The Rogue Scholar

By Jbschirtzinger | clarion | 11 Mar 2022

Chapter 3 Part II

The court decision involving Pitt Preserve was a landmark case. Mr. Prizer did not admit to fraud. The court could not accuse him of fraud, because the holonosphere had proven itself to be a real thing. When the organization that re-purchased Pitt Preserve had bought the land, they had bought a real thing. They bought both the actual land and the holonospheric representation placed upon it. The distinction could not be made such that the court could say that the holonospheric representation was imaginary.

Instead, the court proposed that the nature of the qualities of what was purchased were not distinguished clearly enough. The point was made that if a customer purchased a banana that in purchasing this banana, they were aware of the qualities of a banana. If the banana should happen to spoil in a week, one could not blame the store. Bananas can reasonably be expected to spoil. Contrasted to the process of purchasing a house, one could see the difference. A house did not spoil in two weeks.

The question was then posed as to what qualities could be attributed to the holonosphere. The holonosphere did not spoil. However, where the holonosphere was used to deceive others involving the actual land, it had caused a revulsion in everyone besides Chief Otawanaga who had seen the truth of the situation immediately.

Expert witnesses were called to explain why so many had become ill. Most of these witnesses were psychologists and psychiatrists, and their studies had indicated where the holonosphere had displayed one thing and the physical reality another, the subconscious was aware of the difference even if the conscious mind was not. This induced a dissonant state, particularly for those most aware of nature. The dissonance had caused sickness because the conscious mind would not allow the truth of the physical world to enter. Chief Otawanaga, they contended, had expected to see nothing when he arrived. He had no stake in whether the preserve was back to normal or not. Since he had no expectations, he saw what was and had no need for any form of denial. When asked how he knew that what he was seeing as represented by the holonosphere was not real, the Chief had remarked that though the representation was visually impressive, the land it showed did not speak. This puzzled the researchers, and they pressed the Chief on the point. After a protracted amount of questioning of the Chief, researchers were completely shocked when he reached across the table and slapped his interrogator across the face. The researcher, understandably, wanted to understand why he had been slapped.

"I did not slap you," replied the Chief.

"Yes you did!" the researcher said while holding his face.

"How do you know?" asked the Chief.

"Because my face stings."

"Exactly," said the Chief. "The land is just like that. Your face speaks in response to my slap, even if I deny it."

"But how did you sense what the land had to say?" asked the researcher.

"My people have been on this land for generations. Yours for a relatively shorter amount of time. We have heard the songs of the ocean, and the melodies of the land. Where we have sought to act in harmony with nature, your people have tried to exploit her. You had no need to listen to her songs, for you were only concerned with raping her. Even in this case, you worry not about the land, but about the purchasing of her, as though she were a whore. The problem with your people is you treat your mother as you would a whore. The holonosphere has no song. It is the land you have inherited--the land your people have made."

"But some of our people got sick," replied the researcher indignantly.

"Some of your people yet still remember their mother, but dimly," replied the Chief.

The court did not pay much heed to the Chief's explanation of songs and melodies, but it did distinguish that the holonosphere had different properties than physical land. Mr. Prizer initially disputed this claim, but when the court suggested that perhaps it ought to use the holonosphere to render some of his better property a desolate wasteland, he seemed to suddenly find the proposed system completely satisfactory.

The system the court devised had what were termed various R ratings. The R stood for reality. So a piece of old world physical land would have an R value of 1 indicating that it was an object with durable properties that one should expect from pre-holonosphere time. A value of 3 indicated some kind of hybrid--a situation where the old world properties and new world properties came together more symbiotically. An R rating of five, the highest number, indicated that the reality value of the object in question was purely holonospheric, and should be regarded as having the properties associated with such a construct. In matters of real-estate and where applicable other situations, users were required to have an R ranking indicating what properties the person who might be interested in purchasing something should expect.

Though Prizer was not convicted of fraud, no one trusted him when it came to purchasing real estate after Pitt Preserve. He had proven himself entirely too opportunistic.

The Pitt Preserve fiasco was ancient history to Sal. The findings directly influenced his line of work, however. The holonosphereic community had taken to policing itself. As users became accustomed to the new reality, they began to become better able to understand when the holonosphereic reality and old reality had been bent. Where a user felt suspicion, they would flag it so that other users would be aware of potential deception. If other users similarly flagged an item, it was sufficient for a given user to be very cautious where the item in question was concerned.

Sal, though, was a talented deceiver. In fact, Sal prided himself on his reputation on being able to fool anyone, anytime. Sal had worked for corporations wishing to change their image, to terrorist organizations wishing to use his skill set to kill those they regarded as enemies. His latest employer was known as the Telray mafia.

Sal didn't know much about Telray, and he liked to keep it that way. The less he knew, the easier it was to do whatever his job was so he could get paid, and then he could get out. What Sal wanted to avoid more than anything else was getting tangled up with an underworld contact such that they had reason to suspect he owned them. Sal had dirt on everyone because he was the one who had shoveled it. If an organization really pushed him, he could use his skill set against that organization and make them wish they had never tired to strong-arm him.

Once when he had worked for some weapons smugglers, his life had been placed under threat. The weapon smugglers apparently felt that Sal was a loose end to their deal. Sal manufactured the impression in the holonosphere that the chief weapon trader was actually interested in the child sex slave trade. If this knowledge went unchallenged, and Sal could make sure it did, the weapons smuggler was as good as dead. Child sex slave traders only existed because they were good at remaining invisible. They tended to be people who had no family and were only concerned about money for themselves. Often they went to extreme measures, re-configuring their faces every three months.

The smuggler backed off of Sal, and the matter was forgotten. Sal knew that one of the only reasons he remained alive was because he was so good at what he did.

Sal checked back through his interface as his eyes scanned frantically to catch any mistakes. The deadline for this job expired in thirty minutes OCT or old central time. If it was not done by then, he would have to explain to Telray why it wasn't. From what he had seen of them, he did not imagine they would be the understanding sort. Sal glanced at the average R rating in the nearby terrain. This was not an area marred by extreme skepticism. His terrain modification ought to be a simple hack.

What made Sal so talented in deception on the holonosphere was his ability to understand what the R ratings in an area meant to the community. In areas of a high skepticism, it was much harder to make a change without people doubting the veracity of the change. However, because people doubted the veracity of the change, it was possible to use the truth against them as they began to doubt even that. So, if Sal found himself in a high skepticism area, he found that it ws necessary to make whatever modification he made logically believable. Once this was achieved the skeptics were more gullible than the non-skeptics. The skeptics were only skeptical insofar as something did not conform to the rules and logic that they thought the world ought to operate according to. If something happened to conform to those rules, their skepticism was entirely suspended.

A good example of this had been when an environmental agency had hired him to create the impression of a mudslide. The environmental agency had suggested that the cutting of trees would lead to the soil eroding. Since there were arguing sides, holonosophere users had many R ratings in the nearby terrain because they had more reason to suspect agendas. Sal simply waited for the heaviest rain storm of the season, and then he simulated the desired mudslide. Despite all the R ratings being so skeptical, few were bold enough to suggest the mudslide had been simulated after the storm. There was a logical reason for the mudslide to be there, and the argument made by the environmental agency provided a reason. For the few who suggested that the mudslide had been simulated, others accused them of believing in conspiracy theories. When those accused of believing in conspiracy theories pointed out that it seemed awfully convenient that the mudslide happened so soon on the heels of the environmental agency's predictions, their opponents pointed out that the only reason it had happened was because the environmental agency had been right. If the conspiracy theorists could not provide evidence that the mudslide had been simulated, then the most reasonable assumption was that the storm had caused the mudslide as reported. Would they go so far as to say the storm was fake too?

During this debacle, Sal hadn't been able top help but smile to himself. People were, by and large, idiots. Groups of people were perhaps larger idiots than individuals. Once an individual felt the pressure from the group to conform, typically they would regardless of how insanely stupid the group in question was. People were social enough that they would rather be stupid in herds than they would to be right and be outcast. Sal took special delight in the fact that so many people had been manipulated so easily into believing the environmental agency had been correct. What people failed to recognize at the public level was that everyone had an agenda, and that the credits did not grow on trees. However, if you had enough credits, you could probably gain additional ones by leveraging the ones you had already.

The situation that Sal found himself in currently, then, dumbfounded him. TelRay had asked for a simple hill to appear where a lake had been. They had not asked that the hill be persistent into the future, and if they had Sal would have turned the job down. He specialized in short-term deceptions, or one-time events. Sustaining a long term falsehood was too hard and burned too many resources. There were those who had more credits than he who did the long term deception line of work anyway, but he had always thought hose guys to be foolish. Sure, you might make more credits, but you were always on call. People never became as paranoid as they did when they had ot defend a persistent lie. Sal did not have enough time in his day to be part psychologist and part hacker. He'd rather hack, get whatever it was done, and go on to the next job. It provided him tidy, billable boundaries. If a client could not cope with his last deception, hed be happy to create another one for them so long as the clock was ticking, and credits were flowing into his account.

Right now, for the first time in his life, Sal looked at the clock and wished it were not ticking. After thirty minutes had elpased there was still no hill. Almost to the minute at the expiration of time, Sal felt a gloved had slip around his mouth and the nauseating feeling of point-to-point slipstream travel.

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