The OMASTERS - Report from Soofi Central

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Nothing is said in the log of the Gravity/Grace Warpship, Adamantina about the ends, the goals, the purposes or reasons for being in the most unique of situations. In the way that time typically degenerates records meant to be consistent, complete and intact, only fragments remains partially unraveled threads of once an exquisite tapestry, the few chipped shards from a once grandiose vase. And yet, slight as they seem, such bits sometimes prove to be fertile as seeds, with deep and true clues to the wholistic aspect of a work of art, or to the salient qualities of a culture, as in science a single cell may serve to identify the species--possibly even the indi­vidual--that was once its living host.

Thus have linguists reconstructed long dead tongues and set them flapping in the imagination. Archaeologists virtually reinvented the civilization of ancient Krete. The glories that were Greece and the grandeur that was Rome are interpreted and reinterpreted by successive generations of scholars basing their recast visions upon this or that newly discovered fragment or a honing of Occam's razor.

The Log of the Adamantina was conserved in the Archives of the Omasters, which are themselves, in their entirety, qualified as only a "HALF VAST FILE." The other half, incidentally, has been lost, but is referred to in the Omasters Index as a subset of AURUM - which is itself apparently also lost - under LOSS OF AURUM.

The first part of the Log of the Adamantina in a sense has been lost to us too: it was recovered, but in ashes.

The Wanderer, Wotan, the One-Eyed Culture-Bringer
An Oannee of the North, aFu Hai the West,
Thoth-Hermes-Mercury, He who brings knowledge
Of letters to men--who hanged for nine days
And nine nights from the ash tree, lightning struck
And sacred, receiving as boon the letters, as runes
Which he carved in his staff of the wood of the ash.

Thus runs the invocation by Chico Carboneri in his study of literature resuscitated from the ashes (with the unlikely title of), Jose Que's Eating Guide to Quesardinos and  Krypto‑Aztec Cuisine, (Los Angeles, 1967). Professor Carboneri has, since 1973, devoted significant energies to the "Loss of Aurum Problem," and related issues, scheduled for publi­cation in 1979/80 as The Early Ashes of Adamantina.

For us now, the surviving fragments of the Log may serve to introduce the unique situation. The large frame of the story involves a mysterious disappearance: the n-dimensional maze of interwoven characters, plots and abstract elements appears in the marked state in a variety of complex forms: as a lost child ("The Yellow Pearl and the Teahouse of Necessity"), as a lost executive of a lost nation ("Woody Nicholson, 22nd Back-up Vice President of Canamexico"), and for us--whatever the ash-analysis of "Loss of Aurum" might reveal--as the loss of the Gravity/Grace Warpship Adamantina, for an indeterminable period of time, as she fluttered at one of the "turning points" in Schwartzschild-coordinate time: poised on the threshold, as it would seem to us who live in the universe of light and electromagnetic bias, of what is called in the popular press a Black Hole.

Fiction and science have often conspired to elicit an image of ultimate high adventure. Insight and imagination are also heroes exploring the finest and most deep distinctions. In pure mathematics, fantastic art and in the actual practice of space exploration these qualities frequently appear together without contradiction. The Warpship Adamantina on the ultimate adventure in terms of the material universe--pushing right up to its interface with oblivion--contained inside a crew engrossed in a Turing Game, one of the tricky and subtle exercises in the domain of Artificial Intelligence. Simply put, a Turing Game is played by communi­cating with a Black Box. Something or someone inside the Black Box communicates with us. Now, is it a machine, a tape record­ing or computer with voice simulator, or is there a little man inside the box responding to our comments and questions? It is the game pursued for a while by a distinguished but naive visitor to Disneyland, who attempted to engage Abraham Lincoln in conversation.

The game is named after Alan Turing in his search for an operational way to approach the problem, "Can Machines Think?” He wrote a most prophetic and provocative article on Artificial Intelligence, entitled "Computing Machines and Intelligence," Mind, Vol. LIX, No. 236 (1950), discussed by Douglas Hofstader in his recent book, Godel, Escher, Bach:  Eternal Golden  Braid (Chapter XVIII "Artificial Intelligence: Retrospects," Basic Books, New York, 1979, pp. 594-600). Hofstader concludes on the soundness of Turing's insight, "and that the Turing test (as he refers to the game), essentially unmodified, will survive." (p. 600).

Of course the existential version of the game has been around for ages: Boccaccio's sitcom of surprised cuckholdery with men in cassoni, Hamlet and the Tapestry, and the most wonderful and notorious Turk Chess Player built by Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen in 1769 that fooled Edgar Allen Poe: an automaton hoax that actually contained a chess-playing dwarf. (Robert Malone, The Robot Book, Harvest/HBJ, New York, 1978, p. 37).

The Captain's cabin on board the Adamantina is the only compartment that can be locked from the inside, which it is. From the point of view of the rest of the crew, the Captain is lost (within or without the Adamantina). If the Captain is inside his cabin, he may be alive and well, and either un­willing or unable to respond to the desperate attempts of the crew members appealing for orders, directives or indi­cations as to what (if any) action should be taken, in order to avoid the possibility of crossing the very objective Schwartzschild threshhold and falling, catastrophically into the chaos of a Black Hole. There are other options as to the Captain's whereabouts. He has a real key to his own cabin, since he may lock it upon leaving from consider­ations of privacy or security. There are at least two ways in which the Captain may leave, as it turns out: one leads to the left and one to the right sides of the main bridge, between which doors is situated the console of the Adamantina's Biointerface Optical Information Processing System (BOIPS). Of course, the Captain need not leave his cabin to access the BOIP System; he has his own terminal. And there are two other "Windows" for the ebb and flow of life-support to and from the Captain's cabin, for air, water, light and micro-environment control. In addition there is the possibility that the cabin has its own trapdoor, or escape hatch, by means of which the Captain could have left the Gravity/Grace Warpship itself.

Only the IPS, the Adamantina's ultra-sophisticated "computer," knows for certain. The expulsion of an ounce, or a gram, or of a single line of particles--or of, say, a microdot--would be part of the record in the ship's general log. Access to infor­mation that would enable the crew to determine the real pre­sence of the Captain has been blocked: jammed by a security cipher, the principle (and only known) key to which is con­tained in the Captain's personal Log, which in turn is locked in the Captain's cabin--with or without the Captain.

It is at least a puzzle of "Chinese boxes." The Adamantina is a "box" playing flippety with Time and No-Time, on the threshhold of crossing into Schwartzschild-coordinate time. If we must think of the ship as being in Time, it must be the simplest order of time, in which time is marked, but the marks do not yet indicate temporal duration. Mathe­maticians may recognize this crossing as the Fifth, counting outward from the Void.

Inside the Adamantina is another "box," the locked Captain's Cabin, within which is the BOIPS "box." A wrinkle in the topology appears because the Captain may have left the ship--in a grand self-sacrificing gesture romantically contrary to the esteemed tradition of skippers who sail the sea and believe in going down with their ship. For by going down (and out!) himself, thereby reducing the total mass of the Adamantina and lessening the gravitational attraction, the Captain could have saved his ship and all aboard. By Newtonian mechanics, should he have taken his dive directly into the Black Hole, and pushed-off from the Adamantina, even this little boost might make the difference in electro-magnetic/gravitational equilibrium. But suppose that he, so welled-up with sacrificial suicide, forgot he had the key in his pocket, so to speak, by forgetting to put into the marked state his ciphered Code name as the key retained in his memory.

For practical purposes on the Gravity/Grace Warpship, the Captain is void. The void has no qualities whatsoever. But the crew, not limited to practicality, but given to memories and emotions, hope and dreams, knew their Captain as one of the original Omasters. In keeping with that tra­dition his name could be called in at least two ways: personally as Rebus Jetsün Orphandular, and ceremonially as Jetsün Rainbowchez. The common nominal element, "Jetsün," honors medieval Tibet's great poet, saint and mystic Jetsün Milarepa, the "Cotton-clad One (like a) Rainbow." (Jetsün may also be transliterated ja-tson, from the Tibetan).

So the mystery and puzzle of the Adamantina may be followed from within, if we like, much as the child's question, "What happened to the rainbow?"

The vehicle, the vessel, the Adamantina, is of natural course female like all the ships that men have constructed to sail the seven seas and world ocean, like a vase made by the potter to articulate the void, like a woven basket void-tool women used in the high paleolithic for gathering, for cradles and as fancy hats. The exoskeleton appeared demarcated in the pattern of a tortoise's carapace. The plastron or hull was seamed at the keel, and twelve sections arranged in symmetrical rows of six on each side.

As one observes from inspection of the usual tortoise, there are thirteen main sections of the shellback: arranged with five down the back, with four on each side. Around these, normally along the rim of the shell are twelve smaller sections on each aide, and a singular platelet above what would be the natural animal's protruding neck. On the Adamantina, twenty-four of the peripheral platelets each have their precise color, and are the information centers controlling functions analogous to twenty-four-specific organs and precise psychic functions of the human body. The singular platelet that could be numbered either zero or twenty-five, covers the console and central micro-processing hardware of the Biointerface Optical Information Processing System, BOIPS, directly behind which is the Captain's cabin, corresponding to the foremost of the central plates.

To the Captain's right, in the foremost area of the "right four" plates is lodged the First Mate and Executive Officer, called Primo Fucchino. According to the Log of the Adamantina, Primo, the principal crew member, sits in the steersman's seat they called "Asterion's Throne," which was sublimely comfortable, upholstered in laminar flow dolphin skin and draped with the pelt of a snow leopard. The steersman, or kubernetes in Greek, from whence we derive the modern word "cybernetic" has little enough to do in the present circumstances. Arrayed around Primo are the biointerface elements that link up his 24 lights. Asterion's Throne, so to speak, the driver's seat, is located in the right front platelet area. (See diagram: labeled rl). The BOIPS is to Primo's left. And since nothing is to be done, BOIPS entertains Primo by flashing for his pleasure in holographic display an imaginary scintillating belly dance performance to "Inta Omri," one of the traditional Arab Tunes. The biointerface connected with the most active part of Primo Fucchini's body triggers electric blue light on the console monitor. Primo's impulse and orientation threaten to direct the Adamantina over the edge of the Gravity/Grace Warp and into the Black Hole.

Over on the other side of the console, which is sleek and low at the chair's seat level, Primo observes his fellow crew member Eben Trovato preparing a "Level 9" Turing test: "The Argument for Extra-Sensory Perception." Eben solicits a volume from the Crystal Navigation Table mounted atop BOIPS' console. It is Hofstadter's GEE: an Eternal Golden Braid. He opens it to p. 598-599, and reads aloud,

"Turing was reluctant to accept the idea that ESP is real, but did so nonetheless, being com­pelled by his outstanding scientific integrity to accept the consequences of what he viewed as powerful statistical evidence in favor of ESP...an exceedingly complex and fascinating question."

Eben Trovato slips the tome into the dump/return chute.

"This is desperado science, but it might just be possible to contact Captain Rainbowchez through ESP, applying what we know of the Principle of Transference of Consciousness. I do not have to believe what I know. But I do not know if the Principle will apply effectively. I do believe that if applied correctly it is possible that we receive some word, or some sign from His Eminent Absence. Any sign would do."

Primo pondered the proposal.

"Like looking for the end of a ball of twine rolled up into a tight knot. Where do we Begin? Or perhaps this is where we all end. Well, if you centralize for a Test 9, I'll console the response scan. Where are you doing it? The whole ship's quiet enough now."

Trovato arose from his tiger-skin draped shotgun chair.

"Statistics seem appropriate for Central. The whole proposition at this level is on the fringe between probability and scientific inference. Centralizing in principle minimizes bias, affording the best chances for receiving a clear sign."

"Central" is the area associated with the third, or central, plate of the Tortoise-ship's shell back, the focus of her basic power plant, a CTR (Controlled Thermonuclear Reactor) evolved from the TOKAMAK magnetic bottle concept of Old Nassau. Eben Trovato makes his way to the Central area to prepare for ESP meditation, in an effort to penetrate BOIPS security locks and establish contact with, receive communication from, or obtain information about the missing Captain Rebus J. Or­phandular, the Jetsün Rainbowchez.

The remaining member of the crew is Constance Gloriosa, who enters the bridge as Trovato leaves. Primo wisecracks,

"Well, the word farce comes from the opening and closing of doors! And welcome to the bridge, Constance. Mmmm! What's the treat?"

Constance carries a teak wood tray displayed with three guacamole-topped tostadas.

"I can't get it in the kitchen. Here's snacks: a little something. But I missed again on the guacamole. At least our security-obsessed skipper might have left us a clue to the secret ingre­dient in the recipe before hanging out his Do Not Disturb."

They both bite into tostadas with crackles of the crisp tortillas. Primo pauses pensively to wipe away green sauce from the corners of his mouth,

"I...I...I think we might have something to go with. Let's scan the I's in Chinese."

Primo punched in commands for a display of Chinese words and written characters transliterated as I.

"No, not the 'chameleon' of I Ching fame. But perhaps within...Gloriosa! What do you make of Hexagram 27: I/ The Corners of the Mouth (Providing Nourishment)?

Primo studies the text of the computer cast imaginary yarrow stalks, proclaiming the Judgment:

"The Corners of the Mouth.
Perseverance brings good fortune.
Pay heed to the providing of nourishment
And to what a man seeks
To fill his own mouth with."

Primo solicits a commentary on the Judgment from BOIPS.

HEXAGRAM TWENTY-SEVEN: I, THE CORNERS OF THE MOUTH
"TRULY GREAT IS THE TIME OF PROVIDING NOURISHMENT."
CONTRAST HEXAGRAM FIVE: HSU, WAITING
HSU EMPHASIZES DEPENDENCE UPON NOURISHMENT & WHAT THERE IS FOR US TO EAT
I IS PROVIDING FOOD FOR OTHERS
NO RELATION BETWEEN UPPER (KEN, MOUNTAIN, KEEPING STILL) & LOWER (CHEN, THUNDER, THE AROUSING)
UPPER PROVIDES NOURISHMENT FOR OTHERS
LOWER FILLS OWN BELLY.

Constance glances at the remaining tostada. Primo pushes the tray toward her,

"We should enjoy. The beans will be cold and the cheese congealed by the time Trovato returns. Want to split it apart?"

Constance gives a disinterested shrug,

"What about the lines first?"

Primo: "OK, OK. Talk about fast feeders! "You chop. I have sticky fingers."

Constance: "No, my sly silly simpleton, the LINES."

Primo: "Ah ha!"

He wipes the corners of his mouth with a little finger, sucking off the green avocado streaks that droop down his jowls like a blitzed color TV moustache on Fu Manchu.

Constance:  "Nyet. Not yet. The changing lines!"

Primo:  "Oh! Punch out BOIPS, Like I say, I got greasy digits."

Constance addresses the console's Randomwalk Function to get a reading on the changing lines of the hexagram.

"RANDY WALKER GIVES US NINE AT THE BEGINNING.
YOU LET YOUR MAGIC TORTOISE GO,
AND LOOK AT ME WITH THE CORNERS OF YOUR MOUTH DROOPING.
MISFORTUNE."

Constance:  "That's what they called me in Amoga City, Ms. Fortuna, when I ran the Triple-null Roulette wheel at the Cross, Cross All Saloon. Here, give it to me, I'll groom the snow lions."

Primo passes her a slab of polished agate on which is centered a glittering crystal of pharmaceutical caffein. She selects a highly polished deep green spatula shaped knife of jade from the crystal navigation table, and proceeds to cut it into two fine lines in the style of Vegas coke heads. Primo fingers a delicate golden nose-funnel, shaped like a miniature New Year's Eve party horn with a handle. They each toot a line.

Primo:  "Nothing could be finer than a little pure cold coffee after a bite or two."

Constance:  "It always makes me want to watch the turtle races, Primo. Let's go onto BOIPS display while we roll around on the llama/alpaca rug."

BOIPS is programmed for multiplex association display on the key: TORTOISE. Primo Fucchino and Constance Gloriosa provide nourishment for each other's tactile and endocrine senses on the lush fur of the South American rug skins.

"THE MAGIC TORTOISE IS A CREATURE POSSESSED
OF SUCH SUPERNATURAL POWERS THAT IT LIVES ON AIR
AND NEEDS NO EARTHLY NOURISHMENT.
STRUCTURALLY THE WHOLE HEXAGRAM I
RECALLS THE TRIGRAM LI (FIRE, THE CLINGING) 
HENCE THE IMAGE OF A TORTOISE.
YOU IS THE LINE AT THE BEGINNING
ME IS THE LINE AT THE TOP.
AT THE BRAHMACHARI TOP OF THIS TORTOISE ADAMANTINA
BENNY TROVATO OPENS HIS CRANIAL SKYLIGHT.
COMMANDING: JETSUN RAINBOWCHEZ."

Constance and Primo both look up from their dalliance. On the vast ceiling display screen they see a formal but benign image of their erstwhile companion, the disappeared Captain. It is the standard mug shot, as familiar to them now as their own. They are looking for news, action shots if any, of the Captain. Constance asks BOIPS for Captain update information, but there is no response. She resets BOIPS for TORTOISE associations and slides back to caress Primo on the fur.