Authors: Colleen McCullough
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Romance, #Modern, #Historical
This photograph showed a young, hawklike
dark face, its mouth half smiling, its eyes staring eagerly into what Dr Carriol
mentally classified as a 'vision'.
'Objections?' asked Dr
'At twenty-seven she is too young,' said
Dr Abraham emphatically. 'She should not even have been included in your
'I concur,' said Dr Hemingway, on her
mettle to appear no less accommodating to criticism than Dr Abraham had been.
'But the fact remains that the computer did throw her name up, and after running
several checks we assumed that meant her other qualifications negated her age in
the computer's judgment. Also, she has emerged as our clear-cut number-one
choice. I would respectfully submit that her age not militate against
'Agreed,' said Dr Carriol. 'However,
there is something in her gaze I find disquieting. When it comes to personal
investigation, I want a lot of digging to make sure Dr Walking Horse is neither
on drugs nor possessed of mental instability.' Her hands laid the file down,
opened the next file. 'Your second pick, Dr Hemingway?'
'Mark Hastings. An eighth-generation
American, at least. Black. Aged thirty-four. Married, one child, a boy now aged
nine, in school, a straight-A student and a promising athlete. Dr Hastings
scores ten maritally and parentally. Quarterback of the Band B Longhorns, and
still holding his own magnificently against the youngsters coming up. Rated the
greatest QB in the history of American football. A summa cum laude graduate in
philosophy from Wesleyan, with a doctorate from Harvard. He is an indefatigable
worker among the youth of all the relocation towns in Texas and New Mexico, founded and supervises
the running of the youth clubs that bear his team's name, is a first-class
public speaker, a highly personable man, and is chairman of the President's
He looks such a brute, thought Dr
Carriol; how very misleading faces can be. And indeed the face was an almost
classic example of dumb brute strength, with its flattened nose, dented jawline,
stitched-up brows. What punishment he must have taken on the football field! But
the eyes always gave away the soul, and the eyes said the soul was profound,
beautiful, humble, possibly poetic.
'Objections?' she asked.
'Your last choice, Dr
'Is Walter Charnowski. A sixth-generation
American of Polish extraction. Aged forty-three. He's married, has one child, a
girl now aged twenty and a sophomore at Brown, an A-plus-plus-plus student in
basic sciences. My group and I agreed unanimously that he was a ten maritally
and parentally. Of course, as you all know, he won the Nobel Prize for Physics
in 2026, for his work on generation of power from the sun in space. He is
currently the scientific director of Project Phoebus. But the main reason we
chose him among our final three subjects is that he is the founder and perpetual
president of Scientists for Humanity, the first — and only — association of
scientists which has managed to cross barriers of race, creed, nationality and
ideology and achieved a truly international, actively contributing membership.
He has charisma, I think. He's a much better than average public speaker in
eight languages, and he has a warm and charming personality.'
Dark yellow-blond hair, yellowish eyes,
fine tanned skin, a broad face with the beginning of a network of lines which
would only add additional charm and fascination to it. Though she had never met
him personally, Dr Carriol had always
privately thought him one of the sexiest men in public life.
Dr Abraham was dying to object. 'Am I or
am I not correct, Millie, in remembering that Professor Charnowski was one of
the formulators as well as signatories of the Catholics for Free Life petition
which attempted in — 2019? — to persuade Pope Innocent to reverse Pope
Benedict's ruling on contraception and population control?'
Dr Carriol glanced from Dr Hemingway to
Dr Abraham and back again, but said nothing.
'Yes, Sam, you are quite correct,' said
Dr Hemingway. 'I was not aware, however, that we were supposed to detail the
aspects of our candidates in this short verbal report! If you
look in your copy of his file you will find all the relevant information there.
Nothing in Professor Charnowski's conduct since 2019 indicates that he has not
accepted Pope Innocent's response in a spirit of genuine
'It's a black mark against him that would
to eliminate him, especially considering the religious
implications,' said Dr Abraham.
'My job, Sam,' said Dr Hemingway, with a
look in her little black eyes that said she was going to punish him for
inferring that she was ever less than completely on top of that job, 'was to
wade through the better than thirty-three thousand cases the computer assigned
to me and my group of six investigators, and select by one of two alternative
methods the three most suitable persons among those better than thirty-three
thousand people, given certain parameters as guidelines.'
She leaned back in her chair, closed her
eyes, and with elaborate care proceeded to tick the points off on her fingers as
she made them. 'To enumerate! One, that the chosen person be at least a
fourth-generation American on both sides. Two, aged between thirty and forty-five years. Three, of either
sex. Four, if married be rated ten as a spouse, if a parent be rated ten as a
parent, each on a scale of ten designed by Dr Carriol, and if single to be as
Caesar's wife whether homo — or heterosexual. Five, that the chosen person's
career be a public or community-oriented one. Six, that the said career be
uniformly beneficial to the community as a whole or in particular, that
self-interest be minimal. Seven, that the personality be extremely stable and
attractive. Eight, that he or she be a superlative public speaker. Nine, that,
if possible, charisma be present. And ten — the only negative point you might
say, Sam, old buddy — that the chosen person not have a formal religious
She opened her eyes and stared straight
at Dr Abraham. 'Given this protocol, I would say I have done my job.'
'You have all done your jobs,' said Dr
Carriol before Dr Abraham could reply. 'It is not,' she went on, fingering the
file under her hands with spidery purpose, 'a competition we are engaged upon,
even if it is only an exercise designed to check the efficiency of our data
resources, computers, methodology and personnel. Five years ago, when you were
assigned this task, as well as the money and the computers and the personnel to
carry it out, you may privately have thought it was a helluva long time and a
helluva lot of Environment money to tie up on nothing more than a drill. But I
do not think any of you were more than three months into it before you began to
realize how essential a drill it was. Section Four has emerged from phase one of
Operation Search with the best data-collection protocols, the best computer
programmes, and the best statistical and humanity investigative teams in the
whole of the federal bureaucracy.'
'Granted,' said Dr Abraham, feeling, he
didn't know why, as if his knuckles were being rapped.
'Good! Now, are we finished with Dr
Hemingway? Has anyone any general objections to her candidates?'
'All right. Thank you, Millie. And thank
you for that admirable precis of the criteria for Operation Search.'
Dr Hemingway winced, but thought better
of saying what she wanted to say.
'Dr Chasen, would you give us your
candidates, please?' asked Dr Carriol smoothly.
Wounded feelings were forgotten
immediately; as Dr Moshe Chasen gathered his little heap of files together, a
certain expectancy began to charge the atmosphere in the conference room. Dr
Chasen was a bull of a man, big and stubborn and given to strong opinions; he
was also a formidable data analyst whom Dr Carriol had stolen from Health,
Education and Welfare some ten years before, and like his colleagues Abraham and
Hemingway, he loved working for Judith Carriol.
That he had remained silent throughout
the presentation of the first six candidates was perhaps surprising, but Drs
Abraham and Hemingway now thought they knew why. The anticipated name had not
cropped up among those six people, therefore it must come from Dr Chasen, and
naturally it would come as his first choice. To a large extent it robbed his,
the last presentation, of much of its thunder; and Dr Moshe Chasen was not a man
who liked seeing his thunder stolen. Thus the atmosphere of expectancy was not
bated-breath in nature; rather, it was anticlimactic. Yet — Moshe Chasen did not
look or act like a cheated man as he shifted his bulk in his chair and opened
his first file.
'I chose the first alternative when it
came to a method of selection,' he said, his voice as deep and growly as his
face. 'Not so democratic, Millie, but in my view a lot more effective. My chief
researcher and I reserved the decision making for
ourselves, and of course our choices were mutual.'
'Of course,' said Dr Carriol, slightly
He glanced down the table at his boss
quickly, then dipped his head. 'Our first choice — and by a very large margin of
preference — is Dr Joshua Christian. A seventh-generation American of mixed
Nordic, Celtic, Armenian and Russian blood. Aged thirty-two years. Single, no
children, and never married. Voluntarily vasectomized at age twenty. We have not
been able, given the information available to the computer — and that is very
considerable for every citizen of this country — to discover what if any is Dr
Christian's sexual preference. However, he lives within a stable family unit
consisting of his mother (his father is dead), two brothers, one sister, and two
sisters-in-law. He is the undisputed head of the family, what I would call a
born father figure. He graduated summa cum laude in basic sciences from Chubb
and went on to do a doctorate in philosophy, subject psychology, also from
Chubb. He runs a private clinic in Holloman, Connecticut, and specializes in the
treatment of what he calls millennial neurosis. His cure record is really
phenomenal, and he has what for want of a better word I must call a cult
following. This may be because his therapy encourages his patients to find
solace in God, though not necessarily in any formal religion. His personality is
disturbingly intense, and he speaks very well indeed to any size of audience.
But my main reason for picking this man as a definite first — I venture to say,
only — choice is his astonishing charisma. You said you wanted it. Well, he's
This speech was greeted with stunned
silence. Dr Moshe Chasen had produced the wrong name.
Dr Carriol sat looking at Dr Chasen so
intently that he put his chin up and refused to switch his gaze away from her
shall voice my own objection
first,' she said at 57
last, in a level, unemotional tone. 'I
have never heard of the term "millennial neurosis." And I have never heard of Dr
Joshua Christian.' Outside of her position as head of Section Four in the
Department of the Environment, Dr Judith Carriol was one of the country's
'Valid, ma'am. Dr Christian has never
published or given a single paper after his doctoral thesis, which — I've read
it, of course, and had it read by experts in his field — almost completely
consisted of a mass of experimental data presented as graphs, tables and the
like, with the shortest, baldest written text I have ever seen. But the work —
on the feedback in anxiety neurosis — was so brilliant and original it has
become the standard reference and the jumping-off spot for all investigation in
'All right, outside my expertise area,
but I ought to have heard of him, and I haven't,' said Dr Carriol.
'That doesn't surprise me. He seems to
have no ambition to be famous, he just seems to want to conduct his little
clinic in Holloman. Among his peers he is either an object of contempt or an
object of amusement, and yet the man does very good work.'
'Why doesn't he write?' asked Dr
'Apparently he suffers from writer's
'To the degree that he can't even produce
In this day and age, with all the modern tools available to a
nonwriter?' Dr Hemingway sounded incredulous.
'Then he's very seriously flawed,' said
'Where does it say in the parameters
Millie so succinctly itemized that a man has to be perfect outside of his
marriage and his children? Are you inferring brain damage, Sam'
'Well, it's a possibility,' said Dr
'Oh, come on! Don't be so goddam
'Gentlemen, gentlemen!' said Dr Carriol
sharply. She plucked the photograph out of the
file she had opened but not even glanced into, so attentively had she listened
while Dr Chasen described his bombshell first choice. And she studied the
picture now as if it could offer her some clue as to why Moshe Chasen had
preferred this man to the man he should have preferred. Yes, it was an
attractive face. Half starved looking, though. Not a bit handsome, with that
scimitar of a nose — the Armenian showing, maybe? Dark, very brilliant and
arresting eyes. And the face had an ascetic austerity every face so far had
lacked. Yes, an intriguing face. But… She shrugged.