Recap #230: The Last Vampire #8 | Thirst #4: The Shadow of Death by Christopher Pike (Part One) by Wing
Title: The Last Vampire #8 | Thirst #4: The Shadow of Death (Chapters 1 -7)
Summary: I have returned to life, but it’s to a suddenly lonely world.
Alisa is a five-thousand-year-old vampire, stronger and more cunning than her adversaries. But now she’s trapped in the body of a newborn vampire and at the mercy of a terrible thirst. Worst of all, she’s facing enemies whose fierce desire for domination grows ever stronger. The immortal race the Telar is threatening to release a virus to decimate humanity. But Alisa and her friends can’t take down the Telar on their own, and they must turn to the mysterious organisation the IIC for help. But the IIC has secrets of its own and may have ulterior motives. With two rivals and no one to trust, Alisa must rely on her dark side to defeat them. But it could cost her life, or her soul… [Wing: How many goddamn times is she going to die?]
Tagline: Tortured Soul. Final Judgment. [Wing: Yeah, right. I’ll believe this is the end when I see it.]
Yet another one I’ve never read before and after the end of the last one, The Eternal Dawn, I’m not exactly looking forward to this one because W T F PIKE?! In case you have blocked this from your mind, I’ll sum up: Alisa. is in. someone else’s. body. Teri’s body. Teri her granddaughter-with-too-many-greats-to-count’s body. YUP.
Seymour Dorsten is as WTF as we are when it comes to Sita being in Teri’s body. She’s pretty WTF too, really, because sometimes she feels like Teri, sometimes she feels like Sita. She’s not even sure how many days have passed since Matt shot her in the chest. She’s not even sure she’s happy to be alive again. When she threw herself in front of the laser, she was ready to see Krishna again, and she’s not sure why. She has no memory of what happened after.
She’s still grateful to Paula’s son, John. Previously known as potentially the rebirth of Jesus and Krishna, etc. He’s the one who made her realise that she is Sita in Teri’s body. She doesn’t know where Teri went, though. She was deep in the transformation into becoming a vampire, and who knows where Teri is, her soul or her mind or whatever.
There’s some more recapping about how the Array made Matt shoot Sita, probably because Cynthia Brutran got tired of her and used that mind-control tool to get rid of her. Alisa’s now determined to kill her as soon as possible.
Seymour doesn’t believe she’s Sita and that somehow she must have inherited some of Sita’s memories during the blood transformation process. Sita’s dead and there’s no changing that.
Sita’s certain that he knows it is her, he can feel it is her, but he still refuses, until she holds him while he cries. They’re so close that they’re practically one mind. I still wonder if Seymour is Pike’s stand-in character, because Sita sure does seem to love him.
(I guess I’ve given up on calling her Alisa considering she’s opened this book calling herself Sita.)
Seymour chose to bury her body instead of cremating her because he couldn’t stand the thought of putting her into the fire. He wonders if she can get her body back, but she can’t work miracles. They talk about what she remembers and how she woke up next to Matt; Seymour’s jealous of Matt and wondering if they’ve had sex. Good lord.
Seymour then asks if she has access to all Teri’s memories, and this opens a flood of them for Sita. It’s even more confusing, she feels like two people now. Seymour thinks this means that they’re both in the same body, but Sita’s not convinced. She thinks Teri is just gone.
Sita realises that she doesn’t feel as strong in her new body, that her eyes can’t handle the sun as well (though Teri’s body handles daylight better than a regular new vampire would). This is a problem because she doesn’t have the strength to deal with Brutran and the IIC and Telar. Seymour thinks they should hide.
That vaccine for the X6X6 virus has been working on Seymour and Shanti, sort of. It slows the blisters but didn’t get rid of them. They need other scientists to get on reproducing it on a massive scale.
Sita also wants to know why Brutran was able to lock the Array on Matt, who is a Telar/vampire hybrid created from Yaksha who was not just any other vampire. Matt’s stronger and faster than Sita was in her own body and Brutran can’t possibly have a sample of Matt’s blood the way she did Sita’s.
She’s decided not to tell Matt that she’s in Teri’s body because Matt’s already furious at her for turning Teri into a vampire. She’s afraid of what he’ll do when he learns the truth.
She asks for some time alone with her body and once Seymour is gone, she kneels next to the coffin and opens it so she can see herself. It makes her feel dizzy and faint, and it frightens her to look at herself. God, I bet it would! There’s a hole in her chest, in her heart, and the white dress she wears doesn’t hide it, is, in fact, stained from the wound. She knows she shouldn’t, but she checks the wound. It is too narrow and damp when it should be dry. She thinks, somehow, it is slowly healing, but not even dead vampires heal.
She forces her eyes open and finds that they are darker than before, the blue closer to black, and she sees Krishna in them, his divine dark-blue light. She cries then for the dead Sita. She knows then that Krishna sent her back for a purpose and she only has so much time to accomplish it.
When Sita and Seymour leave the cemetery, she starts feeling worse. The sun hurts her more and more and her guts are cramping. She’s hungry, even though she hasn’t felt it in like 5000 years. Now wait a fucking minute here, you’ve never been hungry, ever, in all that time? I don’t believe it.
At the hotel, a fancy Hilton, Matt’s gone scouting the area for Telar. Sita’s so hungry in this body that she can’t wait. She orders room service and swears she won’t commit murder. I hope not, because if you kill them, that’s not very goddamn subtle, is it?
The room service guy is huge, 6’6” and at least 300 pounds, a weight lifter. This means he has more blood but it also means he’ll be harder to control. Oh, Sita, you got soft in your thousands of years of life.
She needs her wits, but she’s completely out of control. She stabs him in the neck with a steak knife but can’t get to the jugular. Her mind isn’t moving as fast as it should, either; she does not have Sita’s speed and strength in any way, not in this body.
So she calls herself a mental patient who stopped taking her meds and that’s why she freaked out. What. the. Fuck. Way to feed the stereotypes that people with mental illnesses are a danger to others by using it as an excuse for violence and then having it be believed.
He talks to her some while she pretends to go get medicine out of Matt’s suitcase; he tells her that he takes Prozac and has for years for his depression and he knows you shouldn’t come off any meds all of a sudden. Which is true, and I like that he’s chill about it all, but this makes it even more frustrating that he’ll buy into that crazy person is of course violent.
Sita kicks the knife out of his hand but when she tries to do the second part of it, striking with her other leg to put him down, she can’t pull it off and hits the floor. He tries to run, she trips him and knocks him out by driving his face into the floor.
She bites into his neck, feels his jugular split beneath her teeth, and she’s lost in her animalistic hunger. She drinks in the throes of pleasure and doesn’t come back to herself until the phone rings. It’s the room service people checking to see if she got her food which was sent up thirty minutes ago. She says she did not, but eventually slips that she knows his name is Ken. The old Sita would never make these mistakes.
I kind of love this fish out of water story — or vampire in a new body, I guess — but if Sita is going to keep making the same sort of mistakes in this body and having the same reaction to them, it’s going to get old fast.
Sita cries over Ken, actual tears of water, not blood. This body is too young for bloody tears and for calm detachment. Ken was a nice guy, he wanted to help her, and she killed him.
Eventually, her instincts take over, though. She stuffs Ken under the room service cart and takes the main guest elevator down to the bottom of the parking garage to make it easier to steal a car. Using the guest elevator seems like a weird choice, but okay. A family gets in, the mother keeps asking her for directions because she thinks Sita works for room service, Sita starts to get angry with all of them but calms herself, and finally she’s down in the garage.
She finally manages to find a car that she doesn’t think has a working alarm and gets it started, then dumps Ken into the trunk along with the plate of food. Better hope there’s no security cameras, oh, anywhere in the damn hotel.
She knows nothing about Denver and has to stop to get a map, a shovel, garbage bags, and duct tape. She heads to a small national park outside the city and prays to Krishna after she buries Ken.
Matt’s there when she gets back to the room and the second she sees his face, she knows he knows.
He’s a thousand years old and still looks like a young god. She can’t believe she didn’t recognise him when they met, Yaksha’s son so obvious in him. She admits that she attacked the room service guy and didn’t mean to kill him, but she did. Matt comforts her and promises that she’s not a murderer. She’ll learn to control it; after all, Sita almost never killed her victims. He tells her he can help her, he can make people forget what happened, so she can drink and he can do that to them. She asks if he’s ever used it on her, and he lies that he has not. Teri would not have realised that. Sita does. She won’t let anything make her cocky, though; she knows how perceptive he is.
Honey, you have been nothing but cocky since the very first page of this series. I don’t see anything changing now.
He brings her up to speed about what’s been going on since their small war the other day; the Telar kept it out of the media, but he’s not sure how they will go on to stop everyone without Sita. He also admits that the vaccine is designed to protect the Telar and it won’t work as well on ordinary people.
They argue a lot over what to do, make verbal jabs at each other about Teri being a vampire and what she does and does not know about him killing Sita, etc. So much for Sita not letting on too much.
Luckily for her, it devolves into sex and in the middle of it, she feels as if Teri is there reclaiming her body, two of them feeling the pleasure and it is both “disorientating and delicious.”
Later, when Sita wakes, Teri is gone and she’s alone again inside. Matt sleeps and she gets restless, so she goes to try to entertain herself, but nothing works. She also feels bad about Ken. She refuses to kill again, but she also doesn’t want to have to depend on Matt to hypnotise them into forgetting. She doesn’t want to have to lean on someone else to take care of her when she took care of herself for so long.
She’s restless and her body wants to go for a run, because Teri always ran. Sita enjoys it in Teri’s body which is different from running in her old one. She runs for hours, all the way out to the cemetery where her body is buried. She didn’t mean to come there, but she knows she did, sort of. Something’s happening with her body, and she needs to know more.
Except there’s definitely no body there. Someone has stolen it and sloppily tossed the dirt back onto it. She tries to reach the car she hears across the cemetery but she’s too slow and only catches a glimpse of a station wagon. She does manage to get the California license plate, though.
She’s exhausted now and takes a cab back to the Hilton, though she redirects it at the last minute to the Sheraton where Paula Ramirez and John are staying. She wants an explanation and she wants it now.
She calls her Teri at first, and Sita snaps at her that they both know the truth and there’s no need to act. Paula swears she sensed it but wasn’t sure; Sita doesn’t really believe her. Sita demands to see John, and won’t take any threats or statements otherwise. She even pulls out the thing that she saved him, her daughter died saving him, he can answer her damn questions.
She does get to see him and as soon as she goes to confront him, her anger and impatience vanish. She feels like he can see right through her. When he speaks, peace washes over her. She can’t look away from him.
When he lets her ask questions, the first one she asks is who he is. Words cannot describe who he is, though; she pushes and asks if he’s Krishna who is more than a word, it’s a mantra and a vibration. He represents the vibration, he says, but they all do. Even the people she calls evil are no more separate from the whole than the people she considers good.
She tells him about the dream she had awhile back, where she dreamed of hell and Lucifer told her he was the Light Bearer, the greatest of all angels, and he knew it but still denied it because he hated God so much.
Is this — is this supposed to be a surprise? Because I thought Lucifer being the greatest of the angels before his fall was kind of common knowledge in Christianity.
John asks why the dream was so terrible, and she says it’s because when she awoke from it, she did something terrible, she ate the woman alive, slowly, painfully. It doesn’t matter that she was under the power of the Array, she still feels tainted and linked to Lucifer and what he represents.
John says she is, because he’s the Light Bearer, he’s one with his God; Sita finds this sickening. It’s true, though, and a paradox, like the truth often is. He tells her that the tainted feeling will help her later so she’d better hold onto it now. I’m sure that makes her feel better with all the horror it brings even an ancient vampire.
In the cemetery, both Sita and Teri wanted to live but Sita’s will was stronger, so she got the body. One reason she got it is because Teri asked Sita to not make her a vampire but Sita did anyway, and another is that Sita still has things to do before she can leave the world. Which is also something she already knew. You’re super helpful, John. So glad we had this talk.
She asks why he plays the game, Cosmic Intuitive Illusion, IIC spelled backward. John says he plays it to let the others know he’s here. She wants to know who those others are, but he suggests she ask what is behind the Array.
He’s going to ask her to leave, and she knows it, so she makes her next question a statement to force him into the position of Krishna: he does interfere even though he says he cannot with the freedom of choice; he has saved Sita a number of times.
He tells her the same thing Krishna did five thousand years ago: His grace is always with her.
Now all we need is Sita’s favourite exchange and we’ll be golden.
(Victim: I don’t want to die.
Sita: Then you never should have been born.
Wing: So fucking cheesy and yet it’s grown on me. Damn it, Sita.)
The next morning, they meet for a war council in Seymour’s hotel room. Everyone except for John. They talk about the virus, first; they have the vaccine, but it’s not working on humans since Seymour and Shanti still show signs of the infection. Charlie, the scientist, tells them that vaccines aren’t really a cure, they’re designed to prevent disease. True. Matt argues that they all took it and they all got better at first, and he and Teri (ahem) still feel fine. I mean, half-vampire and vampire, surely that has nothing to do with why it would work better on them, oh my god. You are supposed to be old and experienced and yet you are an idiot. Charlie says he can tweak the vaccine to protect the regular immortal immune system, but not without a great lab, lots of time, and maybe some brilliant chemists and microbiologists to assist. So nothing much, yeah?
Sita says they can’t stop the Telar without help from the IIC. Matt, of course, shoots this down, even though they’ve been talking in circles around how to get Charlie the help he needs and even if they can, there’s no guarantee they have enough time. She goes so far as to say maybe it’d be a good thing if they took the vaccine away, because they have far more resources and can maybe stop the coming plague. Seymour backs her. Matt does not and says that if Sita were there, she’d agree with him.
Oh, don’t mind me, that’s coughing, not laughter, I swear.
Seymour’s been trying to push Matt’s buttons and actually tells him that he doesn’t like the IIC just because they made him shoot Sita; Matt rolls with that and says he can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to have his free will ripped from his grasp. Seymour doesn’t back down, though, and asks how they were able to get to Matt, whether they have some of Matt’s blood. Matt swears he doesn’t know anything about it, and Seymour quite clearly (and understandably) doesn’t believe him.
Sita stands up to be the voice of reason. She says both Seymour and Matt have good points, cleverly diverting away from the fact that going to the IIC was her plan in the first damn place. She thinks at the same time they should be figuring out more about the IIC; Paula volunteers to help in that area, but wants to leave John out of it.
Matt thinks this is a waste of time that should be spent helping Charlie build and stock a laboratory to do the work on the vaccine himself. They argue back and forth over stopping the virus, stopping the people who invented it, etc. In the end, they split up, Matt with Charlie, everyone else to deal with the IIC. Even “Teri” which means going against what Matt wants for her.
Yeah, you’re being completely subtle about this whole not being Teri thing, aren’t you, Sita?
Sita reaches out to some of her old detective friends, but they are reluctant to talk to her because her original body and Teri don’t sound much alike at all and this makes people suspicious. Still, with Paula’s help, they make progress. A board of directors control the IIC: Cynthia Brutran and her husband, Thomas; Wendy Brent and her husband, Noel; and Frederick Wild. They’ve been in control since the company began. Prior to that, they all attended a graduate program at University of California, Berkeley and were taught by Professor John Sharp. It was almost exclusively focused on proving that ESP was real.
Sita has to talk to the police before she leaves, about Ken, of course. They come in a pair, which is the only reason she doesn’t have one for dinner. She leaves her gold medal out (well, Teri’s gold medal) and they talk about that, first. They found the car, but haven’t found the body. The family that Sita ran into talked about her but she talks her way clear of that, mostly. One of the detectives is more perceptive than she wants him to be, but eventually she gets them to go away. She knows Detective Treach is going to be a problem, though. Her intuition is telling her to kill him, the intuition she believes comes from Sita. I would like to remind you, dear killer, that you are but a baby vampire right now and you thinking you can physically handle things the way Sita would is what got you into this mess in the first place.
Sita gets Treach’s home address and goes to stake it out. He’s not home. His wife is on the phone and Sita learns that she’s head of surgery at a nearby hospital, which means she probably has easy access to the clinic’s blood bank. She doesn’t like blood like that, because it lacks that energy of life, but it would make things easier on the way to California. Once Treach’s wife, Sandy, is off the phone, Sita goes to talk to her, goes to test what psychic abilities Sita has left.
Sita introduces herself as Teri and says she was short with Treach and thought of something else that she wants to tell him. When she’s invited inside, Sandy pretty quickly asks how she knows their home address. Sita starts her psychic work then. She has to start with small orders and lies and build her way up. It’s not nearly as easy as when she was in her own body — shocking, I know — but she does manage to get Sandy to talk about the blood bank and to sleep.
To sleep so Sita can drink from her, even though she knows she should wait and do it after she gets Sandy out of the house. Her thirst is clouding her decisions. Again, shocking. We’re only on chapter six and pretty much everything you’ve done has been clouded by being in Teri’s body and yet you never seem to learn that.
She manages to drink without killing Sandy, but Treach comes home while they’re still there. Sita’s annoyed at her own foolishness, which she is a lot but never at a time it will be, you know, actually useful. She knows she needs to take him out, but she doesn’t actually want to kill him now that she’s been in his home and met his wife. She knows this is illogical since she came there in the first place to kill him, but that doesn’t make it less real.
Sita manages to put him in a choke hold, the same one that police in the USA use often, though it is banned in at least some jurisdictions (and when they kill people with it, they usually get off, especially when the victim is black. We remember your name, Eric Garner, even when the police face no consequences for your death.) and puts him out quickly due to her strength. She then duct tapes him to a leather chair and tapes his eyes shut. She’s worried that he might be able to escape the bindings no matter how thorough he is. She puts together a mix of drugs (because a doctor’s house of course has drugs hanging around) to knock him out longer. She’s going to use an enema bag to do this because she can feed the rubber hose straight into his stomach. Gross.
But he’s awake when she gets back downstairs. She’s not sure what to do now because she gave his wife Teri’s name since at the time Sita planned to kill them both. Now she doesn’t. She uses a pillow to muffle her voice, talks to him a little about him needing to stay calm and he’ll get through it, then choke holds him out again. She drugs him, then, and leaves the duct tape over his mouth slit open so he won’t smother if he gets sick.
On the way to the hospital, Sita talks her through what they’re going to do, including that Sita who was Teri is now Kim, Sandy’s niece. This name thing is going to be fun as long as Sita’s in Teri’s body, isn’t it? Things go smoothly when they first get to the hospital; Sita gets Sandy into her office and into her “hospital clothes” Sita knocks out the one guard, turns off the cameras, and takes the digital cards the cameras save to.
(Speaking of cameras, are you really telling me that the fucking HILTON doesn’t have cameras, especially in the garage where their guests leave fancy, expensive cars? BULLSHIT.)
Sita runs into a mental block with Sandy when it’s time to get the blood, though. Sandy’s used to calling down for blood; she’s too important to fetch it herself, and that habit is ingrained enough that Sita struggles to get past it. At one point, Sandy even asks why to one of Sita’s orders, and it shakes Sita’s world. Sandy should not be questioning her, not when she’s psychically in control.
Once again, THIS IS NOT SITA’S BODY. Are you intentionally being dense and not adapting? You’re supposed to be able to adapt to new situations so you can survive. So far, I’m not seeing much of that at all.
Sita uses a story about a train accident caused by teenagers fooling around with track controls to get her to start moving. They run into a guy, Gary, stationed at the blood bank, and Sandy very blankly tells him exactly the story that Sita told her, which makes Sita realise that her psychic skills only go skin deep. YOU THINK?! God, Sita, how the fuck did you ever survive before you were strong enough to force your way?
(I know the answer is Yaksha and then Krishna’s grace, but come the fuck on.)
Sita tries to hypnotise Gary, too, but can’t, so she knocks him out and forces Sandy to keep going. Sita needs whole blood, preferably from a healthy donor, not just blood plasma or blood platelets. They manage to get a large cart full out of the hospital, but Sita’s plan is still falling apart. She should kill Gary, but she tries not to kill the innocent or completely helpless. She wants to make the Treaches forget about her, but since she drugged Bill, she’ll need to stick around to take care of him and her powers are weak and Bill is strong-willed. She’s in a world of hurt right now and it is all of her own making.
She could call Matt for help, but doesn’t want to seem weak in front of him when she wants to go to California with the others.
She gets Sandy to go to bed and tries to do a mindwipe on her. Who knows if it works. Then she needs to wait for Bill to wake up, but she’s too impatient to let the drugs pass, so she decides to pump his stomach to speed it up. Dear god, you are going to accidentally kill him without taking a single sip of blood if you aren’t careful.
Except it works and he’s stoned out of his mind and so is very suggestive. She brainwipes him, too, and he seems to take it. She puts him to bed and leaves the Treaches alone, hoping that her evening has finally ended well.
We’ll see about that.
California trip! Paula and Seymour introduce themselves to Professor John Sharp as freelance reporters. Shanti and Sita are close friends along for the ride. Sharp seems to buy it immediately. Sita thinks his warm welcome has a feel of unreality to it, but doesn’t say anything. Dear god, woman. You assume you’ll be able to work out his motives in time but (a) the Array and (b) WTF how do you keep assuming you’ll be able to do things you could do in Sita’s body? GOOD GOD WOMAN YOU DIED AND ENTERED A BABY VAMPIRE BODY WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.
Sure enough, they’ve just sat down to refreshments when he says he’s been waiting for them. (Oh, in the car ride across to California, Sita had to admit to Shanti that she is Sita in Teri’s body.) Seymour asks why he says that; Sharp knows they’re not reporters because experienced reporters have cold eyes and don’t care what they expose or who they hurt. I mean, they are there to get to the truth especially when someone wants that hidden, but okay.
Seymour admits he’s not, but leans on the fact that he’s a novelist and he thinks there’s a great book in IIC, in the mystery behind its rapid growth, and the story should start with Sharp. In turn, Sharp says he wasn’t waiting for them specifically but for someone to come along and ask about IIC. No one else, not even the government, has come along to be suspicious of his former students.
Sita talks about meeting Cynthia Brutran and how it’s pretty clear she’s a killer. Sharp asks if she hurt anyone close to Sita; Sita thinks of Jeff Stephens and Lisa Fetch. Lisa’s still teaching in Missouri and waiting for the IIC to disappear her. Jeff was the first victim of Brutran that Sita knew about. Plus, you know, her own body out there someone maybe with Brutran. So yeah, Brutran’s hurt someone close to Sita.
Seymour angers Sharp, but Sita startles him when she tells Sharp that Brutran stole his life’s work. Sita knows they need to keep him on edge, make him realise he doesn’t have all the answers. He’s arrogant and he wants them to hear his story. She can work with that.
She then tells him that she felt the sting of the Array. He apologises, and Sita plays sympathetic because Brutran hurt both of them. They want to hear his story. They want to know the truth.
He tells them about how liberal Berkeley was forty years ago, not stuck in the free love of the hippie days but still liberal and open to the weird. Sharp has a PhD in psychology and was head of the department there, but he also has a degree in anatomy and physiology. He was driven by his need to know. He read research of Dr. J. B. Rhine of Duke University about psychic phenomena back in the 30s and 40s and was surprised why no other scientist followed up on that research even with the stigma attached to it.
Of course Sita is familiar with his work and knows that he developed the standard deck of ESP cards that researchers still use: a circle, a cross, wavy lines, a square, and a star, simple because he thought it would be easier to transmit between minds. He also had a large body of statistical analysis to back it up. By averages, a test subject should pick the right card 20% of the time. Rhine found people who could do it 30% of the time.
Seymour says that’s not much, and Sharp is excited because that is true. Rhine’s research was real, but the stats were low enough that they didn’t get people excited over it all, either. That small deviation is a big deal, though, even if most people don’t see it. ESP existing at all means that every law of physics is suspect because none of them account for telepathy. The four accepted forces in the universe (electromagnetic forces, gravity, and strong and weak nuclear forces) don’t drive ESP, so if ESP is real, there has to be at least one other form of power they can’t explain. He also thinks that ESP supports the argument that we have souls.
Sharp came to the same conclusion as Rhine: ESP exists in certain people (and maybe all people) but it’s either very weak or dormant. This delighted Sharp rather than discouraging him the way Seymour expects, because he thought that gathering a large group of psychics would let him use them the same way astronomers use groups of radio telescopes to boost faint signals given off by distant galaxies.
Sita is, of course, horrified by this realisation.
Those groups of telescopes are called arrays. The Array is a group of psychics that work the same way. No one telescope, no one psychic, picks up much information, but when all that information is fed through a computer, the results are remarkable.
There’s a lot of talk about various experiments he ran, but this book is more than 500 pages and this recap is going to be huge even split into parts, so I’m not going to get into the details. Basically, every time Sharp says something is significant, Seymour says it isn’t, and Sharp has to talk him through it.
Basically, with the help of five grad students (gee, I wonder which ones), he learned that kids did better than adults and did their best work when they were relaxed and answering off the cuff. The biggest lesson is that he had to use a giant array to get accurate results. At 3000 kids, they started to lean toward the correct answer every time.
Seymour wants to know specifics about that “lean,” but Sita defends Sharp and points out that the tendency toward being accurate is not only enough to prove ESP exists but that it can be used for other purposes. Like, oh, swings in the stock market, which his grad students encouraged him to do. Shocking.
Paula points out that when they switched to exploiting kids to make money, that intent could have distorted their experiments. Sharp argues that they didn’t tell the kids what they were predicting, just gave them stock symbols and told them to say they felt positive or negative toward them. Only Cynthia knew what companies they belonged to, they were so obscure.
Paula pushes her original question, and Sharp is offended because he never put money at the top of his list. Paula accepts this, but makes him admit that his grad students weren’t so altruistic. Sharp says there’s no way to rein Cynthia in or ever tell her what to do. Finally, Paula gets him to admit that while at the time, he didn’t think intention was important to the work, that changed later.
He goes back to his story and how he couldn’t publish his research because no one in the scientific community wanted to hear it except for those in the fringe groups. He was upset. Cynthia and the other grad students weren’t because they wanted to keep it quiet, obviously. He won’t admit to that, though.
Sita takes over the questioning from Seymour; Paula seems worried that she’s missing something, though. Sita asks Sharp to talk about the grad students. He tells her that they’re more dangerous than she can imagine. Finally he admits that Cynthis was the smartest and most driven of the group, the first to see the implications, the one to help him improve things with the arrays. After he had a stroke and got sick, the university forced him to retire and he and Cynthia started growing apart in their work. At that time, Cynthia was with Fredrick Wild and only married Thomas Brutran later.
Fredrick used a ton of mind-expanding drugs and was the opposite of Cynthia in all sorts of ways, but she loved him intensely. Cynthia’s drive eventually pushed them apart and she ended up with Thomas. Sharp doesn’t think Cynthia loves Thomas, though he loves her. Meanwhile, Noel and Wendy got married shortly after Sharp came up with the array; Wendy got pregnant and Noel did whatever she told him to do. Fredrick was the only guy who didn’t follow exactly what the women said to do. He was a free thinker.
Frederick’s the one who figured out how to get the arrays to talk.
Sita leaps on this, and Sharp backtracks, saying he didn’t mean it literally. Sita pushes and he briefly talks about how Frederick came up with experiments that let them extra information from the kids. Sharp brushes this away because there was nothing they could prove, except he already called Frederick important. Sita leans on this and gets Sharp to talk about how Frederick got the arrays to talk through spiritualism, not scientific, methods. Tapping for yes or no, spirits, etc.
Sita asks if he believes in god, throwing him yet again, and points out that his experiments seemed to be trying to tap into the collective unconsciousness (using Carl Jung’s label); he argues that they were trying to tap into a power without a name. He probably wouldn’t have called it god because he could only work with what he could prove.
Sita asks if Cynthia used the Array to give him a stroke. He denies it and says they don’t understand. He’s acting trapped and restless now. Warning klaxons should be going off but are not. He says that the arrays were designed to solicit information, not hurt people. They could never. But Sita pushes on this, too, since obviously they can and are.
Except that no, what hurt her, what hurt him is the Cradle. He can’t talk about it because it’s too dangerous but he’ll put them in touch with Frederick. Sita keeps pushing, but that’s as much as she gets and she realises that he’s not refusing to talk but that he actually can’t.
The one last thing she gets out of him is why it’s called the Cradle: She should know already, since it touched her. It’s just beginning to grow.
This terrifies Sita, and that’s where we’ll leave off, with our 5000-year-old vampire in a baby vampire body terrified of something she cannot yet know.
Part One Final Thoughts
Damn, Pike is going all in here with weird science and research (whether accurate or not I won’t say) and Sita being stubborn and making terrible choices. It’s kind of wonderful and ridiculous all at the same time, but I have to say, I’m so glad he continued this damn series.