Zero Node: Chapter 32: "Blind Hike"
by Jeff Rand
Cyrus Teed was a physician turned religious leader who took the name Koresh. Through divine inspiration, he claimed that the surface of the earth was a concave spheroid rather than a convex one. His primary written work was Cellular Cosmogony and he founded the religion of Koreshanity. In 1870, he created the Koreshan Unity commune for his followers.
Winter Campers understanding the tenets of inversive geometry realized that Teed's theory could not be disproven. A careful reading of the layout of paragraphs and sentences in chapter 32 of Another Ten Seconds, clearly defines Teed's wisdom.
June 15, 2020
Need a refresher? Here's the Another Ten Seconds chapter
"What did you do? Why did you shut off everything?" asked Michaela.
"At least there should be emergency lighting. Isn't that required?" interjected Ethan.
"I didn't do anything. You know we don't have the same rules as you had in the United States." Mike responded, making it clear that the USA was a relic of the past.
Doug, who was really the most senior resident of Zero Node, felt obliged to offer an explanation, "I have never seen a power blackout here. We might run out of air."
Now the youngest of the veteran residents entered the conversation. Danielle said, "Doug, don't be stupid. I may be only 224 but this place is huge, and we have benefitted from all the plants recycling the air. Of course, without light they won't be able to conduct photosynthesis and will eventually die."
Although he might be just a guest, Steve felt obliged to assume control since he had been inclined to give orders to Mike Osvath in decades past. "I think we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. It has been a long time since I participated in a Winter Camp blind hike, but we can send a party out to get something to produce light, such as a flashlight."
"We can move to the fire ring," responded Osvath. "We have firewood and sulfur matches there. Wilbur, can you find your way to the cultural artifacts? I assume you returned the whale-oil lamp that Keith had stolen from the artifacts for his attempt to break into the control center."
Keith became agitated, "I would have returned it. Perhaps if I were able to enter the control center we would not be in our current predicament."
Wilbur moved to the wall in the darkness and was able to push it to create an exit from the theater. Since he was quite familiar with the layout of the Great Space, he would embark on a blind path to the cultural artifacts to locate the lantern. However, before he left, Wilbur felt obliged to tell the story of the lantern discovered in the wreckage of the 1914 Shackleton Endurance Expedition to Antarctica.
Now it was Mike's chance to lead a blind hike for the rest of the group. He knew the tradition of a blind hike at Winter Camp stretched back to the first one in 1977, where he was a participant. Yet, he had not been involved in this activity in many years and would have to lead the others without any cheaters.
The lifelong residents of Zero Node should have had no trouble finding their way in the dark, but Danielle found herself caught in the volleyball net. This caused her sister Markie to ridicule her, which ended in an argument. This surprised Leu who had no trouble ducking under the net and did not expect a fight when they weren't even playing a game. The others found the fire ring without mishap, except Keith who had accidentally wandered into the pond.
Osvath was able to find the fire starter and lit the blaze with his flint and homemade sulfur match. Once a cheerful blaze illuminated the immediate surroundings, Wilbur joined the others with the whale oil lamp. After some discussion, Wilbur offered to climb the stairs in the various passages all the way to the entrance to the submarine. There he was sure to find it operational and could secure flashlights. Never had there been need for something so primitive in Zero Node. Tom would join him. Michaela thought she could grab a burning stick to use as a torch but soon learned that it only worked for fictional characters in movies and television.
"As much as we should avoid the risk, we must get into the Control Center!" declared Keith.
Mike agreed and would join him, along with Steve and Doug. This team, Mike proposed, would have the best chance for success. Once again, the whale-oil lantern would be put to use in an attempt to enter the control center. The others would stay at the fire ring.
Mike led the team into the passage to the control center. Other than the flicker from the lantern, there was no source of light. Keith commented that he hoped that they would not encounter a defensive mechanism as had happened to him earlier when his lantern was extinguished. It would not be fun to be trapped again trying to enter the control center.
After taking several turns in the passage through the wall to the control center, Osvath encountered a metal door with a wheel, much like those in the submarine. He placed his hand on the door hoping that it would activate a control panel. When it did nothing, he grabbed the wheel to turn it. Surprisingly, the wheel made a full turn before disengaging the door from its hold. Mike swung the heavy door open. After passing through and taking two steps, he encountered a second door and did the same. Then he opened yet a third vault-like door.
Steve and the others followed into the well-protected control center. The room was not very large, forming a circle no more than 20 feet in diameter and half as high. In the center was a large square column stretching from the floor to ceiling, surrounded by four seats. The room was dark, save for four glowing buttons on the column in front of each seat.
Osvath stepped forward and pushed a button. Instantly, the room was bathed in light from the luminescent chromites on the ceiling. On the side of the column directly above the button, a screen activated with a display of strange symbols. Below the screen, outlines of additional buttons with images appeared, presumably constructed of active chromites.
"I have not seen stuff like this in a hellfreeze," commented Doug, exaggerating the amount of time that would have elapsed.
"What is it?" inquired Ozzie.
"I have forgotten much, but my father shared this with me a long time ago. I can recognize some numbers. The ovals with the horizontal and vertical tic marks represent numbers. As I recall, they are not our standard base ten, rather they represent a system using base sixteen. For example, the oval with the horizontal tic pointing inward from the right is one. The oval without any tics is zero, just like you would imagine. The oval with a horizontal tic from the left is two. I know the vertical lines with tics to the right and left are like letters. They represent vocal sounds. There are other symbols which I may not know. I don't see an oval with an X through it, but this means danger."
"Is it a measure? Do these symbols spell words?" asked Keith.
"Yes, I believe they do. I just don't remember enough. I did learn how to say the most universal word in any language."
"What is that?" Steve inquired.
Doug quickly responded, "It is 'huh', which is spelled with two symbols that look like upside down L's. The first has a line on top pointing to the left. The second has the line pointing to the right. I wish I could be of more help."
"This is fascinating," said Steve. "It looks like it is based on logical expressions using phonemes. However, we need to decipher these symbols and get the whole place working again."
Keith became more impatient than the others and started pressing the button images. After the fifth attempt, a large red X appeared on the column accompanied by a high-pitched sound emanating from the walls. He pressed it again to return the images to the original. He bellowed, "I guess this control center doesn't like me. I don't know what we can do. Ozzie, you are the Infinite Wisdom. We need some help."
Mike walked around the square column to observe images and buttons displayed on the other side. The view was much the same as the one he had just left but he noted an image at the bottom of the display showing 'ABC.' Mike pushed the button causing the display to change instantly to the letters and symbols on his native language. "K2, I think you should see this," he said, directing his comment at Keith.
Keith stepped around the column. "What did you do?" he asked.
"I just pushed the button. Can you do something with this? I think the surface of the column works as a touchscreen."
"I will try. It is English but the sentence structure is odd. It is constructed more like Spanish." Keith responded.
Doug joined the conversation, "It is a direct translation of the message on the other side. I don't know why my father did not teach me more about this, but I believe the old ones here knew the language. My dad told me that the language was very precise and logical. I guess I really didn't pay much attention."
Steve, who fashioned himself as a speed reader, approached the column and scanned the text. "It says that the program has been invaded and all exterior functions have been compromised."
"What can we do?" inquired Mike.
"Ozzie, I think you should press the image of the man trying to lift huge weights. You see the one that is also labeled 'PERSIST.'"
"Oh great. I see this thing has a sense of humor," Keith declared, as the wall was filled with a multitude of settings to reactivate Zero Node. "I can now make sense of it but could use the Encyclopedia Winter Campica."
"What? Are you crazy?" asked Mike.
"Not at all. I need to reference the Universal Measurement System detailed in the encyclopedia. You don't want me to set the thermostat at 20 scorches, do you? Or would you like your time to go faster?"
Doug answered, "Now it makes sense. It was many blue moons ago. Before Mr. Osvath assumed the role as our Infinite Wisdom, we were using a different system here. I know it was logical, but it was difficult for us to use. We read of meters and kilometers that were based on powers of ten. That is how we learned to count. Yet the dials and gauges here confused us with numbers and letters. They were using base sixteen. We found the encyclopedia with Mr. Osvath's few possessions. Before he died, our Infinite Wisdom was true to his title by adopting the wisdom of the Universal Measurement System. We were all happy with the change."
Mike agreed to take the lantern and retrieve the encyclopedia. He left the Control Center to enter the darkness of Zero Node to climb the stairs to the level of the ceremonial chamber. He found the book in its prominent location and returned to the others.
"This is going to take a long time," cried Keith. "This is a total reset requiring individual settings for dozens of different spaces. It requires setting everything to a schedule. I must set temperature, humidity, chemical composition of the atmosphere, and lighting luminosity according to five primary colors, two of which are not visible. Then there are the maintenance routines for living space and agricultural areas. I need to know the frequency and amount of precipitation required in each biome. This will take days. How did this happen? Everyone and everything here could die!"
"There must be some instructions," Steve replied.
"Yes, I think they are written in Swahili or whatever language that is on the other side."
"Perhaps, I can be of some help," offered Doug. He walked to the right of Keith to the side of the square column. He pressed his hand on the single button. Immediately the surface was filled with the symbols of the strange language. When Doug walked around the column and did the same on the opposite side, it transformed from the solid black surface into a display of a message in English.
Steve joined Doug and declared, "I think we can use this." The message indicated the breach in the PROGRAM occurred outside Zero Node, originating from Colorado Springs. Zero Node momentarily lost all control of the Neural Virtual Reality centers throughout the world, but function has been restored. As a failsafe the PROGRAM has been reset and will require manual intervention to restore local functions.
Steve continued to read the instructions. He scrolled through about 50 pages of detailed instructions before he realized the magnitude of the project. "K2, you're right. There is too much here. I could spend a month just reading this." he said.
Mike feared he would be shown to be incompetent but interjected, stating, "I think one of us should stay here while the rest return to the fire ring. It would give us a chance to discuss the situation with the others."
Doug agreed to remain, allowing the others to return to the Great Space. A fire still burned cheerfully in the ring next to the pond, and Wilbur had returned with six flashlights. Although there was much concern regarding their safety or even the function of Zero Node, Ethan convinced the others to take a break for a campfire program. For this function, he adopted his Uncle Ethan persona and led the others in raucous celebration. This surprised everyone, especially his son. Yet it diverted their attention from the worries of the moment.
Michaela decided to leave the campfire and grabbed a flashlight so she could find some items for a snack. When she returned, she had the ingredients to prepare her campfire favorite, s'mores. The Zero Node version would be a little different, but she described herself as an expert in this culinary endeavor.
When their attention returned to reactivating Zero Node, suggestions were unrealistic until Wilbur casually mentioned that he had learned how to activate a keyboard on a surface screen when he had a problem in the library. Now that they had flashlights, Mike instructed Keith to return the whale-oil lamp to its rightful place before they went back to the control center. Keith begrudgingly did so, while offering a snide remark.
Keith returned the lamp and wiped it clean of all fingerprints except his own, as a symbolic gesture of maintaining his posterity for future archeologists. Back at the fire ring, he learned that Wilbur had gone ahead to the control center. The remainder of the team could now follow.
Wilbur had already activated the keyboard and touchscreen when Keith and the others arrived. Keith was quick to assume control, while Steve held Mike from getting overly involved, even if he was the Infinite Wisdom.
Keith began navigating through the system to locate the settings for the Great Space. There were at least 100 settings required on the first display. He began entering data from memory and referencing conversion factors from the Encyclopedia Winter Campica. Wilbur assisted by activating a calculator on the wall and transferring some instructions to a section of the wall beside it. He explained that this feature was prevalent throughout Zero Node, since most surfaces were covered with chromites. Though most did not know that Steve had less education than some others (he graduated from high school early due to being double promoted during the sixth grade), he was able to provide from memory the percent composition of the various chemicals found in the earth's atmosphere.
It took Keith some time to enter the data before he was satisfied with the first of what he believed might be dozens of screen displays. He pressed the control for 'SUBMIT' and waited for results. The display flashed a large red 'X' in a circle several times, which he knew represented a warning. Then a full message displayed, "You are not authorized to make changes. Your input has been aborted. Functions in Zero Node are disabled."
"We're doomed!" shouted Keith.
"I hope not," cried Wilbur, as he placed his hand on the screen.
A new message appeared, "From the darkness from the forest, come we now with words of warning. Who said, 'Who serves his fellows is of all his fellows greatest. As a seed dropped by the sower on good soil bears quick fulfillment?' You have one attempt to answer."
"We really are finished!" cried Doug, who had been painfully quiet during the attempt to activate the Great Space.
"With all that we have been through to get to this point, it can't be this simple," said Steve, as he walked to the display and pushed the others to the side for fear of a spelling error. Then he typed 'Chingachgook'.