A Post Opp’s Devolution: Part 9

Jason was a cornered animal, he felt a few cold droplets of sweat run.

Paul continued, his voice icy…

“When Edward Stillinger…” That would be my partner in crime “…confessed, he said that you were the mastermind, that the pilfering of pre-cognitive capital would have been impossible without your statistical genius. We’ve paid a small army of statistical savants and quantitative annalists a fortune to develop our precognitive algorithm, yet you — working with that idiot — built a smarter mouse trap in 2 months. How’d you beat it?”

Jason swallowed awkwardly before beginning, his throat felt as dry as sandpaper.

“Yes. Edward had nothing to do with hacking the algorithm, he just opened the door for me to do so…” I better confirm his suspicions “I found a spike in predictive performance, if we stimulated delta waves early in the precognitive session, when the precogs are most asleep, which is a probably a little counter intuitive to what your consultants advise you.”

Jason let a little of a sly smirk out and continued

“Hitting the brain with a bunch of delta waves supposedly throws off the predictive accuracy way off for the rest of session right?”

Paul nodded, his frigid countenance giving way to curiosity

“Well it turns out that the precognitive faculty is just as subject to hormesis as the rest of the biology. If you stress the precognitive faculty just the right amount it makes it better… However, this varies widely by individual, precogs are unique snowflakes. The most individually robust model for hormesis we have comes from France’s nuclear power industry. About 40% of the entire country’s energy comes from nuclear power plants so they’ve got a ridiculously granular model of individualized radiation hormesis. If a 170 pound, 43 year old Frenchman drinks a bottle of Riesling and has a shitty night of sleep, he can only spend 11 minutes at a work station, 20 meters from the core, before he’s going to start making bad decisions, but if he’s been working there for 10 years he can spend 22 minutes at his work station. Hormesis. It wasn’t much of a stretch to apply this model to your precogs. It turns out they needed anywhere from 7–15 sessions of conditioning before they started responding to the stimulated delta waves.”

Paul was unexcitedly attentive, he indicated for Jason to continue with a nod

“And it paid off, I was able to spike their predictive ability by 20% for about 5 minutes in the very beginning of the session, the period of time you thought they were totally useless.”

Jason couldn’t cover up his pride, Paul was eating it up, he let a little smile out…

“Hell, I was trying to convince my partners to experiment with directly irradiating the precogs during their sessions following the French model, using like a cell phone with a power pack attached, but they thought it over aggressive.”

“Wait! What did you just say?” Opps

“My partner thought it over aggressive.”

“No! That’s not what you just said. You said partners. Who was your other partner?”

Oh fuck! I’m drunk and I let the truth slip out… The cocktail of gabergics Jason had consumed over the night was taking its toll on him, an awkward look of further self loathing came over Jason.

“I misspoke, Edward was my only partner.”

“No! That’s a fucking lie. I can see it all over your face. Who was your other partner?”

To punctuate his demand, Paul reached under his desk and pressed some unseen button which locked his office door with a mechanical click.

“It was just Edward.” Jason nodded in agreement with his own false admission

With that Paul clicked another button on a tablet that powered on a deceptively small speaker behind the desk which immersed the office in blasting electronic music, he quickly turned it up to such absurd volume that pens and miscellaneous items on the desk vibrated and Jason imagined it could wake the entire building. This is getting weird…

With that he stood up, casually walked around to Jason’s side of the desk, looked out the window with a museful expression for a moment, then glared down at Jason with intense eyes and then in a shockingly fast movement, kicked Jason in chest with such force that his chair was overturned and Jason was thrown out of it. Sprawled on the floor, quivering from the impact, his lungs writhed for air for a moment, Jason had barely taken a breath before Paul was on him like large cat taking down it’s prey, in what felt like a quarter of a second Paul had constrained himself around Jason in a jujitsu headlock, simultaneously chocking him from behind while twisting his wrist in an excruciating position. Jason tried to cry to Paul that he was ready to talk, ready to reveal the truth of his crime, yet his words were crushed with the rest of his throat, in the iron headlock.

His panic and desperation gave way to a darkness that closed around his field of vision, his thoughts slowed down and become surprisingly clear and philosophical.

Is this how I’m going to go? Chocked to death by the man I robbed in his castle in the sky?

Is this guy really going to kill me? Well he said he’d killed before. If his criminal defense attorneys are as good as the ones now prosecuting me for robbing him, he probably can kill and get away with it…

He’s so confident in his legal defense that he can get away with murder in his own home, barely 20 feet away from all his friends partying in his kitchen!

What’s he going to tell Astrid and Alejandra?

Astrid! If there’s one thing I regret it’s that I didn’t get to fuck Astrid…

Well, I definitely regret not fucking more real girls. Nearly every moment of sexual ecstasy in my life was inspired by mere bits and pixels. I regret my cybersex addiction…

I regret that I choose comfort and digital amusement over adventure, novelty and challenge in real life…

If I had another chance, I’d do things differently. I wouldn’t embrace limitless digital hedonism at the cost of draining the vivacity of the world outside of the screen and the Link.

Maybe, I deserve death though, I’m an evolutionary dead end, I’ve accomplished nothing other than hacking the system and taking advantage of loopholes. My boredom drove me to rob this man who’s now choking me to death. I’ll be soon forgotten…

Just as Jason was about to accept his fate, the strangle hold was let up and he took a few hacking, coughing breaths. Just as he was about to articulate his acquiescence to Paul’s questioning, the tycoon applied an acute and violent pressure to his outermost finger and in a pop both men felt, broke it. Jason reacquired the ability to emit noise, screaming in agony, his voice drowned out by the blaring music. Paul released Jason to lay on the floor, staring in horror at his broken finger, quickly turning an unnatural purple color, protruding from his hand at a bizarre angle.

Paul disappeared from Jason’s world of pain on the floor, Jason’s mind jumped to analyzing his prospects for the survival…

I could run. No the door is locked.

I could break out the window. No I’m on the 32nd floor. There’s no way down.

I need to fight Paul. No, I’d lose, he’s too strong.

I could try to poke out one of his eyes. No, he will catch my hand and break another finger. Plus, that will probably just piss him off even more.

I need to bite him. My teeth are the only weapon I have left. Ok if he comes back I’ll fucking bite him.

He came back.

Jason’s panic spiked again at the sight of dark steel in Paul’s hand, which he recognized as a Walther PPK.

Ok biting him is out of the question…

Jason’s pain was replaced by an immobilizing dread that weighed heavy in his chest. Paul pressed the cold steel into Jason’s temple, then with the concealed controller Paul lowered the volume of the music by about 50%, just enough so Jason could hear the iconic mechanical click of the firearm preparing itself for Paul’s final act of violence against him.

He wouldn’t murder me right here in his home like this…

Then the music’s throbbing volume returned, spread on the floor Jason could feel the music vibrating the building itself.

Oh fuck! oh fuck! He’s turned up the music to mute the sound of the gunshot. He’s really going to kill me!

Paul stood above him like a robot, his eyes unblinking and intense, staring Jason in the eyes, not saying a thing. A staring contest? After a moment of indeterminable length, it could have been 60 seconds or 10 minutes later, again with an unseen controller Paul finally lowered the volume of the music to where they could hear each other.

“You are going to tell me exactly how you fucking robbed me… Now. Understood?”

With that Paul’s casual grace returned, he settled back into his throne on the other side of the desk. Jason pulled himself back to his feet, reoriented his chair which had been knocked over.

“Ok…” Jason let out a sigh, there was still a lot of pain in his voice “The truth is… I had three partners. One you already know about. One you don’t…”

Paul nodded with a surprisingly appreciative look, Jason swallowed deeply before revealing his trump card
“We couldn’t have done it without solar flares…”
Solar flares are actually a big problem for the pre-cognitive mining industry, the light speed exceeding tachyons that the sun flings at the earth during a solar flare disrupt the quantum mechanism that the precogs use to divine the future. For periods of between just a few minutes and several hours solar flares will turn a Nostradamus like precog into the equivalent of a drunken degenerate gambler.
In the early years of the precognitive mining industry this was a major challenge to getting profitable predictions. Scientists worked tirelessly to figure out what was sporadically causing the accuracy of the procogs to go off a cliff.

Eventually a Canadian engineer, spending the holidays on the frozen tundra of his family’s ranch noticed an eerie correlation between the inaccurate predictions and the northern lights appearing especially vividly in the sky. After a couple nights in a row of fire shows erupting across the Canadian skys which were uncannily preceeded by idiotic trades made with precognitive data, the connection was made.
The mining firms richly supplemented the near none existent budgets of the public agency, TESIS, that monitored solar meteorology in exchange for up to the minute data on solar flare activity; anything approaching an B class flare and the precogs got unplugged from the statistical money making monster they powered. For larger flares that put their foresight out of commission for several hours the precogs would return to their lives as Post Opps; online gaming and adult sims, maybe even getting up from their computers and getting out in the meat space world for a snack, but during the more garden variety solar flares that happened several times a week, the Precogs would simply go into an unconscious standby state, conserving their cognitive capital.

“My third partner, was the database manager of the solar conditions office…” Paul’s eyes went wide with curiosity “…he fed you guys bullshit data of when to expect outages from your precogs. Then my second partner, as you know, redirected the precognitive abilities of the Post Opps, while they were supposedly useless thanks to the fictional solar flares. We made a bit of a gamble that you guys would never take a close gander at the sun during the supposed downtime from the solar flares.”

Like before Jason couldn’t resist smiling at his own genius, he continued.
“The hard part was making it seamless. The downtime of the precogs needed to be totally indistinguishable from the flare patterns, duration and tachyon spikes of the real solar flares. As you know, once precogs come back online after a solar flare, they do some dummy trades first just to make sure that their quantum faculties are firing on all cylinders, sometimes there are still some tachyons lingering in the ionosphere that still throw off thier accuracy. This is where I was irreplaceable, I designed the mathematical models of the fake solar flares, and the statistical disposition of a brand new accuracy curve every time we had a solar flare.”

Despite sitting across from a man that he had stole a king’s ransom from, Jason’s tone revealed some pride in his clever work.

“The next statistical challenge we faced was covering the loss of cognitive capital. Let’s say we siphoned off 20% of a given precog’s cognitive capital in a week, there would be a noticeable drop off in their performance over time. However, as you are aware, precogs go through fluctuations in cognitive performance based upon diet, stress and a bunch of other factors. I also had to design a believable statistical model of declines in performance that would not deviate noticeably far from the mean of a normal precog’s performance.”

Paul sat back in his chair, with a look of profound satisfaction on his face, like a man who had just stumbled upon a treasure trove “Well, you really are a dangerous man Jason.”

Jason, still holding his hand which throbbed with pain, strangely felt a gratefulness to Paul and added a final clarification…

“By the way, I wasn’t lying about the French hormesis models, the delta wave stimulation certainly supplemented the productivity of the precogs, but our little operation wouldn’t have been possible without the fake solar flares.”

“Was the number of 280 hours of precognitive capital stolen from us pretty accurate?”

“Yeah, that’s pretty close…”

“And how’d you make out with that…?”

“As we discussed earlier, I’m a poker player so I just plugged the precognitive capital into a poker algorithm I’ve been working on for years, and it definitely brought home the cheddar, in fact I had to limit my usage of it to avoid attracting too much attention. I cleared nearly $9 million in winnings in those 2 years, which I had to split 3 ways, but it was a pretty good hustle…”

“Yeah it was!” Paul added with a very contained maniacal laugh

“Then Edward left his iPhone in a cab…”

Paul nodded, enjoying the narrative he knew well

“…I told Edward countless times to lock his phone and home computer and encrypt our emails, yet he forgot when he bought a new iPhone, he got drunk and carelessly left his phone in an auto taxi… and some self righteous taxi passenger, found the iPhone, read our emails and decided to end our party.”

“They weren’t so self righteous, I had to pay $5K for those emails. Another question; Edward’s emails never mention your guy at TESIS. Why not?”

“I didn’t see any reason to tell Edward about the third partner, I offered him 33%…” Actually it was 25% “…for the sole responsibility of carrying a USB drive to work and plugging it into various workstations. He didn’t complain about being a junior partner in the high profit, low risk criminal enterprise I designed and operated. I lead him to believe it was me who was hacking and falsifying the data from the solar conditions office. I sold my guy at TESIS basically the same deal, although he demanded a higher split…” That’s a lie, he took 25% and was happy with it “…he thought that I had hacked my way into your systems directly and was redirecting the precognitive capital all on my own. I was paranoid about my partners getting ambitious, trying to cut me out, so I made sure the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing.”

Paul posed the next logical question

“Is TESIS still sending us bullshit data?”

“No, as soon as me and Edward got caught my 3rd partner, freaked the fuck out and quit his job, he contacts me sporadically from anonymous email addresses with paranoid questions about how the case is going. I think he might be in Costa Rica.”

“Ok that makes sense.”

Paul sat back, he gazed again towards the 10000 twinkling lights of the city through the expansive windows of the office, the night sky was now taking on a hue of dark blue, then he redirected his gaze to regard Jason for a moment before continuing.

“You’re right. Our fortress was vulnerable, I’ve always questioned that we relied upon a public agency for such critical information as solar flare data. I don’t blame you for taking advantage of it. I realize you are just an opportunist, as am I. I have an exceedingly generous offer to make you, given what you did, that I don’t think you can refuse.”

Tonight just keeps getting weirder…

“When the Nero hack occurred I would have rather just chalked it up as a learning experience but my partners feel more vengeful about the matter. The team of attorneys they have persecuting you are fucking assassins. The partner of the law firm on your case plays golf with half the judges in this town. These guys are crazy networked. Believe me, they will lock you up and throw away the key. However, I’d really rather not spend the $1500 an hour on them…”

He slid another business card across the table, this one containing the dry imagery of the crest of one of the most elite law firms in town.

“We are currently facing a monumental statistical challenge in our R&D department that I think your talents could be ideal for overcoming. If you can figure it out we will drop our charges against you. All you will have to do then is beat the public prosecutors case — which should be a walk in the park — and you will have gotten away with murder. You can even keep the $3 million or however much…”

I’ve already spent most of it actually…
“So if I’m to be the indentured servant in your R&D department, for an open ended commitment what guarantees do I have of you guys dropping the case?”
“None.” Paul responded flatly “Other than our own self interest. We are going public next year, I can’t have my signature anywhere near any agreements with cyber criminals. So this would have to be something of a handshake deal but once you’re acquainted with the problem you’ll see it’s worth significantly more than the chump change you and Edward got us for. You don’t have to trust me but I think it will be quite obvious that there’s a lot of mutual interest in handling this outside of court. If you can get it figured out I will even put you on as a consulting contractor, how does $15,000 a month sound to give us advice from time to time as we need it?”

Jason didn’t hesitate.

“You’re right. That’s an offer I can’t refuse. When do we get started? And what exactly will I be working on?”

“Tuesday. You will be meeting Peter Ruhrich, the head of R&D. What exactly will you be working on? Let’s just say… You are going to be giving the unwanted the gift of foresight.”

Wait! What…?

“You won’t be bored. Peter can explain it better than I. Welcome to the firm.”

Paul made a final demand as he handed a sleek tablet with a form on it to Jason

“I’m going to the need your complete contact details, address and social security number. I’m going to need the same info for your closest living relative. This is mandatory and none negotiable, if you lie on it, that will mean the end of our agreement.”

After several minutes of Jason awkwardly tapping away on the tablet with his one good hand, Paul’s voice finally betrayed an iota of empathy

“Before we rejoin the party, I need to wrap your hand. It’s not a bad break. I’ll give you something for the pain, you’ll see my doctor tomorrow, he gets me taken care of right whenever I get tuned up in jujitsu class. We’ll just tell the girls we got into a grappling match and you broke it by accident, everyone’s drunk here, weirder things have happened at 4AM.”

He added with a smirk, as he texted the doctor’s contact info to Jason

“Just tell him that you recently joined our dojo and you’re a white belt.”

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