THE DARK FOREST 3
When the commissioner shut off the holographic image of the hearing, the meeting had not actually concluded. Luo Ji had in fact noticed that when the chair declared the meeting adjourned, a sudden voice had rung out. It was a woman’s voice, and while he hadn’t been able to make it out clearly, everyone in the assembly had turned in a particular direction. Then Jonathan had turned off the image. He must have noticed it, too, but once the chair had adjourned the meeting, Luo Ji, now an ordinary citizen without Wallfacer status, was not eligible to participate even if it was still in progress.
The speaker was Keiko Yamasuki. She said, “Mr. Chair, I have something to say.”
The chair said, “Dr. Yamasuki, you are not a Wallfacer. You are allowed to attend today’s meeting due to your special status, but you do not have the right to speak.”
None of the representatives seemed interested in her. They were getting up to leave. For them, the entire Wallfacer Project was nothing but a footnote in history that they had to spend energy dealing with. But what she said next stopped them in their tracks. She turned to Hines and said, “Wallfacer Bill Hines, I am your Wallbreaker.”
Hines, who was getting up to leave, felt his legs buckle at Yamasuki’s words, and he sat down in his chair again. The people in the auditorium glanced at each other, and then began to whisper, as the blood gradually drained from Hines’s face.
“I hope you have not all forgotten the significance of that title,” Yamasuki said imperiously to the assembly. The chair said, “Yes, we know what a Wallbreaker is. But your organization does not exist anymore.”
“I know.” She appeared totally calm. “But as the last member of the ETO, I will fulfill my duty for the Lord.”
“I should have known it, Keiko. I should have known,” Hines said, his voice trembling. He looked weak. He had known that his wife was a devotee of the ideas of Timothy Leary, and he had seen her fanatical desire to alter the human mind through technological means, but he had never connected it with a deeply hidden hatred of humanity.
“First off, I’d like to say that the true goal of your strategic plan was not the elevation of human intelligence. You more than anyone are aware that it is utterly impossible for human technology to accomplish this in the foreseeable future, because you were the one who discovered the quantum structure of the brain. You know that when the study of the mind reaches the quantum level, the sophon lockdown on fundamental physics means that scientific research will be like water with no source: It’s got no grounding, and will never succeed. The mental seal was not just a chance by-product of your study of the mind. It was the thing you always wanted. That was the ultimate goal of your research.” She turned to the assembly. “Now, what I’d like to know from all of you is this: In the years that we’ve been in hibernation, what happened to the mental seal?”
“It didn’t have much of a history,” the representative of the European Fleet said. “Nearly fifty thousand people from national space forces voluntarily accepted faith in victory through the mental seal, and they formed a special class in the military known as the ‘Imprinted.’ Later on, about ten years after you went into hibernation, the use of the mental seal was found by the International Court of Justice to be a crime, an infringement on the freedom of thought, and the sole mental seal device—the one in the Faith Center—was put into storage. The manufacture and use of that type of equipment was placed under a worldwide ban nearly as strict as nuclear nonproliferation. And, in fact, the mental seal was even harder to obtain than nuclear weapons, primarily because of the computer it used. By the time you entered hibernation, computing technology had basically stopped moving forward. The computer used by the mental seal is still a supercomputer today and is inaccessible to ordinary individuals and organizations.”
Then Keiko Yamasuki revealed her first piece of substantive information: “What you don’t know is that there was more than one mental seal device. Five were made, each with its own accompanying supercomputer. The other four, Hines secretly handed over to people who had already accepted the seal, the
ones you call the Imprinted. There were only around three thousand of them at that time, but they had already formed a tightly knit supranational organization within the militaries of individual countries. Hines did not tell me this. I learned it from the sophons. The Lord does not care about staunch triumphalism, so we didn’t take action.”
“And how is this significant?” the chair asked.
“Let’s hypothesize, shall we? The mental seal device is not a continuously operating piece of equipment. It’s only activated when necessary. Each device can be used for quite a long time, and if they’re properly maintained, it would be no problem for them to be used for half a century. If the four devices were used in turn, one run into the ground before the next one is started up, they would have been able to last for two centuries. Which means that the Imprinted may not have died off, but might have endured from generation to generation up to the present day. It’s a religion that believes in faith hardened by the mental seal, and its induction ceremony is the voluntary use of the mental seal on your own mind.”
The representative of the North American Fleet said, “Dr. Hines, you have lost your Wallfacer status and no longer have the legal power to deceive the world. Would you please tell the Joint Conference the truth: Is your wife, or, rather, your Wallbreaker, telling the truth?”
“It’s true,” Hines said, with a heavy nod.
“That’s a crime!” the representative of the Asian Fleet said.
“Perhaps it is,” Hines said, and nodded again. “But just like all of you, I don’t know whether the Imprinted have endured to the present day.”
“That’s not important,” the representative of the European Fleet said. “I think the next step should be to find the mental seal devices that are still around and seal them up or destroy them. As for the Imprinted, if they voluntarily accepted the mental seal, then that doesn’t appear to have violated the laws of the time. If they applied the mental seal to other volunteers, then they were under the dominance of the faith or belief that they had already received through technical means, so they should not be subjected to punishment. So the only thing we need to do is find the mental seals. The matter of the Imprinted might not need to be pursued at all.”
“That’s right. It’s not a bad thing for there to be a few people in the Solar Fleet who have absolute faith in victory. At least, it won’t cause any harm. It should remain a matter of personal privacy, and no one needs to know who they are. Although it’s hard to understand why anyone would voluntarily undergo the mental seal today, because humanity’s victory is so apparent,” the representative of the European Fleet said.
Keiko Yamasuki smiled derisively, revealing a seldom-seen expression that conjured up for the assembly an ancient picture of moonlight reflecting off the scales of a snake in the grass.
“You’re being naïve,” she said.
“You’re being naïve,” Hines echoed his wife, and deeply bowed his head.
She turned once again to her husband. “Hines, you’ve always hidden your thoughts from me. Even before you became a Wallfacer.”
“I was afraid you’d despise me,” he said, head still down.
“How many times did we look silently into each other’s eyes in the bamboo grove in the quiet of the Kyoto night? From your eyes I saw a Wallfacer’s loneliness, and I saw your desire to speak. How many times did you
almost tell me the truth? You wanted to bury your head in my arms, put everything into words through your tears, and obtain total release. But the duty of a Wallfacer prevented you. Deceit, even toward the one you loved the most, was one of your responsibilities. So I could only look into your eyes in the hope of finding some trace of your true thoughts. You don’t know how many sleepless nights I spent waiting next to you as you slept soundly, waiting for you to talk in your sleep.… More often, I carefully observed you, studying your every move and capturing your every look, including the years you were first in hibernation. I recalled every detail about you, not out of longing but because I wanted to see your true thoughts. For a very long time, I failed. I knew you wore a mask, but I knew nothing of what was below the mask. The years passed, until finally, when you had just awakened and walked through the neural-network cloud to my side, and I looked into your eyes, I finally understood. I’d matured eight years, while you were still the you of eight years before. And so you were exposed.
“From that moment, I knew the real you: a deep-rooted defeatist and a staunch Escapist. Both before and after you became a Wallfacer, your sole goal was to achieve an exodus of humanity. Compared to the other Wallfacers, your genius lay not in strategic deception, but in concealing and disguising your true worldview.
“But I still didn’t know how you would achieve this goal through your research into the brain and thoughts. I was confused even when the mental seal came out, all the way up until the moment I entered hibernation, when I remembered their eyes. The eyes of those people who had been given the mental stamp … they were like yours. And all of a sudden I understood an expression of yours that I’d never been able to read before. That was when I broke through to your real strategy, but it was too late to say anything.”
The representative of the North American Fleet said, “Ms. Keiko Yamasuki, I don’t think there’s anything unusual here. We know the history of the mental seal. In the first group of fifty thousand volunteers, the procedure was carried out under the strictest of supervision.”
“That’s right,” she said. “But the supervision was only absolutely effective so far as the content of the faith proposition was concerned. The mental seal itself was much harder to supervise.”
“But the literature indicates that the supervision of the technical details of the mental seal was very strict as well, and it underwent a large number of tests before it was put into operation,” the chair said.
Yamasuki shook her head. “The mental seal is an incredibly complicated piece of equipment. Any supervision will have gaps. Specifically, one tiny minus sign out of hundreds of millions of lines of code. Even the sophons didn’t detect it.”
“A minus sign?”
“When the neural circuit model for judging a proposition to be true was discovered, Hines also discovered the model for judging a proposition to be false. That was what he needed. He concealed this discovery from everyone, including me. It wasn’t difficult, because the two models were highly similar. It manifested as the direction of flow of a key signal in the neuron transmission model, and in the mathematical model of the mental seal, it was represented by a sign. Positive for true, negative for false. Working in extreme secrecy, Hines manipulated this sign in the mental seal’s control software. In all five devices, the sign was negative.”
A deathly silence fell over the auditorium, a silence that had manifested only once before during a PDC Wallfacer Hearing two centuries ago, when Rey Diaz had shown off the “cradle” on his wrist and had told the assembly that the device receiving the anti-trigger signal was nearby.
“Dr. Hines, what have you done?” The chair turned toward him in anger.
Hines raised his head, and everyone could see that his pallid face had returned to normal. His voice was calm and even. “I admit that I underestimated the power of humanity. The progress that you’ve made is truly unbelievable. I have seen it, and I believe it, and I also believe that victory in the war belongs to humanity. This faith is as steadfast as if it had been imprinted by the mental stamp. The defeatism and Escapism of two centuries ago is truly ridiculous. However, Mr. Chair and representatives, I would like to say to the world that it is impossible to make me repent of what I have done.”
“You still think you shouldn’t repent?” the representative of the Asian Fleet demanded angrily.
Hines raised his head. “It’s not a question of ‘should.’ It’s an impossibility. I used the mental seal to imprint this proposition on myself: Everything about my Wallfacer plan is entirely correct.”
The assembly exchanged amazed glances, and Yamasuki even turned to her husband with the same expression.
Hines flashed her a small smile and nodded. “Yes, dear, if you’ll permit me to call you that. Only by doing that could I obtain the spiritual strength necessary to execute the plan. Yes, right now I believe all I’ve done is correct. I absolutely believe it, regardless of what reality says. I used the mental seal to turn myself into my own god, and God can’t repent.”
“In the not-too-distant future, when the Trisolaran invaders surrender to a more powerful human civilization, will you still think that?” the chair asked, with a look in his eyes that was more curious than amazed.
Hines nodded earnestly. “I’ll still think that I’m right. Everything about my Wallfacer plan is entirely correct. Of course, in the face of the facts, I’ll be put through a hell of a torture.” He turned to his wife. “Dear, you know I’ve already suffered that torture once, when I believed that water was toxic.”
“Let’s come back to the present day,” the representative of the North American Fleet said, interrupting everyone’s whispered discussions. “It’s just speculation that the Imprinted have endured. It’s been over one hundred seventy years, after all. If a class or organization with such an absolute faith in defeatism exists, why haven’t there been any signs of it?”
“There are two possibilities,” the representative of the European Fleet said. “One is that the mental seal vanished long ago, and this is just a false alarm.…”
The representative of the Asian Fleet completed his thought. “But there’s another possibility: The most frightening thing about the situation is the fact that there aren’t any signs.”
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