THE SPELL 2
Luo Ji was rendered speechless for a long while after hearing Tyler’s account.
When an ordinary person spoke with one of them, they would always be thinking, He’s a Wallfacer, his words can’t be trusted, and those suggestions would present a barrier to communication. But when two Wallfacers spoke with each other, the suggestions that existed in both minds cross-multiplied those communication barriers. Such an exchange, in fact, rendered anything either side said meaningless, so that communication itself lost all significance. This was why there had been no private interaction between Wallfacers.
“How do you evaluate the Wallbreaker’s analysis?” Luo Ji asked to break the silence, even though he knew there was no point to the question.
“He guessed right,” Tyler said.
Luo Ji wanted to say something, but what? What could be said? They were both Wallfacers.
“That was my true strategy,” Tyler went on. He evidently had a strong desire to speak and didn’t care whether or not his listener believed him. “Of course, it’s still in the preliminary stages. The technology alone is quite difficult, although I expected a gradual resolution to all of the theoretic and technical issues over the course of four centuries. But judging from the enemy’s attitude toward the plan, it wouldn’t make any difference. They don’t care, and that’s the height of contempt.”
“And that was…?” Luo Ji felt like a machine for meaningless dialogue.
“The day after the Wallbreaker’s visit, a complete analysis of my strategy was posted online. The material ran into the millions of words, most of it obtained through sophon monitoring, and it caused a sensation. The day before yesterday, the PDC called a hearing on the issue, at which it resolved the following: ‘Wallfacer Plans may not contain anything that poses a threat to human life.’ If my plan actually existed, then its execution would be a crime against humanity. It must be stopped, and its Wallfacer punished by law. Notice how they invoke crimes against humanity, a term that’s being thrown around more than ever these days? But the resolution concluded by saying, ‘According to the basic principles of the Wallfacer Project, the evidence available to the outside world may just be a part of the Wallfacer’s strategy of deception and cannot be used to
prove that the Wallfacer has actually developed and is executing this plan.’ So I won’t be charged.” “I’d thought as much,” Luo Ji said.
“But at the hearing, I declared that the Wallbreaker’s analysis was correct, and that my strategy was indeed the mosquito swarm. I asked to be tried in accordance with national and international law.”
“I can imagine their reaction.”
“The PDC’s rotating chair and all the permanent member representatives looked at me with that Wallfacer smile on their face, and the chair declared the meeting adjourned. Those bastards!”
“I know the feeling.”
“I had a total breakdown. I fled out of the hall and into the square outside, shouting, ‘I am Wallfacer Frederick Tyler! My Wallbreaker exposed my strategy! He was right! I’m going to attack the Earth fleet with the mosquito swarm! I’m anti-human! I’m a devil! Punish me and kill me!’”
“That was a meaningless act, Mr. Tyler.”
“What I hate the most is the expression people have when they look at me. A crowd of people surrounded me in the square, their eyes revealing the fantasies of children, the reverence of the middle-aged, and the concern of the elderly. All of their eyes said, ‘Look, he’s a Wallfacer. He’s at work, but he’s the only one in the world who knows what he’s doing. See what a great job he’s doing? He’s pretending so well. How will the enemy know what his real strategy is? That great, great, great strategy that only he knows and that will be the salvation of the world…’ Complete and utter crap! Those idiots!”
At last Luo Ji decided to remain silent, and merely smiled wordlessly at Tyler.
As Tyler stared at him, a thin smile wavered on his pale face and then developed into full-blown hysterical laughter. “Ha! You’re smiling the Wallfacer smile! A smile from one Wallfacer to another! You think I’m at work. You believe I’m acting the part, and you think I’ll save the world!” He cackled again. “How did we end up in such a hilarious situation?”
“This is a vicious cycle we’ll never be free of, Mr. Tyler,” Luo Ji said, and sighed softly.
Tyler’s laughter stopped abruptly. “Never be free? No, Dr. Luo, there’s a way out. There really is a way, and I’m here today to tell it to you.”
“You need a break. Rest here for a few days,” Luo Ji said.
Tyler nodded slowly. “Yeah, I need a break. We’re the only ones who understand each other’s pain, Doctor. That’s why I’ve come.” He looked up. The sun had set a while ago, and the Garden of Eden had grown indistinct in the twilight. “This is paradise. Can I go for a walk alone by the lake?”
“You may do whatever you like here. Take it easy, and I’ll call you to dinner in a while.” Tyler walked down to the lake, leaving Luo Ji to sit down, sunken in heavy thoughts.
For five years, he had bathed in an ocean of happiness. The birth of his Xia Xia in particular had made him forget everything about the outside world. The love of his wife and child blended together and intoxicated his soul, and, in this gentle home isolated from the rest of the world, he had fallen deeper and deeper into an illusion: Perhaps the outside world really was something akin to a quantum state, and did not exist unless he observed it.
But it was a state that could no longer endure now that the abominable outside world had burst into his Garden of Eden to confuse and frighten him. His thoughts shifted to Tyler, whose last words still resounded in
his ears. Was it really possible for Wallfacers to break free of the vicious cycle, to shatter the iron shackles of logic…?
He jerked to his senses and ran toward the lake. He wanted to shout, but was afraid of scaring Zhuang Yan and Xia Xia, so he just ran as fast as he could through the quiet twilight, the swish of his feet against the grass on the hillside the only sound. But into this rhythm a soft crack inserted itself.
The sound of a gunshot from the lake.
Luo Ji returned home late that evening after the child was sound asleep. Zhuang Yan asked softly, “Did Mr.
“Yes. He’s gone,” he said wearily. “He seemed worse off than you.”
“Yes. That’s because he didn’t take an easy path.… Yan, have you watched TV recently?”
“No. I…” She paused, and Luo Ji knew what she was thinking. With the outside world growing more serious by the day, and the gap widening between life here and life outside, the difference made her uneasy. “Is our life really part of the Wallfacer plan?” she asked, looking at him with that same innocent face.
“Of course. What is there to doubt?”
“But can we truly be happy when all humanity is unhappy?”
“My love, your responsibility when all of humanity is unhappy is to make yourself happy. With Xia Xia, your happiness gains a point, and the Wallfacer plan gains a point toward its success.”
Zhuang Yan stared silently at him. The language of facial expressions she had envisioned in front of the Mona Lisa five years ago seemed to have been partially realized between her and Luo Ji. More and more, he could read her mind through her eyes, and what he read now was, How can I believe that?
Luo Ji pondered this for a long time, and finally said, “Yan, everything has an ending. The sun and the universe will die one day, so why should humanity believe that it ought to be immortal? Listen, this world is paranoid. Fighting a hopeless war is a fool’s errand, so look at the Trisolar Crisis from a different perspective and leave your cares behind. Not just the ones involving the crisis, but everything else from before that. Use the time that’s left to enjoy life. Four hundred years! Or, if we refuse the Doomsday Battle, then nearly five hundred. That’s a fair amount of time. Humanity used the same period to go from the Renaissance to the information age, and in the same space could create a carefree, comfortable life. Five idyllic centuries without needing to worry about the distant future, where the sole responsibility is to enjoy life. How wonderful.…”
He realized that he had spoken unwisely. Claiming that the happiness of her and the child were part of the plan added another layer of protection to her life by making her happiness into a responsibility. This was the only way to ensure that she maintained a balanced mind in the face of the cruel world. He could never resist her eternally innocent eyes, so he didn’t dare look at her when she questioned him. But now, because of the Tyler factor, he had involuntarily told the truth.
“When you say that, are you being a Wallfacer?” she asked. “Yes, of course I am,” he said, to fix the situation.
But her eyes said, You really did seem to believe that!
UN Planetary Defense Council, Wallfacer Project Hearing #89
At the start of the hearing, the rotating chair spoke to strongly urge that Luo Ji be required to attend the next
hearing, arguing that refusal to participate was not part of the Wallfacer plan because the PDC’s supervisory authority over the Wallfacers trumped the Wallfacers’ own strategic plans. The proposal was unanimously adopted by all permanent member representatives, and with the emergence of the first Wallbreaker and the suicide of Wallfacer Tyler in mind, the other two Wallfacers attending the meeting heard the unspoken implications of the chairman’s words.
Hines spoke first. His neuroscience-based plan was still in its infancy, but he described the equipment he was envisioning as a basis for further research. He called it the Resolving Imager. Based on computed tomography and nuclear magnetic resonance, it operated by scanning in all cross sections of the brain at once, which required cross sectional accuracy on the scale of the internal structure of brain cells and neurons. This would bring the number of simultaneous CT scans to several million, to be synthesized by computer into a digital model of the brain. Other technical requirements were even greater: The scan needed to be conducted at a rate of twenty-four frames per second to produce a dynamic synthetic model that could capture all brain activity at a neuron-level resolution, making it possible to precisely observe thought activity in the brain, or even replay all neural activity throughout the thinking process.
Then Rey Diaz described the progress of his plan. After five years of research, the digital star model for super-high-yield nuclear weapons had been completed and was now being thoroughly debugged.
Next, the PDC scientific advisory panel presented a report on its feasibility study of the two Wallfacers’ plans.
The advisory panel felt that although there were in theory no obstacles to Hines’s Resolving Imager, the technical difficulties far exceeded current conditions, and modern CT scanning was about as far from RI technology as black-and-white film was from modern high-definition cameras. Data processing presented the biggest technical hurdle to the RI device, because scanning and modeling an object the size of the human brain with neuron-level precision required power that was unavailable to modern computers.
The obstacle to Rey Diaz’s stellar bomb was the same: present computing power was insufficient. After inspecting the calculations required by the completed portion of the model, the panel’s expert group felt that the most powerful of today’s computers would take twenty years to model a hundredth of a second of the fusion process. Since the model would need to be run repeatedly in the course of research, practical application was an impossibility.
The panel’s chief computer scientist said, “Right now, computer technology based on traditional integrated circuits and Von Neumann architecture is nearing the limit of its technological development. Moore’s law is going to collapse. Of course, we can still squeeze out the last few drops of lemonade from these traditional electronic and technological lemons. In our opinion, even given the present deceleration in supercomputer progress, the computing power required by the two plans is still achievable. It just requires time. Optimistically, twenty to thirty years. Those goals, if they are reached, will represent the peak of human computing technology, and any further progress will be difficult. With frontier physics under sophon lockdown, the next-gen and quantum computers that we once dreamed of are now very unlikely to be realized.”
“We’ve reached the wall that the sophons have erected across our scientific road,” the chair said. “Then there’s nothing that we can do for twenty years,” Hines said.
“Twenty years is the most optimistic estimate. As a scientist, you ought to know what cutting-edge research is like.”
“Then the only thing to do is hibernate and wait the arrival of capable computers,” Rey Diaz said. “I’ve decided to hibernate, too,” Hines said.
“If that’s the case, then I will ask the two of you to greet my successor in twenty years,” the chair said with a smile.
The mood of the hearing relaxed. Now that the two Wallfacers had decided to enter hibernation, the hearing’s participants sighed with relief. The emergence of the first Wallbreaker and his Wallfacer’s suicide had dealt a heavy blow to the entire project. Tyler’s suicide in particular had been a foolish act. If he had lived, people would still be in doubt about whether the mosquito swarm had really been his plan. His death was tantamount to a final confirmation of the existence of the terrible plan. He had vaulted out of the vicious cycle at the cost of his life, prompting increasing murmurs of criticism of the Wallfacer Project among the international community. Public opinion demanded further restrictions on Wallfacer power, but the very nature of the Wallfacer Project meant that too many restrictions would make it difficult for the Wallfacers to conduct their strategic deceptions, rendering the entire project meaningless. The Wallfacer Project possessed a leadership structure that human society had never before seen, and it required time to adjust and adapt to it. It was clear that the hibernation of the two Wallfacers would provide a buffer period for that to take place.
A few days later, in a top-secret underground structure, Rey Diaz and Hines entered hibernation.
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