Zero Node: Chapter 23: "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"
by Jeff Rand
Although the chapter does not have the literary puzzles found it others, it does make reference, albeit indirectly, to some of the lore of Winter Camp. Once again, it references Big Bro from a Winter Camp role playing game where campers had to speak in one-part words. Of course, when Big Bro manifested himself (herself) on the Winter Camp website years later, Mark Bollman was a prime suspect.
Mark wrote the first novel for Winter Camp titled Channel 120. He used the real names of actual Winter Campers in the story, except for himself. (I was happy to be depicted as an insurance magnate, referencing another item of Winter Camp history - the Rand-Daha Insurance Company, LLC.) Mark chose the pseudonym Mick Belmont for himself, which explains Mark's fondness for the character of this same name in Another Ten Seconds.
I had to find a way to reference the title of the novel in itself, which could be circular logic with no end. To make sense, Another Ten Seconds became Within Two Hundred Thirty-Three Million Two Hundred Eighty Thousand Minutes. This implied that both had something to with time, as it is interesting to note that 223,280,000 minutes equals 162,000 days (the O-A lodge at the time.) Of course, minutes were actually referencing the measurement of the globe when converted into degrees and minutes. The title expresses a real truth learned by prominent Winter Campers, that we live inside a hollow sphere.
March 25, 2020
Need a refresher? Here's the Another Ten Seconds chapter
Keith sensed the submarine was moving again shortly after Leu and Wilbur returned from the surface. He watched the gauges representing the Cartesian Coordinates. Those indicating the X and Y scales had minor fluctuations, both positive and negative. However, the Z scale was going down rapidly. The submarine was descending.
The descent continued for what Keith believed to be about an hour, but he could not be sure from reading the chronograph and was not about to ask Steve, who had a working Russian watch. Keith did note the chronograph increased by four J's, whatever that meant. The submarine had stopped moving, now showing a very small positive on the X scale and a similar negative on the Y scale. The Z scale read 29 T, 162 mt.
Wilbur approached the group and spoke, "We have reached our destination."
"In the bottom of the Pacific Ocean?" Steve questioned.
"Not really. This is not quite the deepest part of the Pacific. But we are at the floor of the ocean."
Keith interjected, "I am glad you want to be very specific. Just how far down did we go?"
"Over 2,000," said Wilbur, attempting to be less specific.
"No. Why would I use that term for measurement?" said Wilbur. "I guess I could take off my shoes and measure my foot with a ruler to make the calculation."
Wilbur led the group back to the entrance chamber and turned the wheel to the second door which led to the part of the ship that Ron avoided on his tour. The chamber was smaller than expected, with the ceiling crammed with various wires and pipes. Just to the right of the entrance was a hatch on the floor. Behind that was another door passageway, presumably to enter the sleeping quarters.
Leu peered across the chamber at the large cylinder with a small glowing portal. "Is that the engine?" he asked.
"It is the source of power," Wilbur responded.
"Then what kind of fuel does it use?"
"It is powered from a hydrogen isotope found in the compound - dihydrogen monoxide."
"Where do you get that? Is it hard to find?" Leu asked, having not received a formal education in recent years where he could study chemistry and conduct lab experiments.
Wilbur chuckled, "I think we have a sufficient supply. Hell would have to freeze over many times before we would run out."
Ron entered the chamber to help Wilbur open the hatch. "I will go first," he said. "I don't want Steve and his friends to get into any trouble."
Steve continued to be irritated by Ron's demeanor, and offered his own insult, "Ron you sound like a girl."
Ron shot back, "At least I am not some primitive loud-mouthed Canadian."
Steve wanted to respond but held his thoughts. Although he was born in Montreal and spent the first few years of his life in Canada, how did Ron know this fact? Instead he followed Ron to the hatch. He knew that the submarine had docked but did not expect to be exiting through the bottom.
The hatch served as the entrance to a dark tunnel, one that went straight down. Fortunately, there was a ladder. The others followed for the very long descent. Michaela was the last to enter the hatch. Wilbur purposely offered her assistance before he closed the hatch.
Keith remained cautious of their former captors and decided to count the rungs on the ladder in case it might be useful information for a future escape. There were seventy-seven. He was sure that was the longest ladder he'd ever used, including the one to Balcony House in Mesa Verde National Park. The ladder ended in a small room. The floor, walls, and ceiling were black, and although there was light, Keith could not determine its source. It was if luminescence radiated from the walls and ceiling.
The wall opposite the ladder featured a single mural in the shape of an equilateral triangle. The triangle was outlined in orange but contained a smaller triangle pointing to its base. The sides of the smaller triangle formed three more triangles, which were filled with still more triangles, each having yet smaller ones at their edges. Though the lines forming the triangles were orange, their interiors were white, even as they got progressively smaller.
"Dad, what is that?" asked Leu.
"It is a Sierpinski Triangle," said Ethan. "That is - a fractal. In mathematics, a fractal is a subset of a Euclidean space for which the fractal dimension strictly exceeds the topological dimension."
Steve offered clarification, "It is like a snowflake, showing the infinite within fixed dimensions overall."
"Dad, I think my home schooling during our travels these past few years has been lacking."
"I believe we will all encounter our ignorance shortly, especially when we meet the Infinite Wisdom," answered Ethan.
Wilbur approached the wall to the right of the mural and pushed a lighted button with the same image of the Sierpinski Triangle. A panel opened leading to a hallway, arching to the left and sloping slightly downwards. He directed the other travelers to follow Ron as they entered the hall.
Like the small room at the base of the ladder, the surfaces of the hall were black. However, the walls, ceiling, and even the black floor were covered with mathematical equations and images, formed by orange and yellow lines. Given his background, the images peeked Ethan's interest. He recognized the conic sections showing circles, parabolas, and ellipses. Some of the equations were familiar, such as the quadradic formula. Although he was not a student of linguistics, he recognized the Greek symbols commonly used in mathematics. He knew the upper-case image of the letter sigma represented sums. He saw it followed by 1 + 1/3 - 1/5 + 1/7 - 1/9 … This, he knew, was the infinite series to calculate the value of pi divided by four. He was pleased to see the notation for minus one as epsilon to the power of iota-pi. Although there were many equations that were unfamiliar, he observed everything from alpha to omega in the hall stretching before him,
Ron led the group through the long curving hall with its many thousands of images. It appeared to form a large circle, which Ethan calculated to be at least 100 feet in diameter, assuming they had walked a circumference longer than a football field. There was a wall at its end with a single button containing the image of epsilon with alpha at its base and omega at the top. Wilbur stepped forward and pushed the button to open the panel.
Keith stepped through the door into another curving hallway. It was remarkably similar to the one he just left, except the walls, floor and ceiling were a deep blue shade, almost black. Again, there was no visible source of light, yet a luminescence appeared to radiate from every surface. The ceiling contained images in a full array of colors. The walls and floor were filled with equations and physical constants. Keith nearly stepped on the first full equation having a large Greek sigma with an alpha and omega. Here, it is followed by an equals sign before a complex of symbols, values, and mathematical functions. He turned to Wilbur, pointing at the equation. "What is that?" he asked.
"It is the equation that defines the physics of this universe," Wilbur responded.
Keith continued through the hall. First, he observed an image of a point of light, followed by a progression of images where the light was spread to form many points, ending in an image of utter blackness. This, he reasoned, symbolized the lifespan of the universe from the Big Bang to dissipate into nothingness resulting from a heat death. He had accepted the opposite hypothesis of an oscillating universe going from Big Bang to Big Crunch in an eternally repeating cycle.
Images continued on the ceiling depicting the cosmos with galaxy superclusters. He was sure that his neighborhood of galaxies, commonly called The Local Group, was included in the collection of images. The depiction of the Milky Way was true to memory, and he paused the group once again. "I didn't see the Laniakea Super Cluster Complex of galaxies that was discovered in 2014, which contains are own Milky Way Galaxy," he stated.
Wilbur gave a quick answer, "These images were here before I was born."
Keith did not recognize most of the equations and constants on the walls and floor. But there were a few that stood out, such as Einstein's energy-mass equivalence, the second law of thermodynamics, Heisenberg's uncertainty principal, and even some of Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger's work. He recognized Plank's constant, having heard Professor Mark Bollman speaking passionately about it many times.
After a circular path very similar to the previous one, the hall ended at a wall. Here, the images on the ceiling depicted the earth's placement in the solar system. The button on the wall had the same image. Keith watched as Wilbur pushed the button to open the passage. To Keith's surprise the image on the button changed from a view of the solar system to an image of the earth alone.
Leu entered yet another hall circling down ever so slightly in a counterclockwise direction. Here the surfaces of it were blue and filled with images. The walls were first decorated with full views of the earth from all directions. These were followed by more focused views of the continents, then details of a full range of landforms. The floor featured the shape of islands, lakes, and ponds. Leu recognized the unmistakable shape of the Great Lakes. He was not surprised to see the ceiling filled with images of clouds, raindrops, hail stones, and snowflakes. Unlike the first two, this hall was filled with all manner of earthly sounds, including a variety storms and more dramatic ones which Leu believed where mimicking earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
As Leu approached the end of another long tunnel, the images on the walls were of rocks and minerals, finally illustrating varieties of soil with all its organic components. The wall at the end of the tunnel was actually covered with a mosaic of soil, as if it were a polypedon representing the earth. Once again, Wilbur stepped forward to push a button to open the next passage. This button featured the image of the globe which changed to that of a fir tree.
When she entered the next long hallway, Michaela was thrilled by scenes of life. The walls were covered with images of massive coniferous trees, followed by pictures of lesser varieties and deciduous trees in various seasons. Then there were bushes followed by flowering plants and grasses. These led to an image collection of fungi, lichens, and mosses. The floor featured representations of fruits, pods, and seeds followed by fish and sea-loving mammals. She was not surprised to see the ceiling adorned with an endless variety of birds and flying mammals.
Further down the hall she observed more members of the animal kingdom decorating the walls. First there were herbivores feeding on various plants. These were followed by carnivores, some of which were feasting on other animals, being clearly depicted as their entrails were being devoured. The omnivores were featured last. Interspaced among the images were views of mating and birthing behaviors. The ceiling displayed flying insects, while the floor featured the crawling variety, along with reptiles and amphibians. There were images of animal droppings and coprophagous insects.
After the experience in the last passage, Michaela was not disappointed to hear numerous sounds from birds and beasts. However, she was surprised to encounter the smells of flowers and animals. Less pleasant were those of rotting flesh and feces. One could even sense the pheromones to attract mates.
At the end of the hall, Wilbur pushed the button, first featuring the large tree. This changed to the shape of a human, that of the famous Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Steve entered the next chamber to yet another depiction, as if the circular hallway was a museum to make the Louvre look like a bulletin board with crayon drawings from a nursery school.
The wall to his left featured life-like images of humans of various ethnicities, genders, and ages. There were depictions of folks with diseases and disabilities. The collection included visions of body organs and systems. Acts of procreation and childbirth were depicted, along with sports and physical prowess.
On the right were images of culture and learning. These included pictures of literary classics, philosophical images, sculptural representations, and other works of art. Steve approached a painting of the famous Mona Lisa. It had the texture and feel of real paint, yet the frame was just another painting. Beyond the serious paintings were images of foods, clothing and adornment. Then there were scenes of fiction and cartoons.
Looking towards the ceiling, Steve observed scenes of technology. There were all forms of transportation ranging from a pogo stick to a spaceship. There were images of architecture and machinery. Systems for generating and transmitting electricity were depicted, along with images of computers, media, and medical procedures.
The floor was not so pleasantly adorned. It featured scenes of plastic and other wastes. There were pictures of war and famine, including images of concentration camps, torture chambers, and Tiny Tim Cratchit's crutch.
Not to Steve's surprise, were sounds of human voices in thousands of languages and dialects. There were babies crying, sounds of machinery and digital devices. Music could be heard, both instrumental and vocal, including everything from beautiful melodies to urban rap. Smells ranged from pleasant aromas of delightful meals to disgusting smells of dirty humans and flatulence.
Toward the end of the long circular hall, Steve observed the evolution of man from an upright form of indeterminate sex and race to a humped over ape-like creature. The right wall had just two images, that of a bone tool and the gold-plated record on the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is expected to be man's last remaining artifact.
As Steve reached the end of the hall, Wilbur approached. Steve turned and asked, "This is incredible; who built this?"
Wilbur reached the wall to push the button. "I suspect the Infinite Wisdom will give you more information."
The scene on the button was the same Vitruvian Man. Wilbur was a little more hesitant in pushing it, but as he did so the scene changed. Once again, it was the Sierpinski Triangle. But this time the area outside the large triangle was white and the interior of any of the triangles was black. "Welcome to the Zero Node," he said.