The data transmission came in late Friday afternoon, time stamped 16:25:03. Two females with possibly unaltered secondary sexual characteristics were seen strolling on Chestnut.
Maybe I should have known something was up when I walked out of the Bureau door and spotted them right away, easy money, just across the street. The breasts were unchanged, all right. I had an instinct for that sort of thing. You had to, to work for the Bureau. Well, there was no hurry. I wasn't going to spoil the fun by making an on-the- spot arrest. I would follow them, toy with them, enjoy the sights.
That's what I liked about this job. Every day held the possibility of seeing things most other people just dreamed about. And they paid you well for it. There was something else, too. But I can't go into that. Major PR issue. Let's just say Bureau personnel had to have special qualifications, which granted them certain privileged exemptions.
I know the study of history isn't accepted much anymore. About the Fallacy of Origins, and all that. Let me tell you something anyway. They gave us a class at the Bureau. The Prosthetic Organ Movement, the instructor said, had its roots in two turn-of-the-century phenomena. One was the AIDS pandemic which had hit most sectors of most societies by that time. The other was an upsurge of religiosity which blamed it all on the sexual impulse. Sex had created the crisis, in this view, and the object was to get rid of both the disease- transmitting sex organs and desire itself.
Early models were crude, barely functional, and wired to avoid pleasure. They weren't much to look at, either. But, to be sure, the artificial penises wouldn't carry the AIDS virus nor would the vaginas contract VD, and later on there were plastic breasts that couldn't get cancer. Well, public attitudes began to change only after the Social Responsibility and Preservation of the Species Act of '09, which made prosthetic sexual organs mandatory. Religious fervor subsided. The disappearance of disease allowed the return of pleasure. And just as some vegetarians bought vegetable sausages advertised as tasting like the real thing, so more and more people patronized biomedical establishments promising the capacity for good old-fashioned sex, like their parents and grandparents enjoyed. Manufacturers competed to deliver the natural look and the natural feel. Not that anyone knew what that looked or felt like anymore.
Nice lecture, huh? I got the memory. More: Now, today, there were some who wanted to take the sexual reformation even further. The Bureau was founded to counter the pernicious influence of the Real Sex Movement, a monstrous group of teenagers and adults who attempted to avoid the surgery legally required at the age of puberty. If not stopped, their hopelessly romantic notions of a natural sex utopia would usher in a new era of death and disease. Our mission was important, vital to the survival of the human race.
I had to admit it, though. The job was fun. It gave you that primitive feeling, out here on the street, following two females with original sex parts. It was exciting, kinky as it was. I followed them into the crowded bar of a place called Carolina's. One of them had short black hair that curled in around her face. Not badly shaped, but a bit thin for the current season. Not so the blonde. She was a couple of inches taller and ripe in all the right places.
I maneuvered my way up to the counter, so I could hear what they were saying. It was difficult not to appear obvious in the small room. By turning slightly as I sipped my gin and tonic, I could look down the neckline of the blonde's cream-colored dress, and trace the curve of her breast almost to the nipple. It was real, all right. I thought about her other real parts.
The short one with dark hair was talking. And let me tell you. This is really the way it happened. I got the memory, you see. Make no mistake. This is what Short-Dark said:
"There are these two sisters, see, Carol and Joyce who always wear either red or black panties. They start out in New York, and Carol flies to London while Joyce goes to Los Angeles. Carol then picks up this guy in a singles bar and takes him back to her hotel. She removes her dress and the guy observes she's wearing red panties. Instantly he rushes to the phone and calls his friend in L.A., who all this time has been with Joyce. The two of them are laying in bed in post-coital bliss-out, and he casts his gaze at the tangled clothes strewn across the room, and sure enough, Joyce's panties are seen laying over on the couch, and they're black.
"On another occasion Carol flies on to Bangkok, while Joyce goes to Honolulu. The same thing happens. Only this time Joyce's panties are red, but Carol's are black. The key fact is that no matter what color panties the first sister is wearing when seen by a lover, the other sister is wearing the opposite color."
I ordered myself another gin and tonic. I sure liked the way these sex primitives talked. Short-Dark kept at it:
"The question is, how did the observation of the first sister's panties force the other sister's underwear to have a different color? It proves that information transfer is instantaneous. Or, as physicists would say, that reality is non-local."
"Or that someone has a large phone bill," Blonde responded.
Short-Dark continued: "Non-local means one thing here causes something else to happen over there, with nothing in between. In physics, the observation that the colors of the panties are always different despite the displacement of the two sisters in space is just one more illustration of the Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Paradox. It's similar to a conceptual experiment Einstein used to show quantum mechanics must be incomplete, because otherwise information transfer would have to take place instantaneously. That is, faster than the speed of light, which Relativity said couldn't happen. The only problem is that the experiment has now been performed numerous times--using elementary particles--and the panties are always of different colors. So information does in effect travel faster than the speed of light. Bell's Theorem implies the blunt conclusion: reality is non-local."
"Next you'll tell me about Mother Bell's Theorem, which undoubtedly concerns sex-at-a- distance."
"I tried phone sex once," Short-Dark replied, "but the handset was the wrong shape and I never got off. Another way to view Bell's Theorem is to say that things that were once in contact are always in contact. The two sisters are somehow always connected, so that when observed jointly there is always a single pair of red, and a single pair of black, panties. Despite the fact that before the observation of the first pair of panties, there is probability one-half that either pair is red, and one- half that either pair is black."
Blonde now appeared interested. "That sounds like what Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough called the Law of Contagion. The law says that things once in contact continue to influence each other at a distance after physical contact has been severed."
"Exactly. The information revolution leads us back to magic."
"Praise the Lord and pass the amulets," Blonde said, raising her glass in a toast.
Well, I'll tell you, at this point I was thinking to myself, Holy Horus. If I file a report on this conversation, they'll throw me out of the office. They'll say I made it up. On the other hand, it would be a crime not to report anything I overheard. That's strict Bureau policy. If I didn't report it, and they discovered my omission, I would be booted right out on the street. To be kicked out of the Bureau would involve things too horrible to think about. Things I can't tell you. You wouldn't want to know, anyway. Holy Horus, like I said. And it got worse.
"Thinking in terms of information correlations leads to other weirdness. Like the conclusion that space and time don't exist. Not in the way we normally think," Short-Dark said.
"We think that City Hall is located over THERE, at the corner of Broad and Market. That the Philadelphia police bombed the M.O.V.E. house THEN, on May 13, 1985. We say this is there. Such and such happened then. But it's all nonsense. The belief that the Universe is organized according to space and time is a myth created by the human mind."
Now we were getting somewhere. It could be the name of a new radical group. M.O.V.E. Hmm. The "O" and the "V" probably stood for "Original Vagina". No telling about the "M" and "E".
"Secretly we already know this. The clues peek out at us every day, but we ignore them. One day you read a magazine and come across a word, say abstemious. It strikes you. You look it up in the dictionary. Then a while later you turn on the radio. You hear someone talking about 'abstemious behavior'. For the next several days your friends and neighbors, and people in the subway, suddenly seem in love with 'abstemious'."
"One should never be abstemious with love."
Blonde glanced up at in my direction as she said this. Why was she looking at me? Why were they talking like this? Maybe I should move back, be a little less conspicuous. I was hoping they'd get back to the panty discussion. That way I could just skip the middle section of dialogue as unimportant detail.
"Why?" Short-Dark ignored the interruption. "What causes the word to suddenly pop out of the woodwork everywhere you turn? There is no causality involved. Wolfgang Pauli, the physicist, and Carl Jung, the psychologist, called the phenomena synchronicity. They referred to it as an acausal connecting principal. They didn't explain it very well, because information theory was still in its infancy."
"Abstemious behavior is hard to explain."
Then it occurred to me. Maybe they were both on drugs. Yeah. That would be a safe thing to say in the report. On drugs and rambling incoherently. What else would anyone expect of primitives?
"The universe is really organized like an information data bank. Suppose you want to do research on a particular subject. You go to the computer in a library and do a search over key words. Up pops a list of journal articles all dealing with that topic. The different articles don't cause one another. They just all appear there in the list because the computer has found they all deal with the same thing. So when you focus on the word abstemious in a magazine one day, it's as if you send out a signal to the universe to do a data search over 'abstemious'. You then receive back your list in the form of a series of events in your life that involve that word or theme.
"Some people experience synchronicity in the form of numbers. One day the TV news reports a train wreck. The number of the train is 79257. A couple of days later the winning lottery number is 7925. Then you receive a letter from a forgotten childhood friend. The Zip Code is 79275. And so on."
I have to tell you. Short-Dark never stopped talking. She could carry on some, that one.
"My mother once got a notice that the owner of the apartment where she lived wanted it back and that she had to move. That very evening she went out to dinner, and while they were standing in the entry way waiting for their table to be called, a waiter came by and asked if she could 'move, just for a minute.' Then they sat down and the couple at the next table were talking about their upcoming move to New York. She went home that night and on the TV there was a late news report of a new confrontation between the M.O.V.E. people and the police, who wanted them to move out of a house."
Blonde looked directly at me. "It must have been a moving experience," she said. I had a feeling of panic. A distinct impression that they knew all about me, and were just stringing me along. Were they trying to set me up? How? I looked at the bottles behind the bar and felt the warmth on my forehead. Who were these females?
The pressure in my bladder suggested an appropriate exit while I collected my thoughts. A quiet piss to think things over. Yeah. Gather my forces. And then go back out and bust those disease bags. There was a flush on my face in the mirror.
They were still there when I returned. Money and drink sitting in the same spot. Blonde was speaking. Saying something.
"--thesis. If earth is evolving a nervous system, the number of neurons is sufficient at around five billion people."
They were silent for a minute. Then Short- Dark spoke. "Well, I'll see you back at the apartment. I have a few things to catch up on."
She picked up her purse and without further preliminaries headed for the door. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. I should have followed her. And later trapped them both in their cave. But I didn't. Something about Blonde told me to stay. Blonde and her primitive sex organs.
Blonde glanced at me and then looked down at her empty glass.
"Buy you a another drink?" I asked. And don't get wise. I'll let you in on something. No Bureau policy prohibited getting naked with primitives. It was just the training program weeded out people who would do something that stupid. But. Well, you know. Sometimes you had to risk your life in the line of duty. What the cop.
For a moment she didn't look up.
"I'm Craig," I said. She was making me nervous.
Then I saw the rich blue, surrounding pupils that were opened wide. Too wide, even for the darkened room.
"Ishtar," she responded.
No telling what I would have thought or done, normally. But I was looking into her eyes then. Into the twin pools of moonlight. I felt a preterhuman intelligence, ancient and terrible and coming from afar.
"The first and the last." Her voice had crawled inside my brain. "The one honored and scorned. The whore who is holy. Wife and virgin and lover, mother and sister and daughter."
I fell into the void. Yeah, yeah, don't bother. How the cop do I know what was going on?
When I awoke I saw Short-Dark looking at me. She was polishing the barrel of a Sig Sauer X- 2256 with an oil cloth. A clip of .3815 caliber bullets lay on the bed beside her.
"We hauled you in for eavesdropping," she said. "Data piracy has been a crime ever since HR 2366691, the Omnibus Crime Control and True Love of the American Way Act of 1997."
"I was only having a drink," I said. Who was she working for?
"We tested your memory banks and found you had also received unauthorized visual stimulation from parabolic parameters of my friend's patented body architecture."
Well, true, so what? Could it be a copyright infringement case? Maybe. Maybe they worked for one of the corporations. Some of them had some pretty tough security.
"What did she expect, dressed like that," I said.
"What she expected was prompt payment of the tab placed on the bar beside you. Since you in fact chose to ignore it while lying on the floor in a comatose state, we are exercising our right to public seizure of all contraband items."
"Which contraband items?" I eventually asked. Holy Isis, Mother of Horus.
It was only then that I spotted the surgical tools lying on a bed of gauze on a silver platter.
"This is entrapment," I roared in agony.
She nodded her approval: "Ah, now you understand Bell's Theorem."
I was thinking fast, sweating. "Listen, I work for the Bureau. If anything happens to me, you're in trouble."
"The Bureau? Oh, you mean the SOPs, the Sex Organ Police. Well, now, how fascinating. Maybe you should arrest yourself."
"Listen. It's classified information. But there's no point, now, not to tell you. We're allowed to keep our natural organs. It imparts special biological advantages in seeking out criminals and violators. You've got to fight fire with fire."
"Do you now? Hmm. Well, without your natural organs, what's to prove you work for the Bureau? And don't expect them to waste effort on your behalf. You'll be no good to them anymore."
Keep trying. "Look, before it happens. You and me. It'll be real primitive. Two naturals copping. Hey, what do you say?"
"Oh, listen to this! Don't you know that for someone with natural organs to request sex of another person is statutory attempted murder? The list of charges gets longer and longer."
"I'd be dead anyway. Surely you can understand. Someone like you. That's why I joined the Bureau in the first place. I had met an operative one time. Instinct told me she was still intact, still had the real thing. That's why I joined. I couldn't stand the idea of losing my own. I'd rather be dead."
"How do you know you're not already?"
I was sweating now. Sure, I could feel the blob. The dead zone in my groin. But the anesthesia was pre-op, right? There was no way to tell. Not tied down like this. Maybe she was Bureau. Yeah, maybe. I had heard rumors of a counter-intelligence division. But that was all hush-hush. Maybe this was just some kind of test. Yeah, maybe that's all it was. Maybe.
"Okay," I said. "Come on. Who do you really work for?"