13 Sep

Meton Gouvia had no clear or definite idea what lay ahead for him in Aimant as he gazed out of a window of the magneto train rushing past the ferroconcrete skytowers of the great industrial megalopolis.

His cinnamic eyes caught sight of the gigantic cement block that housed the Ministry of Identification, the target of this important trip of his.

He had only days before been hired to work as a mnemomech programmer by that government department. This was to be his first appearance on the job, one that he had not yet been described for him in detail.

Once the magneto cars came to a stop in the central rail depot, Meton climbed down and went out to the street to hail a jitney cab.

The lanky technician, in pea green jacquet, yellow corduroy trousers, and orange slouch hat, had only a short ride to Ministry headquarters.

Wearing a red neckerchief that matched his rufous moustache and sideburns, he entered the gigantic cement building with firm, confident steps.

This was where magnetomnems of enormous capacity kept the records of the enormously large Aimantan population.

What future will I meet with here? Meton kept asking himself.

Asking for directions several times, the new man was guided to the office of the Mnemomech Director, Capso Lapia. The enormous room was paneled in magnificent bluewood. A large zirconic desk separated the official from the new employee.

“Please be seated,” said Lapia, wearing an expensive purple business caftan. His weighty, rotund body topped by a giant circular head with sooty, black, dilated eyes.

“You are highly recommended by your instructors and professors, my boy,” began the superior. “I intend to have you start work at once as a file inscriber. Are you ready to apply what has been learned in the lecture hall and the laboratory?”

“Indeed, I am,” responded Meton with a broad, radiant grin. “All my life, I have looked forward to becoming a practicing magnetist.”

All of a sudden, the Director leaped out of his great metalline chair.

Meton also rose and followed him out of the office, down a lengthy corridor without doors. The pair made their way into the central chamber where teams of enscribers worked at filter tables.

Lapia stopped and turned to his companion.

“I presume you are quite versed in gyromagnetics?” he inquired.

“That was my major educational concentration, in which I specialized.”

The executive smiled like a cat. “It was a miraculous breakthrough, the discovery only two generations ago of the magnetic microfields generated by particle rotation. As our field has progressed, an increasing flood of applications have developed. But it is the area of memory banking in which you and I are interested. That is where the government of Aimant wishes to employ our special skills.”

A wide smile covered the mouth and lower face of Meton.

“We have succeeded in harnessing the magnetic potential of scores of subatomic particles,” he mused aloud. “Today there are hundreds of practical applications of the new magnetic science.”

“Indeed!” nodded Capso Lapia, gesturing to an enscriber to approach them. He then left the new worker to this specialist, who took charge of the detailed orientation of Meton Gauvia. The latter sat down at a magnetoscope and was shown the operation of programmed nodules, membra, and matrices. That very day, the new enscriber began his own assignments in the gyromagnetic flux within the mnemomech.

Meton had rented a flat in a multiplex on the outskirts of the city, adjacent to the skydrome where passenger aerodynes and aerostats took off and landed. He ate his late meals at a nearby family eatery called the Coquina.

It was here that, after a week of work at the Mnemomech, a stranger approached his tiny table and addressed him. The short, slight man wore a white coat of jaconet. His hazelly eyes gleamed with strong self-confidence and vigor.

“Mr. Gouvia. It is of enormous importance that you and I speak. May I sit down at your tabula and describe the problem that concerns me?”

Meton breathlessly gaped, but then gave a nod and answered “Yes.”

The one in white sat down and introduced himself.

“My name is Aposio Yesa, and my profession is that of family solicitor at law. I am acting for a client in extreme distress. It happens that years ago, as a juvenile with a wild temper, this person was arrested and convicted for assault in the course of a youthful brawl. This incident was not expunged from the court records. Most importantly, it is described in his official identification file held by your Ministry. There it remains and plagues the path of his life.

“Now an adult with a mature, peaceable character, the man is unable to gain any respectable employment. He must remain at the bottom of the ladder as a night janitor in a skytower of Aimant. A handicap in identity has resulted in his total ruin.”

Meton then spoke up. “I fail to see how this sad situation concerns me, sir.”

Yesa lowered his head, eyes still focused on the magnetic programmer.

“We all recognize that amendment and recasting of records is possible,” he said softly.

“That is not at all easy, because it takes an order from the highest juridical court to accomplish. It is a difficult, lengthy procedure when done.”

The lawyer made a sardonic grimace. “There have been rare cases of informal correction.”

Both of them stared at the other in silence for a time.

“Would you agree to meet with my client?” whispered Yesa. “I can arrange to have it happen this very evening, if you wish.”

Meton considered quickly, but as thoroughly as he could.

“As soon as my supper is finished, I can join you.”

The other rose to his feet. “I shall wait for you in the anteroom. My locomobile is parked right outside, on the levator deck.”

Gouvia, left alone now, ate the remainder of his bison fricassee, wondering what he had involved himself in.

The law office consisted of two small, dusty rooms over a sporting-goods store.

A tall young man sat waiting in the inner chamber. Yesa introduced this individual to Meton as the victim of magnetized personal history. When all were seated, this person told his tragic life story.

“I was quite naïve as a teenager, easy for others to influence and mislead. A gang in my neighborhood recruited me into its minor crimes. The public constables captured me when my comrades and I were engaged in robbing the owner of a corner newsstand of his coins and specie.

“The juvenile court judge sentenced me to reformation school, where I was kept over a year. Ever since, I am either denied employment or swiftly fired as soon as my bosses receive my identity report from the government. There is no future for me with such a negative magnetic record. That is why I have come to Solicitor Yesa, to seek rescue from the trap I am in.”

Meton and the person doomed by an unchanging identity gaped at each other.

The inscriber sensed the pressure from the mind of the latter. His course was now determined.

“I will attempt to rectify what has gone wrong in this case,” announced Meton Gouria, his voice sounding like that of a judicial magistrate. “There can be no guarantee of success, but I hope that my efforts can alleviate the terrible troubles you live under.” He turned his face to the solicitor. “In a few days, you and I may meet again at the same place we met at tonight. Is that all right with you, sir?”

“Yes,” smiled Aposio Yesa. “Yes, indeed.”

He then offered to drive the programmer back to the multiplex where he had his flat.

Over filet of bombalo, the attorney and the magnetist conferred.

“How did you do it, my good fellow?” asked Yesa with overflowing feeling. “The objective has been realized. My client can now give out a rewritten official resume. And best of all, he has attained a position in the tax-collecting bureaucracy. A successful career looms ahead for him.

“All of this was impossible until you stepped in and took action,” he grinned.

“What you tell me gives deep satisfaction to my heart,” said Meton. “I take it, then, that your client is happy with what I did to his identity file.”

“That is absolutely true, my friend. But I do not think that this will be the end of what you and I have begun.”

“What do you mean?” asked the puzzled magnetist.

Aposio Yesa’s face turned into a serious, stone-like mask.

“You have had an extraordinary result in what you accomplished, but there exist many other victims of mnemomech error and inertia. Both you and I have a duty to aid them.”

Meton felt a whirling sensation. “What are you getting at?” he inquired.

“We cannot quit now, with only a single correction. Since the pattern exists, it has to be followed and repeated. There exists a host of deserving would-be beneficiaries of what you have already succeeded in doing, my friend.”

Furrowing his brow, the memory programmer spoke as if only to himself.

“The method I used has never been tried before, as far as I know. My operation depended upon a reversal of the orthogonal gyromagnetic coupler that positioned the particular memory in question. What happened was that a recoiling perturbation was artificially created in the gyrofield. This gap permitted me to substitute new information in the subject’s magnetofile. Is the concept clear enough for you?”

Aposio did not give a direct answer, but set off in a different direction.

“Once the methodology exists, how can you bury it in oblivion? There are so many whose futures depend on what only you can do for them, Meton.

“I have one client who once suffered a mental breakdown. This event has poisoned his plans and ambitions since that grave tragedy occurred to him. There is a woman who was born out of wedlock. If only that fact could be erased from her records! So many doors would at once open for the poor dear.

“Can you imagine all the good there is within your technical group?”

Gouvia took a few moments to formulate his reply to these pleas and arguments.

“Very well, then,” he said with a deep sigh. “It is plain to me that stopping now is impossible.”

Correction followed correction, amendments of records accumulated into a small deluge. It took ten months before rumors of suspicions arrived at the office of Capso Lapia.

The Director felt the effect of stomach fluid rising into his esophagus. A nervous echo crept up his spine. Adrenalin surged through his arteries and veins.

I must see Meton and question him personally, the executive decided.

But not here, not at the Mnemomech or the Ministry of Identification.

Best to appear at the man’s flat tonight, after work. Confront him there, in private.

The rest of that morning and through the afternoon, Lapia seemed to be in suspended animation, sitting in a maze of thoughts at his great zirconic desk. In his mind, he rehearsed how he planned to approach the breaker of regulations, the man who tampered with identity records.

Minutes after dusk, the Director descended to the parking subbasement and activated his magnetospeeder. Traffic on the autoroute was light, allowing him to arrive at the multiplex where Guevia lived in surprisingly short time.

He knew down to each single word what he intended to say.

Without announcing his arrival by graphophone, the administrator took the levator to the high story where the programmer had his digs.

The mind of Meton seemed to go blank when he opened his door and saw who stood there.

“Please come in, sir. This is quite a surprise. I mean to say your appearance here is completely unexpected. This is an unforeseen pleasure.” The startled magnetist attempted to smile, but only grimaced oddly.

Lapia sat down in a padded easy chair while the other stood standing.

“Can I get you anything to drink? Or a bite to eat?” asked the still bewildered Meton.

“No,” replied the visitor with a solemn face. “I am here on quite serious business.”

“What business, sir?” asked the anxious employee of the Ministry of Identification. His sooty black eyes grew large, fixing on Gauvia like a ray of dark energy.

“The jig is up, so to say. Word has come to me about your erasures and enscriblings. It is amazing that no one suspected anything till now.

“Can you tell me how you carried out this complex subterfuge?”

Meton blinked several times before answering this.

“I used a totally new method, one that I discovered and perfected on my own.”

The younger man proceeded to explain his system of breaking into orthogonal gyromagnetic couplings and destroying and replacing identity records.

As he finished the impromptu presentation, Meton sat down, looking fixedly at the Director. The latter, formulating his thoughts, stayed silent for most of a minute.

What then came out of the mouth of Lapia made the mind of the listener turn blank for a time.

“I am profoundly interested in how you carried out this system of correction, my friend, for it is strange and completely new to me and all who are in league with me. It is certainly safe to reveal to you the extent of the invisible actions that are already being carried out at our facility.

“There are many criminals and political fugitives in need of new names and identities. For a number of years, my associates at the Ministry have produced new magnetomemories to serve these individuals. They are willing to pay generously for what we can do for them. New names and biographies are provided, but the old ones remain on record in the magnetomech, a danger that survives and cannot be eradicated. Thus, a potential cloud hangs over all our renovating activities. No one can sleep in peace at night under such conditions,

“But this method you have just described to me appears to possess the security that we have long dreamed of. Therefore, I ask you to join our inner group. This means that we will have the benefit of the new method and you shall be able to share in the rewards that we earn.

“What do you say to this offer of partnership through membership, Meton?”

The latter, stunned and confused, chose to stall for time.

“Can I give an answer tomorrow morning? There is much to think over and consider.”

Reluctantly, Lapia agreed and took his leave, shaking hands with the magnetic programmer.

Early the following morning, Meton walked into the executive office of his boss. When both men were seated, the response that had kept the employee awake all night was presented.

“Let me begin by revealing a fact that I judge as being of great importance, sir. I have never charged anyone a single plastra for my services in erasure and enscription. Why was that so? Because though illegal, my methods belong equally to all. Not to me alone, and certainly not to the Ministry of Identification, but to humanity-at-large, so to speak.

“I ask myself this: can this democracy be extended and preserved?

“My only demand for cooperation is that the benefit be granted gratis to those who wish to erase memory records containing mental illness, juvenile criminality, or illegitimate birth. Or any other aspect of identity that poses harm to the person touched by it.

“These are my terms, sir. Are they acceptable to you and your associates?”

It now became the turn of Capso Lapia to grope for suitable words.

“I do not know, for it is necessary for me to consult with others. No immediate reply is possible right now, at this moment. I think you will have to wait till this evening for a definite answer.”

The pair stared intensely at each other, until Meton bolted to his feet in an instant.

“I must return to my job,” he announced. “There is work waiting for me.”

“Erasure and correction?” inquired Lapia.

The other replied with a head nod, then left the executive office of the Director.

It was late when Meton returned to the upper suite. What was he going to find? he wondered.

The office was empty when the programmer entered and took a seat. As he waited for the entrance of Lapia, his mind wandered over the puzzling possibilities ahead. Would the syndicate of changers of criminal records agree to his terms? Was he soon going to be working for them with his new method of erasure and amendment? That would mean he had been coopted into a company.

When Capso Lapia came in from a side door, he was accompanied by two husky men in purple caftans, one on each side of him. The threesome came right up to the chair where Meton sat, standing immediately in front of the astounded magnetist.

“Your proposals are refused, my son. We cannot afford to give out new identities for free.”

Meton felt a flood of emotion engulfing all of him.

“I must, then, refuse you access to my methods of operation.”

He shot up on his feet in a second, starting toward the door he had entered through.

Suddenly, one of the giant companions of the Director stopped him by placing a thick, powerful hand upon the right arm of Meton, then the other hand on his left one.

Gouvia gave Lapia a furious glare of anger.

“Tell them to release me,” calmly said the former. “If anything violent happens to me, everything I have suspected and found out will be in the hands of the police authorities. I have provided that all my records be protected for later investigation. You can be assured that my death will be officially examined and those responsible brought to justice.”

“Let him go,” said Lapia, sharply biting his lower lip.

Meton made a speedy exit, vowing to see to the automatic deposit of his personal magnetic archives with the police should any harm ever come to him from this treacherous syndicate of identity-changers.

He would turn the threat he had just made into fact if crossed or betrayed. And he would continue to make re-identification for free to those in need of it.


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