Dr. Carruthers fidgeted nervously with his pens and looked at the clock. His staff canteen steak pie had long since gone cold and was beginning to congeal.
"It's unusual to see you here Dr. Carruthers," said a junior doctor sitting opposite. "You always seem too bogged down in your work to bother with food."
"I can't concentrate today," said Carruthers.
"Of course. It's the visit from Professor Dixon." The junior doctor glanced at Carruthers' cold tray and felt pity for the poor pie.
"He's due in the ward in two hours time. I've been looking forward to his visit for months. This is a big big day for me. Professor Dixon is probably the world's leading authority in his field."
"I've always wanted to know, what exactly is his field?"
"What's his field?" repeated Carruthers, trying to tear his eyes from the clock. "It's... Well it's rather odd. He's been spending the last seven years travelling round the world examining unusual cases of mental illness. Basically, anything to do with the brain that doesn't have an established medical diagnosis."
"Is that why he's visiting you?"
"Oh yes. We have some of the top loonies in the country in our ward," said Carruthers lapsing into unprofessional mode for just a moment. "Speaking of, I'd better be getting back to them."
Three hours later, Professor Dixon bumbled into Greenbank Hospital and was welcomed by Dr. Carruthers who was beaming from ear to ear.
"I hope you'll excuse my lateness," said Dixon. "If I live to be a hundred I'll never get the hang of motorways."
"Not at all, Professor Dixon," said Carruthers. "We had hardly noticed," he lied. "If you'll come this way Professor, I'll show you the ward."
The Doctor led the way through the maze of clinical white corridors and Professor Dixon followed. The Professor was an unusual looking gentleman in his mid sixties. It was difficult to tell exactly what made him look so odd. Was it perhaps his long grey beard that completely obscured his face? Or was it that he walked with an odd stooping shuffle? Was it the fact that while he gave every impression of being close to senility, he had a quite brilliant mind? Then there was his trademark distinctive red hat which he wore everywhere. He had never once been seen without it. Doctor Carruthers decided that the Professor was just an eccentric but harmless enough old geezer.
"I've been looking forward to visiting Greenbank for some time," said Professor Dixon. "I've heard that some of your long term patients are showing some very peculiar symptoms. I'm very excited by this."
"Thank you Professor Dixon," said Carruthers. "I've been looking forward to meeting you. I believe I have a theory on their behaviour which might interest you."
The two arrived at the ward and the Professor met some of the patients. He was very obviously deeply interested. You could almost see his mind feverishly scribbling notes from behind his great beard.
Carruthers showed him to his next patient. He was lying in bed simultaneously playing two different games on two different GameBoys, while drawing a portrait of Dr. Carruthers (obviously from memory - it was nearly finished) with a pencil between his toes. He was also mumbling something. Professor Dixon moved closer to hear:
Corinth: an ancient and a modern city of the Peloponnesus, in south-central Greece. The remains of the ancient city lie about 50 miles (80 km) west of Athens...
"What's he saying?" asked the Professor.
"It seems to be the entire encyclopaedia Britannica," said Carruthers. He's been doing that for about a year. It just seems that he is determined to not waste any of his brain power. When we ask him why he keeps his mind so active he always writes 'I don't want them getting it'."
"Ah," nodded the Professor. "The ubiquitous them. Them have so much to answer for. What exactly does he not want them getting at?"
"Well as you know, only ten percent of a human's mental capacity is normally used. The rest just goes to waste. It's this extra capacity that he's so reluctant to lose."
"Very peculiar indeed," said the Professor. "Have you a theory to account for this?"
"Yes sir, I believe I do," said Carruthers. "But I'd like you to see my next patient before I tell you."
They both moved on to the next room.
"I think that this gentleman will interest you greatly," said Carruthers. "His name is John Dees. He's been with us for almost two years. He used to be perfectly normal and then one day he suddenly started acting like this."
John Dees was lying in bed staring into space and jibbering incoherently.
"What's so unusual about him?" asked the Professor.
"What you are hearing is a computer program - C in fact. Just very fast, it's difficult to make out. Mr. Dees used to be a computer programmer before he started doing this."
"But you said that he used to be perfectly normal," cut in the Professor.
Carruthers assumed this last statement was an example of the Professor's infamous sense of humour and continued.
"I haven't told you what's so unusual," he said. "You see we had the code analysed and it's apparently very complex and subtle and what's more, a lot of it relates to some very obscure scientific fields. Apparently some of it is quite ground breaking. That's why we keep this tape recorder by his bed. He's still technically employed and paid by the company he worked for before he came here. They take the tapes, type in the programs and see what happens. Most of it, the trivial stuff is thrown away. Some of it, the stuff that seems more interesting is passed to scientific research labs. None of this is done officially. Just a bunch of people have a look at it when they're supposed to be doing something else. But he has come up with some very interesting ideas - so I'm told."
"Hmm," said Professor Dixon stroking his beard in an 'I'm a clichéd scientist' manner.
"And then he talks in the night, too," said Carruthers.
"No. There's all this stuff about data transfer. Things about untransmitted packets, data correction and so on. Then he says 'Connection Terminated' and wakes up."
"And why do you believe that he does this?" asked the Professor.
"Well I have a theory. I think it might interest you. It's certainly unusual and will be controversial but then you'd know all about that." Carruthers was referring to the medical establishment's love/hate relationship with Professor Dixon and his ideas.
"An interesting point about the human brain," continued Carruthers, "is that most people only use ten percent of it. Now why is this? There is no evolutionary reason why there should be all this wasted mental power. But then who's to say that it is completely wasted? What if some higher power is tapping it all and using it for their own purposes? The population of the planet could be used as a giant organic computer - a mind farm if you like. Perhaps we were specially bred for this purpose."
There was an uneasy pause. Professor Dixon started speaking in a slow patronising tone he normally reserved for his patients.
"Who do you think is stealing our brains then Dr. Carruthers?" he asked. "The governments? The CIA? A secret alliance of the world's six richest men? That's some conspiracy theory."
"Actually I think that it may be used by an extra-terrestrial intelligence."
"Well that certainly is controversial." said the Professor, trying to remain calm. "No it's bloody ridiculous. Do you have any evidence whatsoever?"
"Aside from John Dees here and our paranoid friend next door I don't have much evidence other than this." Carruthers handed the professor a copy of New Scientist. "You see an Austrian scientist has discovered that human brains emit a stream of microwaves while we are asleep. These microwaves are in pulses and are directed. No matter where you are in the world or in which direction you are they always beam toward the same direction. Now I was thinking that this beam of microwaves could be used to carry data. It is feasible that during the night we transmit processed data and receive new data to be processed. And then perhaps..."
"Look Dr. Carruthers," cut in the Professor. "I think I've heard enough of this. Does anyone else believe you?"
"I haven't told anyone else yet," said Carruthers. "I wanted to get your opinion first."
"Well I suggest you keep it to yourself, unless you want to be thrown out of medicine in disgrace."
"Well I believe that this requires more research. And I intend to be leading that research."
"Very well, Dr Carruthers. Don't say I didn't warn you. I've seen all I want to see here. Good day."
Professor Dixon stormed out of the room at a speed which was quite impressive for a man of his age. He slammed the door behind him, almost blowing his famous red hat off, leaving Carruthers feeling very embarrassed. He felt even more embarrassed when he realised that the whole discussion had been caught on the tape beside John Dees' bed. He'd just have to make sure that the tape got accidentally misplaced. But first things first. Coffee.
That night, Carruthers lay awake in bed trying to decide if he should make his theory public. He eventually decided that he should do some research on his own before going public. But he was so sure that he was right. 'Perhaps I just need a break' he thought. He looked at the clock. It was nearly four o'clock. He got up to get a glass of water to try to calm himself down.
When he switched on the kitchen light he got the fright of his life. In front of him stood a something. It was about six feet tall and with two legs. But it was the six tentacles and the bright green skin that really freaked him out. The something reached a glowing tentacle across the room and touched his chest. His heart instantly stopped and he collapsed dead to the floor.
Just a few hours later, but many light years across the galaxy, Garvaar was talking to his boss Fredon, at the headquarters of the IntelliSoft corporation.
"What have you to report from the Earth mind farm?" jabbered Fredon in his exotic alien language.
"Mainly good news, Fredon," replied Garvaar. "The population growth is exceeding targets. As I'm sure you heard, we exceeded six billion units some time ago"
"Good news indeed, Garvaar," said Fredon, "but what of this rumour that the humans are becoming too sophisticated and inquisitive?"
"Well to give you some perspective sir, they have their workload ratio set at ninety percent. With only ten percent mental capacity left for free thinking and memory, they're pretty dumb. All the same sir, one or two of their most developed minds have been giving cause for concern. Only yesterday I heard of a scientist who had suspicions of where his mental capacity was leaking away to. He was about to start experiments in that field, including analysis of the microwave input/output signals."
Fredon stood up from behind his desk. "What!"
"It's OK," said Garvaar. "I took care of it."
Fredon slowly sat down again. "Good," he said. "I don't have to tell you how important this is. The Earth mind farm is one of our biggest. If it were jeopardised our market share would plummet. That's why I put you in charge of it. You're one of our best. If you say you took care of it, that's fine by me. I'll leave the situation in your capable tentacles."
"Thank you sir."
"Have you anything else to report?"
"No. That's all the news from Earth."
"Good. You'd best be getting back."
Garvaar pulled on his human-style skin suit. "Any chance of a new skin suit sir? This one's getting worn. It's got a hole in it. Look, right here in the head. If a human saw it they'd get more than a little inquisitive."
"I'll get on to it," said Fredon.
"It's been like that for years. It's not like I've never asked for it to be replaced."
"I said I'll get on to it. Saying that, our budget's pretty tight what with the recession and everything so don't hold your breath."
"Right, I'll be off then," said Garvaar. With the skin suit on, he looked exactly like a human, except for the hole in his head. Garvaar covered up the tell-tale hole with his trademark distinctive red hat and stepped into the sub-space transporter.
Stuart Leitch, July 2000