exactly the same.

“The young ones flee from each other, and the two families go their own ways.

“In fact, the immigrant parents consider whether they should return to Salonica and avert their prospective Americanization altogether.

“What do you think of such a humorous plot line?”

Spiro Argyros seemed to turn a rocklike solid as his thoughts and emotions fumed.

“That will not work,” he growled in his throat. “It is not original, not at all. Many such stories have been used, in Hollywood and elsewhere. I have seen them and so have you.

“Think of something different, something with only a Greek location and environment. A native but also original story to display and tell. It may be difficult to find or conceive, but that is what we need for a winning film.

“You and I need something much better than what you just outlined to me, Nikos.”

Realizing the extent of his failure, the director excused himself and said he had to hurry away.

Anastas Bazaras entered the Ano Poli mansion of the magnate who employed him with a fresh, renewed feeling of optimism. He was going to make a report on an unanticipated development that he believed would have an immediate effect on the thinking of Hylas Chryseis about the problem vexing him.

Sitting opposite the tycoon in the cool, noiseless patio, the head of company security had a bright, confident smile on his lower face. He spoke with an unusual degree if spirit and vigor.

“Our people have discovered a certain fact the promises to be the key to defeating and immobilizing this entire clinic. It is a strange, unusual reality that begs us to exploit it as soon as we possibly can>”

“What are you talking about?” demanded Hylas with immediate impatience. “Get it out of you at once! Don’t take all day to tell me what it is you that’s new and can be used.”

Bazaras leaned his head forward over the small, round table.

“The heir to the Xanthos film fortune has entered the Asclepius Clinic for therapeutic treatment. He is attending special sessions where he is exposed to lasers and mirrors.

“This young man is the son of the famous movie director Nikos Xanthos. He is the grandson of the cinematic entrepreneur and studio owner Spiro Argyros. As one can see, this person is well-connected in every sense of the term

“Paris Xanthos has studied the writing of film scripts and his personal ambitions lie in that area. It is plain and clear that this person possesses many promising advantages that hold a lot of promise for his future careefilm r.
on
“But he could be of enormous value to us as a victim of Dr. Gavrion and his clinic.

“If we mobilized the boy’s father and grandfather behind our campaign, it could make the difference giving us victory. The entire Salonika film industry allied with us would be decisive.”

Hylas Chryseis sensed a wave of positive enthusiasm rising deep within himself.

“This might be precisely what we need and lacked till now,” he managed to mumble. “Get on it and learn all that you can. I will myself approach the father and the grandfather and ask them to join me in rescuing the young man from the evil clutches of this clinic of mirrors and tricks.

“We have to get to work on this angle at once. There is no time to lose.”

Paris anticipated a lengthy period of restful sleep the night after his first mirror treatment, but that did not prove to be what actually occurred to him.

He awoke abruptly a short while past midnight. In a single instant of time, he found himself fully conscious and rational. His memory of the therapy he had undergone was clear and strong. All at once, an uncanny realization dawned in his functioning mind.

His writer’s block had been a product of nothing else but his very own will. He had not written anything for so long because he did not wish to write, as if this were an unconscious choice hidden deep in the shadows of his thoughts and motives.

His own will had created the supposed barrier preventing his creative work. He himself was the only enemy force obstructing his active, constructive labor of writing.

All of a sudden, he knew what his immediate task happened to be. The plot, the narrative, the characters and their stories appeared to him in clear, bright outline.

Paris decided that he was not going to sleep anymore that night. No, he was going to get down what his conscious mind could now see and imagine.

First, he turned on the bedroom lights, took pen and paper, and began to sketch and write down the main themes and concepts alive in his thoughts.

Later on, there would be time to elaborate and fill in the characters and the details on his long-unused electronic word-processor.

It was all there and he had to put it down while it was still fresh and strong in his memory.

The first person to learn of the writing rehabilitation was Dr. Athos Gavrion when he met with the patient for their pre-treatment consultation the following morning.

“I am composing once again!” announced Paris as soon as he was seated in the office of his psychiatrist.

Athos saw the radiant glow in the olive eyes of the young man. He spoke with fervent exuberance, with unconcealed joy and confidence. “I have resurrected my capacity to write and create,” boasted Paris. “I know that this is more than just temporary, it is going to be permanent and for good. I am totally sure of a solid victory that will not fade away in the days to come.

“I sense that I myself had been producing the inner resistance blocking me from composing anything. And it was the clinic and my mirror treatment that unintentionally gave me my initial topic about which I have begin to write.”

“What do you mean?” asked the shaken, astounded therapist, studying the face of the patient with intense attention and entranced interest.

“Your assistant discussed the War of the Titans with me and that awakened my mind as if from death itself. It was Aglaia who showed me the meaning of the conflict between a parent and a child back then at the beginning.

“That, I realize now, was what gave me the kind of story that I am writing as fast as possible.

“I am once more the person I must be, that I have always dreamed of becoming!”

Salonika Mirrors Part II.

23 May

I.

“I have gone back to our early Hellenic ancestors to find a method of analysis and therapy that fits the needs of patients of our time,” dreamily said Dr. Athos Gavrion to his new clinic patient, Miss Despina Ilias.

He gazed for a moment at the harmonious face of the small, comely woman sitting across his desk from him. She had informed his assistant that she suffered from sudden, extreme mood swings. How seriously painful were these unexplained feelings inside her? he wondered. How would the treatment with an electronic mirror furnish her needed aid and relief? he pondered as he went on explaining what he could promise someone like her.

“It amazes me how little any human being is able to understand about the motives and emotions of other human beings. It is as if each person was living in a separate world all alone. That is why, I believe, that so many of us feel so alone, suffer such unimaginable loneliness. WE do not see or know each other to any great extent. And that is probably the major reason that no one can know his or her own true character or nature.

“As a result, our images both of ourselves and of other people are based primarily on imaginary images that, for the most part, we create in our own minds.

“What we attempt to accomplish in the Asclepian Clinic is to dispel and replace the false and distorted pictures with truth never perceived or understood before by the patient seeking help here.

“I think our electronic mirror can be of benefit to you, Miss Ilias. We have found solutions for others much more ill and troubled than you appear to be.”

“I do not understand why I feel so lonely and useless. My entire life seems an empty story without any meaning at all. It is so awful and painful when I think about how terribly I feel about myself. It makes me tired of what I have gone through and had to suffer,” said Despina with an audible moan.

“Tell me, Miss Ilias, do your dreams while asleep ever cause you mental trouble of any sort?” inquired the doctor in a tone of sensitivity and sympathy, looking directly into her face and eyes.

Upon hearing this question, she consciously made a frown of distress.

“Indeed, such bad visions often come about at night,” she replied with visible fear and concern. “What I see in my unconscious mind can often terrify me even after I awaken.”

“The therapy you will be undergoing with our electronic mirror has the effect of inducing good, beneficial dreaming by our patients. These can be identified with the curative dreams that the ancient temples dedicated to Asclepius produced in the minds of those who underwent medical visits in which they slept overnight in the dormitory chamber of these shrines. Our ancestors in those early centuries believed in the efficacy of saving dreams that rescued the patient from both physical and psychological problems and troubles.”

“That is so good to hear!” excitedly said the undercover investigator who was making her way into the Asclepius Clinic.

She was surprised ay the ease of her success in convincing this psychiatrist that she was a genuine patient in search of treatment and cure in his clinic.

Anastas Bazaras had good news to report to his employer as they met in the latter’s business office in the busy center of Salonika.

“The agent I hired has been accepted by Dr. Gavrion and will be beginning mirror treatment tomorrow morning, sir. I will be expecting positive results from this initial probe into the workings of this suspicious enterprise being carried out under the guise of medical therapy. Before very long, we will be enjoying direct evidence of the harmful effects being perpetrated on the innocent and unwary who go there for relief.”

Hylas Chryseis drew a long breath. “That is good to hear. But I am also making my plans on what follows when we get the evidence that we want. I ask myself where would it be best to go for action against this quack practitioner. And I surprised myself with the answer I came up with.

“Think about this: the police and the prosecutor, and then finally the court, would take an undetermined length of time to reach any real results. Why not appeal with proof directly to the people in charge of governing the medical profession itself? That would immediately bring in the organization of those most affected by the outrages performed by this particular psychiatrist. They are the ones who can shut down his clinic by taking away his license to practice or deal with mental patients. Their action would be swift and unquestioned. There would be no legal right to appeal it, none at all.

“What do you think of my idea?”

“It is brilliant,” replied the private investigator. “It makes a lot of sense to me, sir.”

“I have already made arrangements to meet in private with the president of the Salonika Medical Association and explain what I have, as soon as our agent collects the material we need at this clinic of mirrors.”

II.

Despina sat before the electronic mirror-screen and watched the bluish brightness increase into a glowing, fascinating sight for her eyes.

From directly behind her, Aglaia looked over the notes that Dr. Gavrion had written down at his interview and left on her desk to be read in preparation for this session of mirror therapy.

“You say that you are a victim of horrifying dreams, of actual nightmare. Has that happened to you of late? For example, how did you sleep last night, Despina?”

The latter waited a considerable time before giving any answer. She realized that she had to be credible and imaginative at the same time.

“I was quiet and restful last night, perhaps because my mind was occupied and looking forward to the treatment scheduled for me here today.”

The clinic assistant smiled to herself. “I would like to hear about the types of bad dreams you have suffered the most often, if you would tell me that.”

Despina felt suddenly at a loss. How was she going to answer this difficult question? Was it going to unravel her assumed identity of a mental patient?

“Are you that interested in what I imagined and saw in my personal nightmares?” shot back the one who had been asked.

“It may help me in my understanding of your circumstances, Miss,” replied Aglaia in a controlled, positive tone. “I would be as equally curious about the sights dreamed of in the dreams or nightmares of any of the persons receiving therapy with me assisting. There is nothing at all unusual in the matter.”

A clumsy, awkward, uneasy silence followed for a minute or so, as the patient fell into a moody kind of spell that reduced her reluctance to reveal the nature of her nonexistent dreams.

All at once, she began to speak as if she were alone and no one else heard her unusual words.

“The bodies that I caught before me on the evening street carried heads and faces that were clearly unnatural.
Some were those of country fowl, of white chickens and flaming red roosters. None of the people on parade before me had the faces of human beings, but looked like unworldly versions of common, everyday animals, both household pets and wild creatures I was unfamiliar with in my daytime, conscious life.

“I only recognize the names that go with some of the heads and faces I spied from books and Videx films that contained their images. That was all J had to go by.

“I saw terrifying, horrible things that deserve the name of monsters. Frightening gashes and shadows showed themselves to my mind’s eyes. These sights caused my sleeping body to shake with dread and shock. Is there any way to escape the clutches of the hellish beings that approach ever closer to me? I wondered.

“There was only a single means away for me, and I grabbed for it by compelling myself to awaken from the nightmare that surrounded me on a street in downtown Salonika.”

Despina seemed to be giving herself a couple of shakes as if forcing herself into self-aware consciousness.

Aglaia, noticing this change in the previous position and condition of the patient, decided it best to divert her in a new, different direction with a purposeful question.

“Do you sense the deepening blue color contained in the laser lamps of the mirror apparatus?” she coolly said to the subject of the treatment session.

The gambit appeared successful, for Despina was drawn away from the description of nightmare to the mirror screen her eyes were focused upon.

“Yes,” she replied. “I think I have never seen a blue such as that in front of me at this moment. It is so peaceful and so calming. I think that I would enjoy gazing into it all day and into the darkness that comes at night.

“That blue light is comforting and satisfying to me.

“I am so happy that I came to your clinic and began this wonderful mirror therapy!”

Hylas Chryseis discovered it quite easy to draw to his corporate executive office the president of Salonika’s medical association. The electro-net message to the physician’s office gave the invented purpose of discussing the special illnesses that occurred to his professional divers to the depths of the Aegean Sea and how to treat such ailments.

Dr. Kostas Vergoula was a huge giant with thick silver hair and a yellowish orange face. He entered the office of the marine industry magnate with strong, proud, self-confident steps.

He knew who he was and had exact knowledge of what he was capable of doing or achieving in situations such as this one.

Handling one of the richest operators in all of Greece posed no peril whatever to him.

Hylas rose, circled his great desk, greeted and then shock hands with the important visitor.

Both men sat down beside the window that looked out at Salonika harbor and Hylas Chryseis started to speak on the medical subject that was the supposed subject of their being together.

“Because of the nature of our industries, I have found it necessary to deal with cases of so-called Caisson’s illness or decompression which occurs wen a diver leaves the nitrogen-rich atmosphere for the floor of the sea beside which we are situated.

“I understand, Dr. Vergoula, that your association of physicians has great interest in this sickness. That is why I asked you to meet with me here. My company medicos have carried out extensive research on this problem that is often called the Bends. My people wish to work together and share results with your own organization as soon as practically possible.

“Can that be arranged between your office and mine, Dr. Vergoula?”

“Yes, certainly,” answered the physician with a measure of surprise. Was that the reason for summoning him to the main office of this Salonika grandee?

“There is another matter of importance that I have to talk about with you, Doctor.”

“Yes, what is it?” said the visitor with the tiny hint of a smile of anticipation fulfilled.

“It has to do with a certain person who recently arrived here from Athens and claims to be qualified to practice psychiatry, though he lacks specific certification in that field.

“The man has set up an office which he has named the Asclepius Clinic. His claim is an outlandish one that he can produce curative results with the use of laser lights and special mirrors.

“What can be more insane than such pretentions? His activity has the smell of quackery and criminal fraud. His attempts to sell such bogus therapy endangers anyone who submits to his ersatz psychiatry.

“The scoundrel’s name is Athos Gavrion. Have you read or heard of what he is doing to those with mental problems?

“I want to urge you, Doctor, to set up some kind of special body to deal with the problem posed by this imposter, this mountebank. As soon as it can be done, he must be investigated, questioned, and then expelled from the profession that you head here in Salonika.

“With urgency, a swift ending must be put to the outrages that this outlaw commits every day that passes.

“Our beloved city has no place for a pretender like Athos Gavrion, none at all.”

Dr. Vergoula was startled by the fervor of the magnate’s voice as his face reddened with emotional anger.

What lies behind the passionate wrath of this Captain of Industry?

He guessed that someone close to Hylas Chryseis may have been caught up and victimized by such treatment, but he dared not ask about that particular matter.

“I promise to do what I can,” he murmured in a softened, solemn tone, leaving after a hearty handshake with the rich man who had summoned him there.

III.

Anastas Bazaras arranged to meet with his secret agent, Despina Ilias, at a café facing the shoreline walkway and the waters of the Salonika harbor. It was early evening and walkers were already moving along the route of promenade

Both of them, sitting at a small round table a distance from anyone able to overhear them, sipped from tiny containers of the ouzo they had both ordered.

Anastas was first to bring up the mission that his special representative was carrying out at the Asclepius Clinic.

“Did they accept you in your the role you were playing?” he asked in a low, guarded tone.

Despina leaned her head forward and downward toward him. “Yes, I would have to affirm that I was successful. It was easier for me, in fact, with Dr. Gavrion himself. He seemed eager to put me at ease and did all he could to make me accept his new mirror therapy.

“It was his assistant, the person present and overseeing my actual physical contact with the laser light and the mirror image project that asked me more intrusive questions and told me certain disturbing things, For instance, she made me describe the nightmares that I had claimed afflicted me. I had lied to Dr. Gavrion, inventing and imagining monstrous sights that had haunted my night sleep and dominated my dreaming while asleep. She gave me the impression that she was doubtful I was telling her the truth. The more she inquired about the details, the more I was forced to think up absurd, crazy sorts of monstrosities that belonged in an actually experienced nightmare.

“It was a difficult position she put me in. I had to go further and further in composing fictions that would impress her as horrors that I had seen in my subconscious, sleeping mind.

“When the session was over, I was unsure I had actually convinced this person called Aglaia that I was really the victim of such night visions.”

By this time, Anastas Bazaras was deep in thought and looking over her shoulder at the darkening dusk of the Aegean waters of the gulf.

He looked her in the eye and spoke in a cold, stiff voice that surprised Despina.

“Whatever might have occurred with this woman, you have to continue and learn more about what the doctor is claiming and promising he can accomplish with his mirrors. We have to catch him in fraudulent lies that can be the basis of legal action and valid accusations before the medical community of Salonika.

“At your next appointment for therapy, you must entice both Dr. Gavrion and his assistant to talk to you without inhibition and reveal the fantasies and boasts that can convict them of deceptive, underhanded practices that are the same as criminal offenses against their patients.”

“Yes, I understand what is needed,” firmly asserted Despina.

Her next therapy session came in three days for the investigator impersonating a clinic patient.

First of all there occurred a brief consultation with Dr. Gavrion in his private office.

“How do you feel today. Miss Ilias?” he inquired. “Has your hopeless, depressed condition lifted to any degree since your first visit with us?”

Despina attempted to look as despondent as she could make herself appear, a vague distraction in her eyes, over all of her face.

“I am mostly the same as I was before coming here, perhaps even more negative and lost than I was earlier. There is no spirit or purpose in the days that pass by. To a great extent, my left has turned into an unending line of ennui and boredom. Can you explain any of this to me, Doctor?”

The latter delayed his reply with a few seconds of rapid, busy consideration and calculation.

“Today, you will be the recipient of greater laser intensity and longer mirror treatment,” he informed her. “I think that our patients always receive increasing benefits from such focusing and concentration of our therapeutic instruments. We will see how you react to this augmentation in what we are doing.”

Despina tried to look pleased and compliant. “I must have faith that more time with mirror treatment will have food results foe me,” she quietly told him.

Aglaia listened spellbound as the newest clinic patient presented her a list of totally imaginary dream creatures she pretended to have viewed at night during the last several day.

“In my recent nightmares there existed human bodies with the heads of rabid wolves, foxes. and mountain goats. These monsters on two legs chased me through the night streets of Salonika with animal hatred and lust, as if on fire to devour and consume me, to the last particle of my being. I recognized this horde of animal forms as neither completely human nor nonhuman, but rather a third, unique type all to itself, incorporating the ultimate evil core of both true human and true animal.

“The satanic mob chased me about the city, down the Egnatia, then through Aristotle Square and the Plateia area.

“There were heads of lions and tigers from other continents, baboons and gorillas with enormous heads and ugly faces, animal faces from all corners of our planet hurried in chase after my fleeing body.

“Words are inadequate for me to describe the primeval dread I felt as a ran from these would-be destroyers and annihilators of me and my body.

“It was impossible for me to stand still, for that would mean surrender to their awful, beastly hunger. There was no alternative to me but to escape this night vision by waking myself up in total panic.

“But the worst scene that I saw was at the end was when the herd of animal-headed persons approach the harbor shore and physically attack the groups of outdoor walkers proceeding along the walkway. There was actual a form of cannibalism going on there as the monsters, hungry for raw meat, bit and ripped apart the screaming Salonikans with gigantic, sharp teeth. Grizzly teeth cut and tore, cut and tore in a feast of destruction. The appetites I viewed rose to an unlimited climax of bloody butchering and gluttony right in front of my dreaming nighttime vision. I saw insane gnashing and grinding of gigantic teeth. The crushing and swallowing and gulping down was bestial. Merciless evil went on and I witnessed the worst of it.

“This was a nightmare that terrorized me on and on, into my waking life of day, to this moment in time.”

Despina forced herself to pretend to tremble from the fearful memory of the imagined dream. She limited herself to a minimum of little shaking, just enough to be noticed by Aglaia and accepted as genuine and credible.

The patient turned silent and stared at the blue laser beams flooding her eyes with new, increasing energy.

She was certain that the clinic assistant had swallowed as true the lurid fictions she had described as symbols of her mental distress, her subconscious troubles.

Aglaia dared say nothing after hearing this description of nightmare. She waited till the end of the session to advise the patient in a somber tone.

“You must discuss these awful visions of yours with Dr. Gavrion,” she murmured carefully. “He will help you discover what they mean for your mental life.”

Aglaia, making a report on her activities during the day, related her experience with Despina Ilias, spoke in a saddened, despondent voice.

“This patient and what she reveals about the nightmares that she experiences causes much worried thought,” she slowly admitted. “There are signs of grave internal friction of some sort in both her mind and her personality.”

“In what way does this woman puzzle you so much?” said the psychiatrist, furrowing his forehead. “Are there any specifics that raise troubling conclusions for you”?”

The assistant hesitated a few moments before telling what she was getting at.

‘”The description she gave me of her troublesome dreams were so jarring and unconventional that I reacted with emotions of my own. Was this woman psychotically ill, or merely a neurotic in personality, like the bulk of those patients who have come to us for therapy?

“It was as if there was some sort of profound enigma central to the mind of Despina Ilias. What would I not do in order to solve the riddle of why she seems so inconsistent and anomalous to me!”

“I must take this feature up with her when she comes here next time,” muttered Athos as if thinking aloud, primarily to himself alone.

Aglaia considered how much further she should go in declaring her thoughts about this particular patient, but decided to keep them to herself for the time being.

“I will keep record of what she reveals to me the next time she and I are together for laser-mirror treatment,” she promised to him.

IV.

Anastas Bazaras seemed impatient to Despina when she met him for a light breakfast of kerassia and stafida omelets at a Ladadika lunch room.

“How was yesterday’s session for you at the clinic?” he blankly inquired as soon as the pair were seated and had ordered their egg dishes.

“It was an uncomfortable experience for me,” she rasped. “It was hard, but I think I managed to convince both the doctor and his assistant that the fantasies I said that I dreamed actually happened to me.

“But none of it was easy to accomplish, that much I know for certain. These two are shrewd characters, I have no doubt of that. It was something that took every ounce of my intelligence and imagination to convince the pair that what I was telling them really came to me as a genuine nightmare.

“And the blue laser lights are getting brighter and brighter as this goes on. They could be the thing that kept me awake and sleepless for so much of last night.

“It would be terrible if these treatments ended up giving me insomnia.”

She looked at the ex-detective with helplessness and anger in her eyes.

“Keep up your courage, Despina,” mumbled the other. “I think we will soon have enough evidence from you to write a completely damning report about the psychiatrist and his helper. You will be the key to expelling this quack out of the medical profession for good.”

Dr. Gavrion was eager to delve as deeply as was possible for him into the stubborn, mysterious trauma that was at the center of this particular female patient.

Despina was completely open on description of her bothersome, painful nightmare visions, but her personal life and relationships she kept distant and as unknown as she could.

Athos grew more and more desirous of uncovering the secrets he was certain she was for some reason hiding from him and Aglaia both.

“It is necessary, I must conclude, that there are personal matters causing you to have these horrible dreams,” he said at the start of this interview, their third in his consultation office.

Despina sensed the possibility of danger to the impersonation she had so far succeeded in carrying forth.

“I live pretty much to myself, doctor,” she said as she attempted to divert his attention from where he seemed to be headed. “There are no lovers or male friends close to me, in any way whatever. My privacy is now as complete as I can make it. Many would term me as totally an individualist, as isolated and alone as it is possible for someone to be and still live within society. For me, that is our beloved Salonika.”

“It is amazing how our minds work within the surrounding social environment of other human beings,” mused Athos. “But the truth is that other persons can most often see and understand more about each of us than we can accomplish by ourselves. That is true for even the highest intelligence, the most rational of minds.

“That is the reason that therapeutic mirrors, laser radiation, and the self-hypnosis that result from their application can do so much in revealing internal secrets that are invisible and unknown to all our patients.

“The therapy we have invented here can catch hold of the small, unseen forces and factors that create problems for people. It is the truth that conventional psychiatry overlooks many of the tiny, unique causes of mental conflict and pain. What no individual can perceive or deal with within the self and the mind becomes conscious and reachable so the person can deal with it for the first time.

“Very minor, overlooked influences often result in major troubles and problems.” Athos suddenly grinned. “I believe that as your treatments proceed, you will be making startling discoveries about your own mind that were hidden from consciousness until now. That may be why you had difficulty falling asleep last night.

“Do not worry about that, for I know that you are making progress through what is being revealed to you by our curative mirrors, aimed at restoring you to full health.”

As Despina received an enlarged charge of laserized light from the mirror screen in front of her chair, she absorbed the audible words of Aglaia, in back of her and seated to her left.

“Our ancient ancestors were greatly interested in the question of the origins of dreams, especially of disturbing nightmares that caused panic and terror to minds afflicted with such afflictions,

“One common explanations was to blame black-winged demons known as Oneroi sent by Nyx, goddess of the night, or by Hypnos, the god of sleep.

“Later, there arose the concept of the three brothers Morpheus, Phantasos, and Phobetor. The first brought sleep itself, the second carried unusual dream, while Phobetor was the messenger of other gods and goddesses, delivering fearful visions of animals and horrid monsters. The latter was aptly named “the Frightener”.

“But an even later explanation of nightmares had its roots in the Orphic Mysteries and their secret cult.

“Have you read or heard of Melinoe, the goddess of nightmares and the ghosts of the night that bring madness?”

“No, I have not,” mumbled the confused, instantly disoriented Despina, wondering where the assistant’s words were going to lead.

“Let me explain,” declared Aglaia. “Melinoe had the power to make a mortal human insane. The instrument were the nightmares that she caused. “Her evil character was inherited from her father, the god of the dark underworld, Hades. It was believed that her mother was Persephone, the bride stolen and kidnapped by Hades from her mother, Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, the land, and all that grows from it.

“Half light and half darkness, Melinoe personified her two contradictory origins and natures. She contained the bright, glowing innocence of the abducted Persephone, but also the horrible shadow and blackness of Hades.

“She crept into bedrooms and assaulted victims in the dead of night, torturing them with illogical, mad visions of the absurd and the impossible. The results ended up as cracks and divisions in thought, the fracturing of the mind as a bloody arena of unlimited confusion and conflict.

“This chtonic goddess was also often involved with necromancy, causing images of dead human beings to appear in nightmares, bringing unlimited fright and dread into the minds of her chosen victims.

“As a result of these nightmares created and introduced by Melinoe, the healers of minds plagued by such hellish visions must turn to the remedial means that are used today here in the Asclepius Clinic: blue laser light, the curative mirror, and patient self-hypnosis.

“That is the only escape from the nightmares of Melinoe that remains for you, Despina.”

The latter surprised the assistant supervising her with an immediate, unexpected question.

“How can I ever avail myself of auto-mesmerism, since I remain totally ignorant of the subject and how it works?”

Aglaia gave a soft, quiet chuckle. “The mirror and the blue laser light train and equip you in that most ancient of arts. You are learning the craft at this moment, and have been doing that throughout all your treatments. the mirror has been laying the foundation for your eventual mastery of how it is done.”

“That is hard for me to accept or believe,” said Despina with an audible sigh.

“It is occurring as we speak, but you are not yet conscious of the deep effects the mirror treatments have had on you, and how this renovation of your mental life will shape your future, my dear.”

little more was said by either of the women for the rest of the laser-mirror treatment session.

V.

Hylas Chryseis seldom intruded into his daughter’s suite of rooms in the rear wing of their Ano Poli mansion. So that Aglaia was not expecting her father to be sitting at her small bedroom desk when she entered in a bath kimono after a shower in her personal bathroom quarter.

He was first to say something as she stopped at the doorway, gaping with disconcerting astonishment at his presence in her most private of areas.

“I wished to be sure to talk with you, before you leave the house and go out to spend your evening as you will, my dear little girl,” he slowly said, his face almost a frozen mask of self-control.

“What did you wish to say, father?” she discovered herself able to inquire of him.

“I shall not ask where you will be going, or whether you are going to be all by yourself or not,” he managed to mutter. “All I wish to do at the moment is warn you, my dear child.

“I want you be careful, fully aware of the hidden dangers abroad in Salonika for the innocent and the unaware. We live in a great, ancient city, but it contains unhealthy characters among its mullion or more inhabitants.

“I have experienced decades in business and the seabed industries of our city, and I have met or collided with many scores of selfish, underhanded personalities. I know them and they know me. Many unlucky incidents and defeats came my way. I have numerous scars, wounds, and burns from all that happened to me.” He paused, staring intensely at the standing figure of his daughter. “You can identify who it is I am referring to. Take good care concerning this psychiatrist with whom you are at present working. I hear and pick up bad tales about what he has done before and what the man may be capable of.

“Do not let him take advantage of any kind whatever. Do you understand what I am saying to you?”

No reply at all came from the startled Aglaia. She merely watched as if paralyzed as her father rose and left her quarters in the spacious Chryseis mansion.

Athos took his assistant to a dockside restaurant where people in ship commerce liked to eat. He ordered his favorite lavraki bass while Aglaia chose atherina sand smelt. He began to question her at once, furrowing his brow with unconcealed concern over one single patient.

“I have increasing concern about Despina Ilias,” he murmured with signs of long thoughts about this subject. “She is experiencing the opposite of what I anticipated when she first came in. The unfortunate woman is holding back something that may appear insignificant, but that holds together the complex of thoughts and emotion that are causing her mental trouble. She just persists in concealing what is needed for solving her puzzle.

“I cannot understand why her case has grown so difficult. The mirror therapy has not yet found a pathway past the invisible armor shielding much of her inner, subconscious self. It is impossible to make genuine progress with her as long as she continues to baffle us.

“What is it that Despina is hiding with such a stubborn, iron will? I think she may not even realize that a key secret exists deep inside herself.”

Aglaia, sharing this same concern about the patient’s mysterious hesitations and inhibitions, was on the verge of telling what she thought, but decided she would wait till the next day.

The waiter delivered their fish and the pair concentrated on themselves and their meal together.

Despina feared going to bed that night, dreading what might appear in any dreaming that might come to her. Could it be the ancient goddess named Melinoe who created and transmitted loathsome shapes and forms into minds that suffered such as her own?

It took the agent of private investigations several hours of unrestful fidgeting and turning before sleep descended upon her troubled consciousness. Deep sleep passed by without notice in thought or feeling. But then arrived the moment of unregulated, wild wandering of mind that resulted in vivid nightmare on some screen of her brain.

Despina immediately recognized the location she was in. This was the Louloudadika open flower market, at the corner when Komhinon Street crossed Vas Irakiou near the Modiano and the Kapani covered food markets.

Brightly colored flowers of many varieties filled the area with the odors of a country paradise. a Salonikan could chose from sellers of lilies, carnations, roses, amaryllises, violets, irises, crocuses, hyacinths, or even narcissuses.

But a solid, large crowd of unworldly figures stood packed together in the busy market, staring ahead at the dreamer and blocking her view of the rest of the flower market.

Strangely mesmerized eyes stared directly at the person experiencing this vision of the unconscious.

The horrible feature of the dangerous nightmare characters were their gigantically enlarged heads and unusually stretched forth faces. These were four or five times normal in dimensions, astonishing in difference from normal human heads and faces. The bodies and torsos of these fantastic beings moved and existed in the shadows of what rose above their hidden necks.

The faces held lurid, unnatural skin of ghostly shades and hues. Some revealed ashen, pallid lack of tan or coloring. Odious, loathsome eyes gazed out from cadaverous faces with vile, vicious hatred. Other visages possessed a yellowish waxen quality. Dark, blackened faces contained jewel-like eyes that shone with freakish, primitive emotion that reflected some sort of heinous, unspeakable deep hidden drive.

All at once, Despina recognized the identity one of the most macabre of the heads and faces.

It was the perpetrator of one of the first homicides she had worked on, that she had personally investigated as a plainclothes agent operating undercover, a police spy.

It was the sickening, misshapen, head of a repugnant mass killer who had wiped out an entire family with his knife.

A cascading number of criminals whom she had encountered as a police agent now stood out to Despina.

A thief, a crooked gambler, a confidence swindler, a vice racketeer, and a distributor of illegal drugs within underworld Salonika.

But above and over these criminals from the past loomed a tall, imposing, and terrifying giant that was obviously female in nature. The right side of this mountainous woman was pale and chalky white, the left was a hard, solid black. One half was bright with light, the other was a haunted ebony

It was at one clear to Despina who this ghostlike giant had to be.

Then the rising tension in the brain and nervous system of the dreamer reached a climax that finally resulted in attaining its maximum limit.

Despina’s conscious mind awakened itself and shut down the mad impulses generating this vile picture from the depths of night.

VI.

The early morning electrophone call occurred as soon as Hylas Chryseis settled at his desk at his headquarters office in downtown Salonika.

“Good morning, my good man,” called out the recognizable voice of Dr. Kostas Vergoula, president of the city’s medical association of licensed physicians. “I hope you are well today. The reason I am calling is because there is an item of good news that you should be made aware of. It pertains to the person practicing the unconventional psychiatry based on laser light and mirrors. Yes, this Dr. Athos Gavrion who recently arrived here from Athens will be charged with unethical, unacceptable methods of treatment of patients being victimized at his so-called Asclepius Clinic.

“The complaint against him that I myself put together is going to undergo formal review at a private session of our executive board. He will be receiving a formal session to attend so that he can answer our questions and defend himself from the accusations that I intend to make against him and his methods of practice.

“A solid, unanimous decision resulted from the evidence available up to now about the harm he does to the innocent and unwary who come to him in their desperation.”

Hylas, excited by what he had just learned, spoke to the doctor with forceful energy and raised spirit.

“That is very welcome to hear, it makes me optimistic about ridding the city of the man and his fraud. But there will be more data and information available quite soon. You see, I have had the head of security for my enterprises looking into what Gavrion is up to.

“I believe my people have penetrated into the interior of his schemes and can soon reveal the central offenses and crimes he has perpetrated on the public.”

“Good,” replied Dr. Vergoula. “That will surely strengthen the case against him all the more. The evidence gathered against the man and his clinic will be irrefutable and will successfully remove his license to practice any kind of medicine whatsoever.”

“We shall have all the weapons and tools needed to sink him into the Aegean Sea!” predicted Chyyseis with glowing hopefulness.

Athos had hopes that this troublesome patient named Despina Ilias would be on an upward path of recovery and curative resolution by the morning of her third session of mirror therapy, but he decided as soon as she entered hus office that she had grown worse since he had last met with her.

Once she was seated opposite him and began to answer his questions, he noticed the confusion and self-doubt in her voice and mood.

”The nightmare that I suffered last night was the worst that I have ever suffered. It was packed with terror and fright that is hard for me to describe to you. I knew were I was, for I have very often walked through the flower market known as the Louloudadika at the corner of Vas and Komninon.

“I saw human monsters with incredibly large heads that looked as if they had been inflated. There was an entire army of them approaching me in the narrow walkway in front of me. Their faces were ugly and horrible, like some sort of evil mask hiding what was too terrible to be in any way seen.

“These fantastic images moved slowly, but they approached me closer and closer. It looked to me as if their goal and aim was to kill and destroy me, all of them together as a single force of some sort.

“And the worst part of all this was their leader. A single form floated above the mob, bigger and more threatening than any single one of the monsters.

“The leader was a gigantic woman who hovered above them all. She was partly bright and partly dark. Everything about her was hateful and disgusting. She made me shake with fear, because I thought I understood who she was and what she meant to do to me.

“But I succeeded, at that final moment, in awakening. I found myself shaking and trembling, covered in sweat.”

Despina gazed at the psychiatrist opposite her, surprised that he seemed distant, lost in a maze of analytic thought and speculation about what she had told him about her most recent nightmare.

Finally, after an uncomfortable pause, Athos Gavrion spoke in a cool but formal tone of voice.

“You must continue with your scheduled session at the mirror screen,” he softly told her. “It is the only way to reverse what has happened. There is a resistance force or factor within your mind. I cannot yet identify or deal with it. But it could be a secondary, a minor obstacle in your personality causing the trouble you suffer.

“A solution will come about, I am certain. It is a matter of more time and deeper treatment with the mirror.

“You must not lose hope in eventual curing, my friend. I believe it could be very, very near, closer than we know.”

Athos rose from his chair, signifying the meeting with his patient was over.

She got up, turned about, and headed for the therapeutic chamber with the lazer light mirror screens.

VII.

Aglaia realized at once, as soon as she saw the patient enter the treatment room, that Despina was trembling with memory of her most recent nightmare experience.

“I had a disturbing vision last night,” reported the undercover agent who had never foreseen this disastrous an outcome to her infiltration into the Asclepius Clinic. “What I saw in my horrible dream outdid everything that came before. Do you wish to know the details?” she asked the assistant therapist.

“Indeed, I am curious to hear what happened, but first sit down at the mirror screen table, so that we can start your treatment for today. It will be an upgraded, increased blue laser light stream that enters your eyes. I can listen to what your memories of your experience while asleep consists of.”

Drspina followed these instructions, sitting down at the mirror consul and staring into the bright blueness of the illuminated screen.

“Was there anything new or unprecedented in what you dreamed recently?” inquired the assistant in charge.

The patient hesitated for a moment or so before giving the core of the worst of her nightmares.

“I saw her, the goddess of ghosts and nightmares. You it was who told me her name. The vision that came to me last night was sight of Melinoe herself, the source and creator of what haunts me up to the very present moment.”

Aglaia, seated behind the patient, gaped with astonishment at what she heard. “But how can you be certain about what appeared there in front of you?

“It could have been that what you learned from me about the goddess Melinoe from me was what shaped how you named this phantom to yourself. I have a strong suspicion that you merely remembered how I described this creator of nightmares and reproduced it in your sleep. That could be how it occurred in your unconscious mind.”

Despina grew nervous and frowned. “But it is certain that I immediately knew who it was that I was seeing. It could be anything but that goddess, the daughter of Hades and Persephone, as you told me last time we were here together.”

“But you did not hear the entire story about Melinoe that was passed on to us by the cult of the Orphic cultists from the Hellenistic world of the latter ancient ages.

“It was held that the fatherhood of Hades was a fraud, the result of a misleading impersonation. Let me explain this to you.

“The Orphics believed that Hades was not able to give birth to any sort of other being. So, they speculated that Zeua himself, the king of all the Olympian gods and goddesses, made himself into a double of Hades. They theorized that Zeus had the power and capability of acting as a shape-shifter and replacing anyone else, even a brother of his own such as Hades.

“Zeua, the great impersonator, took the body shape and the identity of Hades, because he had himself fallen in love with pure, beautiful Perserphone and was driven to have her for himself.

“Like so many others among the Olympians, Zeus suffered from humanlike passions and drives he was unable to tame or control.

“So, the ravisher looked like Hades, but in reality happened to be Zeus in perfect disguise, diverting the responsibility for his crime onto his brother, who was also smitten and fascinated by the innocent Persephone.

“Have you heard or read that legend of the real origin of the creator of nightmares, Melinoe?” asked Agleia.

“One side of this great woman was shadowy dark, but the other half was bright and white,” stuttered Despina in a halting voice full of a complex of warring feelings and ideas.

“I agree that your nightmare was connected to the figure of Melinoe, acting as the carrier of horrid night visions with a deadly, morbid character to them, like what you yourself have suffered from, Despina. And as the daughter of either the real Hades or the pretender, imposter who was in reality Zeus, there is an aura of evil and depravity surrounding Melinoe and what she brings to dreamers.”

Despina, all at once, started to shiver and then violently shake and quiver. Her consciousness whirled as if in a whirlpool of thought and emotion.

As her motion became wilder and more extreme, the assistant grew alarmed and leaped off her chair, reached out her arms and hands in order to help the patient however became necessary.

But before Aglaia could take hold of Aglaia, the latter collapsed out of her seated position and fell to her left, collapsing directly to the linoleum floor of the chamber.

I have to fetch Athos, the assistant told herself, because this situation has become than I myself am able to handle or take care of.

It took her only half a minute to find the doctor in his office and beg him to join her in the treatment room.

“Something terrible has happened to Despina,” she shouted in panic. “She has had something like a seizure and is lying unconscious on the floor.”

Athos knelled down to examine the face, then took the wrist and searched for a pulse.

“Her heart has stopped and she is not breathing,” he whispered to Aglaia.

He instantly went into action with his knowledge and experience in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. His skillful hands began to make chest compressions and followed with mouth-to=mouth stimulated respiration. There was an excited rush to get air into the lungs of the collapsed Despina.

The immediate goal was to restore her spontaneous blood circulation along with autonomous breathing.

The doctor only spoke to Aglaia once he was certain the heart was beating regularly and her lungs were filling up.

“Call a police emergency number,” he gently commanded. “She needs to be hospitalized at once.”

VIII.

An ambulance transported the stricken patient to the Hippocrates General Hospital, directly to the emergency door and section. Athos and Aglaia followed in a taxi and had to wait till Despina was stabilized and taken to a private room for recovery from her heart attack.

The psychiatrist learned from his assistant the specifics of what she had told Despina concerning the mythical character of the goddess of nightmare dreaming, Melinoe. Most of the details were unknown to Athos Gavrion. He listened to them with spellbound attention.

“I described Zeus himself as a depraved imposter and immoral rapist,” she said with embarrassment. “I did not foresee how my words might affect this patient with its negative, degrading aspects. Not at all.”

“There had to be more involved in what occurred with Despina,” reflected Athos. “She has not revealed things about herself that might provide a better explanation for why she suffered this coronary catastrophe while undergoing mirror therapy.”

Several tense hours passed for the pair waiting in a side room where nurses ate and rested.

The newly awakened patient was able to converse with her first visitors when the two from the Aclepius Clinic were permitted to see and speak with her.

The pair stood on her right side, both of them moderating their voices as if trying not to distress or alarm her with anything.

“You are already in the recovery mode,” smiled Athos. “It must have been quite a frightening experience for you. I wager to say you may not have been conscious of all sides of the awful event. But now it is in the past and our main concern must be your healing and recovery.

“But at least for the rest of the day, a full rest must be the ticket. That will have highest priority.”

An unusual noise that resembled clearing the throat emerged from the mouth of Despina. She seemed to be preparing herself to say words difficult for her to reveal in ordinary speech or discourse.

“There is something concerning myself that neither of you knows or suspects. I have not until this moment thought of telling you the whole truth about how it was that I came to the Asclepius Clinic to seek treatment.” She halted for several seconds, looking first at Athos, then at Aglaia.

“I was for years an investigator with the Salonika Police Department, and at the present time I am a private detective working for individual clients and separate companies or business interests.

“That is what motivated me to come in to you as a patient with a mental problem. It became necessary for me to pretend I was suffering from disturbing nightmares. I have to dramatize and act out what did not exist inside my own mind. My imagination created the dreams that I talked of. But the unforeseen, the unexpected occurred.

“I started to experience my own genuine nightmares in my sleep at night.

“These terrible events became increasingly gruesome and frightening. The memories I had of them became permanent and troubling to me and the thoughts in my brain.

“From imagined fictions, they developed into truly dreamed of, alarming nightmares that I could not deny had actually invaded my nightly sleep.

“I realized that from pretending to be burdened by such dreams I had unconsciously brought them to become troubles and problems within my own individual thinking system.

“The invented pretenses that I presented at my sessions at your clinic turned into actual nightmares that attacked my sleeping, unconscious mind in sleep. That was the ironic outcome of the role that I assumed in order to penetrate into your psychiatric practice. In a strange manner, what I imagined in order to sell my lie to the two of you evolved into what I claimed it was, an active, truly experienced night dream vision.

“I succeeded in selling it to you, but yo myself as well.”

Athos asked a question bothering him. “Buy why were you involved in such a deception? Who was it that put you up to such artificial deception of us?”

Despina turned her head and eyes directly upon Aglaia with lines of regret and sorrow on her forehead.

“I was hired by an old friend of my who works for your father as his chief of corporate security. Behind my infiltration and impersonation lie the power and money of your parent, the prominent leader of sea industry named Mr. Hulas Chryseis.”

Aglaia, unable to make any vocal reply, looked away to the wall, away from both the patient and her companion, the psychiatrist she grown closer to than anyone else, including her father. She sensed that a bridge in her life had just been crossed and that it could never be reversed or undone.

Athos decided to take an initiative. “We will be back to see you tomorrow morning, but I can promise that there will be no kind of action whatever taken against you, Desina.

“Both Aglaia and I promise to defend and protect you in all ways possible. If you need mirror treatment to deal with the most recent nightmares, you shall have it from both of us. WE will leave no effort in your behalf untried or ignored. Whatever is in your interest and for your wellbeing, you shall receive. That is our pledge, my friend.”

Aglaia added her voice and support. “I, too, will carry out what you need. Your health and security will be the priority for both of us, I promise you, my dear.”

The visitors took their leave and meekly left the hospital room.

The need to think and discuss what had happened took Agiaia and Athos to the gulf shore and a café they were acquainted and comfortable with. She stayed quiet, listening to the conclusions and reasoning of the one in charge of the clinic organized around laser-light mirror therapy.

“This is a situation neither of us could have predicted or prepared ourselves for.

“The main point now is to determine what steps have to be taken in the next several days. I think that we share a sense of obligation and responsibility toward Despina. We have to take care of her as she recovers from her cardiac collapse and attack. Our task is to see to the recovery and treatment on the psychological front. I can see the need for mirror therapy to heal the harm done by her falsification of her true identity and character.

“We must help Despina discover who she really is, and build a new, better life for herself.

“That will not be easy and will probably take considerable time and effort on our part.”

He looked with a steady gaze into her troubled brown eyes.

“I have made a decision that I should have followed long age, Athos. It is now the time to do what is right for me. I must leave home, my father’s mansion in the Ano Poli. The two of us cannot face each other or live close together after today. What I learned from Despina makes everything different for me.

“How can I forgive my father for what he tried to do, to both of us and the clinic?

“The glass has now been broken, and it cannot be glued together or repaired.

“My father and I must separate and go separate ways. There can be no repair or reconciliation. The life we led is now over and shattered..

“I have to go forward and stay away from him and his power and authority. That is over for good.”

“You must continue your work with me at the clinic,” urged Athos in a slow, muted voice. “I need you there, Aglaia.”

“Thank you,” she replied. “You and the Asclepian Clinic now remain as my sole surviving hope for the days ahead.”

Despina was transported to a special recovery facility on the edge of Salonika. Each day, Athos and Aglaia paid her visits. They were able to see for themselves the speed of her recovery and the strengthening of her spirit and resolve.

One morning she presented them with an unexpected piece of news.

“I decided to do it,” she reported with an incipient grin on her face. “It has to be done, I told myself yesterday afternoon. I asked for a magneto-phone and called the one who had hired me to spy on you. A complete break, that was the result of this call of mine. Once and for all. No going back or renewal of action on my part.

“I now resolve never again to get myself involved in anything similar.

“I learned my lesson,” she told them with determination in her voice.

After several moments of thoughtful consideration, it was Athos who whispered a promise to Despina.

“We at the clinic will look out for you and guide you toward complete recovery,” he slowly declared. “You are not suffering any more terrorizing nightmares any more, are you?”

The patient gave a cynical laugh, astonishing the two visitors.

“No, it looks like my heart attack put an end to my visions of monsters and the goddess of nightmares.”

Both Aglaia and Athos responded to this with broad, meaningful smiles.

Melinoe has disappeared from her dream life, they both had to conclude.

IX.

The first task for the psychiatrist became to locate a safe, comfortable, and economical flat for Aglaia near the clinic within the boundaries of the Ladadika region of Salonika.

Once a suitable small apartment was found on Edessis Street, the process of moving her needed possessions there began. Books, videos, and computer discs and instruments were the first priority for the scholarly young woman, followed by necessary objects like personal clothing and furniture.

Hylas learned from his central household staff what was happening when he was downtown working at his company headquarters office.

With his mind in ominous and apprehensive turmoil over what was about to occur, the father stepped into his daughter’s section of his mansion to confront what appeared was going to be a family catastrophe that could not be repaired or overcome.

He found Aglaia in her wardrobe walk-in closet, going through a line of winter overcoats from which she was choosing which to take with her and which to leave behind.

Hearing his footsteps, she turned around and looked at him with gleaming dark brown eyes.

“What is going on in here?” he asked with sad, hopeless sternness in his voice, as if he already knew and recognized that defeat lay ahead for him.

“I am leaving this house, father. It is impossible for me to remain here any longer.

“You acted to have a spy sent to infiltrate the Asclepius Clinic as a patient. The woman confessed what her mission was when she had a medical emergency that changed everything for her. I now have all the terrible information that I need to make my judgment.

“I must get away from you and this mansion, from your authority, power, and wealth. My primary goal is to gain my absolute independence and personal freedom.

“Your behavior has revealed to me how deceitful and devious your character can become in matters that are serious and vital to you.

“I have been forced by circumstances and events to see a Hylas Chryseis that I never suspected existed.

“Now that I have learned what was hidden from the outside world and from me, I cannot abide to live with you.

“The remnants of the love I possessed for you are now tragic fossils that I will have to suppress and forget, time permitting.

“Good-bye, father. My hope is that in the future I am able to forgive you for the wrong you have committed.”

Hylas, seeing the tears flooding out of her eyes and down onto her cheeks, sensed no alternative for himself but to abruptly turn about and rush out as rapidly as his legs could take him.

Hylas Chryseis gave a long period of thought to the situation he now faced, but came to realize that he faced a blank wall, at least for the present.

He decided that he had to tell Dr. Vergoula that the case against the psychiatrist using mirrors for therapy had been weakened to a critical point by the death of infiltrator posing as a patient.

Calling on electrophone from his company office, he tried to give the doctor the gist of what had happened, but without the embarrassing details.

“Dr, Vergoula, how are you today? Yes, this is Chryeis speaking. I have some bad news to report. Yes, it concerns the matter of Dr. Gavrion. My people were unable to obtain the materials that they thought that they would. The evidence they sought was not easily available to them. It is a tragedy that they are sorry for.

“Yes, your committee to investigate his malpractice will have to be suspended, at least for now. I know that you feel as bad as I do about it. But do not doubt that you and I shall renew our efforts, when that becomes possible to carry forward. I promise this: I shall keep you fully informed on what I find out in days to come.

“I do not intend to give up or surrender in the campaign I have taken up. It has become my personal mission.

“Goodbye for now, Dr. Vergoula.”

=

Once Aglaia was fully settled in her flat, Athos invited her to share an evening of celebration with him at one of the nest seafood restaurants on the shore of the Thermaic Gulf.

Karavida crawfish along with astakos lobster provided both of them the right atmosphere for an important announcement from the student of Greek ancient religion and folklore.

“I have begun to make a major change in my graduate research work at Aristotle University,” she beamed with visible joy on her face. “I believe that my course work in the sciences will make me eligible to combine classical Greek folklore and religion with mirror psychiatry, helping to aid and boost our pioneering therapy and enhance its record of success.

“My first goal is to write up detailed reports on the several cases where I have applied my knowledge of ancient Greek civilization to neuroses and personal mental problems., but then specialization in medical psychiatry will not be central to my clinic activities or my personal research. Is that too much of a fantastic ambition for someone like me to be dreaming of for myself?”

“Not at all, not at all,” he began to laugh. “I know almost no one else as qualified to practice in the area of mirror therapeutics as you are, dear Aglaia. You are going to become one of our most important innovators.”

She started to laugh along with Athos.

Salonika Mirrors Part I.

9 May

I.

Dr. Athos Gavrion left Athens on the maglev night train named the Macedonia Express. He was going back to the northern metropolis of his birth, Salonika, with a heavy mental burden of failure from his time in the Greek capital. Staying awake, he spent his time looking out the window of the compartment that he occupied alone, planning what he now pinned his hopes for the future on. The final sight before his eyes was that of sunrise over the pure, light blue waters of the Gulf of Thermaikos. Shining rays of glowing yellow. orange, and pink illuminated the city and its grand port as the maglev neared its destination.

I am now home, and this is where I have to turn my Athens failure into turnabout and victory, Athos commanded himself.

Uncle Pavlos Arvos, brother of my late mother, promised to meet me at the maglev depot and take me to the downtown apartment he has chosen and leased for me. He is a lawyer who knows how to get practical things done better than I ever have, Athos smiled to himself.

Morning was developing into a pleasant spring day as the tall, boney but strong young physician who had focused on psychiatry in Athens climbed down from the express train once it rested in the Salonika main rail station.

The dominant, brilliant whiteness of the city landscape glowed in the Aegean sunlight.

Seconds after reaching the waiting hall he caught sight of his short, heavy-set uncle. The two greeted each other and exchanged hearty hugs. Then the advocate said to his nephew “We will get the luggage you brought with you, then take an amaxa cab to the apartment I found for you. As you wrote me that you wished, it is in the Ladadika section and not at all expensive. I do not understand why you would want to be located in a Bohemian area such as that has become,” said the uncle with a chuckle.

“It will not be expensive, that is for certain,” smiled Athos. “I plan to establish a personal, independence practice for myself there, on the western side of our port of Salonika. There should be many men and women in Ladadika who need the aid that I can provide to them.”

The apartment, on the top floor of a building near the Kapani open market, was furnished with old but serviceable furniture. The two men had their cabdriver help carry in the traveler’s luggage. Nephew and uncle then sat down in the living room to talk.

“Are you going to start at once to build yourself a private practice here in the city?” inquired the attorney.

Athos seemed to hesitate for a moment. “I want to take my time and move ahead slowly. Perhaps word has come to you from Athens concerning my troubles there with the authorities of the Medical Association. All the hospitals closed to me for what was considered punishment for what was said to be my horrible offense. I was accused of practicing psychiatry without specialized license or training.

“My enemies slandered and chased me out of Athens, Uncle.”

“You should be better off back here in Salonika, Athos. This city is where you truly belong.”

The doctor gave a sigh of agreement. “Both father and mother, before I lost them, t taught me to be sympathetic and generous to people who were suffering with internal pain. That is how I reacted to and treated the patients who came to me for medical relief, both in the hospital and outside, on my own.

“I was willing to apply unconventional, experimental methods and procedures. That was what brought the cruel opposition and hatred I was made to suffer in Athens. Official psychiatric medicine was unable to allow me to attempt what I came to believe in. They called me a lunatic, a speculator and dreamer, a madman endangering the mental health of those I dared to treat with what were labelled my magical mirrors.”

The pair fell silent in separate thoughts, until the uncle excused himself and departed.

“Call me if there is anything I can do for you, Athos,” muttered the older man as he exited through the door.

The following day, Dr. Gavrion visited a rental agency and spoke with an experienced representative about what he needed for his intended purposes.

“I want an office space with extensive electrical current sources, because I plan to be using some complex, advanced electronic equipment,” he explained. “There should also be a room where a large group of people can meet. I foresee myself assembling a number of individuals for different medical purposes.”

“I think I know the vacant location that meets your purposes, sir,” smiled the rental agent. “It is here in Ladadika, in the area close to Aristotle University.”

“That sounds good,” grinned Athos. “I would like to inspect the place this afternoon.”

Before night fell that day, Athos had signed a lease for the office that he sensed was the right one for him and his instruments of psychiatric treatment.

II.

Hylas Chryseis considered himself the foremost, most farsighted industrial entrepreneur in Salonika and nearly no one in the city would contest his claim, least of all his competitors.

The short, heavy widower was educated in both chemistry and marine engineering, and he had taken enormous risks that resulted in making him the primary developer of underwater projects in the Gulf of Thermaikos and the northern Aegean Sea. Mining of minerals and submarine aquacultural crops were the main areas of his series of constructed underwater stations and protected colonies. A large number of divers, miners, and farm workers labored for him down below within his company’s polymer vitrified shells.

Hylas lived with his one daughter, Aglaia, in a roomy mansion he purchased and brought up to date on the hill of the Old Town, the Ano Poli, north of the downtown area.

She was as short as her father, with a light, delicate body. Her hair and eyes were dark brown, identical to her father’s. An advanced student at Aristotle University, she was a dedicated student of ancient Greek folklore and religion.

Her absorption in the past and what remained from it was total.

Her father regretted that she had little interest in practical matters connected to science and technology.

“How is your research project concerning the pre-Greek Pelasgians and their folklore proceeding, Aglaia?” he asked one morning as the two of them shared a breakfast on the mansion balcony overlooking the lower city, the harbor, and the gulf.

“The ancient Pelasgians remain a clouded enigma, a deep mystery, father,” explained his daughter. “They inhabited the Aegean in prehistory, before the coming of our Hellenic ancestors from somewhere to the North. They were the original human beings of this entire region of both land and sea. It is not clear who this indigenous race was, since they completed vanished. Perhaps the Greek invaders absorbed or destroyed them.

“Their name came from this people’s legendary founder, a Pelagos. Only a few hints or traces of them remain in our own folklore. Our scholars have had to make guesses concerning the gods they had from a limited number of sources and references. It is possible that much that we inherited about the Olympian gods and their ancestors was learned or borrowed from their religion and culture.

“It has amazed me from the beginning of my studies that our ancient Greek mythology contains gods and goddesses that resemble those of the Middle East, but are not found in Indo-European traditions. Why is that so? I ask myself when I focus on Dionysus or the Great Mother figure.

“It could be due to the forgotten Pelasgian factor behind our Hellenic constellation of divine beings.”

Hylas made a sour facial expression. “I can think of many more useful and practical subjects worthy of study, my dear. My personal interests lie in the possible technologies of the future of our country, not its prehistory or its ancient origins and roots.”

Neither said any more, until Aglaia excused herself and left for a class at the University, one on the most ancient Greek religious sources and what they left in Greek literature.

A week after his nephew leased an office, Pavlos Arvos paid a visit to see the place for himself.

Athos led his uncle through the large front entrance room, then the consultation chamber and an examination area that held a number of diagnostic and treatment apparatuses.

The uncle stepped before a large console sitting on a table, staring at the image on its mirror-like face.

“What in the world is that?” inquired the visitor with perplexity in his tone. “I have never seen anything like that. My own reflection is clear and sharp right there on what I imagine would be clear, transparent glass or plastic of some kind.”

Athos smiled with delight. “That is a mechanism that I myself designed and ordered made for my new practice. It is a treatment mechanism that I experimented with back there in Athens.

“Yes, that is a mirror that the patients will see looking back at them. It is an easy way of placing a patient in a mesmeric trance by simple auto-hypnotism. I teach him or her to stare intently into the image that they see before them. They quickly learn the knack of getting their minds to focus and transport themselves between consciousness and total unconsciousness of the mind, into the intermediate state where I can explore their true state of thought and emotions.

“They willingly act and open up their personalities and inner secrets to me,” declared the physician with a smile of satisfaction and success.

“Does it work, then?” asked Arvos. “Do you learn what is bothering your patients?”

“Yes, but there is much more than that involved. You see, Uncle, there is a specially produced laser lighting that is irradiated through the mirror, into the eyes and the mind of the individual looking into the face of the mirror. The radiation is invisible to the patient, and cannot be sensed or felt in any way at all.

“What is accomplished through this apparatus is a rebalancing of the amounts of melatonin and serotonin that are being created within the neuro-hormonal system of the particular brain under treatment.

“These rays are my secret weapon against the disorders of my patients. Of course, I fully inform each and every one of them about what is happening to their own minds.”

“Are you drawing a clientele with such radical innovation, Athos? Do you have a sufficient number of patients to continue with?

“I worry that our Salonika psychiatrists may try to impede or stymy you somehow.”

Athos seemed to chuckle. “So far, I have only a small handful of patients. But next week I intend to give a public lecture at Aristotle University on the new methods I work with, and I will reveal the marvelous successes and victories that are proof that I know what I am doing.

“There is a difficult, terrible battle ahead for me, Uncle. But I am absolutely certain that my new, inventive methods with turn out triumphant in the end.”

“I hope so,” murmured Pavlos Arvos in almost a whisper.

It was a warm May evening that Aglaia entered her father’s mansion library-study to inform him that she was leaving and might return at some late hour.

“There is a special presentation tonight by a practicing doctor, and he is going to discuss what modern psychiatry can learn from the ancient Asclepians, the followers of the god of medicine. I believe it could be quite interesting for someone like me, a student of Hellenic ancient culture and folkways.”

Hylas eyed her sharply from behind the heavy mahogany desk behind which he sat reading business reports.

There will be a lot of young lovers promenading along the harbor shore on a night like this,” he said with an audible sigh. “Many women your age have a favorite sweetheart they go out with and walk when the weather becomes as pleasant as it became today.” He gave her a clever, meaningful smile.

Aglaia intentionally and suddenly changed the subject.

What are you reading so intensely, father?” she sweetly inquired.

His face turned serious and he stopped smiling. “There is new, unprecedented technology being developed in China and Japan that can extract the tiny amounts of magnesium, titanium, cobalt, and manganese suspended in ocean and sea water. I am reaching out to obtain the secret patents in order to apply them here in Aegean waters.

“My people are also hunting for new seabed crops we can grow and harvest, wherever they appear in the world.”

“I must be leaving soon, father,” softly said his daughter, excusing herself and quickly departing.

III.

Athos was surprised to find an audience of around forty present in the lecture hall to hear his talk that evening. He stood behind the lectern and spoke without notes or script of any kind.

“I would say that most of us are familiar with the stories and legends surrounding the ancient god of healing and medicine named Asclepius. The son of Apollo and a mortal princess, that god punished her for taking another lover by destroying her and giving their child to the Centaur named Chiron to be safely raised. It was wise Chiron who taught Asclepius how to treat and cure human illnesses. Because young Asclepius succeeded in healing a serpent, he received the secrets of medicine kept by that species of creatures.

“Our ancient ancestors built over three hundred special asclepieia temples dedicated to his cult and curative medical secrets.

“Guilds of trained doctors, the Asclepiades, ministered to their god and treated pilgrims who traveled to their famous temples.

“Rituals of chanting, bathing, and animal sacrifice were performed. Doctors gave medical advice, diagnoses, and dispensed curing herbs. The immortal Hippocrates learned medicine at one of these temples. The most honored one was at Epidaurus, but other important such temples of health existed at Athens, Corinth, Pergamon and the island of Kos.

“But the major subject I wish to take up this evening are the curative dreams produced in the minds of patients in the incubation chambers of the Asclepian temples. Can such dreams be sought after in the world of today? The ancient world believed that they were sent by Asclepius to those suffering physical or mental ailments. I believe that they can be brought about today in a new kind of treatment by a psychiatrist with innovative methodology. Let me explain.

“At several of the minor temples dedicated to Asclepius, I have established that mirrors were in use in order to produce states of self-hypnosis in mental patients. Although these temple mirrors had to be of copper or bronze, since glass reflectors came about only ages after in the future, the metallic ones worked. They aided patients go into self-induced trance in which a curative result was a possibility.”

Athos halted a couple of moments to draw his breath and survey his almost mesmerized audience, then spoke again.

“In treating cases of clinical depression, neurosis, schizophrenia, paranoia, and personality disorders, I have been attempting the application of electronic mirrors, lazar rays, and auto-hypnotic suggestion. The results reached have been surprising in their positive character.

“I have opened my Asclepius Clinic here in Salonika as the first example of the application of modern science and technology to what our ancient Hellenic ancestors believed they could accomplish: the treatment of the personal ills of the human brain and personality through inducing curing dreams in the patients who were sick and seeking help.

“Today, our advanced knowledge of neuro-hormones produced within the brain provides us scientific explanation of how this new method works. If you wish to learn more details about what I am engaged in at my recently opened clinic, I will be more than happy to answer the questions in your mind later tonight or tomorrow at my offices.

“Thank you for your interest and your patience this evening.”

Athos watched as most of his audience filed out of the lecture hall and left.

Of the handful remaining, no one was more spellbound by what they had heard from him than Aglaia Chryseis.

Although the three individuals who presented questions received no further details about the electronic mirrors or laser light that he used in practice, they departed with their interest in what they had heard described still strong and aroused.

Aglaia remained quiet until she was the only member of the audience still present in the large room.

She stared with dilated brown eyes at the speaker, while he gave her a long, wondering look.

“I hope that my lecture gave a general picture of what I do for patients,” he mumbled with a tiny but sweet smile.

Aglaia collected her thoughts and told him what she happened to be thinking.

“I am at present engaged in advanced research in Greek mythology and ancient religion for my doctoral dissertation, and I wondered if I could witness for myself how you induce what our ancestors took to be the incubation of curing dreams at the ancient temples like the famous one at Epidaurus.

“Could I visit your Asclepius Clinic tomorrow at some time?”

“Of course, of course. You can choose whatever hour you wish, and I will be prepared to show you about. You will be most welcome to stop by.”

He told her the address of his office, while she decided to make her appearance the next day at the hour of noon, when most of Salonika would be beginning its afternoon siesta nap.

IV.

The following morning, Hylas Chryseis had important news for his daughter while the two shared breakfast together.

“I have decided to fly down to Egypt today,” he announced all of a sudden. “There are some varieties of Mediterranean kemp I want to have a look at in case I decide to invest into a partnership with a firm with sea modules in the vicinity of Alexandria. There is growing demand across Europe for rare, exotic turtle meat.”

“When will you be returning, then?” asked Aglaia with surprise in her voice.

“In three days or so,” he replied. “There are a lot of sea locations and businessmen I want to see and talk with down there in Egypt.”

No one else but Athos was around when the young folklore researcher arrived at the Asclepius Clinic.

“First of all, let me show you the laser mirrors and turn them on for you,” he proposed. “I would suppose that you have never seen a device so complicated and advanced as these that I make use of with my patients.”

Athos led the way into the treatment chamber where half a dozen of the modules were sitting on special tables.

He turned on the switches that set the blue lazar lights in operation. The mirror faces became brightly shining reflectors of laser rays beaming out from the back of the apparatuses.

Aglaia stared with fixed gaze at the radiant mirrors, one by one, gradually realizing that the strange bluish sight was in the process of mesmerizing the attention of her mind.

She jolted herself into full self-awareness and turned to her guide to address him directly.

“This is wonderful and amazing, Dr. Gavrion,” she gulped in confusion. “I did not expect to witness anything so new and marvelous. It is understandable that this mechanism could make a deep impression on the mind of a disturbed patient coming to you for psychiatric treatment.”

Athos furrowed his forehead in thought. “So far, I have had only a very few people coming here for help with their problems or mental illnesses. It may take considerable time before the Asclepius Clinic becomes well-known and professionally acceptable. You see, my treatments are considered radical and therefore unacceptable by my medical colleagues.

“Before I returned to Salonika, the association of doctors in Athens made it impossible for me to continue or progress there in the capital. So, I had to leave and come back here, to the city where I was born and grew up.

“My hope is to prove the value of my methods and ideas among Salonikian patients and compel everyone in the medical profession to recognize that I am right in what I say about how the mind operates.”

“I wish to learn all I can about what you are doing, Dr. Gavrion,” slowly and carefully declared Aglaia.

Athos suddenly glowed and beamed with delight. “Let us go for coffee at the neighborhood café down at the next corner, and I can explain more about what I am engaged in and hope to be doing soon.”

Aglaia nodded her assent and accompanied her new friend out of his clinic office.

“One of the important factors that affect the operation of both brain and mind is the ratio, the balance or imbalance that exists at any one point in time, between the amount of melatonin produced by the pineal gland and the serotonin originating in overall nerve cells,” explained Athos, across a small round table from Aglaia.

He went on. “Melatonin is created in the darkness of nighttime, and it brings about human sleep. Seratonin controls a person’s mood and prevents anxiety. It comes from and affects all of our neurotransmitters. This substance is often called an antidepressant.

“I have concluded that both melatonin and serotonin can be managed and controlled by mirror therapy that applies blue laser beams through the eyes. This clearly works,” he told her with a triumphant grin.

Aglaia gazed into his sharp dark eyes with enthusiastic emotion. “What you are saying is stunning. I think it is going to change the whole field of psychiatric therapy in the near future,” she said with an audible gasp.

Athos went on speaking, almost as if no one was hearing what he was verbalizing.

“Another important factor in the brain and the nervous system are the series of small peptides that serve as neurotransmitters. These bind themselves to opiate receptors in the brain and control our sensations of pain and pleasure. A deficiency of encephalins or endorphins can result in severe depression or anxiety. The presence or absence of such psychostimulants creates great behavioral changes, clearly evident in mental patients.

“I have successfully treated seriously ill minds through variations in encephalin and endorphin levels, using the laser-lighted electronic mirrors.

“What do you think of that, Miss Chryseis?” he inquired, focusing his dark eyes on her entranced brown ones.

For a moment or two, she appeared to be unable to formulate a coherent reply of any sort.

“I am out of my level of knowledge or understanding,” she was able to mutter to him somehow. “I need much more study and exploration of all these matters that you are involved with.

“Would it be possible for me to observe and witness what happens to your patients when they undergo therapy sessions? Or would my presence be too intrusive and disturb a patient you happened to be treating?”

Athos did not need time to consider the question she presented to him.

“I could make you my assistant and justify your being there with me,” he asserted. “Yes, I have no nurse helping me. But I could show you enough to do so that my patients would completely accept your being in the room with us.”

“That would be wonderful!” sighed Aglaia.

“You can begin at once, this afternoon.” said the doctor with a quiet laugh.

As soon as he left his limousine and entered the mansion on Ano Poli, Hylas Chryseis found his daughter waiting in the vestibule to greet him.

“How did your journey go, father?” she asked him. “Did you accomplish what you planned to in Egypt?”

“Oh, yes,” he responded with a wide smile. “And how did things go for you here, Aglaia?”

She gave him a serious look and answered in a controlled tone.

“I have some important news for you, father. I have temporarily suspended attendance at Aristotle University, for the time being. I will not be involved in continuous library research now, because I have begun to undertake another activity that will take up most of my time.

“I have accepted a fulltime job, father. My task will be to act as assistant to a physician who is a psychiatrist. His work involves an exciting new system of therapy using innovative means and methods.

“This promises to be valuable for me and my personal interests, because it will overlap with my own interest in Greek mythology and ancient religion. All these subjects will fit together completely, I truly believe.”

Father and daughter stared at each other in silence for a few moments.

“I hope that this project of yours turns out the way that you want it to, my child,” solemnly declared the industrialist to Aglaia.

V.

Athos demonstrated to his new assistant how to calculate, calibrate, and control the laser-generating components of the electronic mirrors and the photonic lamps of the treatment apparatuses and consuls. Soon she was able to manage the many factors successfully, so that he himself did not have to be present in the chamber for each therapy session of every patient of the Asclepius Clinic.

Yes,” he agreed with a proposal from her. “It would facilitate the beneficial effects on the minds of those under treatment if you spoke to them about the legends connected with Asclepius, the Olympic. I know that would raise their interest in what they were undergoing and experiencing.”

Aglaia grew increasingly fascinated by and involved in narrating stories from Hellenic tradition about the origin, development, and adventures of the god of medicine who went by the name of Asclepius.

She related the romance of Apollo with Princess Coronis of Thessaly that gave birth to him . But this mortal woman proved to be unfaithful to the Olympian Apollo, so that the latter’s twin sister Artemis took vengeance by slaying this mortal woman with an arrow.

Aglaia enjoyed telling patients how Apollo rescued Asclepius from the womb of his dead mother and gave him to the wise Centaur named Chiron to shelter and raise.

Taught the secrets of healing by Apollo and Diana, Chiron passed on his profound knowledge to this boy shepherd, making Asclepius the world’s Master Physician.

The daughter of Chiron, the oracle called Oegroe, prophesied a magnificent future for the marvelous healer.

But Hades, god of the underworld, became jealous and convinced Zeus to punish Asclepius for having brought back an ill human from the dead after he expired. Mighty Zeus struck the great healer with lightning, killing him.

The revenge of Apollo for the death of his son was to attack and injure the Cyclops who created the bolts of lightning hurled down from Olympus. But Zeus then punished Apollo for this brazen act by compelling him to serve as a shepherd for King Admatis of Thessaly for the term of one year.

Finally realizing he had acted unjustly, Zeus resurrected the dead Asclepius and made him the god in charge of all forms of medicine and healing.

Algaia liked telling the clinic patients how the snake became the symbol of Asclepius, who gained so many medicinal secrets from those reptiles that shed their old skins in order to grow new, healthier one.

He described the famed temple at Epidaurus, where patients stayed overnight in order to receive curative dreams directly sent by Asclepius, and how the priests of the dedicated cult centered there created hypnotic trances in themselves in order to generate reception of beneficial messages from that deity.

Athos became increasingly enthusiastic about the effects these outpourings from Aglaia were having on his patients.

You are soon going to have a cult of Asclepius here at my clinic!” he congratulated her with a hearty chuckle.

Athos at once perceived the adeptness and effectiveness of his assistant in corralling the spirit and emotions of his patients with her extensive acquaintance with ancient Greece folklore and mythology.

This attractive young woman was also lifting his own optimism about the project he had brought with him to Salonika.

The pair began to share midday meals at nearby Ladakia eateries, exchanging much about their earlier years and experiences.

One day in the second month of Aglaia’s work as his assistant, she became aware that Athos was staring at her with a vacant, distant expression on his face.

“Why are you looking at me that way?” she inquired with a slight note of irritation in her voice.

He beamed her a grin of sudden realization of what he had been unintentionally doing.

“You have to pardon me, but I have always wondered about people’s motivations. I was asking myself what your reasons were for become such a deep student of Greek mythology. And then I tried to figure out why you were so eager to become involved in the therapy I am practicing with electronic laser mirrors and self-hypnosis by the patients upon their own minds.

“I have had to conclude, Aglaia, that you are a riddle not just to me, but to yourself as well.

“Like myself and nearly everyone else, whoever they are, you probably do not know or understand your own fundamental motives. That is a very rare capacity for any human mind to possess. Even the best of us therapists often lack it.”

She turned her head and looked away from him in thought, then directly focused into his dark ebony eyes.

“I thought, from the beginning, that Greek mythology would present me with the full range and variety of human character types, that I would come to understand what developments are possible and which are impossible for our species. But in the course of my studies, I became fascinated with the pre-Hellenic, the Pelasgian nation that lived in these lands before our Greek ancestors invaded and conquered the Greek lands.

“For I soon discovered that those early people and their culture and religion revealed a much more primitive and general typology of character. And so I delved into the murky, cloudy area of the original inhabitants who predated us, the early sea people that called themselves the Pelasgians.

“Today, I am working with you in the clinic because I am comparing the patients I deal with in providing mirror treatment with the kinds of the strange and wild characters found in the varieties of ancient cultures that I studied at Aristotle University.”

The pair gazed at each other in silence until Athos proposed that they return to the Asclepius Clinic.

VI.

Hylas Chryseis decided it was time to take some action in order to look out for his daughter’s wellbeing.

The first person he thought of as a possible source for learning the nature of the situation she faced with her new job happened to be the security chief of his industrial complex, the man known as Anastas Bazaras.

This former head of police detectives and investigators in the Salonika Police Department had taken early retirement from his government career and gone to work for the marine magnate who was always hungry for information about his competitors and personal enemies. This was a person whom Hylas completely trusted. Bazaras had proved his loyalty and professional ability on several important business problems and questions. The business chieftain now summoned this valuable agent to help him with the subject of his daughter and sole heir.

Anastas Bazaras was a lanky. nearly haggard giant who impressed strangers with his strength and self-assurance. His long police work had developed his ability to melt almost invisibly into any crowd or small group out in some public place. He could make himself look at home within any Salonika scene that came into existence.

Hylas ordered him to come to his family mansion in Ano Poli for a conference that had to be absolutely private and secret. No one beyond the two of them was to be aware of anything they said to each other.

The father was careful to arrange things so that Aglaia would be busy working at the Asclepius Clinic.

Once Bazaras was seated in the library-study, Hylas got down to business at once.

“My girl, Aglaia, has taken a job with a psychiatrist who recently arrived here from Athens. There are many questions about what sort of problems or troubles the man, Athos Gavrion, had there and why he lost his position at a psychiatric hospital in the capital.

“I am worried whether this person may be a negative influence on my daughter, that he could pose some harm to her.

“That is what I wish you to find out and report to me. What is Dr. Gavrion up to? How is he looked upon and evaluated by other psychiatrists in our city? What is his professional reputation? Can he be trusted?

“I believe that you can figure out what I need to know about this character and his possibilities, Anastas.”

The latter suddenly made a shrewd, knowing facial expression. “Yes, I think I understand, sir,” muttered the experienced sleuth.

“This is an important matter,” mumbled the magnate. “You can come and inform me of anything of importance on a moment’s notice.”

Athos and Aglaia ate lunch together in a small café a few streets away from the Asclepius Clinic.

The assistant appeared full of questions that she believed that only the doctor she worked for could answer.

“I would never have supposed that mirrors have had such a great influence upon our people’s ancient roots in religion, folklore, and mythology. But now I have had to recognize and acknowledge the role they have played over many centuries and ages,” she admitted. “Do you agree with my conclusion on this?”

“Indeed,” nodded and grinned Athos. “When an individual stares and looks for a very long time into a mirror, taking in the image of his or her own face, it cannot but have a major effect on how and what one comes to think.

“A mirror, any particular one, tends to unite a divided, shattered, or troubled mind. It seems to make it much easier to focus the attention and organize the thoughts that arise within the brain.

“I would go as far as to say that every human mind, both the male and the female ones, resemble a mirror to an unimaginable degree. And what do the individual, separate minds usually reflect? Other minds that are also reflecting mirrors themselves.

“A mental mirror receives its primary images from other mirrors of the mind.

“Does my way of understanding and envisioning the mind astound you, Algaia?

“It means that no particular human is totally unique, original, or individual. From our parents, our brothers and sisters, our relatives and our neighbors, our friends, associates, partners, neighbors, even our rivals and foes, we collect aspects of our own personality and combine them into a whole self that we recognize ourselves to be.

“We imitate parts of those who surround us and with whom we come into contact.

“Our minds reflect and combine, creating what we come to recognize as ourselves.

“If we radically change our associations and personal relationships, then we change ourselves as well, sooner or later. And we change and alter our new acquaintances the same way that they reshape ourselves.

“Each of us lives in a strange kind of two-way street, an unending give-and-take.

“That is the eternal pattern of the mirror-like natural of the human mind and personality.”

He paused a moment or so. “What do you think of the startling analogy I draw, Aglaia?”

Her mouth opened, but it took her a while to find the right words with which to show him the impression he had made upon her conscious and unconscious structure of thoughts.

“Yes, what you just said explains a lot that has for a long while puzzled me. I will have to take my time going over and digesting what I have heard you say. It was, all of it, deep and complex. Your perspective is novel and original.

“I need to consider what precisely it means for myself and for everyone else around me.”

Athos gave off a single murmuring sound from his throat. “It may be only my own unique individual and personal speculations. Who can definitely say?”

The pair of them laughed simultaneously.

A short distance away from them, in a nock with a tiny table, a stranger who had been listening to their exchange attempted to set to memory the ideas he had heard expressed by this duo in their wild speculations.

VII.

A visit from the conglomerate’s security director occurred at the executive office of Hylas Chryseis at his downtown district business building on Diamanti Street.

The capitalist captain showed himself exceedingly eager to hear what the veteran detective had found out about the man his daughter now worked for.

As soon as the two were seated across from each other, Hylas presented the questions tormenting his mind.

“What did you learn about this Dr. Gavrion? What is his record in the medical profession, particularly in the area of psychiatric treatment? Are there definable risks and dangers connected to him? What kind of reputation did he come to Salonika with?”

Anastas Bazaras began to speak in a soft, guarded tone. “He is known as a wild, unconventional adventurer in the field of mental health and illness. When he was in Athens, an important psychiatric hospital expelled him from their staff for doing things contrary to their regulations and guidelines. That is why he removed himself here to Salonika. He was born and grew up in this city, as well as having close relatives like one prominent attorney.

“The local medical authorities and their professional association have had no contact with Gavrion. His so-called Asclepius Clinic has only a few patients, so far. My investigators have found out that he uses mirrors, of all things, to put those seeking therapy under full, powerful hypnosis. Other doctors report to my people that he is taking enormous, potentially hazardous risks with the mental health of the sufferers who come to him for relief.

“Gavrion makes fantastic, unrealistic promises of cures and solutions to those searching for help. Rumor puts him down as a mountebank, a faker, a medical confidence man and a genuine quack.

“So far, though, no one has made a formal case or moved against this pretender and his magical claims and boasts.

“He has succeeded in recruiting your one child, Aglaia, to work as his assistant. She appears unaware of his true character and record. She has been beguiled and hoodwinked by the verbal enticements he is experienced in creating in order to ensnare others.”

Bazaras looked questioning at the magnate he served as personal and company detective. What did Mr. Chryseis plan to do about this severe threat to his family’s future and his ties to his daughter?

“Find out whether there is any attempt by Gavrion to win or play with her affections. You must penetrate into the clinic he has set up. I authorize you to take extreme action against this menace should that become necessary.”

Hermes Koteas, a short, thin young man with a nervous looking face, walked into the Aclepius Clinic on his own, without any personal or medical reference whatsoever. He merely walked in from the street and introducing himself to Glaia, informed her that he was suffering from a bipolar pattern of emotional highs and lows.

“I have seen a number of Salonika psychiatrist who treated me with prescriptions that never have had any permanent, thorough effect upon my problem. My cyclic pattern came back ever more drastic time after time.

“You can understand why I am desperate to find out what the Asclepius Clinic can do for me. That is why I am asking for an appointment to determine if there is any hope or promise in becoming a patient of yours,” he said with a voice full of sensitive feeling.

“Dr. Gavrion is busy with a patient session in his office at this moment,” explained Aglaia. “But I can take down your name, address, and a few items about you. Come into the therapy room and we can do the preliminary interview at once, then schedule you with the Doctor and further meetings with him.”

The two entered the chamber that contained the electronic mirror consoles. Spiro was astounded on catching sight of the large devices on the small tables.

“That is a most impressive machine, no doubt of that. I never saw any mirror that looked so powerful and bright,” said the one who was becoming the newest patient to be treated using this innovative system of therapy.

All at once Dr. Gavrion appeared at the entrance to the chamber.

“This is Mr. Hermes Koteas,” explained Agaia with a smile. “He wishes to receive treatment with our curative mirrors. I have been showing him where we provide therapeutic sessions for our patients. His first step will be a diagnostic interview, I have informed him.”

“Welcome to our clinic, sir,” merrily said the doctor. “I am free at this moment and can take care of you at once. So, I invite you to step in and sit down. It will not at all take long at all,”

The singing teacher nodded to Aglaia, then followed Athon back to his consultation room.

It was a satisfaction to Hermes to listen to a clear description of the therapeutic self-hypnosis that a patient entered as a result of a series of exposure to the blue laser rays shining through the two-way mirror that provided a mesmerizing self-image of the self’s face.

“The results we have reached are spectacular,” boasted Athos Gavrion. “But I have to know the broad outline of the mental malady you suffer and that has so far not been lifted away or given a final cure. Please, speak to me openly, without any inhibition whatever.”

Feeling a high degree of confidence and trust, the singer started to present what was weighing on him.

“Others have labelled me a bipolar, a manic-depressive. There are highs of spirit and energy, but there then follow slides and falls of emotion into complete, absolute despair. Then, I suffer extreme fear, anxiety, and desperation. Up and down. Up and down. On and on. On and on, never ending.

“I feel as if I’m riding on a steep rollercoaster that has no limit to it.

“Can you understand how much this tortures me, Doctor Gavrion?”

The latter gave him a compassionate look of reason and sympathy. “We will not let you down, Spiro. You shall become like a member of our own family. We shall give our all to freeing you of the terrible burden you suffer from.”

He rose from his chair and led the new patient to his initial treatment with the electronic mirror.

Aglaia, sitting in a chair just behind him, spoke to Spiro about Asclepius and how he came to be the ancient god of medicine for the Achaeans and Dorians who took the Aegean as conquerors.

The patient grew increasingly interested and involved in what she was explaining to him as he gazed forward at his own image in the electronic mirror. After a short time, he presented her with a pointed question she had aroused in his mind.

“But as a singer and a student of music, I was always led to look upon Apollo as my special protector and champion. There was a belief in ancient times that the songs that were sung by Apollo had curing value for the ills and diseases of human beings, wasn’t there? I remember, as a boy, having read about the Great Healer called Apollo who created the pattern for every physician who followed.”

“Aglaia gave an audible laugh. “Yes, Apollo was famed for his paeans that contained what the ancients considered musical magic. These hymns composed and sung by that Olympic cured and treated every possible sickness of mind or body of mortals.

“There can be no doubt that it was Apollo who made it possible for the Centaur named Chiron to teach the arts of medicine to the Asclepius, his son by the human princess named Leto.

“Apollo combined music with the knowledge of healing in his immortal paeans of song.”

It was plain to Aglaia that talking about Apollo pleased this patient and likely made him more amenable to the healing therapy he was undergoing. So, she decided to continue and extend her characterization of that Olympic figure.

“I have an idea of Apollo as the Eternal Youth, the symbol of harmony, balance, and order. His bright figure illuminates the entire Greek Pantheon.

“He acted as the special protector of the health, the education, and the wellbeing of children. Apollo took care to guide the young into adulthood along the rightful path.

“His sacred bow sought for the balancing and regulation of opposing forces in nature and in humans.

“Apollo combined the dynamic opposition and tension between warring entities into peaceful, harmonious order again. That was his eternal mission, to act as the mediating unifier.

“He protected the ancient Greeks from plagues and especially looked out for our ships and sea merchants.

“The Muses of the arts and the shepherds of the field were especially close to Apollo.

“Yes, a singer and music teacher like you is particularly dear to him.” She grinned with glee. “I can assure you that Apollo will certainly look out for your successful therapy and curing, dear Spiro.”

VIII.

At the end of afternoon, Aglaia entered the consultation office of Athos with the purpose of discussing with him the initial therapeutic session she had experienced with their newest patient, Hermes Koteas.

“He is in great pain caused by the constant vibrations of his mind in and out of depression, but then the mania stage of exhilaration and nervous excitement hits him. In and out, that is the man’s psychological biography.

“He spoke to me quite a bit about how he values the ancient Greek image of Apollo, and I came to believe that somehow this is a major part of his bipolar personality.”

She paused for several seconds, organizing her thoughts and considering how best to express them.

“I held back from what occurred to me during the mirror treatment with Hermes Koteas. It may be best to discuss with you the specifics of a new strategy that occurred to me while conversing with this patient.

“My idea is to use the figure of Apollo as a primary example of manic-depressive variability, of the bipolar personality disorder. It fits the concept perfectly.

“I believe it will be possible to use some of the most important adventures and events in which Apollo played a major role as examples of the problem that tortures and burdens the mind of Spiro himself.

“But just as solutions of such difficulties came to the Olympian, so the same sort of answers and resolutions can be realized for today’s patient. That is what I hope will happen.”

The dark eyes of Athos dilated as they focused on the face in front of him. He stared without inhibition or reluctance at his therapy assistant.

“It sounds promising to me, Aglaia,” he told her with warm words and emotion. “Go ahead and try to do what you think will work with this fellow. You are exploring something I never thought of using before. After all, our ancient mythology is nearly endless in strange characters with unusual adventures and experiences. There are many psychological problems and conflicts evident back there.

“See what you can achieve with this patient. It could be that you have conceived of an entirely unforeseen method of creating treatment progress for us,” he speculated with a radiant grin on his face.

Hylas Chryseis arrived at his downtown Salonika business office with a new idea in mind. It had occurred to him in his sleep the previous night and the thought now preoccupied his thinking.

As soon as the head of security for his conglomerate was seated opposite him, the sea-industry magnate sprung the scheme upon him for consideration.

“I want to run by you a certain notion that came to me almost like a sudden flash of wise intelligence, out of the blue, so to say. It is hard for anybody to judge their own ideas, so I choose to present my scheme first of all to you, Anastas.

“What do you think? Can you give me a cold, realistic judgment on what I conceived of in my own mind?”

Bazaras gave him a shrewd, clever look. “Of course, sir. I certainly would try to give my best, that I can promise with certainty. But what are you thinking of doing about this mind doctor who is causing you trouble?”

Hylas leaned his head forward and lowered his voice to nearly a whisper.

“What if we infiltrated someone into this clinic of his as a would-be patient? Could you find me some undercover operator who has the ability to impersonate a mentally-ill person? Would the trick work? Could the person be convincing?

“I wonder whether an agent of ours could pretend to Dr. Gavrion that he was the real thing, a person in need of therapy for the ailment torturing his mind and his personality.”

The two men suddenly fell silent as Anastas Bazaras considered and decided how he was going to reply to his employer.

Hylas Chryseis saw the effort that the other was making to find the right answer to the question he had presented to him. Lines of worry and concern formed on the face of the professional detective.

“Yes,” suddenly burst out the latter. A broad grin broke out around his mouth. “It will work, I know that it will. In fact, I know an undercover operator who is perfect to fill the role of a disturbed personality.

“It is a female private operator, sir,” he stated with assurance. “I know she can do it with success. This woman is skilled as an actress in impersonating someone else. She would be a wonder if she ever went onto the stage, or on tele-broadcast or a cable show.

“Let me contact this lady and recruit her services. I can guarantee that she knows how to keep her mouth shut about the jobs she accepts and carries out for others. I trust and vouch for her trustworthiness, sir.”

“What is her name?” asked Hylas with curiosity.

“Despina Ilias. I can make contact with her today, perhaps this very morning.”

“Get on this at once, Anastas. I think we will have the weapon we need to sink this so-called psychiatrist.”

IX.

Aglaia remained working on what she planned to reveal to the new patient about the emotional turmoil experienced by Apollo in the legends that described his difficult relations with a number of other Olympic characters of traditional mythology.

She felt herself well prepared when in two days Spiro returned to the Asclepius Clinic for his second treatment with the electronic mirror that provided both self-hypnosis and therapy.

“How do you feel today?” she asked the returning patient. “Are you ready to go forward with more blue laser radiation, like that you received at your first appointment here with us?”

“I believe there were clearly positive results. My mood has been better than it has been for a considerable time. I must admit that. There has been something like relief and relaxation for my personal thoughts as well as my feelings. It is difficult for me to either describe or explain what has happened to me.

“If I had to be specific, I would have to confess that I was deeply moved and affected by what you said to me about my favorite Olympic personality. That, of course, is Apollo.

“Does that make any sense at all to you?” he inquired of Aglaia.

Spiro, his eyes focused on the blue-colored mirror in front of him, was unable to perceive the involuntary grimace on the face of the clinic assistant as she started to elaborate her thoughts.

“If we look at Apollo carefully, we will discover that his character was full of division and contradiction. He was not always, as some scholars claim, a champion of moderation and balance. There were forces of contradiction in his nature, important ones. He committed a number of acts of violent vengeance whenever his anger reached a boiling point.”

“How can you claim that is true?” argued Spiro, his mind suddenly caught in confusion over what she was getting at.

His eyes fixed on the glowing blue-colored mirror before him, he did not catch sight of Aglaia taking a short piece of paper she had written on out of the pocket of her jacket and began to use it as her guide to events in which Apollo was participant in.

“Apollo was believed to have killed the one-eyed Cyclops for producing the thunderbolt that Zeus used in the slaying of the son of Apollo, the god of medicine, Asclepius. The latter was resurrected later, after Apollo’s mad act of violent revenge had been forgiven and forgotten.

“Apollo and his sister, Artemis, killed Niobe’s six sons because that nymph boasted she was a greater birth-giver than Leto, the mother of those two siblings, Apollo and Artemis.

“Apollo flayed alive the satyr named Marsyas for boasting that his musical skill was greater than that of any of the gods of Olympus. Such presumption was unacceptable to the personal pride of Apollo.

“Apollo fell in love with the nymph Daphne, pursued her with such uninhibited passion that she turned herself into a laurel tree forever after. That was her only escape from the madness of his emotions.

“In the Trojan War, Apollo sides with and aids the enemies of the Greeks, attacking the Achaeans with plague and guiding the arrows of Paris that slew Achilles.

“In a discus-throwing contest, Apollo hits and kills his devoted friend and lover Hyacinthus, claiming it was only an accident.

“The record of wild, animal-like behavior by this supposed model of moderation and reasonableness gives us a long series of unforgiveable violence and wild barbarity.

“There is instability and inability to control his own emotions and primitive nature.

“We in today’s world would have to conclude that the character of Apollo was one of unbalanced bipolarity.

“Can you argue against such a judgment, Spiro?” she asked the patient staring at his own face in the bluish mirror in front of him.

He made no reply, as if embarrassed to attempt any argument with this scholar of ancient Hellenic culture and mythology.

Anastas Bazaras traced the female undercover operator to an apartment on Diamanti Street in the Ladakia District. He had not met or seen her for a number of years, yet she still impressed him with an undefinable quality of youthfulness in her physical and psychological composition. Short, yet statuesque and impressive, he remembered how effective she had been when working with him as an informal police assistant on undercover investigations outside official legal boundaries.

“How are things going for you, Despina? It has been a long time since we worked together, but you remain as beautiful as I remember you. In fact, you have grown and deepened in unlimited attractiveness.” he told her with the biggest smile he was capable of.

Standing at the open door of her flat, she surprised him with a wink and a knowing look of appreciation.

“Come in and sit down, Captain Bazaras. Can I still call you that? I heard some years ago that you left the Police Force and went into private employment on your own. Are you now a hired investigator working on your own?”

He did not answer her question until he had taken a small easy-chair opposite the sofa where she sat down.

“I occupy a comfortable position as the head of security for an industrial complex owned by a man who is probably the wealthiest individual in all Salonika, one of the foremost magnates of Greece. Are you familiar with the Chryseis conglomerate of firms, companies, and interests? The man who heads it, Hylas Chryseis, is my employer. I carry out both business and private missions and assignments for him.”

“You must be paid very handsomely at a job such as that,” said Despina with an audible sigh.

“I thought of you as the best candidate possible for a delicate operation that appears difficult and demanding. But I have experience of your dramatic talent, my friend. I have direct experience from my police days of how skilled and talented you can be when there is a necessity for stealth and impersonation.

“You can accomplish what few would dare to attempt. I believe in your character and qualities. Everyone in an operation with you always has total confidence in your loyalty to them and the goal that was set.”

“Thank you, Anastas,” muttered the woman listening to herself being praised and flattered.

Bazaras leaned his head forward and lowered his voice to a confidential whispering.

“There is a psychiatrist who has opened a new clinic in the Ladakia district. He is drawing patients to a new, radical method of treatment with mirrors and laser radiation. It is necessary that an undercover person be sent into this institution to obtain information that will be ruinous to the continuation of the enterprise. The person infiltrating this psychiatric system must be intelligent and clever, so that not the slightest suspicion ever arises. That is why I decided upon you, Despina. You have wide and deep knowledge of what must be done to be successful in handling the many aspects of this secretive project.”

She gazed straight into his dark, inscrutable eyes. “What is Mr. Chryseis’ interest in this plan of yours?” she coolly inquired.

Anastas made a sour grimace. “The psychiatrist doing this roped in the daughter, Aglaia Chryseis, to work at the clinic as his assistant. Her father fears the exploitation possible under such an arrangement. She is his only child and the one person he cares for without limit of any kind.

“It is painful to him to imagine where this Dr. Gavrion may be misleading her. He has to avert impending disaster at any price.

“I can tell you, Despina, that you will earn yourself a rich, generous reward for what you accomplish for the Chryseis family.”

“What you describe sounds tempting to me,” she said with a warm grin. “I am not now busy and can start on this job of yours immediately, old friend.”

Bazaras gave her the address of the Asclepius Clinic, then took his leave and departed. He was delighted with his recruitment of his associate and agent from their shared past.

X.

“I think that Mr. Hermes Koteas is coming along with noticeable improvement in understanding the conflict he suffers with,” said Athos Gavrion to his clinic assistant once the two of them were seated and had ordered evening meals in one of the most popular and successful restaurants in their part of Salonika, on Monasteriou Odos.

“That is my own evaluations as well,” agreed Aglaia. “I sense that he feels a lot better now about having come to us for mirror treatment, because he has a fuller understanding of how it works and has effect on a patient.”

The doctor grinned with high spirit as their waiter came near with their plates of Averof roast lamb. “I would give you a lot of the credit for his progress. Your statement on the conflicted nature of ancient Apollo helped the man see to what an extent he himself was also full of contradiction and tension within his mind and its emotions.

“It would appear that Spiro now realizes how little he understands why his behavior takes such divergent paths, why he himself is so changeable at different times, in varying circumstances.

“Your influence upon this particular patient has been quite beneficial to him, Aglaia.”

“Thank you for telling me so,” she managed to murmur as she picked up her knife and fork to begin to eat.

=

Despina Ilia gave her real name to the Asclepius Clinic’s assistant, but she had rehearsed a consistent, believable fictional biography that proved completely acceptable as Aglaia listened to it and wrote down the most important aspects and points involved in it.

“I was born and grew up here in Salonika. My father was a dockworker and my mother a teacher of primary school children. I did not go to the University as I once had an ambition to. My dream was to become an artist, a painter of the Salonika landscape and the Aegean seascape, but that was never to be. Instead, I worked as a salesclerk for a dealer in old furniture, not yet qualifying to be sold as antiques. I know a great number of persons, both men and women, but I never have had any steady companion or any kind of formal engagement with anyone.

“My life has always been a lonely one and that has meant much inner sorrow and pain arising from my lack of any close ties. I am what people ca;; a loner. but a very lonesome one.”

Despina made her eyes and face look as sad as she possibly could.

“Why cannot I get close to anyone at all? Why do I live and stay so apart from other people, even those I seem to know the best? Why do I fear forming intimate relations with anyone in particular? What am I afraid of revealing concerning myself?

“I am eager to find out whether the Asclepian Clinic has means of providing me answers and remedies to this social deficiency in both my thinking and behavior.”

Aglaia gave her an understanding smile. “I am certain that you will agree to enter for a number of our electronic mirror treatment sessions. Dr, Gavrion will meet with you early tomorrow morning and explain the nature and methods of our special therapy.

‘Patients with conditions such as you describe have received a lot of help and benefit from what happens to them here. I can foresee that occurring in your case as well. You shall never regret having come to us to treat your condition, I can assure you, Miss Ilias.”

The two exchanged smiles of hope and optimism about what would happen the following day at the clinic.

The Molecular Casino Part IV.

4 Feb

I.

Tarun Nait returned to Lake Ezero on a night tracker train, one of the handful of passengers traveling in that direction after midnight.

He gazed out the window to his right at the speedily passing lights of rural houses and barns, then opened his work case and started to review some of the lab reports and business documents he had received in Siliquo City from Itun Catad.

Suddenly a voice spoke to him from the central isle of the tracker car. He turned his head to the left and caught sight of a skinny young man dressed in an apricot orange leisure outfit.

“I see you are studying some technical papers of some sort,” laughed the stranger at Tarun. “I take it you are on your way to Lake Ezero, just the same as I and my pals are tonight. Are you working on some secret winning methodology that is new and innovative? Do you have some clever code by which to change the odds set ahead by the house casino?

“I hope you can figure out to get a lot of successful luck, I really do, my good man.

“We fellows are glad that the Lake Ezero Casino has been partially restored and is back in some degree of operation. Our time is going to be spent mostly in the lower floors, with slots and electronic games. Roulette is a little bit too expensive and demanding for me and my gang. But our ambition is to graduate in time to the higher and harder levels of betting and playing.

“The best of fortune to you, and to us, and to everybody else on our side of the games too,” chuckled the young traveler, stepping away from the excited casino technical manager.

The general public is returning to our halls, Tarun realized with a secret, sardonic grin.

Bijan stepped into the office of the president of Hyperchip and started to give Sekar the news she had for him the moment she was inside the room.

“It passed the tests run overnight and all this morning! It works better than any other type of bio-microprocessor we have experimented with. Far more promising than the DNA unit ever was when it was new and held such high promises.

“The operations in the quantum universe are practical and successful. However we order it to function, the results that come out are phenomenal.

“Words are inadequate to truly describe the system that we can give society, Sekar.

“The plankton-based nano-chip is marvelous!”

Overwhelmed and excited as if by a strong electrical shock of some kind, he sprang out of his chair and moved toward her on the other side of the desk between them.

“We have to begin production at once, without a second of delay,” he told her in an almost frenzied tone. “I intend to inform Vinod Devar in Lake Ezero City at once that we can provide him an even better system than the one that crashed to pieces on him.

“This new one is going to have defenses built into it to prevent disruption from any potential vandals.”

He moved near Bijan and took her right hand in his. Bending forward, he placed a soft kiss on her lips, causing the scientist a momentary surprise.

A responsive smile crossed her mouth as she asked “Are you going to telewave this information to the casino?”

Sekar, standing and facing her as near as he could without touching her body, gave out a laugh of anticipated victory.

“No, my dear. You and I are going to take a late tracker-train to Lake Ezero and talk directly to him at the casino.”

The face of Bijan turned stern and serious. “I mean to ask him to do something to reduce and eventually illuminate gambling addiction, because I know that there is a lot within his power to accomplish on that front.

“He should be the one who knows how to achieve that.

“I mean to use this new bio-processor as our main bargaining chip with him.”

The pair began to make plans for leaving Siquoa City and making the trip that held the possibilities of such notable success for them.

After resting in his apartment from his trip from Siliquo City, the technical director took a jitney cab to the casino and made his way up to the mezzanine office of Vinod Devar. He had urgent, important news to report to his employer concerning his merger plan with Advanced Bios and the innovative clathrin computer chip with quantum level properties that would now fall to them under this scheme.

Tarun grew flushed and excited as he described the advantages he foresaw coming out of this magnificent, clever deal he had conceived and carried out on his own initiative while in Siliquo City.

“This arrangement will make our casino the dominant power within the new conglomerate that I had our own lawyer set up for us,” he boasted in a strong voice. “Final authority will lie in our hands, not our partner. My old friend, Attorney Ekram Esun, saw to that. It will be the inevitable result of our unbreakable merger contract with Advanced Bios.

“There shall be no way that the other side can slip out of the grip we will have them entrapped in. I succeeded in arrange all the provisions so that we control the partnership in a perfectly tight and legal manner.

“Think od what we will be able to own and control!

“Not only will we receive a superior biological nano-processor that we will be using here in our casino, but an invention that all the planet of Siliquo will be desperate to possess and use in business, industry, government, and education.

“The corporate construct I managed to put together on paper will bring our own company untold millions and millions in days to come. I have no doubt of that. This deal promises to solve all our financial problems for years ahead, I believe.”

Tarun looked sharply into the eyes of the owner-president of the Lake Ezero Casino.

What would the answer that he awaited turn out to be?

All at once, Vinod presented him an unexpected, unforeseeable surprise.

“I have to postpone signing on to such a merger deal for a short time, perhaps just for a few days or up to a week. This delay would help us quite a lot. We must be perfectly certain about all parts of something so complicated and risky. And there is also the important factor of Hyperchip remaining to be considered in the calculations that we are going to make.

“That company now claims that it has a new and better bio-chip in their laboratory, far superior to their DNA system that fell to the ground when used here.

“The owner of Hyperchip and his top researcher will be traveling here soon to tell me all about this invention and show us what it can do for our gambling operations both inside this building and over our electro-wave networks.

“I want to see and find out the value of what they have discovered and are developing. After that. I will be better able to compare and judge these two rival possibilities that are being offered us from Siliquo City.

“Do you understand what I am planning to do, Tarun?”

The latter sensed that he had to concede and agree to this decision.

He would have to delay and stall for a short time.

“Yes, sir,” he meekly muttered. “I can see great wisdom in doing it that way,” he had to lie.

Chief Detective Peret Yest was in charge of the difficult investigation to discover the perpetrators of the strange attack that crippled and inactivated the Lake Ezero Casino.

The bulky giant with eyes the color of spinach began by interviewing all the persons connected in any way with that gambling enterprise, from top to bottom.

Vinod Devar and Tarun Nait had been no help at all to him. They vented their hatred and fears of small competitors around the lake shores and others on all latitudes and longitudes of their planet. It might even have been carried out from other locations in the star system, by underworld interests planning to take over gambling on Siquoo by putting this master casino out of business, driving it into bankruptcy.

No one anywhere in the repaired and restored sapronic building could furnish him and his crew any useable clews or realistic leads or credible suspicions.

But Peret finally was presented a verbal report about an unusual rumor heard in several beachside bars and taverns, about a fanatical group of ex-players who had sworn off all gambling and were conspiring to close down the system that had for so many years exploited those like themselves.

The Chief of Detectives at once grew interested in the chances of the culpability of angry, disgruntles losers and soreheads.

One individual had been mentioned among a small group of drinkers walking along the lake shore on their way back home to their houses and apartments.

The immediately interested Detective Commander asked his secretary to locate the address of this Rahul Kaul.

“I plan to go and have a chat with this anti-casino character and find out what he may be up to,” muttered Peret to himself and his closest police associates.

II.

“We are back in business with over eighty percent of our games,” boasted Vinod to his two visitors from Siliquo City. They looked out through his panoramic one-way window on one side of his huge mezzanine office. “The machine and electro-game bettors returned immediately, as soon as we were ready to serve them.”

“How about your wave-net connections across to distant locations on our planet?” inquired Sekar, sitting next to Bijan on a long sofa facing the owner of the company he was planning to reengage with. “I have good news about what we can do in the area of electro-computing with a totally new, superior nano-processor system.

“Bijan is perfectly prepared to show you the startling success resulting from our newly prepared bio-chip system. It promises to provide the Lake Ezero Casino with the most capable and effective information apparatuses anywhere in our entire constellation of planets.”

Vinod perked up and leaned forward, turning his chestnut eyes toward Bijan. “I am not a professional scientist or technician, so please explain what you have in simple terms understandable to a layman like me,” he softly said to her.

The research director began to speak in the voice of an academic lecturer.

“There is a kind of protein that is a light-sensitive receptor of outside radiation. This rhodopsin is often called red chromo-protein, for it is found in the rods and cones of the retina of human beings and most animal species.

“This protein enables the eyes to enjoy vision under low light or at night. It converts light waves into electrical signals.

“The microscopic plankton found in our seas are packed with radopsin molecules and we have succeeded in our laboratory in isolating, refining, and structuring into a specially created container unit made of a special plastic substance that we have produced.

“I am justified in claiming that we at Hyperchip have discovered a new, previously unknown family of chromo-proteins in plankton bacteria. This is a novel, surprising type of molecular nano-processor. It is the center of the innovative computer system that our company can offer and provide this casino. It is available and is in production already today, at this moment.

“We are capable of introducing this miraculous system here at once. In a number of days, everything in your information operations can be revised and renewed, so that you soon enjoy the benefits of the most advanced technology anywhere on Siliquo. This casino will possess advanced quantum abilities, as well as a multiple of older advantages inherited from the past. Many steps ahead of the DNA processors that you have chosen to replace for good. Both faster and more versatile.”

Vinod suddenly rose from his chair. “All this is interesting, Dr. Jha, but I need time to think the matter over in detail. Give me all your reports and documentation and I promise to give it all my attention.

“But I cannot give you any answer this morning.” He turned to Sekar and addressed him directly. “We will have to meet again tomorrow morning at the earliest. I hope I can tell you something definite at that time, my friend. In the meantime, we must all wait for a little time. I advise you to rest and enjoy yourselves until then,” he smiled with his motives concealed from his visitors.

Detective Yest rang the door buzzer of the apartment of Rahul Kaul and had to wait only a few seconds until the latter opened and look at him with confusion. “Yes, can I help you?”

The stranger in a dark brown business suit gave his name and identified himself as an investigator with the Lake Ezero City Police Department.

“I am here seeking your assistance in collecting certain information about what occurred a short while ago at our largest local casino, sir,” explained the large, muscular visitor.

Rahul gave him a hard, serious look, then led him into his front room and invited him to take a seat.

As soon as both of them were seated and facing each other, Peret Yest presented his first question.

“It has come to my attention that you used to be a devoted, permanently involved bettor at our gambling establishments here at the lake, but that now you have become not only an ex-gambler and non-gambler, but you preach against our casinos and help addicted players to break away and free themselves of their inner compulsions.

“Is my information correct, Mr. Kaul?”

The latter made a grimace close to turning into a sneer. “I cannot deny any of that, but I have a full legal right to aid other unfortunate addicts if they wish to liberate themselves from their bonds to the casinos.”

Peret gave a pleasant, self-assured grin. “It has come to my attention that you are known to hold meetings of individuals at present or previously addicted to gambling, that you have a entire group of followers and comrades interested in freedom from the gambling mania. Is that right?”

Rahul frowned, stifling any sign of anger toward his interrogator.

“Yes, we get together in order to encourage and strengthen the resolve of the friends we have made. We share a common value in opposition to all the social pressures and influences that push people into the habits that place them into the traps set by the owners and employees of the gambling dens of Siliquo.

“Our fondest hope is to someday see commercial gambling and all its evil consequences banned and finally ended. Life would be completely different, om a much higher plane than today, when that goal is attained.

“Don’t you agree with our aim, Detective?”

Rahul made an enigmatic grin with a shadow of sarcasm deep within it.

All at once, the police investigator rose slowly to his feet.

“Is there any person you know among your ex-gambling friends who shows any signs of having the potential of turning to violence? You can interpret my question as pertaining to the electronic attack that happened with the Lake Ezero Casino as its target. Considerable physical damage was suffered there.

“Our government and the Police Department would appreciate any aid you could provide. Of course, any information from you would remain confidential and unidentifiable. Thank you, sir.

Peret Yest, realizing he could go no further with this character, made his way out of the apartment on his own.

The resident remained seated, involved with his own troubled, complicated thoughts.

A smoldering fire was burning inside Vinod as he conferred with his technical director late in the afternoon.

Tanun sensed that there was something unexpected and unforeseen that his boss was about to say as they faced each other in the mezzanine office.

“You should not have gone off on your own without consulting me first,” coldly complained the casino owner. “This contract that you made in Siliquo City with Advanced Bios may turn out to be a smart move in the long run, but we would be taking a gigantic risk in the immediate future, until the new clathrin processor is fully proven and tested in actual casino operation.

“Our need is for a system robust enough to avoid an attack like the one that proved the DNA model so defective and unable to survive and defend itself.

“In the meanwhile, I see no practical reason why we have to turn down what our old supplier, Hypochip, is offering, the so-called plankton variety of biological computer device.

“What am I to do between these two alternative ways forward? Is one method or its rival going to be the key to success in actual business operation? I wish that I could determine the answer right now, at the present moment.

“But more detailed, technical information is badly needed in order to make a correct choice between the two.

“How can that be done? I ask myself. What would you suggest that we do, Tanun?”

The latter groped for a remedy to avert taking the blame for having taken the initiative with the clathrin nano-processor and the merger with Advanced Bios.

“I understand why the situation is so hazardous in case it turns out that the plankton model is superior to what its competitor can provide us. Remember, sir, you have not signed or finalized the agreement I reached in Siliquo City.

“If it should become necessary, it is still possible for you to refuse the merger contract and go the other way, with the plankton computer created by Hyperchip.

“Why don’t we set up a direct operating competition right here in the casino? We could permit the one system to be tested in one area, and the other one om another floor and other games.

“Why not? Then, which ever option proves to be superior will be the winner and supply the entire casino, from top to bottom.”

The two stared at each other for a short time, until Vinod announced what his judgment was.

“Yes, I want you to draw up a plan for such an internal contest right here within the Lake Ezero Casino.” He gave an unexpected little laugh. “Our customers will be thrilled by the competition and probably lay bets on how it is going to come out!”

III.

Peret Yest worked out of a tiny room with a small pinewood desk at Lake Ezero City Police Headquarters in the downtown section. He spent as little time as was possible for him at that location.

This morning he reviewed surveillance reports produced by the uniformed and plainclothes operatives involved with the investigation of the electro-wave assault on the largest, most prominent casino in the lake region.

He made a number of reviews of the information gathered about the friends, associates, and possible co-conspirators connected to Rahul Kaul, the anti-gambling fanatic who was gradually becoming the center of attention of the Chief of the Detective Squad.

Nitin Jha now stood out as the most interesting secondary individual involved with this amorphous group of former gambling addicts.

What did the public and private electronic records available establish about this particular personality?

The young man had an educational and working background in the field of wave electronics. It could be established that he possessed advanced skills in the area of computers and nano-processor devices and materials.

Could he have acted as the technical mastermind of the terrible catastrophe suffered at the Lake Ezero Casino?

The man certainly had all the knowledge, skills, and experience to plan out and perpetrate such a complicated crime.

But there was a deeply interesting relationship belonging to this particular suspect, the detective discovered mentioned in one of the reports that he was perusing.

He was brother to the main scientist who had created the new DNA computer system that had recently been installed at the attacked casino.

Peret decided that he himself had to carry out a personal interview and purposeful interrogation of this interesting suspect’s sister.

She might be a lead into revealing something he could use.

An inner sense gave the investigator a strange hunch that here was a likely area for further probing.

– –

Vinod devised a clever strategy that he based upon maintaining the trust and self-confidence of the two persons representing Hyperchips, both Sekar and Bijan.

“I am greatly interested in your use of plankton molecules in your new system,” he grinned at Dr. Jha, seated across from him, next to the president of the firm where she served as head of research.

“This method is exactly the one that we in bio=technology have long been hunting for,” she smiled back at him.

Vinod turned serious. “It would be a very risky step for my casino to rush forward as a scientific pioneer without satisfactory testing of an innovative system,” he said in nearly a solemn tone. That is the reason I have decided to request all the data collected so far within your laboratory. That you can order to be transmitted directly to my office here by electro-wave as soon as practically possible.

Yes, I want all of it so that I and my technical crew can review and evaluate every item concerning plankton nano-processing. Nothing whatever can be omitted touching upon this startling invention of yours.”

Sekar gave an affirmative response to this. “Yes, I shall see to it that you receive all that we have, sir.”

All of a sudden, Bijan began a demanding, difficult explanation of her system that surprised Vinod and pleased Sekar.

“I believe what we have done solves the major problems in devising bio-based quantum computing at a nanoscale level.

“We use a molecular film of rhodopsin that has holographic properties and can work with laser beams of light.

“Plankton provides us a light-harvesting bacterial protein in its rhodopsin. Under exposure to light, it can transport light photons from a bacterial cell into any other electronic medium. In other words, it converts light energy into chemical energy. This creates a strong, firm protein memory-structure that permits speedy computing.

“We discovered a complicated photocycle within every molecule of rhodopsin: a special light-absorbing chemophore is able to trigger structural changes that alter the protein’s optical and electrical states at the same time.

“This system of rhodopsin acts faster than any existing computer, even the DNA model that we pioneered in the very recent past.

“The unique three-dimensional structure of the plankton-based molecule permits the creation of astounding memory cubes within the rhodopsin film.

“It takes our new nano-processing unit less than a millisecond to solve problems or come up with a requested answer.

“The size of the semi-conductor units will be reduced to a minute fraction of what is now in use.

“There will be available to you and others the primary benefits of molecular quantum computing: parallel processing and operation simultaneously in many different areas of interest through the availability of a three-dimensional kind of memory system.”

Almost out of breath, the inspired scientist studied the face of the casino-owner, searching to discover what his reaction to all she had said might turn out to be.

“I am greatly impressed by all of that,” graciously smiled Vinod. “But I have to tell you that there is another firm that also claims that it has a workable bio-chip. Are you aware that Advanced Bios has developed what they call the clathrin protein computer system? They have made proposals and offers to me and my company. This was all done simultaneously to your program with the plankton and its rhodopsin.

“Who am I to make a scientific, technical judgment on which method is best or more promising? Which one is most effective and efficient, and promises me the greatest return on the required investment of resources and capital?

“Which of these two new systems has greater defensive properties than the DNA units proved to possess?”

Vinid gave both his visitors a feline smile to share.

“My mind is a simple one, I have to confess. I am only a businessman, the operator of a famous casino.

“My solution to the dilemma that Hyperchips and Advanced Bios now force me to face is to set up a kind of contest, a competition between the two firms with rival bio-chips available for me to use.”

He stared directly at Sekar and presented to him the scheme he had devised all by himself.

“I intend to make the third storey of my casino, with its roulette and bacarrat tables, the location of the operational conflict between your plankton bacterial protein and the clathrin protein processor that Advanced Bios offers as their wonder invention. Which contestant will prove itself the superior one? I don’t know that today, nor can anyone else predict which system will come up with better results than its rival.

“I will have my technical director go to Siliquo City and make arrangements for the other side to send their personnel and equipment here so that the race between the two of you can start.

“Any questions?”

Both Bijan and Sekar were flabbergasted by what they had just heard presented to them, so that neither could speak.

They left the casino-owner’s office as quickly as possible, since they had a lot to discuss and consider.

IV.

Peret Yest had learned from years of experience to face and talk to potentially crucial witnesses on his own, and to deal with them in a direct, open manner with complete candor about what he was about.

He decided to approach the sister of Nitin Jha all by himself in the middle of afternoon. His plan was to present himself as someone with valid suspicion about what the group of ex-addicts of gambling had committed and what their future activities might include. Could she tell him important aspects of her brother’s character?

Bijan answered the door of her hotel room and showed visible surprise when the huge stranger identified himself as a police official who wished to talk with her about a subject on which he needed information.

The surprised scientist showed her visitor in and proposed that they sit down opposite each other in the front part of her chamber.

“I am in charge of the case having to do with the electro-wave attack that damaged and shut down the Lake Ezero Casino for a time. My first task has been to collect all the data that might have even the slightest connection to this unusual but serious criminal assault.

“You may at this moment be asking yourself why I am here to see you, Dr. Jha. Let me inform you that I have spoken with a close friend of your brother’s, Mr. Rahul Kaul. The reason I turned to him was because I found out that he organized and has led an informal organization of former addicts of gambling, that this set of people refer to themselves as the Rigorists and aim at putting an end to large public casinos like the one that suffered serious attack.

“Because he suffers from this addiction himself, your brother joined this organization and became active in it.

“Let me confess to you this person, Rahul Kaul, gave me useful answers to certain of my questions to him. But he also was silent and uncooperative in sensitive areas connected to the Rigorists and how they operate.

“I hope that you might help me clear up particular matters that, I admit, trouble and concern me at this point in time. That would help me to decide whether there is any connection between this group and the recent attack on the Lake Ezero Casino, and whether your brother, Nitin Jha, is in any way personally involved.”

The police prober focused his dark green spinach eyes on the face of Bijan with mesmeric intensity.

“My brother is more of a sympathizer than an activist of any sort,” attempted to explain the overwhelmed Bijan. “There is nothing I know that might aid you in your police investigation, of that I am sure,” she mumbled, breaking out in a smile.

“You know, I have for a long time wondered and thought about the problems and troubles of the addicted gambler, perhaps because my own brother was himself a victim of this strange affliction that takes command of so many innocent victims and their personalities. Many other difficulties stem from this particular condition that spreads and affects so many other sections of their lives. It can cause enormous losses and tragedies to its victims.

“A lot of deep thought about the illness that afflicted Nitin and the other members of this group has brought me to a number of conclusions, and it may be of interest to you if I just mention what they are.

“First of all, the addicted gambler does not have any idea what may be motivating his or her behavior. But that is also true for most harmful behavior that cripples those caught up in it.

“My conclusion is that most of the gambling disease, this uncontrollable mania, is a psychological reaction to a completely opposite motivational drive. It is a mental trap that I call overboarding. In other words, a person is so rapped up in chasing a particular goal or aim that the mind leaps all the way over to the opposite pole or extreme as a kind of solution or compensation. The individual loses balance and falls overboard.

“A fanatical gambler may in reality be a seeker of total security and safety, but reacts by making colossal wagers and taking unlimited risks. One bounces all the way to the opposite means or methods.

“One radical thought or motive evolves into its exact contrary, its total opposite.

“An absolute miser becomes a carefree spendthrift. A drunkard turns into a puritanical teetotaler. A sex fiend ends up celibate. And for the addicted gambler the mental reaction from one extreme is to go all the way to becoming a crusader in total conflict with the evil dens called casinos.”

Bijan stopped speaking, searching the face of the police detective for any sign or signal of having absorbed what she had just told him about she theorized about the kind of addiction that had controlled the mind of her brother.

All at once, the detective realized he might have just learned the core truth about the gambling addiction and what creates it within men and women.

This sister of an addict had just taught him some very valuable truths about the inner thoughts and motives of the types of individuals at the center of the investigation he was leading concerning the criminal assault upon the Lake Ezero Casino.

“You have been most helpful to my understanding both your brother and the other members of the Rigorist movement to which they belong.

“I believe that I have gained to new sensitivity of what they have had to contend with as troubled persons.

“I thank you immensely for your wise words and the new insight that I will certainly now be able to make use of in my work.

“If there should come in your mind any ideas that could be of help to me and my mission of solving the case of criminal assault that occurred, I would appreciate that you called me, so that we meet again, Miss Jha.

“I can tell you right now that you have given me valuable means of understanding what motivates gambling addicts as well as former addicts. Thank you a lot for your great assistance.”

With that, Peret decided to get up and leave, muttering a brief good-bye to Bijan.

=

Sekar and Bijan, rested in their adjacent rented rooms at a lakeside hotel, but met together in the building’s snack shop to discuss what might lie ahead for them and their plankton bio-computer system.

“A police detective, a Captain Yest, visited me and asked questions about what I might know about the group of former gambling addicts to which Nitin belongs.

“My knowledge of these Rigorists is limited to what I have heard from my brother, and I told the investigator so.”

Sekar changed the subject by asking her what she thought about their situation with the casino and its owner.

“I believe that Vinod Devar has some nasty compulsion inside his mind that drives him to try to control and exploit others with devious, sly tricks,” muttered Bijan to her companion as the two drank cocoa and ate oat pancakes after their lengthy midday naps. “His underhanded personality enjoys a situation like this contest he has thought up that pits us against Advanced Bios and its clathrin nano-processor.

“He craves the feeling of superiority that this kind of torturous manipulation offers to him.”

She stared at him with a passionate glow in her cerulean eyes.

Sekar thought a moment before responding to what she had said.

“I think that this man has taught us to be very wary of him, and expect him to take advantage of any weakness he may find in our actions and behavior. So, it must be our responsibility to afford him no means of making fools of us.

“It will be up to you and me, Bijan, to see to it that we provide the best possible demonstration of our plankton chip. No errors or lapses can be allowed on our part. Since we will be in charge of the gathering and coordination of the information coming from all angles of the roulette games, we must see to it that we tailor our applications as exactly as we can to the specific features and characteristics of that type of betting and those particular category of gamblers.

“That is why I plan to help you set up and organize an electro-wave network of sensors and monitors that will keep our new computer units abreast of every development occurring at every table, on ever roll of the wheels, over every single player making bets.

“Our plankton bio-system has to take and maintain control over all aspects of the events involved in roulette at the Lake Ezero Casino.

“That is the only chance we will have to win this game that Vinod Devar has forced us to play.

“Once our plankton system is the winner, we will be able to bargain and demand that he begin to help the addicted persons gambling under his company.”

Bijan stared at him with a thoughtful grimace. “It will not be easy, but we have to strive with all we have to come out of this victorious,” she solemnly told him.

Tarun took the night tracker-train back to Siliquo City with an assignment from his employer that did not at all please him.

He had to explain the contest that was being set between the alternative computer systems of Hyperchip and Advanced Bios. It was his task to convince Itun Catid to participate and agree to live with the outcome.

What would this arrangement do to the merger that he himself had made possible between the Lake Ezero Casino and Advanced Bios? How would Catid react to this radical change and the further suspension and delay it would certainly cause to the partnership plan that had been created?

Will there be a re-evaluation by the head of Advanced Bios? Does a loss in the competition negate the contract reached with such difficulty by himself and Itun Catid?

Does defeat on the baccarat tables mean the end of his scheme for entering the computer micro-processor industry as a successful, major manufacturer in Siliquo City?

Tarun pondered the varied outcomes and the options for action that each of them offered. He thought through how his own personal interest might best be preserved and advanced. So many forces and factors to evaluate and consider!

There was no chance for him to nap or rest, none at all. But by the time the train reached its destination he had a clear idea of what he had to do with Itun Catad and Advanced Bios.

Bijan informed Sekar that she had wave-phoned her brother and the two had agreed to meet early that evening.

“I want to discuss his future with him,” she said. “It may be the right moment for him to attempt to renew his professional career in electronics.”

“Good luck,” he replied. “I wish you success in what you hope to do for him.”

Nitin proposed that his sister join him in a walk along the paved shore path looking out over Lake Ezero.

“It is a delightful scene at dusk, with a lot of locals and tourists strolling in a leisurely promenade out there,” he smiled at her.

As the pair progressed past beach sand and reddish grasses, Bijan spoke to him with a note of relief in her voice.

“I have recently noticed a degree of hopeful optimism in your mood and general attitude, Nitin. Has something happened to lift your outlook and spirits higher? What may have changed your outer and inner attitude so visibly? That is what I have been wondering about continually.”

She turned her head in his direction and gave him a grin of satisfaction and encouragement.

“Let’s sit down somewhere and I can explain to you what has happened to me,” he suggested.

In a matter of seconds, the two of them took possession of a vacant beach bench made of plastex.

Facing each other with no one around to hear them, Bijan described to him her recent experience with a police investigator probing the casino catastrophe and possible involvement of Rigorists in the criminal electronic attack.

“This detective, a captain in rank, had a fine sensitivity to the troubled behavior of those suffering from gambling addiction. He understands the terrible inner conflict that motivates the unfortunate ones captured by the casinos as if under an unbreakable, inescapable magical enchantment. Once we accept the notion that the human mind can, in a metaphoric sense, fall overboard, then the mechanism by which the addiction takes place become clear and conceivable. It is a reaction to a powerful subconscious drive, but the result turned out to be the opposite of what the addicted gambler is really seeking to gain and achieve.”

Nitin suddenly radiated a warm glow of self-discovery as he stared at his bewildered sister.

“The key to unlocking the mystery, the riddle of what impelled you to gamble in the first place is quite simple: you had fallen into a state of complete reaction, total reversal of what was dominating your fundmmental motivation.

“You possessed a deep passion for success and security, for acceptance by others and social respect in society. This inner drive evolved into an invisible mania, an unrecognized obsession that overpowered and took possession of your entire personality and your thoughts.

“But you could not accept it, live up to it, or fulfill all the demands it made on your personal life.

“So, the result was that you unconsciously threw yourself into the diametric opposite kind of motives. Instead of steadiness and security, you turned to absolute risk-taking. You ended up an addicted bettor, a fanatical gambler, because in reality you craved the polar opposite. Only now there was a contrarian means that you believed had to be utilized.

“You had forgotten and suppressed the original goals that you sought and believed in. It was a drama where you unknowingly defrauded and hoodwinked yourself into behaving in a self-defeating manner.

“It was your own mind that was tricking and fooling you, no one else.”

“That is what psychologists term a reaction formation, one of the most common human defense mechanisms, according to those who analyze human addiction like the gambling that plagued you,” gently explained Bijan.

Nitin nodded several times. “I believe that I can now free myself from that reaction into addiction,” he confidently whispered to her. “You have revealed to me how I had fallen overboard in the lake that is my mind.

“It must be a common human failing for the mind to mislead itself into the opposite of what it needs and really wants.

“But now I have found a way of freeing myself from the terrible sickness that had entrapped me,” he claimed in boastful words. “I am grateful to you, Bijan, for telling me how my mind came to trick and deceive itself.”

V.

Tarun Nait walked into the business office of Itun Catad with a thoroughly planned scheme in his mind for convincing and leading on the head of Advanced Bios the way he wished. He shook hands with his target, then sat down across from him and his desk.

“I must thank you for your cooperation and patience, my friend,” began the one from the casino, “but your bio-chip is not the only possibility that our owner happens to be considering. You are certainly familiar with our sad experience with the DNA-based bio-chip that we first accepted and operated with from Hyperchip here in Siliquo City. As you and everyone else knows, there occurred a total fiasco with that system, because a malicious, destructive electro-wave occurred and shut down the entire operation. We are only now completing the final stage of recovery for the Lake Ezero Casino.

“Our president and owner, Mr. Vinod Devar, continues to feel sympathetic and sorry for the disaster that Hyperchip suffered along with us. Unexpectedly, that company came up with and has made a new offer to replace the DNA model with another alternative they have devised. It is a computer nano-processor developed out of a plankton virus found in that microscopic sea creature. This was an unexpected surprise to me and my employer.

“What were we to do?

“The decision of our chief was to carry out a competition between your clathrin product and the plankton one. It will be a test of both at our casino. Your area of application and operation will be at our baccarat tables, while that of your rival will be at the roulette wheels across from them.

“How does that sound to you, my friend? Do you accept such a challenge from their company? Will you participate and allow us to use your bio-chip of clathrin opposite theirs?”

Tarun paused, staring starkly at him with his strong, sparkling green eyes.

“There is another, additional offer I can present to you today. But it has to be a private, unpublicized matter, that neither you nor I can mention or describe to anyone beyond ourselves. Let me spell out what I mean with my secret proposal to you.

“I am able to give you, here and now, an ironclad guarantee that Advanced Bios will be the winner, that your chathrin system will beat the rival plankton viral bio-chip on every score, in every way, in the casino contest.

“Your competitor will stand no chance whatever of being successful.

“Believe me, as technical director within the Lake Ezero Casino, I am in a position to shape the outcome and assure victory to you and your alternative entry.

“I have unseen control that can defeat their system and bring final success only to yours.”

Catad gaped at him with open mouth, speechless for a time, his thoughts caught in a mental whirlwind.

“I will do all that for you, but there must be something that you give to me in return,” declared Taeun in a guarded whisper, as if concealing a hazardous secret.

“You must agree, once you win the contract and the merger is approved by both sides, that you demand that only I be appointed to act as manager of the joint company in control of both Advanced Bios and the casino on Lake Ezero.

The person in charge of both entities within the partnership must be I myself, no one else. Not Mr. Vinod Devar, not yourself, but me.

“I will be the one exercising the highest, top authority in both of the merged halves. Is that acceptable to you?”

His face pale and his body shaken, Itun Catad managed to give a half dozen nods and mumble yes.

Rahul Kaul arranged with Nitin over wave-phone to meet with him in a cocoa shop in the central section of Lake Ezero City. “We have to be careful, because I am afraid that the police are watching us all the time. One detective has already been here to see me,” admitted Rahul.

Nitin, out of fear or embarrassment, failed to report that he also had been visited by a governmental investigator.

Neither of the pair suspected that Chief Detective Peret Yest had ordered the interception of all calls over magnetic waves by any member of the Rigorists, with special attention paid to the head of the movement and to the electro-wave professional named Nitin Jha.

Two plainclothes agents were stationed inside the mentioned rendezvous spot, waiting for the arrival of the two conspirators under surveillance.

There were sound monitors set up ahead of time, monitoring and recording every human voice saying anything within the walls of the tiny cocoa snack location.

It was the group leader who did the bulk of the talking once the pair were seated together in a back corner of the crowded establishment.

“All of us are now in great danger of capture and arrest,” whispered Rahul after both of them had ordered and carried away two hot cups of chocolate-vanilla blended drink. “Our way of operating will have to change in order to cope with the eyes and ears that the authorities have focused on us.

“They have picked up a great amount of information about each of us, as well as our connections and activities together. We must now make changes and adjustments in order to maintain the necessary protection needed. For instance, in the case of planning any future attack, there can be only a small number of us participating.

“That is why I decided that I had to see and confer with you, Nitin. Do you think that the two of us, you and I alone, would have the ability to carry out an electro-wave assault on our own? Most of the work involved would, by its very nature, fall upon you to carry out and complete.” He stared at Nitin with intense, dilated dark eyes.

The younger man answered immediately, as if he had been able to foresee and prepare himself for this particular question.

“Of course,” he muttered. “I will volunteer to be your sole assistant in a second such action.”

Even while so pledging himself, Nitin sensed a feeling of dread at what he was promising to do together with the organizer of the Rigorist group.

“Good!” reacted Rahul with an instantaneous grin on his face. He took hold of his cocoa cup and drank off the last drops of its hot liquid. “It will now be your responsibility to see to the condition of the vehicle that was placed into storage and prepare all the equipment that will be needed for a second mission. You are our sharpest expert with hacking tools that will be used.

” I will call you again on an outside wave-phone in a day or so, giving you time to make all the arrangements and preparations on your own.

“So long, my friend, for now.” With that, he slid off his chair and walked out of the place.

A surprising wave-phone call came to Tarun Nait at his casino office early the following morning. It came from Itun Catad.

“Good morning, my friend. How are you? I am calling you from right here in Lake Ezero City. I arrived late last night by track train, but did not want to bother you at that hour. I slept here at the Lakeside Hotel and just finished a delightful breakfast on the pavilion.

“My reason for this trip is to take over direct supervision of the work that lies ahead in your casino for the crew employed by Advanced Bios. The idea occurred to me that I am able to accomplish a lot for our clathrin system if I take command of all aspects of the necessary installation and construction connected with hooking up all the baccarat games that have been assigned to us in this competition with our rival.

“I know all aspects of our structures, panels, and connecting devices. My knowledge and experience covers both the photonic laser and the specifically protein sections of the operating computer devises to be set up.

“I believe the project can be completed more quickly and efficiently with me in charge of the numerous separate portions involved.

“What do you say, Tarun? Was I wise to come and take personal charge of what my group will be responsible for?”

Tarun sensed he had to think and reply rapidly.

“I agree with your decision to supervise the Advanced Bios part of this business,” he said in a positive, encouraging tone. “Both you and I agree about which side deserves to be the victor, and hopefully attain full success in this. You know where I stand as an individual, Itun.

“Why don’t you come over to the information center of the casino in an hour or so? We can discuss a lot of questions and make our plans together. I will see you here in a little while, my friend.”

He closed off his wave-receiver with a thoughtful smile on his face.

=

Detective Peret Yest decided he had to take a highly risky step, but it might pay off in preventing another act of casino violence, depending on what results he might come up with.

He knocked on the door of the hotel room registered in the name of the sister of the suspect, Nitin Jha.

The surprised young woman allowed him to enter. She asked him to sit down, waiting nervously for an explanation of his return there.

“I am continuing my investigation of the attack on the Lake Ezero Casino, and I have come up with indications that your brother, Nitin Jha, may have been a major figure in the commission of the criminal conspiracy behind it. He had the technical background in electro-wave transmissions to be able to carry out such a sophisticated action on the computer system involved.”

The detective gave her an emotional look that contained all the signs of someone making a desperate plea for help.

“If you believe that you can somehow influence your brother, I beg you to convince him to desist from any further acts by this group. Tell him of the dangers of being caught, prosecuted, and finally punished for any part he should take with the Rigorists.”

Bijan hesitated only a moment before she replied. Yes, that is my duty to him, to save him to the extent I can.”

“Thank you,” thoughtfully nodded Peret Yest.

VI.

The head of Advanced Bios had a short meeting of only a few pleasantries with Tarun Nait at the latter’s private office on the top storey of the Lake Ezero Casino, where computer, cable, and electro-wave operations and coordination where centered.

“I am confident I can add a lot to our side’s effort,” boasted Itun. “How does the outlook in terms of our competition with the plankton system appear to you?”

Tarun beamed a smile of thorough confidence. “I think your system will turn out better able to handle the complexities of the casino’s rising requirements. We are going to have our demand for computer results magnified many times over as it becomes necessary to apply both monitoring and control programs onto our betting patrons.

“It will be clear to my boss, Vinod Devar, that what you bring will guarantee us the dedicated interest and support of more and more of the population. They will be solidly in our grasp. That is certain.

“There will be no upper limit to the numbers we can in the future recruit as good, permanent customers.”

Itun left in a few seconds and descended down to the third level of the sapronic building to join the technical team working for Advanced Bios.

As he stepped off the vertical platform he caught sight of a familiar figure from the computer industry back in Siliquo City. It was Sekar Airan, president of Hyperchip who spoke first.

“Itun! I did not expect to see you here this morning, but I guess it is the bio-chip competition that has brought you to the casino.

“This will soon be over and everyone will learn what the results are. There is no need for our two companies to harbor any kind of bad feelings or animosities whatsoever. I hope that the whole matter ends soon and we have a final conclusion to the whole nano-processor question, once and for all.”

Itun took a little leap off the slowly-moving platform and balanced both legs and his torso on the solid floor of the third storey.

For several seconds he peered with curiosity at his business rival.

“I can’t wish you good luck in the matter at hand, Sekar, and neither can you do that to me. But this should all be finished very soon. That is the only consolation I feel, that there is a decisive end of it coming.”

The two contenders stared at each other briefly, then separated.

Itun went to the baccarat section to meet with and supervise his technicians, while Sekar planned to see and confer with Bijan, his research director.

Late that afternoon, Nitin walked to the eastern end of Lake Ezero City to have a look at the truck that the Rigorists had stored in their storage compartment rented in a large storage building. Beyond the vehicle itself, he intended to look over the hacking equipment kept inside the back carrying section. Here rested the electro-wave apparatuses and the secret transmitter that he had controlled during the raid on the casino just weeks before.

Nitin realized that his thinking was troubled because of the uncertainty within the sector of his mind he liked to think of as his moral conscience.

If it had been right to attack, damage, and disrupt that den of evil gambling, would he be justified in repeating that over again?

He remembered the critical thoughts of his sister. She perceived the negative results of the resort to electronic vandalism. Bijan had presented him with sharp, credible arguments against the Rigorist movement and its absolute opposition and extremism. She had succeeded in shaking his confidence in the value of what he had involved himself in as an active believer and supporter of the anti-gambling cause.

Had he been blind to the unseen, unconscious motives of himself and his comrades? Mitin wondered.

Was passion against gambling as much a reaction formation as the original addiction itself?

Were both of them forms of leaping overboard? Were they equally based upon unconscious motives?

He would be seeing his sister again in just a few hours and would be able to hear more about how she thought about the problems associated with gambling and its capacity to turn players into neurotics who then became addicts.

Was there some other way to freedom for those still enslaved to the casinos and their expanding, spreading networks?

Nitin asked himself these questions again and again.

Bijan and Sekar ate dinner at the restaurant attached to their shoreline hotel, both of them ordering goose egg stews. Both were focused on her approaching meeting with Nitin at his apartment.

“What am I going to say to him this evening?” she said almost as if alone and talking to herself. “It is going to be extremely difficult to attempt to affect his way of thinking and behaving. My brother is solidly shaped by his painful experience under the cloudy shadow of his addiction that ruled over him till very recently.

“No one ever becomes a totally different personality, not once a person has reached the stage of adulthood. That never actually occurs. Therefore, Nitin is pretty well formed and finished off as a unique individual. Little remains that is fully changeable within his personal makeup.

“Isn’t that the awful, terrible truth about those who once were gambling addicts like him?”

Sekar gazed at her with sympathetic concern, creases of worry visibly crossing his brow.

“Do you wish me to accompany you and try to back you up as much as I can?” he proposed in a desperate tone, not expecting her agreement to having such aid from his presence alongside herself.

“No, I don’t want to burden you that way,” she slowly told him. “It is a sister like me who has to bear the burden of rescuing an only sibling like Nitin. In a strange way, I have to take the place of our two deceased parents.

“I ask myself to imagine what they themselves would be thinking and then saying to him, if they were here and giving him their advice.”

“Yes, I think I understand how you feel about the situation the two of you now face,” he thoughtfully declared. “You must impress upon your brother what we intend to do for casino addicts and gamblers everywhere on our planet. Hyperchip will be important enough to Vinod Devar that he will have to agree to and carry out an anti-addiction program in his casino. He will have to pledge to us that he will support and finance a wide program to prevent and treat gambling addiction in all its forms. There will no longer be any kind of promotion of that behavioral curse. It will have to be eradicated, however many years that may take to achieve.”

Bijan beamed at him with visible satisfaction at what she had heard him describe.

“I have to convince my baby brother to join with us in such a magnificent campaign to help those who are suffering,” she said with transported emotions.

Tarun spent several hours going through and studying in detail the many charts of the electro-wave system connecting the units of the vast network of apparatuses within the casino. If anyone had inquired what his purpose was, he would have answered that he was making preparations needed for the coming competition between the clathrin and plankton varieties of micro=processing chips.

But he in reality had a personal, secret purpose in mind: to ensure the victory of the system he wished to give the upper hand to, the alternative provided by Advanced Bios and Itun Catad, whose interest had now become his own.

He meant to guarantee the success of his alliance through realizing the merger and partnership he was the inventor of.

The technical director of the Lake Ezero Casino smiled with cynical glee. He now perceived how this trick of his could be brought to fruition.

A small number of switchovers, changes, and redrawing of lines of electro-wave power and current flow, a subtle reorientation and redirection of important pathways, small readjustments and recalibrations at points of major sensitivity would result in a rebalancing of what were meant to be identical odds of exact equality between the two competitors.

He had figured out how to outsmart the gigantic computer superstructure at the heart of casino operations. The system would now do what he planned to order it to, for he alone had total command over the results it was going to produce in the war between the pair of bio-chips.

VII.

As soon as she was seated in her brother’s front room, Bijan made a quick, deep study of his cloudy bluish gray eyes, attempting to evaluate his mood and foresee how he was going to react to what she planned to tell him.

“I hope you have remembered all that I said to you about my hope that you do not become too imprisoned in the ideas and activities of this strange group that calls itself the Rigorists.

“My concern is that the creator and organizer, Mr. Kaul, exercises too much domination over its members. It can be dangerous to place so much trust and authority in just a single person. There is a risk of his overacting and making serious errors of judgment. That can happen with even the highest and best intentions.

“Do not forget the concept of the overboarding kind of psychological reaction that is a common feature in inducing addiction in gamblers. The bettor seeking subconscious security comes to act as a most extreme risk-taker, chasing the dream of safety in games of maximum hazard.

“That is what happened to you and the other Rigorists, I do not doubt.

“But do not leap to the opposite extreme, the contrary pole, of total conflict and war against something like the Lake Ezero Casino. That is merely the mirror image of what it replaced, the addiction to gambling games.

“Do you see and understand what it is I am warning you about, dear Nitin?

“I see a similar kind of reaction mechanism in both the gambler who becomes addicted to high risk games and the ex-gambler who turns into a fervent, fanatical enemy who joins with others like himself in a group at war with the casino that once entrapped and made them into addicts.

“Do you see what I am getting at in my identifying a reaction toward the opposite extreme in both situations?”

Her brother answered not in words, but by a positive and energetic nod of his head.

Bijan continued speaking, gaining confidence from the signs that she was succeeding with him.

“Sekar and I intend to use our position at the casino, once we win an agreement that our new plankton system will be accepted and used there, to demand and obtain a prohibition of the trickery now drawing players into permanent addiction. Our invention must not be a tool of the casino’s enslavement or exploitation of the possibly neurotic characteristics of those seeking inner security in the risks that draw and keep them playing the games.”

Both of them suddenly turned silent and meditative with unspoken, barely conscious thoughts.

Bijan said good night and excused herself, leaving Nitin in trancelike mental concentration.

Tarun felt a jolt of surprise as he saw Vinod Devar entered the computer control center, a small chamber in the middle of the fifth floor of the sapronic casino building.

“You haven’t left here yet!” marveled the owner-manager. “It appears there is a lot of labor for you created by this contest between the bio-chips that will be going on for a while. It is incredible to me how much there is for you and your people to carry on and complete. Such work cannot at all be simple or easy.

“I think you must take enough rest this evening and tonight. There is so much that will still be here tomorrow for you to take care of.”

Tarun attempted to hide the charts and manuals lying in front of him, while distracting the attention of his visitor away from himself and what in particular he was himself involved with.

“Have you inspected the newly remodeled roulette wheels and tables, as well as the baccarat section, that our technicians and electricians have been busy with all day? A number of major changes have been carried out, Many more lay ahead for all of us.”

Vinod waited a while before saying something. “You are taking our computer operations in the best possible direction, Tarun. We are about to enter an unprecedented new area that could only be dreamed of until now. The possibilities of bio-chip molecular processors will give us a multiplied greater capacity in dealing with our bettors and players.” He grinned with greedy ambition, then left the electro-wave center of the casino.

Rahul was beginning to suffer a sense of losing control of the movement he was founder and chief of. Why was he not receiving the obedience he deserved from those who claimed to be dedicated to the cause that they all shared in common?

He had to move Nitin Jha into the action that was now made necessary by the reopening of the Lake Ezero Casino.

Inactivity would stymy and stultify what he had for so long dreamed of achieving through physical assaults on the gambling center that was their prime foe and target.

An immediate confrontation with the primary internal obstacle to his Rigorist program has now become unavoidable, Rahul told himself as he approached the front door of the apartment rented by Nitin.

Tonight would be the decisive occasion for him to reassert his dominance over the organization he had brought together to battle directly against the evil scourge of casino gambling on planet Siliquo.

Only seconds after sounding the front buzzer, he found himself looking directly into the face of the young man challenging his authority and power within the Rigorist group.

Nitin could not conceal the emotion of surprise that broke out on the features of his face.

“Come in, come in,” he gasped as he made way for Rahul to enter the front room.

Once the two were seated across from each other, the surprise visitor began to explain his coming that evening.

“We need to have a talk, just you and I alone,” mumbled the older man. “Our plans are falling apart from the inaction and delay we now suffer from.

“We should have ignored the dangers from the police and proceeded immediately into additional attack, not permitting the casino to reopen and repair itself so quickly.

“The factor of timing has fallen out of our hands and our enemies now have regained their dominatant position over the gambling public.

“The casino we hit is going to start addicting players with even wider dimensions and ever greater numbers involved.

“Momentum has shifted away from us and now it is lost. That is why we have to reenergize and restore the spirit of all the Rigorists with a new attack. That will depend upon you and me, Nitin. We must act alone, as a two man team that does what is necessary.

“Is the truck ready to be used again, along with the hacking equipment that was used the first time?”

Rahul stared at Nitin with forceful intensity on his shadowy face and black eyes.

All at once, the one leasing the apartment bolted up out of the chair he occupied. His face reddened as he started to tell what he authentically felt at that moment in his life.

“The truck and everything in it appears to be in good, workable shape. I looked at it and came away sure that nothing negative has happened to it.

“But that is not at all what matters, because I do not think that this is the moment for a second casino attack. There is a kind of competitive game in progress right now, with two new bio-chip systems in contention for adoption by Mr. Devar. Nobody can foresee for certain which will be the final winner. Which will be selected for use, and which will be rejected? There is no answer to that yet. I know that to be true, since my very own sister is research director for one of the contenders involved, and she sees the matter as still up in the air and undecided.

“So, as a result of this uncertain situation, the Rigorists have to remain inactive, on the side as watchers an witnesses. For the time being, we should wait, staying away from taking any kind of direct action.

“That is my opinion, and it is the reasonable way for our movement to maintain itself for where it intends to go in the days ahead.

“We may have to decide to put a permanent halt to direct physical action. I can foresee us changing our plans, for instance, if there occurs a radical change in how the Lake Ezero Casino comes to deal with people who have turned into addicts within their game halls.” Nitin paused a brief moment, eyeing the face of Rahul. “In fact, my sister has informed me that her company is going to demand important reforms in how this particular casino is going to operate in the future in terms of addicted players and bettors. She hopes to see major changes made in how the place operates.

“She is quite hopeful that there will be a number of important positive reforms ahead if her computer system turns out as winner in the scientific competition now being held in the major casino involved.”

The two glared at each other, each of them recognizing the unbridgeable division dividing the leader from the follower.

“I am disgusted with what you are revealing about yourself,” darkly muttered Rahul, suddenly rising to his feet and turning away as if to conceal the anger on his face.

Nitin watched impassively, in silence, as the creator of their movement rushed to the door, opened it and made a rapid exit as if in desperate, angry flight.

The mind of the apartment resident whirled in uncertainty, trying to decipher whether there was anything ahead for him to do as a dedicated Rigorist.

Had he created a permanent gap with his confederates and especially the one who had been their commander until now?

Nitin did not hear or witness what was occurring outdoors with Rahul Kaul.

The latter, in trancelike fury, did not at first see a large, portly figure move into his path, blocking and preventing his further hurry forward.

Rahul breathlessly halted and looked into the face of the masterly figure standing in front of him.

“Stop where you are!” barked Chief Detective Peret Yest. “I am placing you in immediate arrest as a destructive vandal responsible for the casino assault that was suffered. You must now come to our Police Center so that your direct interrogation can be carried out. I mean to wring a mountain of information out of you.

“I can promise you stern prosecution for the criminal damage that was done by your Rigorist gang of anarchists.”

By then in a state of semi-conscious confusion, Rahul only hours later realized that Nitin Jha had been spared the same treatment and fate being assigned to himself.

VIII.

It took Bijan only a few seconds to relate to Sekar the gist of the potential dilemma facing her brother with the primary police prober into the electro-wave attack on the foremost casino on Lake Ezero.

“I tried to soften up this Captain Yest, telling him that Nitin must be understood as totally unlike the chief of the Rigorists, the fanatical madman called Rahul Kaul.

“And I am quite certain that I have succeeded in separating my brother from the other ex-gamblers. He now perceives how he was misled by this man into becoming an anarchic enemy seeking to destroy the specific target, the Lake Ezero Casino.”

“You have disconnected him from the movement he had become a member of?” asked Sekar with spirited interest in his voice.

Bijan nodded that she thought she had. “I wish you to accompany me, Sekar, in facing this detective, Peret Yest, and convincing him that my brother is free of the Rigorists and has no part in anything he may suspect them of doing, in the past or in the days ahead.

Will you back me up in this initiative of mine?”

“Certainly, I will,” he asserted with energy. “I am ready to aid and support what you mean to do, Bijan.”

Peret Yest agreed to come on a visit to Bijan’s hotel room when she reached him over wave-phone. “Yes, I am very interested in speaking with you again,” he replied. “We can meet at your place in an hour. I wish to talk with you about what you told me earlier about your brother’s situation and his changing attitude.”

Sekar and Bijan waited for the detective to arrive, speaking little, each of them thinking about what would be best to say and how to deal with the subject of Nitin’s growing separation from the Rigorist movement and its anti-casino campaign. The knock at the door at once signaled to them that the one who held Nitin’s future in his hands was now present.

Bijan rose and went to the door, opening it and then greeting Peret and leading him in. Her first task now was introducing him to her employer and traveling companion.

The detective and Bijan sat down across from Sekar, then she began to address the subject that brought them together.

“I’ve spoken with my brother about his plans and intentions in relation to the Rigorists, and it is certain to me that he will soon break with them and not participate in anything they may be involved in.

“I thought it was wise to inform you, Captain Yest, so that you would be able to judge and evaluate his previous involvement with them fairly and objectively.

“Nitin has always been headstrong and self-determined, and in the present situation he understands his own motives clearly. He perceives the forces and factors that first made him an addicted gambler. But now I have enlightened him as to how the same mechanisms of his mind drove him into affiliating with Rahul Kaul and the Rigorists.”

All at once, Sekar started to speak.

“It is possible that Bijan’s brother has come to see how his thinking created a structure of fiction that first led to his addiction as a player. But his recovery from that trap occurred by means of his accepting a new, different fictional structure into his mind, that of the Rigorists and their idea of a war against casinos.” He gave a shrewd, almost cynical grin. “I am led to believe that liberation and recovery from one fiction resulted from the creation of an opposite, contrary fiction.

“Both of these mental pathways consisted of imaginary ideas.

“Perhaps that is the best way to analyze a neurotic mental disorder and the system that brings remedy and relief from its harmful effects. I can’t say for sure.

“It could be that most of our human thinking consists of replacing old fictive elements with new ones.”

He turned his head and looked at Bijan, waiting to hear how she was going to react to his general, abstract philosophizing..

“Yes,” she nodded, gazing at Peret Yest. “As I said before, when you were here, there was a second reaction that solved the problem of the creation of the gambling addiction.

Now, let us hope, Nitin will be free of both these conditions in his thoughts and motives.”

“Thank you, both of you,” muttered Peret, bolting up to his feet. “I have to go now, but I will remember what I have learned about Nitin Jha and the person he happens to be

=

Tarun was beginning to turn tired and nearly sleepy, realizing that he was soon going to have to leave the casino’s computer center, when the unexpected struck him like a lightning bolt.

It took him seconds to understand the nature of the crisis that was coming about on all stories and in all the games in progress.

He surveyed gauges and monitoring screens. What was causing such variations and vibrations, such wild gyrations and sudden changes?

He looked at troubling signs in both the clarthrin chip applications of the bacarrat tables and the plankton chips of the roulette games in progress on the contested third floor of the Lake Ezero Casino.

There was no difference, because both regions of gambling appeared to be going into a spiral of deepening frenzy, loosing all signs of balance and order.

Throughout all levels of the casino, electronic chaos was causing pandemonium in nearly every human mind. Roulette wheels spun out of outside control. Croupiers found themselves powerless to keep the anarchy from growing and spreading in all directions. Disruption spoiled the progression of every variety of gambling. Numbers rose and fell without reason. Disorder interfered with individual choices and intentions.

Crowds of the perplexed ran about. Many rushed toward the moving platforms and attempted to flee from the madness engulfing the sapronic building.

On and on continued and multiplied the confusing breaks, clashes, and confusions among those affected.

Tarun became motionless, falling into a spell of helplessness. He failed to move or act in any way, not able to guess at the cause of this electronic storm, this technical paralysis touching all aspects of the casino.

All machines and games, one by one, stopped and ended in paralyzing entropy, as if the gambling center had come to an uncanny, unnatural form of death.

Several teams of uniformed police officers occupied and helped evacuate the terrified players left in the casino.

Chief Detective Peret Yest and most of his plainclothes section arrived with the immediate mission of hunting for the cause of the second catastrophic disaster at this site. Late into the night, each storey that suffered damage was searched and those still present were questioned about what they witnessed and experienced during the critical event.

A surprising report was made to Peret by one of his lieutenants.

“Up on the top fifth floor, our men found the person who serves as technical director of this casino slumped over at his desk, in an unconscious condition. It is feared that he suffered a cardiac attack of a severe nature, and he has been transported to the Lake Ezero Hospital for emergency medical treatment. He will not be able to undergo interrogation for a considerable time, until there is substantial recovery and he becomes able to think and talk in a rational, coherent manner again.”

Within minutes, Vinod Devar arrived and took the vertical platform up to the computer center on the fifth storey.

This is where he located the chief investigator, Captain Peret Yest, and started to ask him what he could report about the cause of this breakdown of the casino’s operations in such a disastrous manner.

“Do you think this to be a repetition of the earlier electro-wave attack that we suffered a little while ago?”

Peret hesitated to be specific or definitive. “It is too early to be certain about the cause, but there are signs that it may not have begun from outside the casino itself.

“That is why I will try to get the best scientific and technical experts available to gather together all the facts that become available.

“I will be able to say more tomorrow morning, Mr. Devar,” promised the detective.

Vinod considered a few seconds, then gave his decision. “I can do something important at once. Here in Lake Ezero City I have called together the best brains from two major computer processor companies, both located in Siliquo City. If I immediately call them to assemble here together, I am sure they could add a lot of skill and knowledge to our effort to learn who is responsible for such criminal destruction.”

Peret gave an affirmative nod. “Yes, I agree that we will need all the help we can get in order to find out how and why all this happened tonight.”
=

Vinod Devar went on a tour of all areas of the building, then descended to his mezzanine office to plan what now had to be done to solve the questions rising out of the disastrous event that just happened.

It was a grave mystery, he at once recognized, that Tarun Nait had suffered some sort of cardiac or nervous catastrophe leading to his paralysis. What was the meaning of his collapse or stroke? How was it connected to the collapse of the casino’s computer network?

What could his technical director tell him if he were conscious and able to speak?

Vinod decided to concentrate his attention on solution of these enigmatic matters and subjects. That appeared necessary before he could start any kind of recovery or restoration of operations.

This collapse of his casino had to be traced back to its source and origins.

He summoned Detective Peret Yest to the office and announced his immediate plan of action.

“I am calling a conference right here in this room,” he informed the investigator. “There will be the heads of two bio-chip companies who are here in Lake Ezero City in a competition over the replacement for our present computer system. They are being asked to attend with their most important scientific personnel who accompanied them here.

“I want you to be here, Captain Yest, so you can assist me in questioning these people and getting to the bottom of what we have suffered.

“What do you think of my plan for finding the truth about this?”

Peret replied with spirited energy. “Yes, such a meeting would be a wise way of reaching ahead, I agree with you, sir.”

Sekar and Bijan took chairs at the long pine conference table, directly opposite where Itun Catad and his most important laboratory researchers sat.

Captain Yest sat beside Vinod Devar at one end of the long table, looking down onto both bio-chip groups.

The owner of the Lake Ezero Casino opened the meeting, describing what he wanted the result to be.

“I thank everyone who came here this morning, and I must confess to you what I believe is your and my own duty.

“So far, there has been nothing discovered to indicate anything similar to the attack from outside that caused the first collapse of all our computers, so very recently. All the signs point to something different in nature.

“Were there vandals inside this building at the time all this happened? Was this caused by some undercover agent who came in disguise as an ordinary gambler? What instruments were used by the perpetrator? What sort of technology was in use? And who might now fall under primary suspicion as criminally responsible?

“You must also have many questions such as mine in your minds. Perhaps it is still early, but we all have to start where we are, at the present moment in time. We can, at least, make an attempt to find solutions with what we already have available.

“What ideas have occurred to the persons present in this room?” he asked, throwing the meeting open to them.

Itun Catad surprised those across the table from him by presenting a bold explanation of the event.

“I ask myself why my first thought was that the chaos began inside the computer system that was operating. The first concern that came to me stemmed from something that I heard yesterday from Tarun Nait, the technical director of this enterprise.”

He momentarily paused, gazing a few seconds across the table at Bijan in particular.

“I have to apologize to my rivals for not having done anything about what he more or less hinted to me that he might do to favor my company in the contest we were battling each other in.

“A more or less indirect statement was made to me that it was possible to him to change the existing odds of success falling to my own side.

“There existed an agreement reached earlier, in Siliquo City, that was to lead to the merger of my company with this casino, as a single corporate unit.”

He came to a stop and looked up and down the table. Both Vinod and the detective were astounded and excited.

“This is all new to me,” mumbled Vinod. “Please explain this surprising, secret agreement.”

“I am embarrassed when I remember what the scheme presented me by Tarun Nait consisted of,” quietly, reluctantly confessed Itun Catad. “How can I ever forgive myself for acceding to such a treacherous scheme? Only gradually did I come to see his plan as a means of placing himself at the head of a conjoined conglomeration of our two firms, of this casino and Advanced Bios, both of them dominated my himself.

“Mr. Nait made me a fool, the unconscious victim of a master swindle. I see the truth now, but was blind as he proposed it and began the process of carrying out the conspiracy.

“How will I ever be able to forgive myself for letting him mislead me like a child?”

Peret Yest voiced the suspicion that was taking root in his thoughts.

“Is it possible that he inadvertently caused the computer collapse by fiddling with the computer competition that was in progress here in this casino? Could he have taken command of more than he could safely handle? Is that a credible answer to what happened last night?”

No one dared give a secure, definite answer to what he asked them.

“This cloud over Tarun needs to be studied in infinite depth,” intoned Vinod Devar. “I certainly am determined to look into it on my own. Of course, the casino’s technical director will not be able to himself answer questions until he recovers consciousness, assuming that at some date that he does so.”

Sekar, speaking for the first time, then made a surprise proposal.

“I believe that until we have more specific information to depend on, we adjourn and delve deeper into all these matters. As more credible data accumulates, all of us can better decide what to accept as true.”

Vinod Devar, who had summoned all of them, announced that the conference was for the time suspended till a later date.

The news of the arrest of Rahul Kaul for engineering and carrying out the initial casino raid spread about Lake Ezero City all day.

As soon as Nitin learned of it from a comrade among the Rigorists, he at once sought out his sister. Why was he and the other movement members left free, at large?

He went to the hotel where she stayed, along with Sekar. The two siblings went downstairs to the restaurant for a noon hour lunch together, In seconds, the pair were joined at their table by Sekar.

Nitin was not hesitant or embarrassed to speak about his having escaped arrest, despite the presence of the third person, his sister’s employer and intimate,

“Why was I spared, along with all the other Rigorists? Is this only a temporary condition, until more evidence against each of us is dug up by Captain Yest and his crew of detectives?”

His sister grinned archly, knowingly.

“He has a very compelling theory of what causes gambling addiction,” she softly said. “I happened to plant its main points in his mind.”

“Yes,” admitted her brother. “He described it to me, the psychological mechanism of reaction to one drive or motive by overcompensating in the opposite direction, the well-known reaction of going overboard.

“I have come to understand that it was a strong need for security that had made me a radical risk-taker at casino gambling.”

Sekar drew the next conclusion. “He saw that you were overcoming your subconscious self-deception concerning gambling and granted you the positive reward of not being arrested along with Rahul Kaul.

“That was your payoff for beginning to liberate yourself from the scourge afflicting your mind.”

“This may have been a colossal turning point,” concluded Bijan. “I have learned from Vinod Devar that he pledges not to misuse or exploit either of the two new bio=chips to increase the number of addicts or the seriousness of their condition. There will be no application of new instrumentalities of gambling addicting. There will be a narrowing down and reduction at all measures and means in use that lead to that pitiful condition.

“An active campaign to reduce and abolish the ailment is the promise I heard this casino owner make today.”

“Let us fervently hope that he keeps to this promise of his,” whispered Sekar to the other two.

The End

=

The Molecular Casino Part III.

17 Jan

I.

Ekram Esan was a Siliquo City lawyer without a conventional private office out of which to operate. He had the habit of carrying out his current business on the move, wherever he happened to be at the moment.

This short, slight figure, with wavy, white hair and coffee-colored eyes, was most often available to do business at one of the coffee shops in an old, seedy section of the city with a reputation not what it had been in the past.

Sitting alone at a tiny sidewalk table, the lawyer looked up from his morning cup to see a familiar face moving toward him.

Ekram had not had business with Tarun Nait of Lake Ezero City for a number of years, but had a clear memory of the man and his peculiar character.

He was first to speak as the other stopped immediately in front of him.

“Tarun!” he exclaimed. “It has been a long time, perhaps a number of years. How are you? Why are you here in Siliquo City this morning? What brings you here, right in front of me?

“Sit down and have a coffee with me, so we can talk about your experiences and mine.

“I know that you have an important technical post at the Lake Ezero Casino right on the lake, and I have read and seen reports of the terrible problem that shut down that great tourist attraction in that region.

“Have a seat and I will order you a big cup of coffee. And then you can tell me what it might be that I can do to assist you in some way, my friend.”

As Tarun took a metal chair from an adjacent table and placed it across from the lawyer, a waiter in white kitchen clothing appeared and asked the new customer whether he wished to order.

“Indeed,” answered the technician. “I think I’ll have a cream tasse with cherry flavor,” he said with a big smile, then turning his face toward the little lawyer and presenting him a question.

“How have your affairs advanced and come out, Ekram?,” he inquired point blank.

“Fine, may I admit,” replied the man in a dark purple business suit. “I never have a shortage of clients eager for my services and willing to pay me top price for such,” he seemed to sing in a musical tone. “I should never boast, of course, but the present year we happen to be in has been spectacularly successful for Attorney Ekram Esan.”

“That is good to hear,” nodded Tarun, his voice suddenly falling in pitch and his face forming into a frown. “Things have not been at all good for me in Lake Ezero City. The owner of the casino where I work as technical director of the entire computer system decided to convert our electronic and wave operations over to a new technology that has turned out to be a total disaster for us.

“We contracted with the major producer called Hyperchip for a biology-based micro-processing arrangement. It has ended up closing the operation of our casino when it mysteriously malfunctioned and went haywire. No one knows how or why this catastrophe occurred, but it has grave implications for our entire business activity.

“I have been able to convince our owner, Mr. Vinod Devar, that this bio-computing that uses chips composed of DNA has to be thrown out and junked as soon as possible. But what is to replace it? That is our primary problem at this time.

“And that is why I made the journey from Lake Ezero City last night, Ekram. I am here to ask you to join my search for a usable substitute for what has collapsed in a single night.”

The attorney gave a look of nervous surprise. “Why me, my good friend? What do you expect that I can do for you on this matter that I have very little knowledge of?”

Tarun grinned with confidence. “I am familiar, from our earliest years, of your numerous connections and acquaintances in so many different strata of Siliquo City. You are a person with the ability to befriend and understand all sorts of varying individuals, both men and woman, may I add.

“You can locate the kind of scientific project that I know that I could not, on my own.

“This could be a secret, well-concealed program that has not yet reached the point of being ready for the computer market anywhere on Siliquo.

“That is what I wish you to uncover for me, Ekram. Some new bio-processor different from and better than the DNA chip which has crashed in embarrassing defeat at my casino. I am solidly certain that you are the only individual capable of attaining this.

“Will you perform this favor for me? I can make you this simple promise: you shall not be forgotten once the Lake Ezero Casino is rescued from the fiasco it has just experienced.

“I will insist that the owner rewards you for your contribution to our rebirth as a living enterprise.

“You will be taken care of to the extent that you could immediately retire from your present work and efforts. I guarantee that to you completely and unquestionably.”

The lawyer thought rapidly and reached an immediate decision. “Yes,” he nodded. “I think it can be done. I will give this task priority, old pal.”

II.

Sekar was puzzled over the question of what course he should steer his company on now that the Lake Ezero Casino had suffered an unexplainable, still mysterious computer disaster.

The problem now was whether there was a secondary bio=computer system that could be swiftly provided for Vinod Devar at his disabled gambling operations in Ezero Lake City.

He invited his chief of research, Bijan Dha, to share dinner with him at his favorite downtown restaurant in Siliquo City. “The Aviary” was renowned for its fine avian cooking and was full almost every evening.

Only after the pair had finished their pigeon roasts did he feel it appropriate to ask her the question gnawing at him since the two had returned from the Lake Ezero region.

“What do you think, Bijan?” he began in a slow, thoughtful tone. “Will we be able to produce a substitute to the DNA apparatuses that will be technically satisfactory, as well as accepted by Mr. Vinod Devar?”

She did not reply instantly, but furrowed her brow in sudden, serious consideration of the question just presented her.

Her cerulean eyes seemed to be unseeing for a brief time, only focusing on her employer once she had reached a substantive conclusion on what she had just been asked.

“Yes,” she said in a surprisingly positive voice. “I believe that we already have an experimental micro-processor that we can quickly prepare as a substitute for the DNA system that has to be replaced. The final testing has not been completed in any sense, but I am confident that that can be quickly carried out so that we are able to deliver a workable substitute for the failure of the earlier system that we furnished for the Lake Ezero Casino.”

All at once Sekar looked down at the plate he had nearly finished eating from. He started to murmur to her in a lowered, changed tone and manner.

“I have become uncertain on the wisdom of trying to continue with any project connected with Vinod Devar and his gambling enterprise. There are aspects of this man that strike me in a negative way. How can we be sure that if we continue to work for him we will not meet with additional problems and difficulties.” He looked up, across at the research director. “There are many other roads we could take if it becomes necessary to step away from producing innovative micro-processing devices for this particular kind of business operation.

“What do you think, Bijan? Have I fallen into a depressed mood about looking for another, better system for this particular gambling enterprise?”

The two exchanged searching stares of uninhibited sympathy and curiosity.

“I have faith in what our laboratory can accomplish in the near future, Sekar. Perhaps I am overly optimistic in my feelings about our research, but I can foresee our discovering a successful biocomputing method.

“The casino on Lake Ezero will serve as an optimum test site for what we have been working on, beyond the initial DNA processor chip. I still have a lot of hope that what we want is almost in our grasp. A little more time and effort will surely give us what we need and want, I am certain.”

Sekar gazed at her, his eyes focused into hers.

“You are lifting my heart, dear Bijan,” he said in a soft, solemn whisper. “I thank you for the hope you are providing, for you are an individual capable of inspiring me to the greatest possible degree.

“I feel myself deeply in debt to you for the promise you are showing to me that you possess. The factor that bothers my mind and my conscious is the way that this casino and others like it capture so many of their patrons and make them into gambling addicts.” She paused a moment. “That may be because of what happened to my own brother. I hope that he is now free of that terrible condition that was created in him.

“My personal hope remains that we can compel this casino to change and reformulate its effect in creating gambling addiction among unwary players.

“If we could achieve that, it would justify furnishing a better computing system for them.”

Sekar slowly raised his right hand, extended it across the table, and took her left hand into his own.

Very early the following morning, at the Lake Ezero Casino, Vinod Devar arrived to oversee the repair and restoration of his damaged building and business.

He greeted each of the specialized construction workers as they appeared at the site they were bringing back to life, one job after another.

The proprietor soon found his computer-electronic director walking toward him at his old office desk on the mezzanine of the sapronic casino structure.

Once the two had greeted each other, Vinod posed an important question to his subordinate technical expert.

“Have you received any communication from the lawyer now working for us in Siliquo City?” he inquired with patent emotion and curiosity in his voice.

Tarun Nait forced himself to smile a little. “It appears to me that the man is experiencing some difficulty finding what we need. But I myself do not feel any disappointment with him or his efforts for us.

“It was never going to be easy accomplishing the assignment that I gave him. That is probably the reason he will have to take an amount of time to locate a good and adequate substitute for the system that failed on us here.”

Both men took several seconds to think out and consider their present situation.

“We will have to stay patient, Tarun,” muttered the latter’s boss. “Let’s get busy on the restoration project and keep busy at it today.”

Nitin Jha had promised to meet with the head of the Rigorists at a small lunchroom near the latter’s flat.

It was Rahul Kaul who most of the talking over their goose egg sandwiches the two ordered for lunch.

“I see that there is a large rehabilitation effort going on at the casino,” noted Nitin as the two finished their meal together. “It appears that the owner of the building’s gambling operations is planning to return to his former practices as soon as practically possible. What can we expect then? Will we also be back in the same position and circumstances as we faced before the attack that was carried out by us.”

He gave his leader a focused, questioning look, waiting several seconds for his response.

“We will have to deal with the reopening of the casino for business when the event actually occurs. Our job right now is to prepare ourselves for that coming happening, because there can be no doubt that it will occur before very long.” Kaul paused several seconds, then leaned forward and whispered to Nitin.

“It must be difficult for you, my friend, to have that sister of yours being involved in designing the electronic system coordinating all the computer operations involved with the unlimited gambling that is going to be renewed there.

“We shall be compelled to reenter conflict with the internal game activities as well as the inter-wave communication gambling centered on Mr. Devar’s physical establishment. Our duty will obviously be to continue our war against the reborn evil as soon as we can.”

The leader gave a smile difficult to interpret or understand by Nitin.

The latter looked away, through the panoramic window revealing Lake Ezero and its sandy beaches.

“I have no knowledge of what part my sister may be taking in the restoration of the computer network there,” muttered Nitin.

“Perhaps she will inform you of what her plans may be,” softly speculated the man who had organized and directed the activities of the Rigorists.

III.

The Central Data Library in downtown Siliquo City was a huge building of white stucco plasticone in the shape of a tall, rounded cylinder. It held electro-molecular storage from half a dozen foreign planets as well as Siliquo.

Attorney Ekram Esan visited this public facility in search of information available concerning the research projects of companies involved in developing new nano-processing systems with innovative speeds, volumes, and processing abilities.

The lawyer entered the giant reading room full of monitor devices with silver screens that never were turned off. He located an unused chair and set down on it, typing into the mechanism the topic he was pursuing: bio-processing research. Hunting about on the notation that jumped up on his screen, he stopped at one particular subject that immediately attracted his interest.

What was a clathrin micro-processor? Ekram wondered as soon as he stumbled upon the heading. He began to read its history and description with rising curiosity.

“A clathrin is a type of protein found in every single cell of the human body. They are found as a
network of basketlike protein molecules forming cell membrane in response to the attachment of organic ligands to their cell receptors. Clathrins form the inside surface of all the cell vesicles during the process referred to as endocytosis. The latter phenomenon occurs when cells absorb clathrin protein molecules by engulfing them in their plasma membrane. Endocytosis facilitates the transportation of both solid matter as well as liquid into cells through their clathrin-coated vesicles and vacuoles.

“Since clathrin molecules are able to act as means of information storage and processing, they have the potential of functioning as small, fast, and very cheap information circuits. Researchers have found uses for these particular type of proteins as signaling systems that can serve as gatekeepers and guards of an entire data storage system.”

Ekram grew more and more fascinated by the clathrin protein and its possible practical application in nano-processing operations.

He searched for personal references to laboratories carrying out work with such proteins there in Siliquo City.

It did not take the attorney much time to find the name of a the company executive in charge of clathrin experiments involving the application of such molecules as potential nano-processors in quantum computers.

He took out his pocket notebook and recorded the name and address of the individual in charge of bio-electronics for the company employing him.

Ekram made his way out of the Central Library with vigor, his mind and emotions raised to a height not there when he walked in earlier.

Bijan suggested to Sekar that the two of them could save some precious time by sharing their lunch hour together in her small office in the middle of the company laboratory. “I will bring some avian ova sandwiches with me when I come to work around dawn,” she informed the president of Hyperchip. “I am pretty certain you will like the way that I prepare and scramble bird eggs.”

The pair sat close together in the tight working space of the research director, using their meal time to discuss what each of them happened to be involved with that day.

“I am reviewing the many alternative materials and organisms that our staff has worked with and run tests on in the past, before we chose DNA as our best candidate for use in the newest nano-processors. We may have inadvertently skipped over a good option in our haste to get something into operation.” She frowned in regret. “I feel today that we may have acted too quickly in furnishing a new computer system to the casino at Lake Ezero.”

Sekar furrowed his brow in sudden thought. “Yes, I fear that the introduction of the DNA system may have come about prematurely. More testing here in our lab would probably have uncovered flaws in the original planning and design of what we provided for the gambling operation,

“But what happened out there has reopened the entire question of the basic properties that our nano-processing units must possess in order to be fully successful and efficient.

“So, I have concluded that we will now have an opportunity to go all the way to the beginning and start from scratch, as if the fiasco out there at the casino had never occurred at all.”

“We shall now be able to carry out more intense research probing on a greater number of potential solutions to the problems of miniaturization of components,” mused Bijan, her cerulean eyes turning misty and dreamy. “There can now be a wider field of alternatives to try out. Our choice will result from a larger range of reasonable candidates for final, practical application.”

Sekar picked up the last of the bluebird sandwiches made with buckwheat bread, placed all of it in his mouth, then swiftly chewed, swallowed, and digested the last of the day’s ovian lunch.

Watching his face intently, Bijan listened to the unexpected confession he started to make to her.

“I have always been excited by the new, especially the wholly unexpected,” he said in a quiet murmur. “It may be that I am a person who craves surprises that produce an emotional thrill to my inner mind. I don’t know for sure.

“Why have I gone so far in the risky direction of my firm, in such an unsteady, radically adventurous part of industry as bio-processors for data storage and operations? Why am I taking such colossal financial chances with the capital and facilities of Hyperchip? many observers might inquire of me.

“I actually do not know why, and have no answer even for myself,” he confessed in a thoughtful mode of expression.

The scientific researcher focused her sight directly on his abstracted face.

“I think you are a frontiersman, an explorer at heart,” she boldly asserted. “That is what I think of you, and why I place such personal value upon working with you on this problem that we are attempting to solve together.”

He surprised her with a sudden sound from his throat that seemed to be a laugh of discovery.

“Thank you for telling me that,” he succeeded in muttering. Then he excused himself, rising to his feet.

“I have to get back to my office and finish a lot of company work this afternoon, Bijan. We will see each other again when we are finished up this evening.”

IV.

Ekram Esan hired a small jitney in front of his hotel and gave the driver the address he wanted to be taken to.

The cabman turned his head around and sent him a quizzical look. “You want me to drive you to that area of Siliquo City? That is a very rough and dangerous neighborhood we would have to enter. The city police would surely label it a high-crime sector.

“You are certain that you want to risk going into that slum region, Mister?”

“I have some important business that I must take care of at a small industrial laboratory that is located at that address. It has to be done. I will pay you to wait for me with your taxi out on the street, close to the entrance to this research facility.”

“If that’s where you want to go!” said the driver, turning his head away and starting the electro-motor of his passenger vehicle.

The offices and lab of Advanced Bios was a dilapidated building of grimy dark red brick on an empty street of vacant stores and abandoned technical workshops.

Ekram located the entrance and made his way into the bio-computer research facility.

He came upon a secretarial employee busy typing on a data screen and immediately introduced himself.

“I am chief attorney for a business enterprise in Ezero City, and I came to speak with the primary executive of this firm who might be present here today. It was not possible for me to set an appointment time before coming to this place, but it became urgent and necessary to appear as soon as was practically possible.

“Could I see your main executive as soon as I can?” the anxious lawyer inquired of the young man busy at his secretarial tasks.

“Certainly, sir,” gulped the office employee. “I am sure that Mr. Catad will be pleased to meet with you at once, sir.”

The secretary jumped out of his chair and in an instant disappeared into the adjacent room after opening the heavy teakwood door.

The head of Advanced Bios was Itun Catad, a tall, haggard individual with curly flaxen locks and gleaming, sharp but small ebony eyes. He had founded the company and owned the majority of its stock shares.

“I am both surprised and delighted to have you make a visit to our laboratory, Attorney Esan,” grinned the company president. “As you can imagine, I am most eager to find out what it may be that brings you here today.”

Ekram gave him a coldly serious stare. “I represent one of the main business firms of Lake Ezero City, the famous Lake Ezero Casino. You may be aware of the terrible disaster that occurred at this site when a new computer and communication system was introduced there. The new arrangement, based on DNA chips, failed to work as foreseen. The entire system collapsed in chaos and ruin.

“The owner of the casino has determined that the DNA nano-processing arrangement is now beyond operational repair or restoration, and has to be completely scrapped. We are compelled to go back beyond what was attempted and begin again.

“But with a different operating system this time. It can be a bio-electronic technology, but a new and different one from what proved a failure at the the casino.

“They must try out something new.

“Is that clear to you, Mr. Catad? Our management would like to have a look at what you have been working on and what your laboratory has achieved. Do you have a bio-computer system ready to advance into actual day-to-day operation at this time or in a very short time period?”

Catad beamed with sudden delight. “Indeed, we do. It is based upon a common protein found everywhere in natural bodies, including every human being in our galaxy.

“Let me take you into our lab and show you what we have attained with clathrin, which I often call our magic protein. I predict that you will be astonished by what it can accomplish as a nano-processor of signals and data.”

The pair went on to a tour of the long, crowded hall in which a team of technicians were involved in measuring and recording various tests connected with the particular protein on which their company was focusing and concentrating.

The company president pointed out and explained the functioning of the nanotubes in which clathin proteins were conceived and grown, the arrays within which these molecules were combined into long, minute ribbons, and the apparatuses that constructed structures that were the foundation of newly created nano-processing arrangements that were to operate as the key ingredients of computers with enlarged, magnified abilities.

Cated guided his visitor back to his personal office, where the pair sat down and discussed what they had just inspected together.

“What do you think of the possibilities we have put together here?” inquired the developer with a triumphant smile on his face. “Will we be provided a chance to revolutionize the field of data storage and manipulation? This firm is comparatively small and has no significant alliances or partners to aid and strengthen what we are involved in.

“My major fear is that the large outfits may attempt and succeed in either taking over the clathin computer, or else simply suppress it through their overwhelming market positions.”

The two stared at each other a few moments, until the attorney made a daring proposal to the other.

“You must allow the Lake Ezero Casino act as your first important buyer, in fact as a sort of business partner.

“I am absolutely certain that this client of mine will wish to purchase your new nano-processor and the computers it can provide for his business,” predicted and boasted Ekram Exan. “He will be most eager to be the first major user of your marvelous invention. His gambling empire will be a powerful, influential protector and supporter of what you are able to furnish him.

“Mr. Vinod Devar has the reputation of never abandoning or crossing those who prove themselves his true friends.”

After a few more minutes of excited conversation, the attorney left the man whom he had convinced to dream of unforeseen success in a quarter of town he had never before considered as possibly open to him or any client of his.

Tarun Nait entered the mezzanine office of his employer with what he considered important news to report.

From behind his desk, Vinod Devar was the first to speak, asking the question that absorbed most of his time and attention.

“How is restoration going on up at the top levels?” he inquired with focused mind. “Are the repairs and redesigns advancing on schedule?”

The technical director stepped forward, stopping ad the edge of the owner’s desk. “Yes, everything is humming along at a fast clip and looks to be completed even earlier than we planned.

“I have been making some calculations of what can be achieved by using an advanced biological nano-processor with quantum operating capacities. Think of what will become possibilities for our business at the casino!

“We will be able to raise our house edge, the guaranteed return on capital investment that is ours, to heights no one has ever seen before on this planet.

“The average loss on every individual bet by customers will climb to unprecedented levels.

“The house advantage will grow increasingly favorable to all of the games and machinery connected to your company, sir,” smiled Tarun.

“But there is another important matter that just arose barely a minute ago. A wave-phone call came from Siliquo City from the lawyer that I hired and recruited for us. The man gave me a highly encouraging report about what he was told to do for us. Let me repeat what he just said to me.

“The attorney looked through a number of the computer research laboratories there, and he came upon one small outfit that electrified him, so that he was compelled to sign that small firm to a contract with him granting first rights to exploit a certain experimental system. That, of course, means that the Lake Ezero Casino will enjoy exclusive claim of using their bio-computer here on our site, for our business of public gambling.

“As our company’s legal agent, he says that he won an advantageous, profitable prize for our casino.

“He asked that I travel to Siliquo City to seal and finalize the terms of a deal with the inventor and his company.”

Vinod rose out of his chair, his face turned red with surprise, his chestnut eyes blazing with nervous energy.

“You say the claim is that this is a better bio-computer system than DNA gave us?” he sharply asked.

“It is based upon a special organic protein unlike any other. I intend to learn all the details about what it is as soon as I get there and can inspect everything for myself.

“We should proceed with care, of course, sir. But this may turn out to be exactly what we need and can use.”

Vinod Devar suddenly frowned. “Leave at once and investigate what we may be getting ourselves into with such a biological nano-processor,” commanded the casino operator.

V.

Bijan felt a duty to keep in touch with her brother, especially because she nursed a vague suspicion that he might somehow revert back to his old bad habit of deeply addictive gambling in the casino on the shores of Lake Ezero.

It was early in the morning when she made wave-phone contact with him. She began by inquiring about his physical health and his mood. Was he enjoying himself there, despite the temptation of being in proximity with his old nemesis, the gambling center?

“I am perfectly okay,” he assured her with a hint of indignation. “There is very little chance of me reverting to my previous mania for playing those infernal games of chance. I am far beyond that now. I know a lot of others who suffered the same illness that plagued me for so many years, and we help each other to stay on the right path.

“Believe me, dear Bijan, I have succeeded in liberating myself from the gambling madness that possessed me so disastrously just a short while ago. I see myself now as a free man who aids others recover from that sickness of the mind. My addiction is over for good.”

“That is good to hear from you,” she declared in clear, strong tones. “I have some good news to tell you as well.”

“What is it?”

“I am in the midst of something like an expanding friendship with a person I see every day, with whom I am working together on research projects.”

“Good!” gasped Nitin. “Do I know this person, by chance? Would you tell me his name?”

Bijan gave an audible laugh. “No, I want to keep secret as much as I can. In good time, I may have more to tell you about all of this. For now, no more about my personal life, dear brother.”

In a few seconds, the two said goodbye and broke their wave connection, each going back to routine activity.

Sekar invited Bijan to have dinner with him at a new restaurant he had heard was opened recently near the Siliquo City medical center. “They are said to specialize on bird types imported from some of our neighbor planets.” he informed his research director. “Let’s carry out an exploration and find out what is being offered there.”

Both of them decided to try the baby stork steak. then fell into relaxed conversation.

“It has been very frustrating, this lack of success with the globular proteins we are working with at the present time with our intense lab experimentation and testing,” confessed Bijan. “There exist endless series of polypeptides we have to try out with great care and detail. Day after day, there is examination of more and more globe-shaped proteins. No one can predict when or if an alternative superior to DNA turns up for us. I myself had high hopes for ovalbumin, a protein found in all kinds of animal eggs. But it did not prove to be the one we were hunting for.

“So, our search goes on into newer areas. I plan to begin testing the type of proteins that fall into the category of bacterial proteins. These are a large group whose members have not been studied much until recent times. But they may contain particular varieties that possess just the right properties to serve as molecular nano-processors. We may be lucky and find exactly what we are looking for. At least that is what I am hoping for.”

Neither of them spoke for a short spell, both looking at the other and trying to think of what might be most appropriate at that moment.

Sekar began to murmur the thought he had at the core of his mind.

“You have the genuine character of a scientist, Bijan. It is your nature to continue this search of ours for the right protein on and on, however long it might take to get hold of what we are after.

“I truly prize and revere the strength of your devotion to the project you are so faithfully dedicated to.

“Do you understand what it is I am trying to tell you, Bijan?”

The latter surprised him by both smiling and giving out a soundless laugh of pleasure and satisfaction.

“I am convinced, despite all the failures up to this time, that we are close to reaching what we are after,” she said with assurance in her voice. “Whatever we are able to find and use we will owe to your generous support for all the efforts made in the lab. This could not at all be done without your leadership, Sekar.”

He did not avoid the heartfelt gaze projected upon him by his chief of research.

– –
Tarun Nait took a jitney to the office of the attorney as soon as he arrived in Siliquo City. He read over the contractual agreement that Ekram Esan had prepared for signing by the two sides.

“It strikes me that the computer Company is in a very weak position,” quietly said the lawyer. “This deal with the Lake Ezero Casino will economically serve as its salvation and restore its value as a going business.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Catad is a desperate man and would be perfectly willing to accept any offer whatever presented to him. This agreement with your employer is the final hope for his failing firm, I believe.”

Tarun suddenly turned silent as the focus of his mind turned deeply inward, considering the situation in a widely speculative manner.

Ekram Esan stared in wonder at the technical director from the Lake Ezero Casino. What is this man thinking of so intently? he asked himself, waiting to find out the answer.

All at once, Tarun looked up with a subtle spark in his green eyes.

“I have been trying to figure out something, my friend,” softly whispered the visitor. “What do you think his answer might be if Mr. Catad was presented an offer to purchase half the ownership share in his company? Would he turn it down as insulting and unacceptable, or would he be willing to think about and discuss the possible terms of such a purchase of a share in his business? Would he accept a partnership with an outside interest such as the Lake Ezero Casino? What do you think his reaction would be to such a proposal presented to him by you yourself?

“I can only guess, so I need your evaluation of him and what you consider the possibilities might be.

“For instance, would he be willing to sit down with you and me in order to talk about the potential terms under which my company would be brought in as co-owner?

“I would promise the man that he could continue to direct and manage the company as he has so far, from its beginning. But he would no longer be the primary owner, just the hired chief of operations in the future.

“What do you think of my concept of buying a half share, my friend?”

His brain spinning, the lawyer grasped for words with which to reply.

“It is hard to say for sure, Tarun, because I have never considered such a matter up to now. Your idea was a total surprise to me, and I will have to weigh it from a number of different angles. It is not at all easy to give a quick, definite reaction to attempting such an offer in an active manner.

“But the more I think about it, the more I come to believe that it is a feasible project. Yes, I increasingly see such a proposal as acceptable to him. He has suffered severe financial expenses and losses, and can absorb new capital.” The attorney flashed a sudden smile. “Do you want me to arrange a meeting for you with Mr. Catad?”

Tarun replied with his eyes aglow. “Yes, I would appreciating being able to converse directly with this fellow who has control of a system that can be so valuable to us at the Lake Ezero Casino.

“I know the reputation for sharpness and shrewdness of your owner, Mr. Devar. It is a mystery to me why he seeks to buy into a computer firm that he plans to have supplying him with a new, advanced bio-processor for his casino’s information system. I really do not understand why this proposal is going to be made to Itun Catad to share ownership of Advanced Bios.”

The visitor thought for a moment, his lips twisting into an arch, sardonic kind of smile.

“My reputation as a technology director is one of accepting risks and chances for the sake of eventual gain. That is what my company will enjoy once the new system developed by Catad and his lab are in successful operation out at Lake Ezero. I can foresee that this innovative bio-processor will find eager purchasers and users in business, industry, government, and all other sectors of society.

“My company’s president and owner, Mr. Vinod Devar, I predict will approve of my initiative on this particular matter. He recognizes that he can depend upon my personal judgment and leave the initiative with Advanced Bios up to me.

I believe there will be enormous advantage in the ownership and control of this company. The future will reveal the positive prospects contained in this plan of mine, I predict.”

The two of them smiled at each other.

Rahul Kaul strolled along the beach path a little beyond the boundary of Lake Ezero City. Nitin Jha was his only companion. On one side of them lay the waters and the sand, on the opposite side the tall tropical trees of a small private forest never developed or used in any way.

“The casino is not waiting until a better biological technology is available to replace the one we destroyed for them,” mused the leader of the Rigorists as the pair continued their movement forward. “They are planning to return temporarily to their older system of silicon chips and microprocessors, until it can be replaced with quantum molecular computing. That is what our people hear from those they know who will be returning to work there soon.”

How is that going to affect us?” asked Nitin. “Should we prepare ourselves for a second all-out attack on them and their gambling system?”

Rahul suddenly stopped and turned his head toward the other. The younger man did the same.

“It will be wisest to wait a little bit and see for ourselves what newer advanced system is going to be adopted by Mr. Devar and his technical staff. We will then be able to decide what exact course will be best for us to take.

“I do not think it will take too long a time for our enemies to choose a substitute for what we succeeded in ruining for them.

For now, we must watch and wait, till we know for sure what direction the Lake Ezero Casino will be taking.”

Nitin gave a nod of his head as the chief of the Rigorists started walking again.

VI.

Attorney Esan arranged the appointment for Tarun, arrived from Lake Ezero, to meet and set terms with Itun Catad at the offices of Advanced Bios.

The casino technical director found it unexpectedly easy to introduce himself and make a visible impression on the lanky man with the tiny ebony eyes. The visitor immediately concluded that he was going to have success in attempting to lead him into a fuller, complicated agreement with the Lake Ezero Casino.

“The owner of our enterprise is deeply interested in achieving the use of computing systems based upon your uniquely original clathrin bio-microprocessor. It promises to rocket our business into the long-promised and anticipated world of quantum computing at a truly molecular level. Things that could not be done or even imagined up to now will now become practical and doable by us, for the first time. The prospects attainable with the clathrin nanochip are astounding. We will, as pioneers, be able to carry out operations previously thought impossible.

“Our fondest ambitions will no longer be only dreams. They will come true in the very near future, Mr. Esan.”

Call me Ekram,” said the latter, unaware of the spell that Tarun was attempting to cast about him through his flattery and hopefulness.

“We shall provide Advanced Bios extremely favorable prices and terms for the units that will be provided us, and I am confident that you will find my offer to you satisfactory, I even dare say generous.

“But I came here today to propose a step that is quite advanced. I think that it might, at first, even shock or astonish you, my good man. I can say that it is a complete surprise in its boldness. I intend to give you plenty of time to consider what I mean to offer. My intention is to act seriously and candidly, to the fullest extent that I can.

“So, take your good time in judging and deciding on this proposal I will now make to you.”

Tarun leaned his head forward as if about to rise out of the chair he was sitting on. His sharp green eyes gleamed with the cool fire of a precious emerald.

“I want you to think about a semi-merger of your company with the Lake Ezero Casino. We will then become like two twin brothers under the same family roof. This will occur by my company buying a half share of yours. It will turn out to be a partnership between two equal sides, two equal interests.

“You will remain as the president and main manager in charge of Advanced Bios here in Siliquo City. Our casino on Lake Ezero will continue as a gambling center at our present, established location on the lake shore.

“But both halves will be able to look forward to amazingly promising futures. You will be able to build new laboratories and production plants at scattered sites outside and beyond Siliquo City. And our casino will have the opportunity to have immediate early access to all the new attainments and inventions that you yourself come up with. In the area of molecular bio-chips and their use in quantum-level computing operations, we will help you become the leading innovator.

“I realize that what I am presenting to you is surprising and complicated, but it can be done.

“We can work out the thousands of separate details in the days to come. For now, I want you to consider what I have told you. Our attorney, Mr. Esan, can arrange the specific, particular terms in the legal language of formal papers.”

All at once, Tarun sprang to his feet, jolting the one who had been listening to him as if in hypnotic enchantment.

“I plan to spend the rest of this week here in Siliquo City,” he announced. “When you make your decision, contact Ekram Esan, and he will inform me at once where you intend to stand on this important question.”

Itun Catad said nothing as the other departed. His mind seemed to be away at a distance.

That evening Sekar and Bijan decided to have dinner at the high-priced gourmet restaurant at the top of a downtown Siliquo City skyscraper. They took a table beside the panoramic window looking out over the bright lights of the center of the industrial city.

Both were there for the first time and surprised at the rich variety of the menus provided them by an elderly waiter dressed in ancient Siliquoan folk costume.

Sekar glanced several times as his companion as she was astonished at the avian species offered in the place: merganser, frigatebird, palila, and bustard.

“This restaurant serves more than just squab, ostrich, and partridge, like other good eating spots downtown,” joked Sekar with a small laugh. “Why don’t we both take a gamble and just choose what sounds most exciting and adventurous. Why don’t we ask the waiter to give us his best advice on what we should try tonight?”

“That may be the best way to decide what we are going to eat,” replied Bijan, smiling radiantly.

When the old waiter returned for their orders, Sekar asked for him to make a suggestion for both of them. The pair accepted his guidance and soon found themselves with plates of roast kalapo sitting in front of them on the table.

Bijan ate with appetite, faster than Sekar, and began to speak almost as if to herself as she came to the end of her main dish.

“My brother and I never ate in a restaurant like this one, because our parents did not have the income to afford such fine cuisine. Our father worked as a science teacher in a Siliquo City high school, while mother was a part-time seamstress in a neighborhood tailor shop. Our standard of living was never very high during the years the two of us were growing up.

“But both parents encouraged and taught us to be industrious students in school and guided us to be positive in our personal ambitions. I learned from my father to have deep interest in subjects connected to science, and so did my brother.” She paused and frowned with a thought concerning her little brother. “But Nitin never achieved my level in terms of school grades or scholarship prizes. My successes seemed to throw him into the shadows, both inside our family and outside our home.

“My brother went into electronic studies, but did not exceed the average levels of student achievement.

“I have come to wonder whether his lag behind myself in science may have contributed somehow to the fact that a mania for gambling caught strong hold of his mind. Did I fail to understand that I was overshadowing and embarrassing my dear baby brother?” She made a concerned grimace full of guilt. “Was I a major factor in making Nitin what he has become?”

Sekar stopped eating and put down his fork, his eyes with a steady focus on her troubled face.

“Don’t blame yourself, he did it to himself. Nitin fell into a trap that is there in all forms of gambling, at casinos and wherever else such games and betting goes on. There are large crowds of those addicted, these are everywhere on our planet, and throughout the galaxy. Wherever one goes, these gambling traps are there to catch the innocent and enslave them to the mental condition created for potential victims.”

“But my brother has finally stopped playing and betting, converted to this new movement called the Rigorists. My hope has to be that it will have a permanent effect on how he now acts and lives his life. But I continue to feel responsible for not having prevented his becoming a gambling addict in the first place.

“I am still concerned about the dangerous traps that continue to exist for Nitin and others like him.

“That is why I question myself about the role played by the Lake Ezero Casino, and how our nano-processors can equip and assist it in its harmful role in the development of such addiction.” She gazed at Sekar with a pleading expression. “Can you and I justify what we are doing for Vinod Devar and his business enterprise? Are we going to become enablers of further, more advanced, kinds of entrapment and exploitation of those who are about to become even more helpless?”

Sekar set down the knife and fork in his hands and stared at her face with a rocklike, steady gaze. He began to softly express the ideas about the problem of the gambling mania of those like Nitin that had been incubating within his mind for a length of time.

“T have come to suspect that what your brother was after, back when he became an addicted bettor, was an absolute form of security and safety for himself. What you have told me about how he grew up and developed reinforces my impression that his self-identity was fragile, that his inner ego was unstable and did not possess a firm structure of any kind. In other words, your baby brother never completely grew up to become a functioning adult.

“So how did he try to win the security he came to feel he lacked?

“By becoming a risk taker on the high level of casino gambling. By searching for the golden chance, the one big win that would guarantee his safety for good, as a permanent state and situation.

“In other words, his crying need for psychological safety led him to take on the role of an actor taking the greatest of chances with money and property, how ever little he might have of either one.

“His reaction to the peril that he sensed deep inside himself was to go in the opposite direction and look for salvation for himself in bet after bet. The more he met with defeat, the more desperate and extreme became his reaction within the casino where he played. His thoughts centered on this battle that he perceived as a fatal duel with fortune and chance.”

“But he stopped when he became one of the fanatical Rigorists. Sekar,” murmured Bijan. “That appears to have rescued him from the merciless dilemma he had been facing.”

“But there are packs and packs of other addicted gamblers,” he sadly declared.

“If only we could do something to treat their conditions,” said Bijan. “That is what I wish was possible. But I don’t see how you and I can deal with anything so difficult to get a handle on.” She paused a moment. “Perhaps you and I can exercise some influence on Vinod Devar.”

“I don’t know whether even he can think of any practical solution to the personal problems that are visible there in the Lake Ezero Casino,” concluded Sekar with a deep sigh.

The pair decided to leave the restaurant without dessert or drinks of any sort.

It took three days for Ekram Esan to work out the terms and detailed clauses of the partnership merger for both Tarun Nait as representative of the Lake Ezero Casino and Itun Catad as owner and president of Advanced Bios.

Tarun met with the lawyer working for him at the latter’s office to pick up the document with the other partner’s signature.

“Now, all that remains needed is for your boss, Mr. Devar, to sign this contract it took me so much work and trouble to put together in final form,” proclaimed Ekram to his old friend. “You fellows out there on Lake Ezero will very soon be in the computer microprocessor business. How does it feel?”

Tarun looked up from the contact he had been reading and studying with focused attention.

“I can’t locate any mistakes or soft spots,” he said with a knowing smile. “There can be no doubt whatsoever that you happen to be a smart and clever lawyer, old pal. This is a very good legal job that you did for us. We will be in your debt for a long time, I guarantee you. I plan to throw you a lot of future work having to do with Advanced Bios and its operations.”

“You intend to be in control and the directing force in its business here in Siliquo City?” said Ekram with a look of assumed surprise.

Terun gave him a sarcastic look packed with cynicism. “What do you take me for, a fool of some sort? My plan is to utilize all that our partner can provide us for the maximum amount of gain and profit possible. That will be the result of the partnership contract you wrote up for me. The computer chip company is going to serve as the tool of our gambling businesses. Not the other way around, not at all.”

“You intend to exploit what Mr. Catap can offer, then?” asked Ekram with a minuscule wink in one eye.

No answer came from the other, nothing of a verbal reply at all.

“Now, my job is to take this agreement back to my employer at the casino and get him to sign up for this promising merger you and I have put together.”

VII.

Sekar had grown into the habit of making direct visits to the company laboratory and the office of Bijan in order to learn the results of the individual tests of experimental molecular chip materials.

He realized that this particular morning there was some important news for him by the radiant glow emanating from her in the brightness of her blue-gray eyes.

As soon as he entered the door into her small office, he realized that there was something new and important that had and was occurring in the research operations under way.

“What is it?” were his first words, before anything else. “Has anything noteworthy happened?”

“Indeed, there has,” she sang out in an exited tone. “This will astound you, Sekar. There have been spectacular test results with the bacterial protein that goes by the name of rhodopsin. This all became evident to us only last night and again this morning. We are redoing the previous tests again, and will very soon have a lot more data to work with.

“But I am already convinced that we have found what we need to replace the DNA nano-processor that we were using before. This will be safer and a lot more effective in its computer functioning, it clearly appears.

“All the evidence to establish and support such a conclusion is accumulating right now, as we talk to each other about this breakthrough in our lab.”

As she was informing him of this good news, Sekar slowly stepped nearer and nearer her desk, until he stood close to the chair she sat in behind her cluttered working desk.

“I congratulate the laboratory director who worked so hard to reach this miraculous result!” he murmured in an emotional voice unlike his everyday serious, businesslike one.

Before Bijan realized what was happening to her, he leaned forward and simultaneously embraced and lifted her out of her chair. How many times did he kiss her on the lips and around her little mouth?

Neither of them kept any count, since both realized that they would from now on be living in a new phase of their relationship to each other.

There would be no going back to how either they themselves or their molecular computer work together had been before this particular morning.

Everything was now going to be new and different.

“:

The Molecular Casino Part II.

4 Oct

I.

Vinod Devar ushered the two travelers from Siliquo City into his mezzanine office and seated them beside the panoramic window looking down on the slots and game machines of the casino’s ground floor.

The owner addressed a question to the bio-electronic scientist first of all.

“Have you ever been to my place of business before, Dr. Jha?” he inquired with a humorous expression imprinted on his face.

“No,” she replied shortly. “I never had the opportunity to see the Lake Ezero Casino until now, when it will become the center demonstrating the practical operation of an important step in technical evolution and progress, namely a useable form of biocomputing and information storage.”

Sekar then spoke up. “We both thank you for sending that crew of your office assistants from the fifth floor to meet us at the track train station. That made easy the transport of our six new DNA units here to the casino building. I was told that they were taken directly up to where we will be running a large number of tests of their planned operations in expansion of the already existing wave operations.” He turned his head to Bijan and smiled at her. “I can arrange that someone take you all over the casino on the platforms so you can form a clearer idea of what it contains and what our activities consist of.”

“When you have completed such a tour, return here to my office,” muttered Vinod in a lowered voice. “I will order a luncheon we can enjoy as we talk over what we plan to do in the days ahead.”

It was on the third storey, where fevered games of baccarat had attracted a crowd of on-lookers about a table where high-stake betting was in progress, that Bijan saw a person she had reason not to anticipate being present there.

“Nitan!” she cried out with surprise as her brother caught sight of her and gaped in astonishment.

It was Bijan who moves forward into the ring of game-observers, Sekar immediately at her side and trying to make sense of what she was saying and doing.

It was only when she stood in front of him did she identify the short, slight stranger to her companion.
“This is my baby brother, Nitan, and I have never had occasion to mention him to you, Sekar,” she said to explain who the man in the crowd around the game of baccarat happened to be.

“This is the head of Hyperchip, the company I work for now,” Bijan informed her surprised sibling. “We arrived in Lake Ezero City only a little while ago, and we are here in the this casino because we have a computer project in progress for the benefit of the operations inside these walls.

“But I am so excited to see you, especially under these circumstances, dear Nitan.

“I had the idea, from what you were telling me, that you are attempting to avoid all playing and all temptations to gamble.”

The brother extended his two arms and gave his sister a light, partial embrace.

“You heard me correctly, Bijan,” he assured her. “I have not made a single bet today, and do not intend to. This is a kind of testing of myself, I guess. Can I come in here and watch what goes on without being tempted or enticed into taking part?

“It has been a complete success, my dear one. I can resist my old addiction. For I can now confess to myself that I was a genuine gambling addict.

“But from now on, all I will permit myself to do is watch the games going on and stay out of them.

“At this very moment, I am proving that I have freed myself of the mania from which I long suffered.

“I no longer am enslaved to gambling, as I was for such a long period of time.”

For several moments, no one said anything. The only noise audible was that from the baccarat table.

Nitan gave Bijan the name and location of the hotel where he was staying in Lake Ezero City, excused himself, and slipped away from there, toward the roulette games at the other side of the hall.

Sekar stared at her in wonder and confusion.

“I never had any reason to mention my brother and his gambling problem,” she said in a near whisper. “It looks to me though, that he has succeeded in finding a cure to what was ailing and torturing him and his whole life.”

“Let’s take a platform up to the fourth floor,” proposed Sekar, intentionally changing the subject.

II.

Vinod Devar appeared open and candid to his two guests who had arrived at his casino with an innovative form of information storage and rapid programming operations. At lunch in the leisure portion of his executive office, he displayed the dimensions of what he was foreseeing to do with their innovative system of DNA bio-computers.

“I want to make our entire planet of Siliquo into one unified field of betting and game-playing, open to everyone and anyone who possesses a wave-unit of any sort. The nearest and the farthest individuals will become as able to take part in our transactions as any customer who is physically present here in this building of mine.

“This enterprise of mine began as one of the smaller gambling institutions here on Lake Ezero, but in two decades of innovating and expanding, I succeeded in making it the most popular and profitable casino in this region devoted to tourism and vacationing. It was a hard, demanding struggle, but I outdid all my local competitors, beating them at their own game. What was my secret? many ask me. I would say that it was my complete devotion to maintenance of a winning competitive superiority in electronic technology of the best and newest variety. Keeping my eyes and my mind open, I took hold of the benefits of the pioneering scientific achievements of the best investigators in our top research laboratories.

I continue to keep myself aware of what is published in the foremost scientific and technical publication. My continual aim is to keep immediately in touch with the centers of new knowledge and discoveries in our companies and universities here on our planet and also elsewhere in our solar system. I strive to always keep myself conscious of inventions and innovations that promise valuable results when and if applied at the Lake Ezero Casino.

“Yes, I will continue to run this place as a tourist attraction and a home den for those dedicated to taking part in actual games and visible bets. But the millions of men and women in all parts of this planet will have similar opportunity to participate in the activities that we specialize in here at Ezero Lake. My goal is to make my business the main operator throughout Siliquo, reaching into all areas and quarters.

“That is what I see myself as: a provider of the risk and chance that I have long known that most of our species likes, enjoys, and has an instinctive need for.

“I am what the economists and the investment bankers of Siliquo City refer to as a manager of risk. People come to me seeking organized, systematized risk that avoids the real life dangers of the wild forest and the jungle.

“I provide civilized suspense and measured gambles that furnish people thrills and excitement, but permits them to leave and escape should that become necessary.

“My casino is a safe environment in which to let oneself take the road of adventure without the mortal danger of war or personal physical combat. There is nothing here involving physical force or violence of any sort.

“When I think about what I provide for the general public of our planet, I am always reminded for the old Siliquian saying that holds that all of life is a risk-taking gamble. From morning to midnight and beyond, all of us are making bets that determine the course of our lives. Good fortune or bad luck, success or failure, happiness or tragedy Fulfillment or disappointment: all these scores and outcomes are matters of chance, of never-ending taking of risks and chances.

“Only the dead never make any more bets on either the present or the future. But the living exist in a permanent casino that they know as their lives.

Vinod smiled archly. “If it wasn’t me, someone else would be nourishing the subconscious drives that press against the boundaries and limits of conventional life in society.

“In my estimation, all of life is nothing more than a casino where every one of us plays with chance and risk.

“My ambition is to make myself the primary force and actor in the gambling industry of this planet. Profits and income are only the means of achieving this dominance for myself.

“I dream of rising higher and higher as the champion manager and operator in my chosen field, my friends.

“That is why I invited you here: to find out how we can assist each other in reaching our shared goals.”

Bijan spent the afternoon with Sekar in studying and redesigning the computer system of the Lake Ezero Casino in terms of replacements with their new DNA apparatuses.

After a late dinner at their hotel, Bijan proposed that they attempt to find and visit her brother.

“He has a lot to tell me about his present life,” she revealed. “Nitin informed me on the wave-phone that he has joined a group of former addicts of gambling who have organized themselves in order to help other players free themselves from the infection that has attacked and taken over control of them.

“I am absolutely certain that he wishes to tell me about what how his ideas and feelings have changed so deeply.”

“Let’s go out and find his rooms, then.” responded the president of Hyperchip.

The sky, losing the last of its daytime light, became a deepening blue. But the surface of Lake Ezero continued to maintain the shine and glow of earlier hours prior to dusk. The darkening shadows of evening grew and spread wider.

It was easy to the pair hunting for the flat rented by Nitan to locate the place. Both of them shared a sense of sudden surprise when no one appeared after Sekar pushed the buzzer several times.

“I thought he would be here at home,” mumbled Bijan in a low, hollow tone, looking away toward the lake waters.

“We will have to look for him tomorrow, then,” resolved Sekar. “He must be out doing something somewhere.”

His companion looked outward over the purple darkness extending forward over the vanishing light spots on the surface of the soundless, motionless lake.

“It is said by others that I worry too much about what happens in the life of my little brother,” murmured Bijan, almost as if she were standing alone at the apartment door of the person dearest of all to her.

“My father and my mother died within a year of each other. At the time, I was a university student and Nitin was still in high school. Their loss affected and struck him much more severely and profoundly than it did me. He became totally disoriented and unmoored, I have come to believe.

“I tried as much as I could to help and guide my brother as he evolved into an adult, but there are sharp limits to what an older sister can do for a brother still growing up. It has been quite difficult for Nitin to mature. He has studied electronics and computer applications, but I doubt that he ever decided what it might be that he realistically could do with his talents. I think that a concrete ambition never formed within his mind, in either the conscious front or the subconscious behind.” She frowned and her voice turned halting and dry. “Somewhere along the line, he fell into the trap of gambling. Nitin found it pleasurable, exciting, and promising, at least at the beginning.

“I blame myself for not having seen that he was becoming an addict to this activity, that it had captured and enslaved his will to its unending demands. He quit working and made the casinos his central concern.

“His old friendships disappeared and he became part of the crowds and gangs attracted to the gambling style of life.

“I came to enjoy less and less contact with him, because he was quite successful in hiding his relentless mania from me, his older sister. In time, though, I had to acknowledge what I had ignored and denied for a long time, that unfortunate Nitin had fundamentally changed and was no longer the person I had known from his birth.

“My brother today is a crippled gambler whom I have neglected while this tragedy happened to him.

“You can see for yourself why I feel that I have to find some way to heal and save my dear Nitin,” she gasped with unconcealed emotion.

Yes, I can understand,” Sekar assured her. “Right now, though, we must leave here. You will have to make contact with him tomorrow.”

The two walked off along the now almost lightless lake.

_


Rahul Kaul was the center of attention for the now enlarged group that had started to call itself the Rigorists.

He addressed his followers with deeply-rooted passion and enthusiasm in his voice.

“Only an ex-gambler knows what the fascination of the big chance is, because he or she has gone through direct experience of the magical insanity of living at maximum hazard in the games that can overpower the individual’s will and soul, while also conquering the conscious mind.

“It is very difficult for one to acknowledge, but the gambler must first of all recognize the foolishness of falling victim to the fallacies and lies the player comes to accept and believe in.

“The gambling addict continues to have faith in the idea of being destined by fate to turn out an eventual big winner. The longest possible series of losses is seen as only the prelude to finally proving oneself a champion winner. The addicts cannot understand that winning or losing are random events, each one unconnected and separate from all his other tries and bets.

“To gamblers, nothing in their lives is at random or undetermined. In the long run, they trust, the odds will turn out to benefit them. They must have the strength to be patient and wait.”

He stopped a moment to look about, surveying those he had recruited to the cause of Rigorism.

“We must admit the fact the gambling provided us a mysterious thrill we could find nowhere else in life.

“All of us, to one degree or another, experienced a sense of the uncanny in what we were engaged in.

“We were chasing our losses, hoping to redeem ourselves through making up for our unending defeats.

“But when I realized that gambling had made me an idiotic fool, a supine puppet who had lost his free will, I became the mortal enemy of all that had captivated and enslaved me.

“It became my moral duty to liberate my fellow brothers and sisters from the trap that they were imprisoned in.

“I saw myself as the destined steward and rescuer of fallen gamblers. Others deserved to be able to enjoy the new freedom that I now possess. My decision was to organize a group of former gamblers to battle against the temptations of the casinos and their infernal games.

“There can be no concessions or going back for us. Our goal is to uproot and destroy the gambling dens and centers of our planet. There can be no compromise with such hellish evil. We must fight to the limit, till we end what once held us in its grasp. A war to the very end, that alone will be satisfactory and adequate for us.”

He looked about his nearly enchanted audience. “Tonight, we have come together to chart the direct actions that we intend to carry out right here in Lake Ezero City.” The leader’s voice halted a moment as his eyes roamed about the group of almost hypnotized listeners. “Our immediate task is going to be the formation of an assault group formed by those of us with developed computer programming skills, training, and experience.

“Our most important goal in the days right ahead will be to build ourselves a means of hacking our way into the complex computer systems of the Lake Ezero Casino up on its fifth storey. We will then be able to spoil and sabotage
both the internal gambling and that going on over the interweb with the rest of our planet.”

All the Rigorists present listened spellbound to the plan presented to them by their founder and organizer.

III.

Bijan wave-phoned her brother early the following morning and informed him that she had attempted to locate him at his apartment the previous evening.

Nitin gave her an abbreviated, condensed explanation of why he had not been at home.

“If you had called me before you came, I would have told you that I had an important engagement I had to attend to and could not avoid,” he speedily told her. “It was a sort of sympathy group of former gambling addicts that I had promised to be present at. We listened to a speaker for a long time, and it was late when I got back at my place.

“It’s too bad that we missed each other, Bijan. But there will be many opportunities for the two of us to get together and talk, and I intend to be there when you visit me in the future.

“How long will you be here in Lake Ezero City, may I ask?”

“My work will be finishing up fairly soon,” she told him. “Probably it will be in another day or two that me and my employer will be returning to Siliquo City. This will be a very short visit.”

“We will certainly get together before that happens, dear sister,” replied her baby brother.

Tarun Nait surprised both Sekar and Bijan with the openness and lack of inhibition he showed as he sat talking with them in his office on the top floor of the Lake Ezero Casino.

The green eyes of the computer center coordinator seemed to glow with brightly shining fervor and self-assurance as this skinny programmer described what he planned to do with the DNA modules they had delivered to him.

“Mr. Devar has assigned me the task of engineering a program using the multiplied capabilities that we will soon enjoy. That will open an expanded market for our games over the interweb, expanding our reach over all of Siliquo through brand new marketing strategies. We shall become something like a mobile phone casino, stretching everywhere by means of electronic microwaves.

“It will be easy, using our new DNA computer power, to locate potential players through the social media and networks that individuals make use of every day. We will plan our programs to find the maximum number of external web links through new thematic platforms and link exchanges that we ourselves create here in our casino. I have worked out a detailed plan for the e-mail marketing of our pitch on the nano-waves. It promises to increase our business with the general public to incredible levels.

“People will be able to play their favorite games by loading their chosen website via mobile browser or by downloading one of our specialized apps. They will be able to make bets and gamble while on the go, commuting to work, waiting in line, or taking a lunch break. I intend to make all the Lake Ezero Casino websites, apps, and games particularly optimized for all portable devices. All a player will need is a stable interweb connection.

“The new DNA chips should permit growing speed and increased processing power to us. We will be able to offer a greater quantity and higher quality of gambling games. There will occur a colossal expansion of our clientele.

“There shall be quick access and prompt servicing for players everywhere on Siliquo. And I have devised methods for maintaining the loyalty of our external customers. Their ties to the casino must be strong and permanent. I aim for long-term relationships and firm retention of business. Every day will see new bounties and promotions sent over the waves of the webnet. Veteran players will be allowed to exchange the points and extra game bonuses they receive for actual money payoffs. We will have computer programs that guarantee that we draw in and keep this stream of new support.

“I will make statistic studies with the DNA system networks we will have in order to locate popular trends among those we come into touch with. Then, we will make game changes and create new promotions to avail ourselves of what we have learned about the thoughts and emotions of the gambling public on our planet.”

His voice fell to nearly a whisper. “The players rarely understand the difference between their own game odds and the casino’s house odds. My goal is to lift our house odds and increase the unseen house edge that few are even conscious of. This will become increasingly possible through what we learn about the gambling public, using the multiplied power of the DNA system that you are providing us.

“I believe that it will be possible to program for a greater number of dedicated, full-time gamblers who never tire or quit. They will be our totally loyal customers.”

Bijan suddenly interrupted him with a sharp question.

“Are you considering a growing population of addicted players, then?”

“That is certain to be one of the results of the computers that your company builds for us,” he muttered archly. “There will exist an enhanced capacity to keep the attraction of our games solid, strong, and permanent. The result will bigger success than ever before.”

Tarun startled both his visitors with the strange, animal-like grin he made no attempt to hide from them.

Neither Sekar nor Bijan said a word about what they had just heard about the importance of player addiction in the plans for the future of the Lake Ezero Casino.

The pair made their way out of the building almost in silence, then out to the shoreline promenade along the edge of Lake Ezero.

Bijan pointed to a vacant silicon bench on the beach and the two of them sat down there and rested without speaking for a considerable length of time.

He was guessing what her thoughts might include, and she was thinking and imagining what was occupying his mind.

“It is a cruel way to keep gamblers involved and continuing to play,” Bijan at last said to him.

Sekar turned his head so that he viewed her in profile. “Yes, that is the truth. Instead of attempting to avoid or remedy that serious condition of pathological behavior, Tarun Nait plans to increase and spread that kind of sickness and malady.

“I have to ask myself whether the owner, Mr. Devar, is willing to back and sponsor such a secret, underhanded program both in his casino and also over the waves of the Interweb.”

Bijan turned to face him, so that he caught sight of the teardrops forming around the edges of her cerulean eyes.

“My brother, Nitin, is one of the fortunate ones who has discovered a path out of the hellish condition of addiction,” she hesitantly muttered in a heavy, troubled tone.

The two gazed directly into each other’s face, both of them focusing on the eyes and searching for some meaningful sign of a way forward.

“I think we shall have to have this out with Vinod Devor at some point,” decided Sekar. “Perhaps after we return from Siliquo City with the second, larger load of DNA devices to be installed at the casino.”

Bijan nodded her head but did not make any verbal statement of agreement with him.

IV.

Late that afternoon, the sister of Nitin Jha contacted him over wave-phone.

“I am really sorry that we could not get together today,” sorrowfully confessed Bijan. “But it turned out that I was extremely busy at the casino and failed to realize how swiftly the time was passing. It is my fault, not by any means yours.”

“My group held a very important meeting last night,” replied Nitin. “It was very late when I finally returned to my apartment. I am sorry that we missed meeting each other, Bijan. Today I felt tired and did not go out or do anything at all.”

“I wanted to tell you that we two will be returning to Siliquo City early tomorrow morning. There is a lot of important work awaiting me there. But I hope to be back here in about a week or so, and it will be possible for us to get together and talk a long while then.

“Is that all right with you?”

“We will both have to wait till then, Bijan,” he concluded with regret in his voice.

Their trip back to Siliquo City was quiet and thoughtful for both travelers as their track train hurried to the large capital city where their company had its headquarters and production facilities.

Bijan, near the end of their journey, began to express the oppressive worry that continually weighed on her.

“My brother claims that he has saved himself from his long addiction. But everyone recognizes the fact that a former addict who once suffered a mania as strong as that of the dedicated, hypnotized gambler is always in danger of falling or sliding back into the former condition of enslavement. No one can ever claim to be forever cured of such an insidious habit. Backsliding occurs in numerous cases, and this is a frequent outcome for the addicted gambler.

“Isn’t that the truth, Sekar?”

The latter creased his forehead with the heaviness of the thoughts he was considering.

“I have been considering what our discovery of the secret plan mentioned as a possible misuse of the DNA computer by Tarun Nait. It is an immoral scheme to capture many more gambling addicts than have ever existed before. My sad conclusion has to be that Mr. Nait is a nefarious, greedy individual who has influenced his employer, Vinod Devar, to go along with a selfish conspiracy to produce crowds of exploitable addicts, individuals who are turned into something like gambling robots who cannot by themselves escape their addiction.”

“But what can you and I do about the damage that will hang over so many persons across our entire planet?

“Are we going to break our contract with the Lake Ezero Casino and withdraw the DNA system from such evil misuse?”

Sekar, for a moment, looked out the tracker window at fields of barley and timothy. Then he turned his head and looked directly into the eyes of Bijan.

“When we return, we must make a serious attempt to convince Vinod to fire Tarun Nait from his position and institute a program to discourage and prevent addiction. That is what I feel my duty happens to be. What do you think and say?”

Bijan nodded her head several times. “If luck is with us, we will succeed in cleaning up the Lake Ezero Casino as we install our new computer system there.

“That will be our duty, and we must not forget it.”

Rahul Kaul selected a group of four Rigorists to assist him in the attack upon the computer systems of the Lake Ezero Casino. These were persons who possessed knowledge and experience that pertained to this specific area of electronics. One of them happened to be Nitin Jha.

The movement leader met with these chosen helpers at his own flat to explain what he had in mind.

“I believe that as a group we will be able to override the anti-hacking programs built into the casino systems. It has occurred to me that there is a simple, invisible gate into the fifth floor center, and it is open to us even with very basic, inexpensive equipment. The feat can be accomplished with success by focusing our attention and efforts on the wave transmission and reception apparatus that connects the casino to the planet-wide webnet.”

Those sitting about a large round table stared at Rahul, waiting to learn the key he seemed to be hinting at.

“I have purchased an advanced vulnerability scanner that can locate the weak spots in the wave apparatuses being used by this casino. This electronic weapon will exploit the vulnerabilities it discovers in the anti-hacking defenses that are already there. It is certain to be smarter and more agile than any malware operations set up on their side.

“Since there are new component structures being introduced at the present time, that will make our intervention through the web lines even more effective and superior. There has not been enough time for the adjustment of the previous defenses to have been updated and improved.” He grimaced with malice. “We shall hit the internal systems throughout the Lake Ezero Casino through its weakest section, its ties into the overall web-net.

“The reason that I have selected and invited this group to carry out the electronic assault is because each of you has specific skills that will be of special use in winning access to the interior computer systems of the Lake Ezero Casino. From your records and experiences, I have decided that Nitin Jha should be the one who designs, coordinates, and fulfills the technical portions of our project.”

He gazed directly at Nitin, as if asking him to say something about what had just been assigned to him.

The young man began to speak openly, candidly about himself and his experience.

“I was fortunate to have taken university courses on electrowave trandmission and reception. Later, I worked for a short time at a combined audio and video station and became acquainted with the instruments, apparatuses. and devices utilized at both ends of broadcasting of signals. They assigned to a variety of different specific jobs.

“As a result of all this, I trust that I can be of use in making choices and decisions connected with our goal of bringing ruin to the largest and most important casino on our planet, the one owned by Vinod Devar.”

“We shall be depending upon our friend Nitin to make the purchases of the complicated equipment that we will need,” announced the leader, Rahul Kaul.

The meeting came to a rapid end in just a minute or two.

V.

Both Bijan and Sekar had a week busy with working responsibilities that occupied their mental attention completely.

The president of Hyperchip made frequent visits to her laboratory office to find out how her activities were progressing.

She smiled with visible satisfaction, seated at the small desk from which she operated the lab.

“Things are moving ahead at a very satisfactory speed,” she informed him. “How are the shipments to the Lake Ezero Casino doing? Did we transmit the computer units that have been ordered for them?”

“Yes,” he nodded to her. “It has been difficult, but everything promised has been placed on track train and delivered to them on time.

“We can all be proud of having fulfilled the orders on a prompt basis, Bijan.” He thought a moment or two. “We have earned a rest, all of us after such a hectically busy week. Why don’t you and I have a dinner together somewhere? We certainly deserve it after all that we have accomplished.

“What do you think, Bijan?”

“Yes,” was her simple, brief reply.

Sekar noticed the special lilt in her voice as she answered him.

“You choose the restaurant, then,” he told her with satisfaction on his face. “Whatever will please you the most, that will be our choice of where to be going this evening.”

In two hour’s time, the pair were sitting at a booth in a downtown Siliquo City avian house, his order being for canary while hers for roasted humming bird.

As their meal approached its ending, Sekar began to speak to the research director.

“Have you heard anything from your brother and how he is doing? Is he still staying in Lake Ezero City?”

The researcher smiled. “Yes, he remains by the lake, and he claims to have cured himself of his gambling addiction. In a way, both he and I received a blessing and a curse from our parents before they passed on. Small personal accounts were established as an inheritance for both of us. I used mine for my scientific education, but his endowment allowed Nitin to become a playboy of sorts, then a sports gambler, and finally an addict.

“He did not at all need to win a fortune, for our parents left him completely independent and comfortable.”

The pair went back to finishing their plates of bird-based food.

“I have always seen myself as an innovation developer more than an industrial investor,” declared Sekar with relish.

“My main thrill and enjoyment comes from helping to spur the creation of ever new technology and presenting it to our planet as a practical solution to the questions and problems that our society faces.

“I am absolutely certain that once we have proven the superiority of biocomputing based on DNA chips, scores of industries and business areas will perceive the advantage of adopting and utilizing what we offer.”

“You have displayed marvelous foresight and ingenuity in deciding to back and finance the research that led to the DNA microprocessor,” said Bijan, sending her employer a shining smile.

“The only thing I did was to merge two companies and make use of the breakthroughs that you yourself accomplished in the lab. I was the one who connected the scientific area with the practical, business sector. And that happened to be done with the support of the Lake Ezero Casino acting as the first sponsoring customer.”

“You are the one who took the initial risk, though,” she muttered.

He grinned at her. “Mr. Vinod Devar has also assumed much of the hazard involved,” he added with a small laugh.

It was early the next morning, as the sky above Lake Ezero was changing from dawn yellow to morning light blue, that Tarun Nait met with his top computer technicians in his fifth floor office of the sopronic casino building.

He made an important announcement to the group standing around the silicon desk at which he was comfortably seated.

“I have the proud pleasure to inform all of you that this is the day when our computer operations turn predominantly DNA ones. Gradually, we have converted the various interconnected systems to the new kind of nano-processor, and today we move over the 50% line and become mostly DNA-based.

“This should give a colossal impetus to our electro-wave potentials. The casino operations by interweb will now have fantastically increased capacities. More signals can come in from individual bettors and from gambling parlors all over the planet. The speed of business and communication can reach record velocity. The possibility for growth of all parameters has now become nearly unlimited.

“But we cannot afford to waste our time in idle celebration or self-congratulation.

“I called all of you here to announce that our expectations of both income and profitability have to rise as well. We have to keep up with the bright prospects that now become possible and conceivable for us.”

Tarun grinned with sly glee and unconcealed avarice. “So, let’s all get back to work and make a mountain of money for the Lake Ezero Casino on this most happy day!”

VI.

Nitin Jha went over the final plans for the electro-wave invasion set for midnight. He and his two assistants sat across a circular pine table from the founder of the Rigorists.

“I believe that we will carry out the attack at exactly the time most favorable for our success,” said Rahul Kaul at the conclusion of the intense final consideration of the technical features of their destructive project. “I have made all the arrangements for having available the hearse-like camion for our project. It will be limited to just the two of us, you and I, Nitin. Our two comrades will be inside the Lake Ezero Casino itself, so that they will be able to provide us an accurate report on the dimensions of the results within the five stories of that center of gambling activities.

“All of our group, including those not directly present or involved in the attack, will assemble here in my apartment three hours past the start of our hacking, an hour before midnight.

“Is everything clear? Does anyone have any questions?”

It was Nitin who decided to bring up a sensitive subject.

“Can we succeed in avoiding the attention of the casino guards or the Lake Ezero City police?” he inquired, looking Rahul directly in the eye.

The leader at once gave an answer that he had put together a long time before this night of attack.

“There are no guarantees of safety in ventures such as ours,” he asserted with confidence. “We are like warriors of old, in eras long past. Because of the high nature of the goal of our cause, every one of us is already willing to make sacrifices for the sake of what he believes is right.

“I believe that conditions favor our enterprise, if only because such an electro-wave assault over the waves we shall be creating and transmitting into the top storey of the Lake Ezero Casino is completely unexpected.

“We shall be bringing ruin to that place of evil out of the dark night of Lake Ezero. No one is ready for this. The factor of surprise favors us. It will provide protection and security to the Rigorists and what we aim to accomplish.”

Neither Nitin nor the other two said anything more on the subject of their surviving the project ahead of them or what would follow.

The preparatory meeting soon came to an end, each participant leaving to rest up for the time of danger that they faced on the following night.

Driving a long, black limousine-like truck, Rahul parked the vehicle on the Lake Ezero beach road, a short distance from the edge or the water and within sight of the sapronic sides of the targeted casino.

Nitin remembered his previous experiences dealing with hacking dangers to computer systems.

His skills in replication and penetration through access points was extensive, covering the secrets of phishing, keylogging, and creation of virus malware robust enough to enter and crash systems with the most advanced and sophisticated algorhymic defenses.

Rahul, sitting in the driver’s seat in front, talked as if to himself.

In the rear section of the truck, Nitin picked up what was being said by the leader, although most of his mind and attention was centered on adjusting and modulating the electro-wave hacking transmitters he was in charge of.

“Perhaps these acts of ours tonight are absolutely illegal, but I know in my heart that what we are engaged in is completely justified. I have no question or doubt whatever of that.

“We, the Rigorists, realize that gambling is a horrible plague upon those who become hABituated players. They surrender their wills and minds to owners of places like the Lake Ezero Casino.

“Our electro-wave assault tonight is an act of righteous justice. We will be saving others from the malady from which we ourselves suffered.

“We are in the right in our action, for we will bring rightful punishment to the criminal casino that has enslaved so many defenseless victims.

“Yes, we Rigorists are turning to direct, destructive action. But isn’t such a drastic initiative justifiable when the target is pure, unmitigated evil, such as the Lake Ezero Casino?

“For me, there is no comparable evil anywhere on the planet of Siliquo.”

Nitin did not make a response, since his thoughts were centered and concentrated on the wave settings and calibrations he was busy with on the hacking transmitters around him in the rear of the long camion.

Electro-waves of various, selected frequencies and strength began to be emitted from the concealed transmission devices within the truck. These were projected into the portion of the wave spectrum being used by the wireless channels of the Lake Ezero Casino. All of a sudden, these illegal signals started to affect and interfere with the customary links that connected the players scattered over the entire planet with the gambling hub in Lake Ezero City.

In many locations, individuals and small groups using wave receivers and transmitters felt the immediate loss of contact with the skystation of the casino.

Every communication was either garbled, distorted, or destroyed by sudden catastrophic intervention from out of the night.

No outside user taking part in wave-based gambling had any idea what it might be breaking their previous linkage.

Confusion and anger arouse on all sides, in every direction.

On the camion vehicle, Nitin made an unending series of adjustments he had planned for ahead of time.

Beyond the fifth floor computer-wave links center of the casino, the lower stories of the building began to suffer the effects of the hacking attack from outside.

Videx games occurring on wall screens on the fourth storey went blank, empty of the spectacles that players had been hypnotically watching and betting on.

On the third floor, dealers and croupiers found their personal units no longer in operation. They lost all contact with the casino computer system that projected wave-transmitted information into their eye lenses or finger-ring receivers.

Central management of betting became impossible for the house in either roulette or baccarat.

This betting and bidding chaos flowed downward, affecting the second storey of the casino with its frenetic disorder.

The house dealers in all the games such as poker, blackjack, euchre, and cow-pie became victims of mental dissolution. Signals received in their electro-wave eye lenses and hand receivers led them to make disastrously failing decisions. Their games fell immediately out of overall computer control and management.

Finally, the slot machines and electronic games of the ground floor of the Lake Ezero Casino went literally mad and wild. All central systemization and control evaporated in a moment.

A panic resembling instantaneous insanity seized hold of all the players on all the floors, the old and the young, the poor and the wealthy, tourists visiting on a lark as well as addicts with years of sad experience at this and other Siliquoan casinos.

What am I doing in here? What is happening with the games, the bets, and the verdicts of Fate?

Players and employees, guards and croupiers, high-rollers and penny-pinchers realized that they had to escape the bedlam that was now taking over.

A large crowd of the excited, the frightened, the terrorized, and the puzzled formed about the main entrance.

The computer and electronic technicians had long since abandoned their posts and work on the top fifth floor.

One of these, a specialist in setting gambling prizes as a profiler of player types, thought of calling the owner of the Lake Ezero Casino and telling him that his business enterprise was crumbling to pieces by the second.

Vinod Devar, about to go to bed, ran out of his luxury suite and leaped into his sports amaxa.

At almost the same moment as he arrived at his emptied-out sapronic casino structure, the hacker truck left the location it had been occupying the last several hours.

Both Rahul Kaul and Nitin Jha silently realized that their efforts that night had been fully successful.

They had brought what they hoped would be economic death to the Lake Ezero Casino and the man who owned it.

VII.

Vinod Devar was torn to mental shreds by what he saw and heard when he arrived at the front entrance of his bio-spronic building. The first individual who approached him and spoke happened to be the computer coordinator, Tarun Nait, who appeared to be less excited or unraveled than the crowd milling about in an anarchic bedlam.

“It is a disaster of colossal dimensions and proportions,” said the technical director in a clear, strong voice.
“The catastrophe started on the fifth floor, where our systems suddenly ground to a stop and went haywire, allow me to say. Then this initial chaotic storm descended to the fourth, and on downward to all of our stories, and last of all to the ground level of the casino.

“Communications over the wave-net ended at once, becoming gibberish without sense, meaning, or logic. Every storey of the entire building has been thoroughly damaged and harmed. Dealers, croupiers, and technical employees were left in isolation, without wave contact that was usable.

“No one can now bet or gamble, win or lose. The players and our staff have been compelled to abandon the interior of the Lake Ezero Casino. We are forced into temporary shutdown until we can find the cause of this collapse and deal with it.”

“What could be the cause of such trouble, Tarun?” demanded Vinod with emotion in his voice and in his chestnut eyes.
“Is it something that we can identify and remedy? How are we going to restore our interrupted operations now?”

Tarun seemed to bite his lower lip. “I have had a suspicion rise in my mind in the last few minutes, as I came out of the casino and waited out here before venturing to go back inside and start inspecting and investigating.

“A single idea has, for now, begun to dominate my thinking about what has just happened here tonight.”

“Tell me what you believe may have caused such terrible damage and malfunction,” commanded the desperate owner.

“This may have a direct connection to the introduction of the new DNA micro-processing systems into what we already had in operation here. I have not yet proven this suspicion, but I find it a very compelling and credible explanation of why such a disaster occurred.” His green eyes stared directly into the face of his employer.

The latter fell into concentrated thought for several seconds.

“We shall have to close up the casino building for tonight,” decided Vinod. “Tomorrow we will inspect and examine everything, and try to find out whether your suspicion is correct, Tarun.”

Rahul, Nitin, and the two Rigorists who had been inside the casino as witnesses and observers delivered all the hacking equipment to a previously rented storage area facility and then made it on foot to their leader’s apartment. The two hackers listened to the pair of watchers describe the chaotic panic on the floors of the sapronic building. Both Rahul and Nittin received these reports with quiet satisfaction.

“Our victory is now complete,” grinned the leader after hearing what the pair had experienced at the scene of event. “We must now wait to see whether the owner closes his casino to restore and repair the operations of the place. The best outcome for me, and I venture to say for all of us, would be to see the place shut down and abandon its gambling activities for good.

“That would be perfect for us, but I doubt whether it could ever end up that way.”

“What should we, then, hope, pray, and work for in coming days?” asked Nitin with unhidden curiosity.

Rahul smiled like an old but intelligent cat. “I think we had better wait to find out what Mr. Vinod Devar is going to do in the near future. Then, we will be able to decide what our own duty consists of.”

As soon as Bijan learned of the raid over wave-net news early the next morning, she at once phoned her brother in Lake Ezero City to find out his reaction to the enigmatic, inexplicable event that seemed to have no discernible cause.

“Good morning, Nitin. I just saw and heard what happened to the Lake Ezero Casino. The news channel could not give any meaning or reason for anything like this. The whole place has been shut down until some kind of conclusion and determination can be reached.

“How are you feeling today, my dear? What do you think may have caused this spectacular closing down of that gambling center?

“As you well know, my company and I myself have been busy in revamping and rearranging the computing systems that this casino utilizes every day in its normal operation.”

For a brief moment, Nitin was uncertain what it was best for him to say to his sister.

“I know next to nothing, Bijan. It is a mystery to me, as it appears to be to you and everybody else. There is nothing beyond what you heard and saw on the wave-net news. I’m very sorry that I am unable to throw any light on the matter for you.

“Do not worry about me, because I feel better now that I have quit all gambling. My resistance to my old urges in that area has grown stronger and stronger. I will never go back to my old addiction, never.
c
“I will keep you posted if I learn more about what happened. Good-bye for now, dear sister.”

Vinod made a careful, exacting tour of all five floors of his casino in the company of Tarun Nait.

The latter provided him a detailed technical explanation of what he thought had occurred the previous night.

“I did not sleep at all, because I was seeking the answer to how this catastrophe began and grew to such incredible dimensions,” declared the computer director as the two of them sat facing each other in the owner’s executive office.

“Can you pinpoint what caused the breakdown and paralysis of our electronic systems?” asked Vinod with desperation in his voice and in his eyes.

Tarun stared at his employer with self-confident solidity on his face and in his blue-gray eyes.

“I have examined all our systems and concentrated on what most probably happened in the nano-processors that run our many computer arrays. My mind was compelled by what I found to think deeply about these new DNA units that we recently introduced into nearly all our systems, both for operations here in the building and outward through the wave-net. There was, for me, only one reasonable conclusion that could be reached.” He paused for a moment. “The cause of the electronic disorder that was suffered last night had to lie with the DNA units that were brought in and connected. There is no logical alternative explanation, not for me.

“That is the best and most credible explanation that I can produce at this time.”

The owner and the technical director allowed time to flow by on its own. Gazing at each other, both men were consumed with thoughtful calculations.

Finally, it was Tarun Nait who presented a solution to the difficult quandary that they faced.

“I am acquainted with a number of computer industry managers in Siliquo City, and I have reason to think that they have their own differing projects to construct useful, practical bio-computers.

“If I made an informal visit among such companies, I am certain that I could locate a partner firm able and willing to provide us with a substitute for the DNA units that have only given us loss and failure.

“I could leave Lake Ezero City for the capital at once, sir.”

Vinod decided almost in an instant. “Yes,” he positively asserted. “That is a brilliant idea. I will tell Hyperchip that we are cancelling our agreement with them on the DNA processors. We need something better and safer, that is now clear to me.”

VIII.

Sekar sensed both his mind and his body’s nervous system shaken by the notice that came to him from a lawyer in Lake Ezero City.

“This is to inform you the Mr. Vinod Devar has availed himself of the final article of his contract with the Hyperchip Corporation to cancel all orders and contracts for special DNA micro-processors and their installation at the recreational facility owned and operated by him, the Lake Ezero Casino. No additional payments shall be made to the Hyperchip Corporation since there are no additional amounts owed by Mr. Devar.

“With this wave communication, all contractual ties or obligations with your company are herewith ended and abrogated.

“Best Wishes, Attorney for Vinod Devar and the Lake Ezero Casino.”

Sekar sat for a time, mentally digesting what he had read and learned. He decided to inform his researcher immediately, heading for her lab office.

What course lay ahead for himself and Hyperchip?

Perhaps she could suggest or propose an answer to this question.

Early that evening, Rahul Kaul summoned the entire contingent of his ex-gambler movement to a meeting at his apartment. By this time, the public electronic and wave media had made the crisis at the Lake Ezero Casino the most important topic of conversation not only in the region, but throughout the planet of Siliquo.

Every member was curious to learn what the leader had in mind in terms of further initiatives against their enemy, the gambling institutions and businesses that created ever-new addiction and victimization.

Rahul seemed in an unusually excited and exhilarated spirit as he began to welcome his comrades with words of confidence and encouragement.

“What can I say? All of you have heard and seen the news of last night’s attack. As I said earlier, this is only the first assault on our monster enemy. There will be an attempt to revive and restore the Lake Ezero Casino. But we shall be fully prepared for that. There will surely have to be another attack, perhaps sooner than anyone can now foresee.

“But the Rigorist movement will be stronger and more of a danger to Mr. Kaul and his associates. If necessary, we will be more destructive, with multiplied force and capacities. Our group shall not rest or stand by idly. No, we will prepare ourselves for greater, more spectacular accomplishments.

“I predict deeper destruction in our future invasions of the evil den of our enemy. We have only begun to raze our foe and his hellish establishment!”

Tarun Nait boarded the night tracker train from Lake Ezero City to Siliquo City a little before midnight.

He would be in the capital before dawn, and then begin his search and hunt for a replacement for the DNA micro-processor experiment that had ended in ruin at the casino he worked for.

The technical director could not sleep in his passenger’s sofa chair. In fact, he had no wish to.

His mind was busy with plans for surveying the research situation among the competing computer companies and laboratories in the capital of the planet.

Tarun had most of his tracker car to himself. Only a few sleeping figures rode along about him.

He smiled at his thought of what he was aiming to accomplish tomorrow.

There was a particular friend of his he had to see first of all.

He would agree to be his guide into the tangled computer industry scene, Tarun was certain.

Together, the two of them would figure out the best way for them to locate a substitute for the DNA chip.

What might it turn out to be?

This night was too early for him or anyone else to know that.

Tarun was sure that he was going to return to the Lake Ezero Casino with what he wanted, an invention that would permit him eventually to replace Vinod Divar as the master of the gambling center on the lake.

The Molecular Casino Part I.

13 Sep

I.

Sekar Airan had never had reason to visit Lake Ezero before. But he journeyed to the resort city on a track train car packed with happy tourists looking ahead with the joy of expectancy to their vacation days on the bright sunny shores and the famous attractions of their destination.

Only I among the males aboard am wearing a formal business suit, said Sekar to himself with a knowing smile.

All of a sudden, a young traveler in a leisure sports outfit, sitting opposite him, blurted out a question aroused by this seriously-attired neighbor.

“Are you planning to play a lot at the Lake Ezero Casino?” inquired the merry-looking vacationer.

Sekar eyed the curious stranger with a blank look in his own gray eyes.

“No,” he curtly replied. “I will be in Lake Ezero on important business for my company.”

He looked out the window at the green landscape of meadow and pine trees. “I think the track train will arrive there in just a couple of minutes,” he murmured as if he were alone.

The young man fell silent and looked away, realizing that the other did not wish to say any more to him.

The slender, lissome figure in a pale yellow seersucker outfit climbed out of a beach jitney and headed for the entrance of the Lake Ezero Casino, a famed saprobic structure built in the style termed biomorphic architecture.

Sekar, before walking into the main entrance, stopped to look a few moments at the gigantic casino contained under a shell of saprobiontic microorganisms. He could make out the fiberglass screens underlying the outer plants and fungi.

As he made his way forward and entered the main vestibule of the working casino, he realized how dependent this gambling institution had long been upon frontier advances in new technology and scientific breakthroughs.

Sekar went up to an information booth and asked a security guard how to find the executive offices, specifically that of the president-owner of the casino, Mr. Vinod Devar.

The uniformed woman gave him a smile. “Do you happen to be Mr. Airan from Hyerchip, sir?” she asked him.

“Yes, I have an appointment to come to his office as soon as I arrived at Lake Ezero City, whatever the precise hour of the day it might happen to be.

“I have already been to my reserved rooms in the Casino Peninsula Hotel, and took a cab here immediately.”

“Please follow me, Mr. Airan. I have received orders to guide you at once to the main mezzanine offices, where our Director is present and waiting to greet and speak with you.

“Welcome to Lake Ezero City and its premier casino, sir,” she beamed as she moved from behind the counter and led the visitor toward the back wall and its bank of people-moving platforms.

The office of the owner on the mezzanine between the ground and the second floor was huge and brilliant, shining with polished wall and furniture of aluminum, magnesium, and cobalt.

Vinod Devar, leading his guest from the entrance to a corner overlooking the first floor electronic game and slot machine section through a one-way glass, asked him to be seated on a sofa, then himself sat down on his favorite easy chair only a few feet away.

“How was your trip from Siliquo City?” began the proprietor of the establishment. “I hope it was pleasant for you, and I wish you to have a pleasant stay with us here in Lake Ezero City.”

Sekar studied the square, stony face of the beefy, ponderous owner for a short while, then spoke to him.

“I cannot complain about my trip here, not at all,” he muttered. “The wish to hear what you intend to propose to my company, The Hyperchip Corporation, occupies my mind every minute, every second.

“My expectation is that you have something of enormous importance to relate to me.”

Sekar waited expectantly to learn what it was that had brought him here to the Lake Ezero Casino.

“I know that you have been impressed by how scientifically advanced this casino of mine is. My dream has been, from the beginning, to make Lake Ezero and my enterprise the most up-to-date and progressive gaming center on our planet of Siliquo. This has meant continuous improvement and unending investment in what will increase the productivity of the business.

“I can declare, without boasting about the fact, that Lake Ezero City would not be what it is today without the attraction centered on my famed casino institution. Everyone knows and has heard of its games, everywhere. And beyond that, I have been the champion and the pioneer in the field of electronic games over cables and electromagnetic signal frequencies.

“How does this casino building affect you as a first-time visitor? It is a wonder unmatched anywhere else. I had it specifically planned and designed for the particular climate conditions here on Lake Ezero.”

“I find this building amazingly impressive,” answered the visitor.

“It is a marvel of technology and bio-engineering,” boasted the other. “The special shell, due to its natural features and properties, can adjust itself immediately to weather and seasonal changes in the hot, tropical climate of the zone in which Lake Ezero is located.

“This structure reveals how much scientific innovation and discovery can add to all fields of business and living when put into practical application.”

“That is why I can say that my company, Hyperchip, is dedicated to: the utilization of laboratory breakthroughs to real, everyday use and exploitation.” Sekar paused for several seconds, then went forward again. “That is what inspired me to accept your unexpected invitation to come here and see the Lake Ezero Casino. I believe that our researchers and developers can do a lot for advancing your level of technical applications.”

Vinob grinned at what he was hearing from the guest.

“First of all, I believe that you must see with your own eyes how we operate here. I myself shall act as your guide on a tour of the five levels of the casino.”

He saw that Sekar was brimming over with a flooding curiosity.

II.

Vinod Devor first led Sekar to the main entrance of the casino and pointed out the two surfaces forming the shell of the gigantic building.

“These skins, the inner and the outer ones, make instant adjustments to conditions of the environment outdoors,” explained the owner with supreme pride in his voice. “Micro-umbrellas in the membrane automatically open and close in order to prevent excessive sunlight and cool the interior of the building.

“There are photoelectric cells in the outer shell that collect and even store power that we use to reduce the amount of electricity that must be brought in from outside sources.

“Specially cultivated saprobiants in the polystyrene layer of the exo-facade are saprophytic microorganisms that could be called fungi of an exotic kind. They cool and air-condition the entire casino, making it comfortable for the large crowds of gamblers who congregate here all day and all night,” smiled the man who owned the establishment.

“Let’s look at the hundreds of slots and electronic games on the ground floor,” he proposed. “Then, we can ride a platform up to the other four stories.”

The two took a walk around the brightly lit, crowded lowest floor of the casino, packed with frenzied men and women attempting to beat the rotating wheels and gears of scores of devices that seemed never to be inactive or at rest. Next, Vinod took his special visitor to have a look at the quieter second storey, a place of tables where card games were in progress. Poker and blackjack were most popular and frequent, although less popular and little known card games were the focus of the most skilled, experienced players.

Smiling with pleasure, Vinod reeled off the names of several of the more obscure games going on around the fringe of the better-known games in play.

“We have special tables with hearts, rummy, euchre, canasta, spades, whist, and even with crazy eights. If someone is a perfectionist fan of old games, I can set up tables for faro, pinochle, pitch, rook, and red dog. Have you ever heard of any of these kinds of card playing? I myself love the old-fashioned, obsolete ones like bezique and cribbage.

“Cards go back a long way of many centuries in planetary and interplanetary history, my friend.”

Vinod then led his guest to the platform and the pair ascended to the third floor, where the sounds of spinning roulette wheels shot across the spacious playing hall.

Sekar noticed a wide area of activity with scores of round tables with silent, focused gamblers and dealers seated about them as if in profound contemplation.

The owner explained what they were doing. “Those are baccarat games going on over on that side,” gtinned Vimod. “The bankers working for me at each table are the best anywhere on Siliquo planet, I can say with absolute confidence.”

As soon as they reached the fourth floor of the casino, Sekar was startled by the rows of wide electronic screens shining from one end of the hall to the other. He and his guide halted while the latter explained what went on at this level.

“Here we have displays of actual sports events going on all over Siliquo, as well as many times more electronic, imagined sports games and competitions. Our patrons are able to make bets on both real, actual sports as well as fictional ones that they can become an active participant of.

“You can see for yourself how excited and enthusiastic these many players become in this gigantic gambling arena.”

Back to the platform the two stepped, ascending to the top storey, the fifth one.

“This floor is the electronic-technical center of the entire enterprise,” explained the owner. “Our electronic cable communications extend to Siliquo City and out to the entire planet. But just as central and vital are the electromagnetic connections that we utilize over wave frequencies. We can directly receive wagers from players at any location anywhere on Siliquo who possess a personal transmitter unit of any sort.

“But this computer center is also connected by electro-wave to every dealer, croupier, gaming machine, and floor manager on all floors of the building. By eye-lens apparatus or finger-ring, our employers are under systematic control, monitoring, and management. They receive instantaneous advice, information, and cyber commands from up here.

“But the truth is that my casino earns more income and profit over wire and air wave than it does from actual visitors or tourists who walk in through the door. We operate at the center of a vast, unlimited, invisible net of electronic communications and connections.”

The owner grinned with self-satisfaction and deep delight.

“I find all that you have shown me amazing and interesting,” smiled Sekar. “You have built a magnificently successful business here on Lake Ezero. No one can question or doubt that.”

Vinod appeared to make a grimace that resembled a frown. “I want to talk to you about my plans for future development of the casino,” he announced. “Let’s go back to my office and discuss what it is that I have in mind that you can be a part of, my friend.”

The pair seated themselves on sofas looking out over Lake Ezero through a long, panoramic window.

Vinod offered to make his guest a cocktail, but Sekar begged off the offer.

“I follow a strict private health program that excludes all popular beverages and drinks,” said the latter with a friendly smile and a sincere tone of voice. “My hope is never to deviate from its rules and requirements.”

The owner of the casino gave a short, understanding laugh. “Let me get down to the reason that I invited you to come here. You saw for yourself how extensive I have made our electronic communication and reckoning center up on the fifth floor. My plans are to build and advance in those activities in coming years. That shall be my main focus of investment. But you saw how crowded that storey of the casino has already become. That means that complexity will multiply without an upper limit. The only conceivable solution is the process of condensation that the experts call miniaturization. Smaller and smaller computer units, with tinier and tinier micro-processing chips and basic parts.

“Isn’t that the coming course of your industry? I can imagine that your company will also take the road of smaller, more potent and useable computer chips that can become the basis of what will become quantum computing at the molecular level.

“I have read articles and heard talk about the approaching kind of units that will be neither hardware nor software, but is already termed as wetware. It will be based on very small biological entities.

“Is your company, Hyperchips, active in that sort of laboratory research? Do you have prospective programs in developing future bio-computers that can be used in industry and business?”

A few seconds of silence followed, as Sekar formulated what he was going to say and Vinod studied his face for some sign or indication of what might be about to be said in reply to his question.

“You will be interested to learn that I possess a strong, profound interest in the state of new biological components
as the most promising way forward. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the present dependence we now have with metallic and chemical microprocessors like the ones made of silicon-titanium foam. There is research progressing in many laboratories, including those of Hyperchips. We are on the hunt for a new generation of data storage and computing operations.

“There is a further matter that I have to inform you about. My firm is close to completing a merger contract with a much smaller company that has specialized in biological research. All of their personnel will soon, within days, be working under our management and control. The plan I have in mind is to improve their research methods and management so that successful results come about much sooner and oftener. I have great hopes about what I can do with this company that is now called Biocomp.”

Vinod grinned with enthusiasm. “I think that we can form a contractual arrangement by which the Lake Ezero Casino receives priority in making use of any such biological wetware that your company develops in the days to come.”

He extended his right hand to Sekar, who took hold of it with surprise and firmly shook it.

Nitin was a player completely fascinated by roulette on the third floor of the Lake Ezero Casino.

He was so hypnotized by the spinning wheel at particular tables that the young man failed to notice the game observer watching his every bet.

It was only when the short, thin gambler ran out of funds and had to cease that evening’s betting that the stranger approached the loser.

“I’ve watched you at the table there tonight,” announced the tall figure who stood before Nitin and blocked his direct, rapid withdrawal from the area devoted to roulette. “Let me offer you a drink at the wall bar as a sort of compensation for the losses I saw you suffer this evening. We can talk over how you have been playing and the strategy that you appeared to be following. I think I could give some very useful advice based on my own experience and the knowledge I have acquired through my own record of many losses.”

The stranger gave a wide, pleasant grin to Nitin, who nodded his head to indicate that he accepted the unexpected invitation to have something to drink.

It took only seconds for the two of them to order strawberry high-balls and introduce themselves to the other.

The man who identified himself as Rahul took command of their conversation as the bartender fixed and served their order.

“I saw how seriously you take choosing your numbers and placing your wagers on them,” began the grinning watcher=observer of what the other had been trying to accomplish. “It was easy for me to see that you had a worked-out system of selecting and making each bet of yours.

“At first, it seemed to me that you were following what is often termed a Martingdale strategy. That is one of the oldest and most common way to try to defeat the casino’s own house advantage. It means doubling your next wager whenever you have a loss, and cutting the next bet in half when you having a winning number on the roulette wheel.

“That’s how it first appeared, but it became evident that you were increasing individual bets by more of one-half sometimes, and decreasing them irregularly when losses occurred.

“I had to conclude that you have memorized a series of formulas that form a pyramid system of measuring out your betting amounts. At times this leads to sudden jumps upward or downward, but with unrepeated variations in how much you put at risk with the wheel.

“Have I made an accurate guess about your style as a roulette player?”

The amazed, astounded Nitin searched for words to express how surprised this stranger was making him.

“I must tell you that I find your observations exceedingly perceptive and most intelligent. One would never expect to come across such sharp analysis of what one’s general gambling strategic method consists of.

“Yes, I have tried to apply formulas set down in books about roulette by experts on the game, some of them croupiers with decades of experience at casino tables.

“But tonight was a gigantic disappointment for me. It appears that the simple formulas that I set to memory did not help me at all. My past experiences have consisted of loss and defeat, over and over.

“Tonight changed nothing for me, because I ended as a started, a disappointed loser at this game.”

“Have you tried other kinds of gambling here at the Lake Ezero Casino?” inquired Rahul.

Nitin frowned with sadness. “Yes, I have tried myself out at the craps tables, at baccarat, and even at cow-pie poker. These have formed an unbroken parade of loss and defeat for me, yet I continue as if nothing has happened to me.

“Why I go on and on, to new forms of gambling, I do not know. It is all a mystery to me, the one who is suffering this way.”

He looked into the dark face and shady eyes of Rahul as if he might find an answer of some kind there.

“You are the same kind of gambling addict as I myself used to be,” muttered Nitin’s new acquaintance.

The pair finished their high-balls then left the casino, each going his own way to where he was staying.

III.

Once back home in Siliquo City, Sekar went to his office in the headquarters of Hyperchip, a tall, mirror-like building of glassy silicon sheets. His first task was managing and overseeing his firm’s merger with Biocomp, a much smaller outfit specializing in the research search for living forms and organisms with micro-processing capacities and potentials.

Accountants, managers, officials, and technicians from the smaller unit either quit or retired as others were absorbed into the structure of the organization now enlarged with the merged biological unit.

Only several days after his return from Ezero Lake, Sekar Airan scheduled a meeting in his executive office with the person who had served as director of laboratory research at Biocomp, Dr. Bijan Jha. The latter was a short, petite, thirty-year old with several scientific degrees and a reputation as a knowledgeable, experienced research leader who enjoyed a number of breakthrough successes during her professional career at the now merged and absorbed Biocomp.

Sekar greeted this scientist with both biological and electronic education and professional experience, somewhat surprised by her youthful looks and attractiveness. He asked her to take the chair facing his own executive desk.

His first question concerned her plans for continuing projects she had started at her previous post at Biocomp.

Bijan Jha appeared to have a rehearsed reply prepared before coming to this interview session.

“Simple common sense tells us that metallic substances and compounds based on silicon have reached the end of the road of effective miniaturization and cannot be made very much more effective as microprocessors. We have to proceed into what is termed nano-processing, at a lower and smaller dimension of operation.

“Where can science now look for answers to the needs of society? I wonder.
I
“It is now plain to me and those working under my direction that we must turn to biological answers and solutions. And that is precisely what I and my associates were doing at Biocomp, when the firm was an independent enterprise.”

She paused a moment, staring at Sekar and trying to measure how her words were affecting him and his thinking.

“What are the specific topics and areas in which you have greatest interest, Dr. Jha?” he inquired.

She drew a long, deep breath of air. “We have seen a lot of laboratory success with proteins and DNA,” Bijan informed her new executive manager. “There appears to be great potential in data storage and logic operations using these component elements of living organisms like we ourselves are. The promise is one of faster and more complicated operation permitting us to advance into genuine quantum computing.

“Every human being who has ever lived possesses both DNA and protein in his or her body, in about every single cell. These do not have to be created anew. They already exist inside and around us.”

Sekar sensed how solid was her confidence in this area of bioelectronics that she was engaged in and dedicated to.

“What specific kinds of research have you been engaged with at Biocomp?” he asked with curiosity on his face and in his voice.

She beamed brightly. “We have tried out several bio-resources, but I have concluded that our greatest progress, so far, has been with the application and testing of DNA-based computer chips. This has been the most effective of nano-processors that my staff and I have experimented with.

“There has already been surprising success in creating a DNA variety of computer, I can tell you from our results.”

“You are convinced that DNA offers the best chance we have to achieve a nano-computer at the molecular level, then?”

“Indeed,” she assured him. “In a single drop of DNA there exist billions of molecules that can be used. We have estimated that such a microprocessor will have the ability to carry out simultaneously an enormous number of individual calculations. But beyond that, there will be a new situation never seen or experienced before.

“A DNA computer will be able to expand through growth and even make copies of itself. It does not have set limits.

“The four genetic substances that are the key components of DNA will provide a much more complex coding system than what exists and is utilized on our planet today. This will result in an astronomical multiplication of the potential powers of such a biological device. It will be multi-dimensional, not merely binary.”

“How large with the new apparatus have to be?” questioned Sekar, as if apprehensive about possible problems involved in the practical use of such an invention.

“It can be many times smaller than those with silicon chips in use today,” explained the researcher. “I have calculated that over a million different operations could be carried out at exactly the same moment of time.

“Although certain laboratories and groups of scientists have worked with plans for quantum computers with molecular chips made of silicon or special metals like germanium or titanium, the bio-computer based on DNA promises to outperform its more conventional rivals.

“I believe that DNA will come to be used predominantly because it has superior characteristics and properties.”

Sekar hesitated a moment, then asked her the final question he had prepared himself to give her.

“What immediate steps are you planning to take in the bio-laboratory we are now equipping for you, Dr. Jha?”

Her cerulean eyes started to grow hazy. “I want to construct the smallest possible DNA molecular tiles that I can, then test and experiment with them to learn what they can act as components of.”

Both of them fell silent for a brief spell, until Bijan rose, excused herself, and exited from the office.

IV.

“I was born and grew up in Siliquo City,” muttered Nitin. “Both my parents passed away there. The only close relative I still have is my sister. She is older than me and works as a scientist for a computer firm. Her special fields are both electronics and biology. I have no idea at all what kind of work she may be involved in, because we rarely communicate with each other, except on important planetary holidays.”

Rahul, sitting across from him in a back booth of a beverage garden attached to an eatery adjacent to the Lake Ezero Casino, studied the young face of the one who had served as the focus of his personal attention since becoming acquainted with him.

“I was a lot like you only a short while ago,” averred the older man. “My gambling had absorbed all my waking time and the full attention of my mind. Nothing else in life mattered to me any more, only making bets and gambling.

“Do not become angry at me for saying this, but you have become a casino addict, exactly like I once was.”

Nitin gazed at his new acquaintance with uneasiness and irritation in his cloudy blue-gray eyes. “I don’t understand what you are talking about,” he grumbled in a sad, low tone. “I know what I am doing and my playing goes on because I am a good player with a lot of skill and experience. Everything I do at the roulette tables is thought-out and planned ahead of time. It isn’t any wild passion or impulse that moves me. No, I think out every move that I take. For me, the bets that I make follow a rational logic that I know and obey everyday, every time I walk into the casino.

“I know what I am doing, my friend. One big victory is certain to come my way and make up for all the temporary losses I have had to suffer on my way to that final destination that lies ahead for me.”

With conscious intent, Rahul presented his companion a look of warm friendship, sympathy, and understanding.

“I believed in my destiny the very same way, and it took me years to see that such a self-image is general and common among the players in all the casinos of our planet. Is there any gambler, has there ever been any, who does not foresee a great success coming, sooner or later? Does anyone who makes bets think that losses will never come to an end, that everything will not come out right some lucky day?

“I was in the same situation that you are now in, Nitin. My hope in future winning did not weaken until the end. But the truth hit me like a bolt of lightning from out of the sky. All at once, realization of the previously hidden truth struck my mind.

“I saw that I had been a self-confident fool. My blindness had been total, just like your own at this moment. But I know that you can rescue yourself from the darkness that engulfs you today.” Rahul lowered his voice to a cautious near-whisper. “Others who have conquered their gambling addiction have joined me in forming a special group dedicated to liberating players still held prisoners to the gambling madness that has captured their minds.”

Nitin gave a jolt of surprise. “Group? You are part of a group of some kind?” he inquired with visible emotion.

Rahul answered with a widening grin. “Every one of our members had to recognize the fallacy of logic that had taken command of their thinking. We label it the gambler’s fallacy that makes one believe that a grand success is immanent and is coming ever nearer to actualization.

“The truth is different from what dominates the expectations of a dedicated, addicted gambler. In reality, the odds of a particular event occurring remain always the same. A series of losses, whether long or short, does not make a victorious gambling success more probable or expectable. There is no connection between what has already happened and what is about to come about. None whatsoever.

“The frequency of past events like lost bets has no effect on the odds of coming results.

“But an addicted gambler is hypnotized by the fallacy that past failures are credible signs of approaching gains.”

Both of them were silent a short while, until Nitin began to rise to leave.

“I have to think about what you are saying,” he mumbled as if to himself.

“We can continue our discussion tomorrow,” smiled the other.

Since the death of their parents, Bijan had assumed the informal role of guardian of her older brother.

She tried to keep herself informed of where he was and the character of his activities.

Nitin was the recipient of numerous wave calls to his portable body-receiver from his older sister, the biological-electronic research scientist.

Bijan checked up on his location and circumstances early the next morning, as he was preparing to leave his hotel room for the Lake Ezero Casino and his projected playing there the rest of the newly dawning day.

“Hello, Nitin. How are you? How are things going there? How do you like everything there at Lake Ezero?”

“I feel fine, and it is easy for me to stay busy and occupied here. The casino where I am spending my time is exciting and highly colorful. Things are always jumping and hopping. You can always expect surprises of all sorts. The tourists who you see and compete with are interesting people.

“There is never a dull moment at the Ezero, and I have a feeling that my luck is about to turn the way that I want it to. And the time is about right, or nearly right for the big win I am certain to see soon.

“Maybe you don’t fully agree with what I think and do, dear Bijan, but I am certain that I can reverse my last ill luck in this new, different environment. Deep down, I feel this in my bones.

“Better days lie ahead for me, I just know it in all the cells of my brain and my body. But how are you doing there in Siliquo City? How do you like the folks at Hyperchip? Are they easy to work with?

“I hope whoever your boss may be realizes that you are a scientific genius and hold the future of their company in your hands, my dear.

“They had better treat you right or else I’ll rush back to the city and hand out some rough and tough punishment that they will not at all enjoy.” He gave a genuine laugh over their wave connection.

Bijan brought their conversation back to the practical level.

“I am very satisfied with the wide range allowed me by the head of this company,” she explained. “The president seems a dedicated innovator who will aid me in what I think I can achieve in constructing a successful bio-computer that proves superior to the older silicon and metallic types.”

Nitin again audibly laughed. “I know you have it in you, and I predict that I will soon have a sharp, radical reversal of my spate of bad luck at the playing tables. I feel it in my bones.

“Keep in touch when you have the time, dear Bijan.” With that, he cut off the link to the person he was closest to.

V.

Sekar had his company driver transport him in his president’s electro-limousine to the bio-laboratory that was brought under the wing of Hyperchip by the latter’s absorption of Biocomp. He hopes that he could learn more about the plans of Dr. Bijan Jha for constructing advanced DNA nano-processors superior to the metallic one still dominating contemporary industry, business, and popular use.

He found his own way through the research center’s main building to the working office of the lab chief.

Bijan, wearing a white laboratory fatigue outfit, greeted her visitor and asked him to sit down and then began to address him in a spirited, upbeat tone of voice.

“We are continuing with the DNA we already had in progress, and our results have been surprising and outstanding. I think we will be completely justified in expanding with new investments in equipment, materials, and personnel time.”

“That is good to hear,” responded Sekar. “How soon do you believe we might have a bio-computer that can enter into practical, everyday use, though?”

“That is hard to predict or estimate, because no one has had any experience with DNA tiles until now. Let me explain what has been constructed in this lab.

“We know how to combine strands of DNA and tie them together in tiles less than a billionth of a meter on one side. These nanoscopic structures will have the ability to recognize other, exterior strands of DNA. Our goal is to have DNA constructions that can store data and carry out different types of mathematical operations.

“These tile structures will be able to build even greater and more complex combinations by themselves.

“We have given such tiles coated edges that can recognize and come together with others that are similar. They can match up with others, like dominoes and create very complex patterns of numerous tiles, using specific rules of combination.

“These tiles will be combined and arranged within tiny, microscopic tubes of transparent vitric plastic.

“It will be like an abacus of DNA tiles, containing perhaps several trillion component parts.”

“What you describe is amazing,” interjected Sekar. “It astounds me.”

Bijar, gratified upon hearing this, continued with growing self-confidence in her favorite, beloved project.

“My statisticians estimate that such a system of nano-processors could operate a million times faster than a traditional silicon-chip computer. Such speed will result from the massive superstructure of tiles, a sort of origami of DNA.

“Our entire planet will have to reorganize itself in all fields and areas in order to adjust to such astronomic capability and capacity.”

The pair gazed at each other as if in a rhapsody that they realized that both of them at that moment shared equally.

Bijan began, all of a sudden, to reveal parts of her personal background.

“I am not the first or the only scientific researcher in the history of my family.

“It was my father who set the path into the field of bio-computing that I have learned to follow. He spent a number of years far from Siliquo City, at a laboratory on the oceanic coast. His objective was to find sea creatures at the molecular level whose primary cells could be shaped and developed into tiny microprocessors. His last years of work were devoted to his dream of locating the single-cell ocean organism that he thought would make a superior kind of computer chip. My father never gave up in his exploration of this marine area of our biology.

“He never made any kind of fortune from his difficult, exotic research, and our family lived a simple, fragile life.

“His hopes dwelled for a time on simple plankton that exists everywhere in all the major waters. Later on, he proceeded to investigate the possible potential of the microscopic organisms that are popularly referred to as seasquirts. This was not easy to do, and took him a long time. You see, he had to examine and test over two hundred different species of what the sea biologists call the Ascidia. His idea was that these seasquirts were so compact in structure that they had the ability to deal with gigantic amounts of information at fantastically rapid speeds.

“His attention during his final days of research centered on what is labelled the Patellamide type of molecule that grows within certain seasquirts known as Tunicates and Accidians. These became the specific, special points of greatest interest for him.”

Bijan halted a few seconds, frowning with personal sadness as she reached the end of her father’s life and the project he had dedicated it to.

“He did not survive to see the results of his years of difficult research. Others took up the search for a practical seasquirt nano-processor. The results turned out to be very negative. The growing conclusion everywhere was that marine creatures did not hold the prospect of providing the best molecular cells for quantum computers. Laboratories everywhere turned to land-based creatures as the basis of future chip development.

“I myself focused my attention upon simple DNA, found everywhere in an infinite forms of life.”

The pair gazed directly at each other for a short time, as if each of them was attempting to reach a fuller, deeper understanding of the other.

“Do not spare time or resources in what you are now involved with,” advised Sekar, his voice strong and confident. “We have to work with total dedication to make this come true. The company will provide you solid, dependable support, I will guarantee you that, Dr. Jha.”

She smiled at this assurance from the president of Hyperchip. “You can depend on me and my staff,” she promised with all her mind and heart.

Sekar left for headquarters elated as if in a glorious, euphoric dream.

“Our group will be meeting in my apartment late this evening,” announced Rahul in the front lobby of the lake Ezero Casino. “Can you come there around midnight, Nitin? I can guarantee that you can pick up a lot of valuable advice from those who will be there. Besides you and I, there will be only three others present.”

Nitin replied with a nod. “Yes, I can be there. I will have a chance to relax with others and learn something from their experiences in the casino.”

The lake was completely dark with a solemn stillness to it as he made his way to where Rahul lived.

The latter opened the door and ushered him in, introducing the three comrades of his already there.

This foursome has been waiting and perhaps preparing themselves for me to arrive here, the visitor told himself as he took the empty chair left in the circle that Rahul and the others had earlier formed.

The host asked a tall, weighty older man named Rjum to describe his life experience as a fanatical gambler.

He spoke in a deep, precise, and well-controlled voice.

“I know from painful experience the hellish torture that afflicts an individual who happens to fall into unending, habitual gambling. It becomes a need stronger than either nutrition or sex. It will never lessen on its own, it only grows and expands, like some unlimited instinctive drive.

“My interest was in sport betting, mainly horse and dog racing featured on the casino screens. Winning is going to come, I convinced myself. It is on its way, only a matter of time. I walked into the trap there for any gambler. Little by little, step by step, it caught and embraced me. Without seeing it, I became slave to one, single idea. Play on and on, play without ever ceasing. I sold all I owned and borrowed more and more. Victory is sure to arrive and enable me to pay my debts and free myself of all economic burdens.

“I sacrificed everything else to this passion that consumed me: my wife and family, my job and my profession, my friends, relatives and all other personal interests I have ever had. I did not dare quit when I was down, because there was always some degree of hope left, if I only managed to play the sports and horses a little bit longer.

“There was always a strange thrill for me in watching the screens to find out how I came out. My emotions experienced a sense of high rhapsody, even in losing on a large scale. I find it hard to explain even to myself. I grew happy with the smallest of my infrequent winnings. Tomorrow was going to be different. Losing only boosted my confidence in future winning. Long losing streaks only made me more addicted to what I was engaged in at the Lake Ezero Casino.”

Rjum halted several seconds, as if preparing himself for a momentous redirection of what he was describing.

“Then, I happened to meet Rahul Kaul and the members of the Rigorist Association. From total despair about my gambling and how it was ruining and destroying my life, I awakened with an inspired, enlightened understanding.

“I had been an idiotic fool, a victim of the casino and my self-induced addiction. Gambling was a disease that I suffered, and the cure from it lay in my own hands.

“The gambler’s fallacy of making up for giant losses by wins just moments ahead became logically clear to me. I recognized the illusion I had played under. The odds remain always the same, and they favor only the House itself.”

“Thank you for your honest candor, Rjum,” murmured Rahul. “We can now listen to Sanxe and how he came into the ranks of Rigorism.”

The short, stout middle-aged bald man spoke as if reciting a memorized oration of some sort.

“As a growing boy, I learned to throw dice in competition with my playmates. I learned to call these toys my bones, ivories, tombstones, shakers, and craps. I was practiced and well-experienced, so that when I first came to the Lake Ezero Casino I turned at once to the games of craps. I believed I possessed special skills that I could use to win, for I saw myself as a craftsman with the dice.

“The playing hall was temptation itself, it was sensational and lurid with colored lighting. Everything on all sides looked sparkling and ablaze, glittering with extraordinary glamor. I guess the place was designed to be alluring and to put the players at ease.

“But like all the other craps-throwers, I never got ahead, just fell further and further behind. I failed to foresee that neither skill nor sheer luck could reverse the unfavorable odds I faced from beginning to the finish.

“I at first believed myself predestined and foreordained by fate to eventual enormous gains. I did not at all realize that craps, like all the casino traps, provided only fortuitous, accidental, arbitrary outcomes that were completely random in nature. There was nothing I could possibly do to change this situation.

“At last, I happened to come upon other gambling addicts who educated me about what the truth was.

“My friends helped me realize that I had to free myself from my dice-connected mania. They have guided me out of the morass I had wandered into. Instead of remaining a victim, I turned myself into a rescuer of fellow prisoners of the infection of mad gambling.”

The final confessional presentation came from a small, frail man in his twenties who was introduced as Otank.

“I grew up in a little farming village north of Siliquo City. It was there that, at an early age, I picked up my knowledge of old rural card games such as brag, cinch, seven-up, old sledge, and all fours. I became very good as a player because of my memory’s amazing ability to keep accurate tabs on the movement of all the cards in the deck during one of these old-time kind of games.

“I decided to visit the casinos in the various regions. There were more losses and failures than gains for me, but I kept traveling and journeying from place to place on the road. Years of this kind of activity brought me to Ezero Lake and the special gambling center here, the Lake Ezero Casino.

“It was the game of baccarat that drew and hypnotized me. I thought that my skillful card-counting could guarantee my coming out ahead as a positive winner. But it did not at all turn out that way. Not at all.

“Losses after losses destroyed my initial confidence. My card-counting expectations became a strategic failure and I was loser again and again, with few, rare, and very small winning hands and bets.

“The game of baccarat was a center of high-rollers, betting hundreds and thousands of monetas at a single time, on a particular card being dealt. It was a personal shock as my personal disaster became a financial collapse for me.

“I came to realize that the bankers who distributed my cards to me were evil sharpsters out for themselves and the Lake Ezero Casino. They were quick with their experienced hands and consciously gave me bad, losing hands. The odds were cleverly manipulated against all of us who played this unfair, corrupted game. There was no way that I or anyone else at the tables could come away ahead of their initial condition. All of our resources were doomed to be lost to the banker and the casino.

“But then I was fortunate to meet Rahul and his circle of ex-addicts, and they helped me find an enlightened salvation for myself. I freed myself of baccarat and have not played the game again. I stay away from active betting of any sort. The reason for this is my acceptance of the Rigorist credo.

“Today, I go forward as a recruiter of addicted gamblers. My goal is to liberate them, the same way that my friends succeeded in rescuing me from the hold of mental addiction.”

Rahul then took up the initiative and exposed the central secret of his movement.

“We save ourselves by finding and converting other addicts. By helping them escape the trap of gambling addiction, we strengthen and consolidate our own freedom from the evil burden that weighs you down, Nitin.

“You are welcome to join with us and make our organization wider and larger than it now happens to be.”

After a short period of rest and silence, the meeting dispersed, Nitin leaving with a new determination and decision within his mind.

I now know what direction I have to take, he realized.

Early tomorrow morning, I must call my sister Bijan and inform her how I plan to change my way of living.

VI.

The day orb rose over Lake Ezero, flooding the city and the main casino with nearly blinding yellow rays.

Nitin spoke into his wave unit as he looked out at the placid water from a steel bench near his hotel.

“Good morning, Bijan. How are things with you? The lake is lovely and moving at this early hour. How is everything there in Siliquo City? How do you like your changed working position, with the merger of the two companies?

“I have some news to tell you that I think will be quite welcome for you to hear.

“The time for me to cease gambling has arrived. I cannot continue the way I was, on and on, always a loser, never a genuine winner. The moment for me to decide arrived, and I stepped away from what I had been caught in for so long.
This can be attributed to acquaintances I happened to make, for I now have become a member of a ring of others similar to me.

“We have all been addicts, prisoners of the mania to gamble and to continue betting on and on, as if forever.

“It is an enormous relief to me to know that I am not the only individual suffering this condition.

“And they taught me the secret of escaping and fleeing from this kind of sickness I suffered from.

“I intend never to return as a player in any casino game. The way out is not difficult at all. What will be needed is that I go out and convert other addicts who are still gambling to join our group and do the same as we do, meet new players and teach them the simple, logical, and wise principles that we belief in and live by.

“By finding and indoctrinating new recruits into conversions such as mine, I strengthen my own permanent salvation.

“What do you think of what I am up to, Bijan? It is as if I experienced a miraculous, radical transformation.”

His sister laughed with sudden, euphoric joy. “I am delighted by this news you just told. It sounds like you have found new friends who can do a lot of good for you. This could be exactly the solution needed to provide an opportunity for you to recover from your ludomania. Yes, that is the technical term for the condition you have sunken into. It was your mad obsession with acting as a participant in games of chance that captured and afflicted you. The spell that haunted your mind is lifting up and departing. I believe I see evidence of such an event in how you happen to be talking to me at this moment, Nitan.” She gave a spontaneous little laugh.

“I shall make you proud of me, dear sister.” He paused a moment. “if only mother and father were here to see what the two of us are about to achieve and attain. I hope that your research work is progressing well under the new corporate body you will now be working for.”

“Yes, the president of Hyperchip is providing me strong aid and support in building the type of bio-computer that I belief has the highest chance of practical success when finally perfected. The prospects are bright and hopeful.”

The pair wished each other success and good luck in the particular endeavors each of them was now involved with.

They said farewell, closed off their units, and went about their separate agendas.

Vinod Devar periodically summoned important casino employees to his office near the ground. The one individual whom he considered worthy of a personal, face-to-face visit by himself was the director of computer gaming and electronic communication up on the fourth floor of the sapronic building.

The owner found Tarun Nait busy supervising a small crew of repair specialists busy making corrections on several important memory depositories temporarily out of operation and being repaired and tested.

The gaunt, lanky tall man with gingery hair had the title of Coordinator of Computing and Wave Communication for all sections of the Lake Ezero Casino. His educational background was in statistics, electronics, and applied psychology. He saw himself as the pivotal center where these three fields met as practical tools and instruments of the gambling complex he served.

“Good morning, sir,” he greeted his employer, gazing at him with sharp, focused green eyes. “Did you read over the reports that I sent down to your office late yesterday? There was some encouraging news in those figures and charts that I put together. The total number of our on-web member-subscribers has shot up a lot in recent days and weeks.

“It was of interest to me that the greatest growth has been in high-income suburban districts and farming communities. Gamblers exist in all regions and social strata, I myself have long held. Now there is positive proof of that claim, and that is spelled out in my report to you.”

Vinod gave a smile of satisfaction. “Yes, that was very heartening to read. And in terms of status, I was glad to see that so many university graduates are turning to on-web gambling over radio waves. I, too, have agreed with your idea of drawing the well-off and the educated into our over-the-air casino. That is where future inflow of betting lies, because those levels of Siliquo have the money to expend on what we offer them.

“The poorer classes of players we already have in giant amounts. The ranks of the well=off and prosperous must now be attracted to our types of games. That is where the income and savings exist.

“I believe that you and I agree on that direction as our most favorable opportunity, Tarun,” nodded the casino owner.

The coordinator made a feline grin. “I believe that our future expansion will also depend on reconstructing our computing and communication systems. That is why so much rests on how good the new system based on organic DNA works out in practice. The new Hyperchip nano-processors must fulfill the promises that the company in Siliquo City has made to you. Unless we can miniaturize our operations at fully exponential rates and speeds, it will all have been in vain.

“We have to make a bold leap forward with newer technology.

“Everything we can achieve in the days ahead rests on the foundation of our next generation of equipment. That is the truth that I face every day, every hour, every minute and second.”

The face of Vinod suddenly seemed to harden into a rock of solid ice. “Mr. Sekar Airan sent an inter-web message this morning. He will be arriving here tomorrow, along with his DNA computer research director, with a tiny working model of the new device to show me. I can’t wait to see it with my own eyes.”

The owner excused himself, turned and headed for the platform descending from this top storey of the Lakw Ezero Casino that he was planning to renovate and expand.

Sekar and Bijan occupied a private compartment on the track train taking them to Lake Ezero City. They sat opposite each other at a large side window providing a view of truck farms and fruit orchards in the rural territory between Siliquo City and their destination.

“What do you suppose this Mr. Vinod Devar will think of the six micro-units we are bringing with us to be tried out and tested through practical use at his casino? Is he a person who can see and objectively evaluate something as new and innovative as the DNA-equipped bio-computers we are bringing with us?

“How do you expect this demonstration of ours to go?”

Sekar, aiming at lifting her confidence and sense of security, gave a short laugh of encouragement.

“You worry too much about what might or might not happen,” he muttered in a low tone. “It will be the bio-computers that do the convincing, not me and not you.

“The man has a sharp vision and a resourceful mind. He will quickly become conscious of the magnificent prospects for the future growth and development of his casino business. I have heard from him that he is searching for new ways of expanding the scope of his on-web gambling transactions. What better means can he use in that particular field than the DNA nano-processors that Hyperchip can provide him?

“I am certain he will be able to foresee the advantages that DNA can possibly offer to his casino’s expansion and exploitation of the electro-waves.

“Just as Hyperchip is a fearless pioneer in scientific advance, the company must explore new fields where our products can be used and applied. That is why I am optimistic about our new technology tied into the area of popular, completely legal casino gambling. Organizations like the Lake Ezero Casino have a crying need for better, more efficient computing and data storage and manipulation. I am confident that we can provide that for Mr. Devar and his organization in the form of the DNA biological nano-processor.

“I find this project at Lake Ezero most fascinating and promising in every possible way,” he stated with evident emotion.

.

Borderlanders Part V.

14 Jun

I.

The mind of Azo grew excited as he carefully examined the line of hand weapons with his eyes of unquenched curiosity. He had never seen so many firing arms before.

His eyes surveyed and roamed over a rich variety of shotguns, pistols, carbines, revolvers, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, and honey badgers, until his mind was spinning with impressions and emotions.

Yino provided him a brief, general description of how it was planned to make practical use of these firearms in possible conflict with the police or the army.

“These arms can only be utilized with effect by small, capable teams in swift, unexpected attacks on small locations or institutions. The attacks will have to be well-timed, well-planned, and skillfully coordinated throughout both countries. There can be no arousal of official suspicion before the events occur. This will have to be a carefully predesigned operation in all areas and locales. Nothing can be left to chance, for mistakes can be the path to ruin for the mass Tolx rebellion that we are preparing ourselves for.”

Azo at that moment remembered the character of this plan to turn to armed action: it remained an unauthorized program never either known to or approved by the Chief Committee itself.

“I believe that none of that can begin until it receives full approval from our leaders. How can any of us deny the truth of such ratification and empowerment? There is no way to proceed to action without full permission to go on. That is how I understand the matter, Yino.”

The latter surprised him with an unexpected, slightly out-of-place peal of sharp, loud laughter.

“What do you suppose that I brought you here, over the international border, for, my dear Azo?” slowly asked the overweight one. “Just to display for you the kinds of weapons that I am having distributed to our local units within the Tolx communities closest to the boundary line?

“My purpose in bringing you over has been to convince and convert you into agreement and cooperation with the plan for preparation of our direct action toward immediate takeover of the entire border zone.

“In one rapid swoop, our fighters will be able to surprise and conquer the existing order of power and authority. In one single day, our nation shall attain its complete liberation.

“That is why I seek you to vote along with my side within the Chief Committee when I myself explain the secret plan and propose that a majority accept and adopt it immediately, on the spot.

“You will form one of those masses who vote approval for the armed rebellion, which will have already started all along the Sponsia-Bumgia borderline. There will, in reality, be no possible alternative to instant approval of what our units are accomplishing in Sinoria and on this side, in Bumagia.

“Actual reality and the accomplished facts will compel the members to agree to what has already begun with the approval of our members located nearest the border, on both sides and in both countries.”

Azo and Yino stared at each other a while, both of them nearly unconscious of the passing of many silent moments of nervous thought in the mind of the other individual opposite him.

“I must consider all angles, all the possibilities, both the positive and negative ones, Yino,” declared Azo with difficulty. How was the fat schemer going to react to such words of hesitation and indecision from himself? Was he going to cause anger and enmity that would result in some form of violent reaction?

Am I putting myself in danger of some kind of actual physical attack by Yino or his henchmen standing about outside in the open?

Instead of confrontation, though, the reaction was the exact opposite.

“Come, Come, my friend. I have no intention whatever of ever attempting to pressure you in any way. I want you to think and consider, figure and estimate, as long as you feel is necessary.

“There remains time for you to reach a decision, because all the preparations needed are not yet complete and ended. Our forces still have a distance to go before a final decision of committee approval must be won.

“I am a patient man, Azo,” added the smiling organizer of uprising. “I am certain that, at the moment of decision, you shall be voting approval for what our membership has started here on the border.”

Yino accompanied his visitor back to the border. The two of them watched as a flock of red goats with attached small arms moved through the tunnel over to the Sponsian side. Herding dogs of several breeds and varied sizes patrolled and guided this mass animal movement.

All of a sudden, the herder Gavu appeared out of the tunnel and stepped over to where Azo stood watching the last of the flock of goats disappear from view.

“I shall be the one who takes you back across,” announced the spare, lanky Tolx.

“So long, for now,” murmured Yino in a quiet, subdued tone. “I believe that both of us will very soon be summoned for a special, emergency meeting of the Chief Committee, and the fateful historical decision will then have to be made by us.

“There will be no escape or refusal to choose for any single one of us who is there,” asserted the rebellion planner.

Without another word, Azo turned away from him and began to follow Gavu downward into the crossing tunnel.

II.

It was no surprise to Azo that Sevu Keft, his guide about the Tolx movement’s local units in the Sinoria, knew the secret plans and preparations for the coming border rebellion.

“We have readied ourselves for future action by holding exercises in empty areas where no one else can see us,” he explained. “Mr. Maja has been sending us useful small arms carried cross-border by the goat flocks. Of course, I took it for granted that you were involved and knowledgeable about this initiative. That was only logical and natural, of course.

“No one could have ever imagined that you were totally ignorant about what was going on here. Why would the Chief Committee not inform you of all the details of the enterprise, since you had been sent to Sinoria as a speaker?”

Azo smiled but said nothing.

“It would be best if you did not refer to the plan for armed seizure of the border with Bumgia,” said Sevu in a near whisper. “There is always a risk that someone who comes to hear you may in reality be a government secret agent sent to spy on our movement and what we are up to. One can never be sure, so it is wise to keep the plan confined only to those directly involved in it.”

“Yes,” Azo nodded. “I agree with you that is the best course for us to take.”

For the next five evenings, the speaker from the Chief Committee addressed small groups of members and sympathizers at various sites across the border zone called Sinonia.

Azo fell into a set pattern of main points to cover. His presentation became almost a ritual as he surveyed his audiences for their reactions to his words. At each assembly, he noticed a visible atmosphere of hopeful fervor, as if his listeners were waiting for some imminent event that was drawing closer and closer at an accelerating speed.

This intangible emotional wave is there, though unspoken and internal to each Tolx present to hear me.

He felt his own confidence rising as he caught this unhidden mood rising throughout Sinonia. Yet not a word mentioned what it was inspiring this shared, common feeling of approaching triumph for the cause they all held in common.

Before he realized it, the day arrived when Joso Jost arrived in his engine-car to drive him back to the farm he had left.

One of the first things that he asked his driver on their journey concerned the two other Josts on the farm, Milu and his daughter, Hito.

“They are fine, they are both busy and healthy,” Joso assured the passenger he was bringing back to his two relatives.

Azo wondered when it would be best for him to begin to inquire about how those already there on the farm were preparing for what was coming in connection with the borderline revolt and attempted seizure.

But as he greeted Milu and Hito, he could find no opportune, appropriate moment at which to bring up such a difficult topic for both the two of them and also himself.

“Yes,” he told the three Josts as he sat down for dinner with them. “I found an encouraging, elevated spirit among the Tolxi of Sinoria. Everywhere I went, the people had hopeful, positive attitudes to them. Their mood was one that I found quite easy to catch. Their brave character infected my own thoughts and emotions more than I ever suspected it would.

“The members along the border with Bumgia are ready to cope with anything that might happen in the days ahead.”

Milu frowned, surprising Azo with what he then said.

“I have been told by close friends and allies that Mr. Yino Maja has decided to take an initiative that he believes will place him at the center of attention, that will make him the dominant personality with our Chief Committee and the entire Tolx movement, as well. What this might be, no one can do more than guess.

“This man has always been eager to be the only decisive force inside our organization, overwhelming everyone who might mount any opposition to his power and his will. His desire to be in complete command is insatiable.”

How should he react to what he had just heard enunciated by Milu? Azo decided that he had to show his friend that he understood and agreed with the candid warning coming from the man who had been acting as his host.

“I myself, from the moment that I met him here at the Chief Committee meeting, have held a bad, negative impression of this fellow. He is one who always wants to take charge of everything around him, to set the rules and standards for everyone else.

“That loathsome trait of his was evident to me and all the others present at our last session with all the others, it appears to be a salient feature of his corrupted character,” stated Azo, looking from the father to the daughter seated to his side.

Looking Hito directly in the face, he could see how profoundly she had been affected by the words that he and her father had exchanged between themselves. The impression he felt was that she wished to give her opinion on the matter being discussed, but was prevented from doing so by the presence and influence of Milu, her parent.

A sudden impulse that overpowered his judgment compelled Azo to address her individually, separately.

“What do you say, Hito?” he unexpectedly inquired of her. “Is there a dangerous factor present within our committee in the person of this ambitious, self-willed actor, Yino Maja? What is your opinion on the subject of this man?”

She started to speak in a voice that seemed to be that of an entirely different individual, not even that of a young woman such as she was.

“I have never liked this person, from the first time I saw and heard him speak,” she said slowly, but sharply and assertively. “There are such persons who give off and transmit very bad vibrations about themselves. Perhaps I am too imaginative about this, but I have unlimited fear of this Yino Maja and the evil he is capable of committing in the name of his pretended nationalist feelings.

“I take him for a skillful, talented pretender who is acting out a role that will probably turn out to be disastrous for the Tolx cause.

“How do I know such things? Take it as the result of the intuition I inherited from my two parents.”

For a brief moment, Hito glanced to the side, at the face of her father.

He, all of a sudden, posed a significant question to Azo, as if almost pretending to ignore what his daughter had just voiced to them at the table.

“What do you recommend be done about this pernicious person who threatens to poison and infect our national movement and our organization with his mendacity and trickery? How can those who dislike him and his ideas cope with such evil, selfish intent?”

Azo lowered his head in deep thought for several moments, then raised it up again with a decision made in a single instant of time.

“There is a certain matter that I have to reveal to you. It is certainly going to be an enormous shock and surprise, but both of you are capable of handling all its implications for you and the movement.” He paused and drew a long, deep breath, then went on. “Yino Maja is planning and preparing an armed rebellion on the Sponsia-Bumgia border, with the goal of setting up an apparently liberated Tolx zone around which the entire nation can gather and organize itself. I myself came upon Yino as a smuggler of small weapons to be distributed among the units of the Tolx movement on both sides of the boundary. A solid zone of land in both countries is to be captured and occupied, using these weapons that are being transported in both directions across the demarked boundary line.

“Is this only one mad lunatic’s fantastic dream of power and glory? Perhaps. I might say it probably is so. But it is something that Yino will attempt to win approval for from the Chief Committee at its coming session here on this farm in one day.

“This dangerous escapade of an ambitious adventurer must not be allowed to endanger all the Tolx people have built and created over generations. It could lead to final disaster for all of you,” argued Azo with fervor and spirit.

It was Hito who spoke next, presenting a pointed question to both her father and the young man she was in love with.

“If this scheme of his will end in catastrophic disaster for all of us, then it may be wisest to attempt to avert the planned uprising along the border.

“Is it still possible, though? What if Yino somehow succeeds in winning a majority supporting him when the Chief Committee meets tomorrow right here on our farm?”

No answer to this came immediately, for both her listeners were then thrown into complex, difficult contemplation of the dilemma that they would have to face the next day.

It was her father, Milu, who finally chose a way forward for them.

“Let us have the patience to hold the meeting and try to block and veto what Yino will probably attempt to win approval for.

“If we can keep a large enough number of votes with us, then that should stop the schemer from actually starting a conflict on the border.”

“But what if he ignores being outvoted, father, and despite his formal loss continues with the planned rebellion?” argued his daughter. “He is not in character and temper a person who always goes by the rules that apply.”

Milu looked into her turquoise eyes. “But we are followers of rules, Hito. We have to do this the right way, despite what we know and fear about this opponent of ours.”

Neither of the other two said anything more.

Milu rose from the table and silently made his way out of the kitchen.

III.

The members of the Chief Committee gathered the following morning at the Jost farm, arriving one-by-one in a variety of different sorts and brands of engine-cars. The last individual to arrive happened to be Yino Maja, the one who was the organizer of a revolutionary initiative that would, if successful, overturn the existing life of the Iolx people in both Bumgia and Sponsia.

The leaders of the movement assembled in the same large room that they had used the previous time here.

Azo, entering along with Milu Jost, sat down to the right of the host, who was qualified to preside over the meeting as the senior member of this executive body of the Tolx liberation organization.

Milu called the session to order and directed the member acting as recording secretary to read his notes of the previous meeting at this site.

Once this was swiftly completed, he inquired whether anyone had any urgent, important matters to present to them at this time. His dusky eyes were focused across the table to the gigantic figure sitting exactly across from him.

“Yes, I have something I wish to present to the Chief Committee,” loudly growled Yino Maya, all at once rising out of his chair and glaring at Milu Jost. His voice rose in scale and force as he plowed into what soon sounded like a prepared, rehearsed oration.

“We, the Tolxi, have for too long a time been passive victims of prejudice, oppression, and hatred on the part of our neighbors, the Sponsians and the Bumagians. Although we work and study as hard as anyone else, we lag behind others in average income, education, and recognition. Our achievements have never been acknowledged. We are neglected and ignored by the governments of the two countries within which we are at present located. But our movement is not an idle bystander. At this very moment the first step toward our salvation and liberation is occurring on the boundary line that separates the two halves of our Tolxian motherland.”

An audible sighing and gasping could be heard on all sides of the large room holding the Chief Committee.

Yino paused only a second or two, then proceeded to explain what he was talking to them about.

“That has always been the aim of the Tolx movement since its inception: to win the complete freedom of all of our people from domination by others and their governments. We have waited and waited, and now we have the right to say that the time has come to take for ourselves all that we deserve and have rights to. Yes, our birthright as Tolxi is to decide our own fate and rule ourselves as a fully free people.

“I call upon each and every member of this committee to give its approval, its unanimous support and aid, to the uprising that, at this hour, is starting to seize control of the entire border between Sponsia and Bumgia.

“There is no other alternative, for the revolt and the takeover have begun. We must accept and adopt it as our own. The rebels are expecting our protective assistance and sanctity at this moment. We dare not deny our affirmation of the dangerous actions now in progress on the borderline.”

=

Two figures, one short and the other extremely tall, walked along together at an early morning hour, as the sun rose above the ridge of a hill adjacent to the border fence and its stone markers.

Sevu, though the smaller man, clearly dominated and held a sort of formal authority over his companion, Gavu the herder of red goats.

The former began to talk to the latter when they reached their destination, the ridge that looked down on the small border-crossing station that had been assigned to them to take and occupy.

“The others will soon be arriving here, according to the plan from Mr. Maja of the Chief Committee,” whispered Sevu in a quiet, serious tone. “They will all be bearing either revolvers or rifles, according to the commands that I transmitted to them.

“With eight of us attacking as a coordinated unit, the two Sponsian border guards on this side, and the two Bumgian ones over on the opposite side should be taken into our custody in a short length of time. It should be finished quickly, both here and across the border, where the second team, the one based in Bumgia, will be making the attack planned for that station over on that side.

“We will win control over both ends of the crossover site with our small arms. The element of surprise which we will enjoy should provide us a giant advantage and guarantee victory to the Tolx movement.

“By the end of the day, dozens of similar seizures of the border from one end to the other will grant our side a decisive, indisputable success.

“Both governments, overwhelmed and clearly outmaneuvered and defeated, will have no alternative to immediate negotiation with our Chief Committee. The losing sides shall have to accede to the demands for freedom and autonomy that our leadership presents to them. That is all they will be able to do, give up and give in.”

Gavu then expressed how he felt. “I have waited for a day like this all my life. So did my father, and before him my grandfather. What we are about to carry out will change the history of our people, the Tolxi.”

All of a sudden, Sevu noticed something moving noiselessly along the narrow, unpaved road that led to the border station on the Sponsian side. “Look over there, a large, heavy vehicle is rushing in the direction of the station,” he excitedly announced.

Almost immediately, Gavu pointed his right arm over to what was Bumgia. “It looks like a large military camion is coming this way from the opposite direction.” He turned his face toward Sevu. “What’s going on down there? Can you tell what’s happening, Sevo?

“This is not what any of us expected to happen, is it?”

As soon as the rebellion creator was finished, it was the presiding officer of the committee who started to speak, not allowing anyone else to make any reaction to what had just been presented to them.

“I feel a deep responsibility to express what I think concerning this drastically radical argument for immediate revolutionary attack that we have listened to from one of our members.

“It is no secret that most of us were not prepared to hear such words today. But I am obliged to remove myself from the number of the surprised and astounded. Because there was an early description of this scheme of an uprising on the border that I recently came to know. I shall not present the details of how this plan was revealed to me, for that is really of no importance at all. You only need know that what we had given to us was in no way a novel set of ideas in my own case.

“But I am able to report that the introduction was shocking, scandalous, and disconcerting to me in every conceivable way.

“I felt revulsion that first time, and even greater antimony to this scheme here in this room.

“Let me tell you what I think after considerable thought and consideration: this idea of a border revolt and occupation is ridiculous and fraudulent. It can never give our people victory, but it certainly bring enormous pain, loss, and suffering to every single Tolx.

“The firepower of the two armies of our countries, our two police systems, and the many private guards in Sponsia and Bumagia would surely put down any insurgency we might mount ourselves.

“The odds against us would certainly be astronomical, close to infinite.”

All the eyes of his listeners in the room stared and concentrated on the owner of the farm where they were meeting.

After a few moments of internal thought and meditation, Milu voiced his final argument.

“If we are to remain true to the values and principles of our Tolx nation, we must reject such a doomed adventure and the ruin it would bring to all that we hold dear in our hearts.”

Overwhelmed by the well-controlled eloquence that had come from the older leader, only a single member of the committee dared say a word at that particular moment.

“I propose that we bring this subject to a vote at this time,” gruffly announced Yino Maja.

IV.

Throughout the areas in proximity to the international fenced boundary between Bumgia and Sponsia, similar events and outcomes were coming about.

Small squads of Tolxian farmers, herders, and villagers set out toward local border crossing stations or police offices, in both countries, on both sides of the demarcation line.

These would-be raiders and occupiers carried their guns, revolvers, pistols, and rifles in a fearless, public manner. They shared the desire to be seen by their fellow Tolxi and to inspire them to support and assist the burgeoning national uprising based on ages-old indignation and resentments.

None of the members of this small army of rebels, though, realized that their actions were under continual scrutiny by officers of the state, both the military and civilian branches.

At moments judged to be appropriate, the lid was lowered down upon this rising insurgency at varied border sites.

The Tolxian forces were allowed to surface and group themselves, then advance forward in an aggressive mood toward the stations they intended to take over, where the government’s personnel was to be captured and disarmed as quickly as possible.

But the imagined scenarios did not unfold as scripted beforehand.

The enemy is forewarned and ready to meet us! realized the commanders and participants in all of the local units of the scattered revolutionary army.

Police and military men and women, well-armed and enjoying prior training, rushed forth from unsuspected hiding places to surround, surprise, and arrest every one of the would-be takers of the physical border.

Farmers, shepherds, village residents, both the young and the old, both males and females, were led away as dumbfounded prisoners of these employees of the two governments.

Their drama of battle was brief and shortened by nearly automatic, disastrous defeat.

At a distance, the allies and associates of Yino Maja learned by land phone and shortwave radio signal of the rapid-fire collapse of their plans for the invasion and capture of the barrier system at the border that divided the Tolx nation in two.

How can a vote on the border scheme be won by its opponents? Azo kept asking himself during the presentation of positions, first by Milu Jost, then by Yino Maja himself.

He had silently listened till the moment when the latter ended by calling for an immediate vote on what he proposed as a blueprint for armed victory at the borderline itself.

Deciding that the final opportunity to express what he knew and what he thought had arrived, Azo sprang to his feet, startling everyone on all sides of the long table at which the Chief Committee sat.

“Friends and comrades, I must say something to you before we vote and decide what our policy toward armed insurrection is to be.

“Let me describe to you my recent experience there on the actual border as a touring speaker has been, and what I learned while so engaged.

“First of all, I have to confess to you that I knew of the program described to us by Yino Maja days ago, because of my direct contact with goat-herders involved in preparing for the attacks that would initiate the revolt up-and-down the entire borderline.

“None of this has been a secret to me. I myself witnessed how fervent, how dedicated the local Tolxi villagers and country people were to this dreamlike vision that Yino and his associates brought before them.

“Could this be the magic trick, the ingenious strategic miracle that was meant to liberate them from ages of oppression?

“An unforeseen, unimaginable attack on the thin strip separating Sponsia from Bimgia? Was that how it was meant to be done?”

At that moment, Azo was distracted from what he was saying by the noise of the rushing motion of the opening of the door into the room.

It was Joso Jost who entered into the opened doorway, with excitement written over his face and in his slate-colored eyes.

He began to speak rapidly, in almost a babbling manner.

“Radio broadcasts report that an uprising among Tolxi up there along the border, on both sides, began in the early hours this morning. The government claims that it was forewarned and prepared, and that all of the insurgents have been defeated and taken in custody.

“The news now is that the rebellion was a complete fiasco, that there was total defeat of the squads and teams of local Tolxi taking part in the attempt to take command of the line up there.

“People with small arms have been arrested, many surrendering on their own after observing the depth of the collapse of our side in this disaster.

“It is being reported that there may soon be a general suppression of Tolxian national, organizations and societies, including the one that we happen to belong to ourselves.”

Joso. his forehead covered with sweat, began to tremble with anxious emotions.

“What does this mean?” he asked in a loud shout. “What is going to be done to all of us?”

All the radio and video broadcasting stations in both Bumgia and Sponsia had their special announcers recite the same joint proclamation ratified and issued by the top governmental executives of both countries.

“We have the solemn responsibility to inform all citizens and inhabitants of our neighboring lands that although a violent rising of subversive elements occurred early this morning at numerous stations and locations along our mutual, shared boundary line, this treacherous attempt at armed insurrection and violent coup ended in total defeat for the traitorous malcontents and glorious, honorable victory for the cooperating combined forces of law and order in both Sponsia and Bumgia.

“The miscreants who attacked or were planning and on the verge of armed assault on the protected, defended border have been captured and are at the present time in armed, guarded detention.

“The danger to general and individual wellbeing and safety has been contained and can be said to be gone.

“The police authorities of both our countries are searching for and hunting down all collaborators, partners, associates, and supporters of the criminal actors in this tragic, misguided assault on legitimate government and authority.

“All such barbarian elements will be found, captured, and then meted out fitting punishment.”

The highest executive authorities of both Bumgia and Sponsia jointly signed and authorized this general announcement to the public everywhere within their two territories.

V.

Yino Maja was first to rise and depart from the meeting room, fleeing at an uncharacteristic for him run to his engine-car and driving assistant waiting there.

His allies on the Chief Committee soon followed his example.

Then those oriented toward Milu Jost and Azo Tvot, members who agreed with those two and were dubious about the program of direct action drawn up by Yino, excused themselves one-by-one and made their way out of the house to the vehicles that had brought them to the ruinous, discordant session that had abruptly ended.

When he was finally alone at the table with Milu, Azo turned to him with a horrified expression hanging all over his face.

“What will happen now?” he inquired with desperation in his voice. “Is this going to be the ruinous end of the Tolx movement and the values it stands for, or should have protected in this current trouble we have experienced?”

Milu thought for a short time before giving a reply to the recently recruited Azo.

“I think it may take us a while, but we shall certainly recover and build ourselves up again. The Tolxi will need someone to champion and represent them. They will forgive us for the mistakes made in this border incident.

“We are still needed by our nation and I have a measure of hope for a sort of rebirth of our movement, my friend.”

The two smiled at each other, each of them holding back the sadness and depression caused by their situation at that moment.

Going out the back door of the farmhouse for some fresh air he knew that he badly needed, Azo unexpectedly came upon Hito returning from having fed the chickens nested in the coop site near the large barn.

She must have heard the details of what transpired inside and at the border from her father, he quickly reasoned.

I must attempt to console and fortify her as best I can, Azo commanded himself.

The two halted a small distance from each other, looking squarely into the face of the other.

How should I begin? thought the member of the Chief Committee. What words of comfort can I produce for Hito?

It was she who first said something.

“I have to confess something, Azo. I beg you never to reveal this to my father. It would be too heavy and difficult for him to accept or understand.”

She paused and looked him in the eye.

“It was I who called the police and warned them that the rebellion was imminent on the border. I did it at night, when I was the only one in the house not asleep. What else could I do to prevent a larger, deeper disaster?

“I did not know whether they would believe me, so I mentioned names and gave what details I had heard and picked up from you and my father.

“Someone had to act, and I was the one person who would not be suspected.

“Will you keep my action, whether good or some kind of evil transgression, to yourself? Will you protect my father from ever finding out the truth?”

He stepped forward, nodding his head yes over and over.

Before Hilo realized what was happening to her, she realized that he had taken her in an intimate, passion-filled embrace.

She sensed a safety concerning her secret as an informer to the authorities.

A man who would never betray her in any way was the one holding her in his arms.

The End

Borderlanders Part IV.

10 Jun

I.

Azo and his guide returned to the latter’s tiny old cottage in total exhaustion, equally affected by what had occurred at the school. Both sat down in the kitchen and Sevu heated a pot of highland berry tea to help restore their equilibrium and sense of wellbeing.

As both men sipped hot liquid from traditional Tolxian ceramic cups, the local resident started to explain and clear up what had happened in front of them.

“I did not expect anything like that,” he soothingly murmured. “The indignation among our people has risen like a fever and burst and boiled over. You saw for yourself how angry they are. What happened to Igu Noxol may have acted as the final incendiary element. There was a mental and emotional explosion in front of you today, but I believe the same kind of reaction is possible anywhere within Sinoria. I might even say anywhere the Tolxi may live, in either Sponsia or Bumgia.

“You witnessed the thoughts and the feelings of any and all Toxti, regardless of where they make their home.”

Azo hesitated and waited before speaking, making certain he knew precisely what he wished to say to his partner in this agitation tour of his.

“There can be no doubt in my mind, and I venture to claim neither in yours, that the men and women who were at the school today are fully committed and dedicated to the cause that our movement represents. They are unlimited in their patriotic fervor and allegiance. Both their minds and their souls are oriented toward the ethnic nation that they belong to.” He paused to draw a long, deep breath. “Their very lives are expendable for the goals they all share. There is no sacrifice that any of them would be unwilling to make for what they believe in.”

Sevu’s coffee-colored eyes appeared to flame forth with a shining passion. “I think our inhabitants here in the Sinoria are a very special breed of Tolxi. That may stem from our geographical position adjacent to the Sponsia-Bumgia boundary line.

“Do not overlook or minimize the direct influence that the international border has upon their practices and attitudes. I believe that this factor explains a lot about the attitude that both you and I witnessed today among my neighbors and fellow Tolxi.”

“How do you think my speech and the words I used affected the reactions of my audience today?” inquired the man from the Chief Committee. “Did I incite the force of their response in any way?”

Sevu gave him a warm, disarming grin. “I believe that they were, within themselves and their thoughts, prepared to become fired up, both as individuals and as a crowd group. You merely provided the occasion and the circumstances for a result that was foreordained. The reactions to you were inevitable.”

Azo frowned with personal embarrassment as if he had been humiliated by what had happened. “I hope that I can have a more positive and rational effect the next time I talk to a group of local people,” he softly muttered.

“I will try to take you into a different kind of situation, my friend. Have you ever heard of those individuals here in Sinoria referred to as the ‘coverts’ or the ‘runners’? Do you have any idea what they are engaged in?”

The visitor looked confused and at a loss. “No, not at all. Those terms that you are using are new and unfamiliar to me in connection with this border zone of yours.”

“Coverts and runners are the smugglers who operate in gangs that transport goods across the boundary, from Bumgia into Sponsia, or the other way, vice versa.

“The police and the law in both countries consider them illegal criminals who carry cargos without permission or inspection, and especially without paying any taxes whatever. These coverts are carriers and cargoers. Among themselves, they tend to call each other ‘hawks’.”

That is most interesting,” reacted Azo. “But why do you believe I ought to meet such characters? Are they members or potential members of our movement? Are they sympathetic to the Tolx cause?”

Sevu peered at his guest as of making a secretive evaluation of him. “I will take you to meet an interesting goat-herding friend of mine, but that will have to be done tomorrow morning. We are both tired after our strenuous activities and both need to rest up.”

II.

The two men left the cottage as the dawning sol revealed its bright orange-red disc in the direction of the border with Bumgia. Sevu began to give his plan for the day as he led Azo along a narrow footpath that took them toward the ascending orb of blinding light.

“We are going to a position which a number of covert gangs use as a holding-resting location after carrying out a transfer of cargo from the other side over to Sponsia. I am certain that we will be able to find persons of interest to us there with their goat flocks. You will be able to observe for yourself how simple goat-herders can function as artful, wily smugglers of goods across the international line.”

As he followed the steps of Sevu with the energetic vigor demanded for that task, Azo considered and reconsidered what he had just learned from his guide over the rocky hills.

“I imagine these herders of goats have to overcome enormous difficulties in order to convey property of different varieties across a border that is fenced and periodically watched over by armed guards.

“I would have to think that they are crafty, resourceful operators who must overcome enormous hazards and a constant chance of being apprehended and arrested by official border patrols on both sides.”

Unexpectedly, Sevu broke out with several sharp sounds of unsuccessfully suppressed laughter.

“You are going to meet an astoundingly intelligent covert who has the high reputation of being a proven master smuggler. Whatever it is that a customer wants or orders, Gavu can obtain and transport it over into this country. And he has shown himself a crafty, skillful supplier and transporter in both directions across the border.”

The Pair continued climbing and descending, climbing and descending, into the hilly highland along the borderline.

The large herd of half a hundred or so goats was busy grazing in a swale beneath a high ridge pointing into the sky.

A lanky, soaring man dressed in scraggy herder’s clothing approached the two advancing up the narrow path.

“Greetings, Gavu,,” shouted Sevu in a roaring tone. “How are you? I have brought the person sent us by the Chief Committee, and I wish to introduce you to him.” He proceeded to present and name each of the men to each other.

Gavu beamed a shining, brilliant smile at the stranger whom he stared at with unconcealed curiosity.

“What do you think of my herd of goats?” said their owner. “They are descendants of our traditional breed called the special, unique Tolxian variety. You can identify them by their peculiarly horns, twisted toward the outside in a strange way.

“I obtain a good amount of both milk and meat from these champions of mine. Look at their long ears and very small faces. No one can confuse them with any other breed of goats in either Sponsia or Bumgia.

“And my animals are valuable for their rich red skin hairs that city artisans make into thick wool cloth or shoe leather. These darlings of mine bring a lot of money to me when I succeed in finding a buyer for them.”

Azo extended his right hand and taking hold of the one belonging to the goat-owner, gave it a vigorous, lengthy shaking.

“I have to tell you, Gavu, that our friend was sent to us by the Chief Committee, the highest executive body within the Tolx national movement,” explained Sevu. “He has come to us on a mission of supreme, overwhelming importance concerning the future course that we will be taking as a people.

“But I must and I will allow him to describe and outline what our future as Tolxi is going to include and contain,” said the short local leader with a smile of positive promise.

Gavu then invited Azo to take a walk with him upwards on the steep hill. “I can show you the goats that I own and the ones I tend for neighbors, giving you an idea of what highlanders like me are involved in every day up here on the pastures and grasslands of Sinoria,” loudly claimed the herder.

While Sevu stayed talking with a knot of other shepherds, Azo followed the lead of the one called Gavu to a higher elevation of the hill, where a congregated group of reddish-haired goats was busy grazing on the verdant grass.

“I can imagine how great is the interest of the main leaders on the Chief Committee in our cross-border activities,” suddenly, unexpectedly asserted the herder Gavu, without preamble or introduction of any sort.

The disconcerted visitor had the presence of mind to give his agreement to this, nodding his head with vigor and murmuring softly “Yes, you are right about that. Your mind is very quick and perceptive, my good fellow.”

Azo looked directly into the weathered face of Gavu, waiting to find out what he might be hinting at.

“Over many generations, we who live and work with the special red goats of Sinoria have developed a particular breed of herding dog to guard, lead, and take charge over our large flocks. You and others from outside our region have probably never seen of heard of the canine variety that we employ as our headers and our heelers. This assistant to the herder helps by fetching, backing, and guiding the goats that make up a herd. A team of such dogs is able to act as a kind of living fence and prevent the loss or injury of any member of a flock.

“But there are certain complicated services that only our goat dogs can perform, and these have to do with objectives that would be impossible or extremely difficult without a well-controlled and managed herding of our goat flocks.” Gavo seemed to make a light smile. “But I can see that the Chief Committee is fully aware of the unseen deeds that we perform for them on the borderline…”

All at once, Gavu stopped, his eyes peering over the shoulder of Azo at something approaching from below them.

“Here comes Sevu up the hill,” announced the goat-herder, almost as if giving a warning to his companion.

The thread of unforeseen explanation by this man is now broken, Azo at once realized.

When will I be able to learn more about what he is hinting at and getting to? the visitor wondered to himself.

As he neared the two persons above him on the hill, Sevu called out to them.

“There is a good sized group of goat-herders gathered down there, and they are waiting to hear words from the representative of the Chief Committee who has come such a distance to speak to them,” shouted the one who had scheduled and arranged this assembly of herders. “If you are ready, we can begin.”

Azo, followed by Gavu, began to make his way downhill.

“I am glad to be here in Sinoeia, a region that reflects the character of the ethnic creature known to itself and others as the Tolx. If they happen to be a people of the border, than the people whom you represent are a great example of this quality of living on a frontier. In other words, border inhabitants like you are the most Tolxian of all Tolxi. For the physical international frontier divides and separates Tolxi from other Tolxi more sharply and cruelly here than about anywhere else.

“But do not despair. A renewal in the lives of Tolxi everywhere is going to be realized. It is coming closer to realization than ever before in history. For the Tolxian movement for independence and self-determination is on the verge of realizing what earlier might have been considered impossible.

“Never before have the Tolxi been so organized and so united. The goals of this nation, divided by the Sponsia-Bumgia border, are clearly conscious in the minds of thousands and thousands.

“The Tolxi wait expectantly for the gaining of their freedom and self-governing. They know it is coming, and it is inevitable. Who can defeat or halt such a movement of a people welded together by history, language, and culture?

“I have come among you here today to inform and remind you that the Tolxi movement will stand and fight for you with all its might, energy, and resources. You, every one of you, can place you trust and hopes in our Tolxi national organization and its Chief Committee. We pledge ourselves to never fail or deceive you in any way whatsoever.

“The fight continues on. You must stand with us, for we shall forever stand with you, our beloved comrades!”

A hearty cheer and handclapping broke out with genuine, spontaneous fervor. Its force was a surprise to the speaker as Azo held out his hand to shake those of the herder audience of about a dozen who had been his listeners.

The enthusiasm of those who had heard his words infected him with its raw, primal emotion. He sensed a new form of success for the very first time. His hand was seized again and again, until it was exhausted from the flood of sympathy and acceptance flowing to him from the congregated goat-herders.

Sevu came forward and whispered to Azo.

“You were most impressive, I tell you. But now we have to leave and make the return to my cottage, because it takes considerable time to walk there from right here.”

Azo shook the hands of two more of the herders, then excused himself and departed in the company of his guide and host.

III.

The two walkers returned to the cottage of Sevu exhausted from their physical and mental exertions that day.

The host boiled a pot of wild herb tea before they both retired for the night.

Azo decided to use the few minutes left him while his guide remained awake to present him a question concerning what had been provoked in his mind by the statements that the herder called Gavu had uttered to him.

“I remain puzzled about how it is ever done,” enigmatically muttered the visitor sent by the Chief Committee.

He waited expectantly to see what reply the other would provide him.

“I don’t understand,” said the puzzled Sevu. “How is what done?”

The man standing opposite him grinned a little. “The ones engaged in smuggling. I had the impression today that some of the herders who were there at the meeting are active participants in that sort of business. There was a hint of it in the words that I heard in conversation with the one named Gavu. But I did not inquire for exact details and nothing specific was presented to me by him or anyone else.

“So, I came back here curious about it, but without any reliable knowledge at all.”

A long pause followed in which Sevu attempted to determine what he dared to say to this member of the Chief Committee who had come on assignment from the top level of the Tolx movement.

“It is not an insolvable riddle to figure out how goat-herders succeed in moving important items of value across the actual physical border between the two adjacent geographic countries. They have a clever, ingenious means of transport right in front of them every morning.” He gazed at the face and eyes of Azo as if waiting for a reaction he could anticipate was about to occur. “The herding and healing dogs have been trained to lead the red coats with objects tied around them to the exact destination they are meant to take them to. It is all accomplished by utilizing those wonderfully capable goat-dogs. It is as simple as that, my friend.”

Having confessed this recondite secret, Servu smiled as if liberated from the weigh of a very heavy matter of considerable significance.

Azo stepped away, realizing that he had to think out what he had just heard from the short, thin Tolx who had taken him into his home cottage.

“What have I come across?” he asked himself innumerable times. “Am I misinterpreting or overemphasizing the small number of words that I heard the goat-herder Gavu pronounce in his short exchange with me up in the highland?”

It became difficult for him to find any sleep that night, despite being so exhausted from his physical exertion in the trek with Sevu.

Azo only lost consciousness after coming to a decision to return to the pastures he had visited and ask some important questions of the goat-owner he had met and had a brief conversation with.

=

“I think I should take the day off and rest a bit,” he said to his host during their early breakfast a little after dawn. “It would be nice for me just to take a walk around this immediate vicinity. It causes me to find restful restoration by just wandering around a little and letting my mind wind down some,” he mentioned with a conciliatory smile on his face.

“That sounds like a good idea,” responded Sevu. “I will have a lot to do here around the cottage, weeding my gardens and feeding my goats and my chickens.”

Once his morning gruel was finished, Azo excused himself and headed for the pathway that went by the cottage.

Retracing his earlier steps when he had been accompanied by Sevu, the walker progressed upward and forward with growing self-confidence, as well as belief that he had made a wise and promising decision to try to find the herder who had impressed him with the few words he had pronounced the day before.

He found himself taking note of and identifying grasses and plants he had not focused upon the first time.

Could he learn anything of possible value from finding and talking with the interesting person named Gavu?

But first of all, I have to locate him, he told himself with unconscious irony. I must be in contact with him if I mean to pose any sort of question to this character of mystery.

The mind of the one looking for a specific goat-herder grew nearly unconscious of the passage of minutes, then entire hours. His thoughts wandered to themes and subjects that had travelled along with himself to Sinoria.

I am more convinced than I ever was before that I was right to join and become a member of the Tolxi movement for independence and self-determination. But was I in reality prepared and capable of taking on the heavy, important responsibility of recruitment onto the Chief Committee? Have I taken on more than I can competently handle?

What am I attempting to accomplish here in the vicinity of the international border?

Am I chasing some kind of cloudy aim personal to only myself? Azo speculated as he climbed a steep grade to the upper heights overlooking a grassy pasture.

All of a sudden, he spied a small flock of red goats, and then their herder. He realized immediately that this was not the one that he sought, Gavu, who was spare and lanky. This man appeared to be the exact opposite, short and weighty.

But he might be able to provide some directions on where and how to reach the herder he was after.

Azo approached the fat herder with caution, uncertain how this stranger might decide to interact with him.

“Good morning, my good man. How are you today? The weather conditions look quite favorable and promising to me, but who can tell? There are many changes that can occur to upset the expectations of everyone.

“But allow me to ask you for directions that could be of enormous benefit to me.

“Let me explain. I am trying to locate and contact a particular goat-owner and herder whom I met yesterday, while a meeting was in progress among a group of Tolx herders interested in certain national questions and problems.

“The name of this specific individual whom I seek to find is Gavu. Do you know the man? Can you tell me where he might be found at the present moment?

“It may be of importance to him that he and I have the opportunity to speak to each other.”

Azo gazed at the herder, only a few feet away from him, with a humble, beseeching expression on his face.

The heavyset one answered in a dry, rasping tone. “I think that Gavu is a couple of hills closer to the border barrier. He was taking his goats in that direction while I was moving my flock the opposite way, to get to this verdant pasture land. We exchanged greetings as we passed by each other.”

“Thank you, thank you so much,” grinned Azo as he turned away and proceeded over that hill, in the direction indicated by this goatherd tenderer.

I am heading the right way now, he said to himself with greater confidence. Closer, with each step, to the border with Bumgia. It seemed to him that with each step forward he noticed a certain quality of emptiness, as if he was entering a kind of no-mans-land of some strange sort.

IV.

The border fence was old and decrepit, showing its age and disrepair.

Azo gazed at it from a distant point on a high, overhanging ridge that gave a view downward to the demarcated physical boundary between Sponsia and Bumgia. He stood still looking at it, but suddenly caught sight of a moving object that startled him.

A small red goat appeared to climb out of some tunnel that jutted out from underneath the metal border fence.

Within just a few seconds, a second such animal, smaller than the first one, appeared.

As the pair of red goats moved forward away from the border fence, a third companion followed them.

All at once, Azo saw three, then four, such red animals.

“Hello, my friend. What are you doing here this morning?” said a voice from behind his back.

Azo spun himself about, enabling him to see who it was addressing him.

Tall, slender Gavu peered at him with a self-confident smile and a glow on his face.

“Good morning, my good man,” began the border explorer. “I have made a trek up to the demarcation line that forms the international boundary because I possess enormous curiosity about its condition and how it looks. When I was commissioned by the Chief Committee to visit Sinoria and give speeches and talk with the movement’s members, I became quite determined to see and examine the physical border on my own, for myself, so to speak.

“Because I have nothing scheduled for me today, I decided to come up for a close-up view of what divides the territory of Sponsia from that of its neighbor, Bumgia.

“But it was a great surprise to me to see a parade of red goats under and through the metal barrier fence.

“This is totally surprising and unforeseen to me, and I have no explanation for such a strange sight.”

He looked directly at the herder, waiting for him to give him some sort of explanation.

Davu seemed to look away to one side, avoiding the direct gaze of Azo.

“It is quite simple,” muttered the herder. “If you carefully examine one of these creatures, you will find a number of strong cloth bands attached around their bodies.

“In other words, the goats are acting as carriers in an operation that the police authorities would have to define as a kind of illegal smuggling across the borders of our two countries,” asserted Gavu with an outlaw’s uninhibited pride.

“Smugglinng!” said Azo in sudden, instant surprise, before he could control or rephrase his words. “Are you yourself the one in command of and directing this crossing of the demarcated boundary line?”

“Do not be alarmed or troubled by what you now are seeing, friend,” soothingly declared the goat-owner. “This is not new. It did not begin yesterday. Smuggling has been a second, hidden profession of flock-herders in Sinoria for countless generations, as far back as our family memories extend into our past.

“You must certainly know of this concealed activity, as one of the members of the Chief Committee of the Tolx independence movement. Have you never heard of what we do as transporters across the international border?”

“I am a new member,” weakly said Azo in an unsteady voice. “There has been no occasion for me to become informed about the matter, I am afraid.”

The herder took a step closer, till he stood only a foot or so away from the young man who had surprised him by his appearance beside the old, outmoded border fence.

“This line between the two lands has always had the character of being artificial and easily crossed by those with the correct knowledge and experience,” related Gavu in a matter-of-fact tone. “But we who live along the border have never bandied about or advertised what goes on when no one is watching.”

Looking to the right, then the left, Azo now saw a small herd of the red goats, taking note of the brown belts that many of the animals revealed attached to the middle of their bodies. He could make out both little and large packets held in place by the belts worn by several of the goats congregated in the tunnel extending from the border line.

“Yes,” continued Gavu, “the goats wearing the belts are carrying valuable items from over in Bumgia, to us on this side of the line. This kind of trade did not begin yesterday. It has been going on from the days of our earliest Tolx ancestors, I have been told by those who know.”

The two stared at each other a brief time, each of them trying to size up the other.

Gavu suddenly asked a question. “Surely, you must have been sent here to Sinoria with some mission connected with the shipments of arms to the bands that we are forming?

“Tell me, do you think that the Chief Committee is ready to send out the signal for the border to be seized and occupied in the near future? Will it happen in a few weeks, or a couple of months? What do you know? What are you authorized to tell me and my comrades?”

His facial expression was an anxiously pleading one, eager for information that Azo was not able to provide him.

“You and I must find a place where we can converse in safety and in isolation,” said the one still shaken by the discovery he had just stumbled upon. “Do you have a shelter or cottage of your own where the two of us can sit down, rest, and have ourselves a lot of important talk?”

The flock of red goats was driven forward into a hillside pasture by a team of three large, muscular dogs.

Azo watched with interest as Gavu controlled the group movement through nonverbal signals to these herding assistants of his.

Once the animals were settled and grazing, the herd-owner turned to the visitor and told him to accompany him to a nearby shed situated a small distance from the border fence.

The pair sat down on awkwardly constructed benches across from each other.

“There is much that you and I have to discuss,” muttered Gavu. “I have to know exactly what the Chief Committee expects of me and my neighbors when the day of attack finally arrives for us here on the border.”

Azo studied the wrinkled, weathered face of the border inhabitant with steadfast attention as if hunting for a solution to the mystery and enigma presented by almost everything this fellow was saying to him.

“A lot of my personal ignorance of certain matters connected to activities along and across the boundary may be due to the recent nature of my elevation to the Chief Committee,” speculated the newcomer to Sinoria. “There could have been no reason or purpose in informing me of certain subjects like this. They are best kept secret, some may have decided. As a result, I may have had no good reason to know about such a sensitive operation as what you happen to be accomplishing with your red goat herd.”

“I am by no means alone in this endeavor across the borderline,” argued Gavu. “There are dozens of other herd-owners like me who are engaged in the smuggling of a variety of arms into the Sinoria sector of Sponsia. There are many like me, I can tell you with absolute certainty.

“And, of course, there exist a large contingent of other Tolx goat-herders over on the Bumgian side of the border.

“We receive visits from the main organizers of weapon shipments notifying us of the time and place of each individual crossover transfer. Everything occurs in a coordinated, systematic, planned schedule. A lot of skilled brains spend time and effort in guaranteeing the success of all our operations in the smuggling we carry out.”

“There are members of our movement over in Bumgia who are an important, integral part of this kind of enterprise, then?” concluded Azo.

Gavu seemed to give out a chuckle. “The top planner and coordinator is a member of the Chief Committee and you must surely be acquainted with the man.

“His name is Yino Maja, and he is a virtual physical giant.”

The mind of Azo Tvot seemed to go blank for several seconds. He swallowed hard, then gasped for breath. His head seemed to be swimming and whirling about for a short time.

Did I hear him correctly? Am I only imagining what I think he said? Am I suddenly drowning in a flood of dreamy illusion? How can I deny what my ears reported to my inner thinking only moments ago?

Azo found himself unable to make further inquiry on what he thought he had just learned and uncovered.

He smiled and held his tongue passive and quiet, until he could figure out what this discovery might mean for the movement and for him individually.

V.

How to find out the scope and the intentions that another member of the Chief Committee had in this unusual project of his? Was he acting with the knowledge of others on the head body, or was he involved in some sort of rogue operation outside the official organization of the Tolz independence movement?

Yino Maja had made a negative impression on him during the meeting at the Jost farm.

Was he a dangerous hothead with extremely violent motives, goals, and ideas?

Azo decided to return the next day to the pasture that Gavu used for his own flock of goats. He had to learn the connections that existed across the border and the importance of the role in this matter played by the giant leader from Bumgia named Yino Maja.

“We have several more days before our next meeting with people who live in Sinoria,” the visitor said to his host the following morning. He smiled convincingly at Sevu, explaining what he was aiming to do the rest of the day. “I want to make myself familiar with this border territory by exploring it on my own. That will make it a lot easier to talk to our movement’s members and connect them to our organization and its plans for the future.”

Azo left the cottage, stepping forth into the bright light from the sky soon after dawn. He was up and out on his own quite early, as he planned to be. His immediate goal was to relocate the goat-herder named Gavu so as to try to question him as carefully and subtly as possible.

He grinned, but was unable to conceive of any idea why he should be doing so.

Was he being tempted by the imagined prospect of learning from the herder he meant to talk to once more.

What was there that Gavu might reveal to him about an unknown something deep within the Tolx movement for national freedom?

It was easy to find the goat-herder in the same border area where he had been the day before.

Azo noticed instantly that there was something going on starkly different from what he had witnessed before. The red goats were not proceeding forth out of the sub-boundary tunnel, but were slowly entering it in the opposite direction. The process observed by him yesterday was this morning in reverse direction.

What did this unexpected situation mean? he wondered as he looked around for the lanky herder who would have an explanatory answer.

All at once, the long, slender body of Gavu emerged from the part of the tunnel closest to the boundary fence.

The flock was no longer visible to Azo, having in all probability disappeared over onto the country of Bumgia.

It now appeared that Gavu, with the help of his team of herding dogs, had succeeded in transporting his flock to the other side, the neighboring land to Sponsia.

Present circumstances presented him a perfect opportunity to press more information out of the goat-owner, realized Azo as he strode forward to greet the man.

“Good morning, Gavu. How are you doing? It looks to me like we are going to have a beautiful day to enjoy today. But where is your flock of goats? I thought I saw some of them heading toward where the border with Bumgia runs.”

The herder did not reply until he stopped only a yard or so away from his visitor. “How are you, my friend? I did not expect to see you again so quickly. Are you exploring and viewing our international boundary again? Or are you interested in participating yourself in my over-the-border smuggling business?” said the goat-man with a short laugh.

Azo at once decided it would be best for him not to give a direct answer to this, but to divert the other into another matter as quickly as possible.

“I am completely astounded by how, from one day to the next, the direction that your red goats take can be reversed. The flock that had been bringing items and materials out of Bumgia into Sponsia, is this morning making its way back into the land of Bumgia.

“Do the animals carry on them a cargo from this country into the neighboring one? Is that what is going on this morning?

“I am totally amazed at the versatility and flexibility of what can be accomplished by herders such as you. It is magical. I think it is incredible.”

He stared at the border inhabitant with enthusiastic emotion and an eager expression. Was he going to gain more of the truth from him?

Gavu, taking a step closer, began to make the kind of revelations that his new companion was longing for.

“You do not understand at all, my good pal. If trade and traffic can be brought one way, it can also take the same road backwards, in full reverse. That is what is happening this morning, contrasted to what you saw me engaged in just yesterday.

“But this morning I am not transporting arms, weapons, or ammunition of any kind over the border into Bumgia. Not at all, for I am today going back to a kind of commerce that I learned from both my father and my grandfather, and that they, I am sure, learned from their own Tolxi ancestors.

“What today’s operation with the goats consists of is old-fashioned conveyance of precious jewelry and women’s cosmetics made by Tolxi specialists here in Sponsia over, or rather under, the border into Bumgia. No custom duties whatever are paid by me or anyone else. The final transaction will be free of taxes or interference by anyone. It promises to be very profitable to me as its manager and organizer.”

A gleeful grin seemed to grow and expand around the thin lips of Gavu the goat-herder.

“I do not understand why it is that someone with you on the Chief Committee has not thought of telling you what the plans are for using small arms here along the border. Whatever it might have been, you obviously know nothing at all about what the aims and the intent of these weapons happens to be.

“I have sent a message to a person in charge of my end of the program and its activities. That has been the area of my contribution to our national movement. I have been in charge of moving specific combat items in both directions with the aim of arming and equipping the local units of the Tolx movement.

“If you wish to find out the precise details of the project I have been recruited into, you must inquire elsewhere, that is plain.

“So, in order to assist you in satisfying your avid curiosity, I have sent a secret message to my superior here in Sinoeia. There should be a reply coming back to me very soon, I trust. Then, I shall be fully authorized to reveal to you all that I know about this grand adventure of ours on the borderline.”

Azo suddenly became anxious. “But why can’t you describe the general outline of why this particular kind of smuggling is going on. That would be of enormous benefit to me. Just the direction in which all this action by you and others is going.

“I am guessing, or making the supposition that the program of smuggling of arms is aimed at organizing a rebellion or revolt, an uprising of sorts along the Sponsia-Bumgia border.

“Am I right in that kind of speculation?”

The questioner waited in silence for a considerable time. He could see that the herder was having major difficulty in deciding how to answer him. It could turn out to be a serious mistake if he revealed too much of what he himself knew about the possible future use of whatever was now said here on the borderline.

“It will take me at least until tomorrow to contact someone over in Bumgia and receive instructions on what I am to tell you about this particular project.

“So, I must ask you to be patient and wait till tomorrow morning. I will use an electronic transmitter that I keep in my personal cabin. As soon as I am told that I have permission to go on, I promise to do so and give you a description of what I know about this matter.

“Is that clear to you?”

Azo made a wry face. “Yes,” he nodded. “I agree to wait until tomorrow morning and return to this spot for answers.”

Without another word, he turned and walked away the way he had come.

VI.

“We have two more days until the group in a neighboring part of the border zone is ready for your appearance in front of them,” Sevu told his cottage guest as soon as the two of them were finished with his breakfast on the following period of early dawn.

“I will be more than ready for them,” responded Azo across the table from him.

He would soon be seeing Gavu once again, he told himself. What would the goat-herder have available to give him? How would he himself react to whatever he learned at that moment?

There was a lot on his mind as the visitor left the cottage and stepped into the growing, brightening light of early morning. It felt like it took him less time to reach the spot of the border breach this time.

Stopping to look about, he searched for a sign of Gavu and his goats.

An electric shock seemed to strike Azo with shattering intensity the moment he caught sight of an unforeseen situation.

There were two human shapes standing together at the start of the decline into the border tunnel.

One of them he recognized at once as the one he expected to see, Gavu the herder.

The second person was recognizable within seconds, causing a virtual mental explosion in the brain of Azo.

Are my eyes suddenly liars seeing a false, imagined form? Can what they tell me be the truth?

Is the member of the Chief Committee actually present? Why did Yino Maja make an unforeseeable journey to confront another member of that executive body of the Tolx movement.

The fat giant from Bumgia suddenly began to speak as it took several steps toward the speechless Azo.

“Although you stumbled upon the actions going on along the Sponsia-Bumgia border, this is not really a secret project in essence. The general concept has always been an important ingredient in our Tolxian liberation ideology, from its very beginning. It has always been a matter of time: how advanced must the starting, early preparations go forward and become completed before the Chief Committee discusses and authorizes our movement’s entering into the warlike state of full rebellion? Before the first act of a popular insurrection can be enacted by our members, before actual physical conflict breaks out in the cities, villages, and countryside of our Tolx territories, we shall have to consult, deliberate, decide, and transmit detailed plans and orders to all of our local units in both countries.

“So, my friend, you can understand why you, our newest and least experienced member, were not given the information that still had to be confirmed and validated by leading actors such as me.”

Yino transmitted a self-confident, condescending grin to the junior member of the committee that both of them were members of.

Azo searched for words that might express his emotions without saying anything hostile or insulting to the fat man he had just minutes before come across at this crossover portion of the borderline.

“I must find out much more,” began the still bewildered and disoriented newcomer to Sinoria. “You have to help me understand how this plan for actual revolt is going to be organized and then managed and carried out.

“What you have said so far has created a hundred questions for me that I cannot at all answer for myself from what I already know.

“There are loads and loads of things that I have to learn, master, and think out. This will not at all be easy or smooth for me. Rather than that, all of this is going to cause me a mountain of difficulty.”

Yino took a few moments to consider what was his best course to take in dealing with the problem posed for him in the discovery just made by the newest member of the Chief Committee.

“I tell you what I will do for you, my dear comrade,” he began. “We must be patient and take sufficient time to understand and analyze the practical situation our movement and our people face. It is our responsibility to make all the necessary preparations for taking in hand direct action to obtain national freedom and self-determination. There can be no other imaginable alternative to what is now being done in the border zone, both here in Sinoria and within Bumgia.”

The heavy man halted a moment. He seemed to study the face of Azo as if trying to guess or estimate what the reaction might turn out to be to what he was on the verge of proposing.

“Can you join me across the border? I could show you what we have accomplished in our material preparations for the anticipated day of final reckoning with the two governments that oppress our beloved Tolxi people.

“I guarantee that you will find what you see and hear over there most enlightening and encouraging for the future of our liberation movement.”

“But I am obligated to make visits hereabouts, as well as give addresses to small groups of local residents within Sinoria. Their are a number of individuals who are awaiting my return within the days ahead.”

Yino smiled with self-confidence. “If you can inform your closest assistants rapidly today, I shall be back at this spot tomorrow morning at this time. There will be no obstacle to having you come with me in order to inform yourself of how advanced our program has already advanced and attained toward its goal.

“Will you be here tomorrow, my good man?”

“I will try, but that is not a question on which I can give you a firm promise, for I must win release from other, personal obligations. That is what I owe to those who are working with me here.”

“That you are justified in considering and providing for,” asserted the stout leader from Bumgia. “I can see that you are a person with a very strong moral spine. Indeed, you are a unique character, yes you are.”

With that, Yino turned around and retreated back through the border tunnel.

Azo did not disclose the entire story of what he had been drawn into at the smugglers’ tunnel. He did not describe what he had learned about preparations for an armed rebellion by the Tolxi.

My own knowledge, at this precise moment, is severely limited.

Sevu had no objections to the temporary suspension of Azo’s speaking tour. “Yes, it could be quite helpful to you in your future activities to go over into Bumgia and see for yourself what our brothers and sisters in that other country are engaged with. It will provide you a wider, richer prospective on how our Tolxi cope with problems of rule by outsiders.”

Azo thanked him and then began to prepare for the adventure that awaited him when he met and proceeded on with Yino Maja.

VII.

The morning sky was clouded and darker than on the previous day, so that the mood of the one walking alone toward the crossover location was somewhat apprehensive. What might lie ahead for him on the other side of the frontier?

Gavu and Yino were standing facing each other, conversing about something that drew all their attention, so that it took a couple of seconds to realize that a third person was approaching them.

It was the goat-herder who noticed the advent of the person they were both expecting.

“It is good to see you,” called out Yino in a merry tone. “Are you ready to jump across into Bumgia, my friend?”

Asa did not speak until he was standing in front of the two others.

“I am eager to jump over and start on whatever there is to see and hear about what you spoke to me about yesterday,” said the newly arrived individual. He turned to Gavu with a question. “How is everything going for you with your goats?” he inquired.

“Quite well, I can say. But I am so happy that you shall be entering into Bumgia and seeing how life proceeds on in that country among our Tolxi. You will learn a great deal about how our people on that side cope with the forces that surround them. It will make it easier for you to both act and make decisions. It will benefit you a lot.”

“Let us get going at once,” proposed Yino. “There is much for you to see and for me to explain over on the other side.”

Aso at once fell in line behind the other member of the Chief Committee, waving a small farewell to Gavu the herder as he disappeared into the cross-border tunnel following his new guide.

This side of the international border is in many ways unlike what I saw and experienced back there in Sinonia, the walker told himself as he followed Yino in total silence.

He could see in the distance what appeared to be thick, leafy forests. There was more than traditional pasturing going on here in Bumgia, even among its Tolx population.

There was a flock of red goats visible, but they were huddled together within a wooden fence that surrounded them on all four sides.

All at once, Yino stopped moving forward and spun himself about, facing Azo directly in the face and compelling him to halt his own advance.

“What is it?” murmured the surprised, disconcerted follower.

“I should tell you what my immediate plans are,” noted the man in front. “You will soon come with me into a goat shelter where my assistants are placing packets of small arms into bands that we plan to bind our next company of goats with. They will be guided by a team of herding dogs across into Sponsia, where these weapons will then be distributed among units of our members in Sinonia.

“Already, a sizable quantity has been delivered to Tolxi who are prepared and trained to make full use of them when the signal comes that rebellion has started. Our civilian forces will be able to cope with the local police, plus with any reinforcements that the government sends into the border area.

“Our movement have an easy time seizes possession of the entire boundary zone between Bumgia and Sponsia. No one in authority will ever have conceived or dreamed of such an unusual, unprecedented strategy. We shall enjoy the advantage of a surprise attack, an assault as if out of the blue.” The fat man grinned as if he were contemplating a tasty delicacy. “And we shall then hold the upper hand over our enemies. They will have to satisfy our demand for freedom and autonomy.”

Azo was too overwhelmed to say anything in reply to this.

I must wait and find out how this scheme will affect me and my own obligations to the Tolx people and those individuals I have come to know, his conscience demanded of him.