The Last Oracle

Page 33

He just continued to study the marred ivory handle of his cane. His eyes glazed—not with shock, but in deep concentration.

Elizabeth had given Gray a quiet shake of her head.

Don’t press him.

So they’d driven north out of Agra, aiming for the capital of India, New Delhi. During the ninety-mile trek, Gray had them change vehicles twice along the way.

Once they reached the teeming outskirts of the city, Masterson had given only one instruction: I need access to a computer.

So here they were, in a cramped back room of an Internet café. The professor had promptly logged on to a private address on the University of Mumbai’s Web site, requiring three levels of code to access it.

“Archibald’s research,” Masterson had explained and had begun printing it all out. He had remained silent until this cryptic statement about mankind seeing the future.

“How do you mean?” Gray asked.

Masterson pushed back from his workstation. “Well, many people don’t know this, but it’s been scientifically proven in the last couple of years that man has the ability to see a short span into the future. About three seconds or so.”

“Three seconds?” Kowalski said. “Lot of good that’ll do you.”

“It does plenty,” Masterson replied.

Gray frowned at Kowalski and turned back to the professor. “But what do you mean by scientifically proven?”

“Are you familiar with the CIA’s Stargate project?”

Gray shared a glance with Elizabeth. “The project Dr. Polk worked on for a while.”

“Another researcher on the project, Dr. Dean Radin, performed a series of experiments on volunteers. He wired them up with lie detectors, measuring skin conductivity, and began showing them a series of images on a screen. A random mix of horrible and soothing photos. The violent and explicit images would trigger a strong response on the lie detector, an electronic wince. After a few minutes, the subjects began to wince before a horrible image would appear on the screen, reacting up to three seconds in advance. It happened time and again. Other scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, repeated these tests at both Edinburgh and Cornell universities. With the same statistical results.”

Elizabeth shook her head with disbelief. “How could that be?”

Masterson shrugged. “I have no idea. But the experiment was extended to gamblers, too. They were monitored while playing cards. They began showing the same pattern, reacting seconds before a card would turn over. A positive response when the turn was favorable, and negative when it wasn’t. This so intrigued a Nobel-winning physicist from Cambridge University that he performed a more elaborate study, hooking such test subjects to MRI scanners in order to study their brain activity. He found that the source of this premonition seemed to lie in the brain. This Nobel Prize winner—and keep in mind, not some bloody quack—concluded that ordinary people can see for short spans into the future.”

“That’s amazing,” Elizabeth said.

Masterson fixed her with a steady stare. “It’s what drove your father,” he said gently. “To determine how and why this could be. If ordinary people could see for three seconds into the future, why not longer? Hours, days, weeks, years. For physicists, such a concept is not beyond comprehension. Even Albert Einstein once said that the difference between the past and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. Time is just another dimension, like distance. We have no trouble looking forward or backward along a path. So why not along time, too?”

Gray pictured the strange girl. Her charcoal sketch of the Taj Mahal. If man could look through time, as Dr. Masterson reported, then why not across great distances? He remembered Director Crowe’s statement about the successes the CIA project had with remote viewing.

“All it would take,” Masterson said, “would be to find those rare individuals who could see farther than the ordinary. To study them.”

Or exploit them, Gray thought, still thinking of the girl.

Elizabeth passed the last page from the printer to the stack. She handed it to Masterson. “My father…he was looking for these rare individuals.”

“No, my dear, he wasn’t looking for them.”

Elizabeth’s eyes pinched in confusion.

Masterson patted her hand. “Your father found them.”

Gray perked up. “What?”

A knock on the door interrupted the professor before he could explain. Kowalski shifted, checked who it was, and opened the door.

Rosauro poked in her head and passed to Gray a heavy set of rental keys. “All done in here?”

“No,” Gray answered.

Masterson bowled past him with an armload of papers under his arm. “Yes, we are.”

Gray rolled his eyes and waved to the others. “C’mon.”

He followed, mentally strangling the irascible professor.

Kowalski kept to Gray’s side. “He’s just getting even,” the large man said and nodded to the walking stick under Masterson’s other arm. “For what you did to his cane.”

They exited the Internet café and found Luca Hearn leaning on the hood of a pewter-colored Mercedes-Benz G55 SUV. It looked like a tank.

Rosauro circled around to the front. She already had a hand raised against his objections. “Okay, it’s not inconspicuous. I know. But I didn’t know where we were going or how fast we might need to get there.”

Kowalski grinned much too widely. “Or how many Hondas we might need to run over.”

“It’s got four-wheel drive, almost five hundred horses…and…and…” She shrugged. “I liked it.”

Kowalski passed her to inspect the car. “Oh, yeah, from now on, Rosauro picks out all our transportation!”

Gray sighed and stepped toward Dr. Masterson. “Where to now?”

The professor was studying the stack of papers and waved his cane toward the north, plainly irritated. Gray waited for more details, but got none.

Elizabeth’s warning echoed in his head. Don’t press him…

Giving up, Gray pointed to the SUV. He had no time to argue. They’d been in one place too long already. He wanted to keep moving, even if he didn’t know exactly where. If anyone had put a tracer on the University of Mumbai’s Web site, they could be zeroing in on them right now.

“Load up,” Gray ordered.

Kowalski cupped his hands for the keys.

Gray tossed them to Rosauro instead.

Kowalski glowered at him. “You are just plain evil.”

5:06 P.M.

Elizabeth could wait no longer. Going against her own advice, she turned to Dr. Masterson. “Hayden, enough of your games. What did you mean when you said my father found those people?”

“Just what I said, my dear.”

The professor sat in the center of the SUV’s middle row, flanked by Elizabeth and Gray. Pen in hand, Hayden had been sifting through the printouts for the past ten minutes. Rosauro glanced back at them from the driver’s seat. Kowalski sulked in the passenger seat with his arms stubbornly crossed.

Luca stirred behind them and leaned forward to listen.

Hayden explained, “Your father spent the past decade collecting and comparing DNA samples from the most promising yogis and mystics of India. He traveled far and wide, from north to south. He collated reams of data, cross-referenced genetic code. He ran a statistical model analyzing mental ability versus genetic variance.”

“He tested Luca’s people, too,” Elizabeth said.

The Gypsy made a noise of agreement.

“Because they rose from the Punjab region,” Hayden said.

“Why is that important?” Gray asked.

“Let me show you.” The professor searched the stack for half a minute, then pulled out one sheet. “Your father, Elizabeth, was a true genius, vastly underappreciated by his peers. He was able to pinpoint three genes that seemed to be common to those who showed the strongest traits. Like many scientific breakthroughs, such a discovery was equal parts brilliance and luck. He came upon these genes when he noted that many of the most talented individuals seemed to show signs of autism in varying degrees.”

“Autism?” Elizabeth asked. “Why autism?”

“Because the debilitating mental condition, while compromising social functioning, can often produce some astounding savant abilities.” Hayden patted her knee. “Did you know that many of the key figures in history displayed autistic tendencies?”

Elizabeth shook her head.

He ticked names off, using his fingers. “In the arts, that included Michelangelo, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, along with Beethoven and Mozart. In science, you have Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Isaac Newton. In politics, Thomas Jefferson. Even Nostradamus was believed to be autistic to some degree.”

“Nostradamus?” Gray asked. “The French astrologer?”

Hayden nodded. “Such individuals have changed history, improved mankind, moved us forward. There’s a line Archibald loved to quote. From Dr. Temple Grandin, a bestselling writer with autism. ‘If by some magic, autism had been eradicated from the face of the earth, then men would still be socializing in front of a wood fire at the entrance to a cave.’ And I believe she was right.”

“And my father?”

“Most definitely. Your father came to believe that there was a direct connection between autism and his own studies into intuition and presentiment.”

“And he found this connection?” Gray said.

The professor sighed. “While we don’t know the exact cause for autism, most scientists agree that there are ten different genes that potentially contribute to the appearance of the condition. So Archibald ran these ten genes through his statistical model and discovered three of these genes were common among all those with high talent. It was the breakthrough he had been looking for. With these three genetic markers, he began to trace geographically the frequency of these markers in the general population. He came up with a map.”

The professor passed Elizabeth the sheet of paper on his lap. It was a map of India. Across the breadth of it were hundreds of small dots.

Tip: You can use left and right keyboard keys to browse between pages.