"Mankind is at its best when it is most free. This will be clear if we grasp the principle of liberty. We must recall that the basic principle is freedom of choice, which saying many have on their lips but few in their minds." ~ Dante Alighieri
Minerva, Chapter 34
'Well?' Tara asked as her husband emerged from his study.
'Hard to say,' O'Toole admitted.
'What does that mean?' Tara asked. 'Either Danny raped her or he didn't.'
'Tara , please calm down,' O'Toole said. 'He's really mixed up. Of course he doesn't think he did'he said he was shocked by the charge.'
'So he didn't rape her,' Tara said.
'Well . . . .'
'Well what?' Tara asked.
'Well,' O'Toole said, 'I asked him if it was possible that he misunderstood the situation, that the girl was too frightened to speak up, and he . . . hesitated. He wasn't sure.'
'What's the school say?' Tara asked.
'They're waiting for the outcome of the police investigation.'
'This is crazy,' Tara said.
* * *
Mason's hand trembled as he opened the door and entered the inner chamber. Contrary to the public's perception, the academics on the platform needed special permission to gain an audience with the jeneers.
'Dr. Mason, welcome,' a pleasant, youthful voice said from within the dark room. A large chair swiveled to reveal an apparent teenager.
'Nicodemus, I presume?' Mason asked, feigning nonchalance.
'My my, you are intelligent,' Nicodemus said. 'Tell me, how have you enjoyed your first week with us? I hear you and the boys are discussing G'del's Incompleteness Theorem. That's always fun.'
* * *
'Matthew, I need to talk with you right away,' Tara 's voice urged on the machine. 'But if my husband answers when you call, hang up. I don't want him to find out about this.'
Matt took a few steps back from the phone, stunned. He had never actually thought it would happen.
'She wants my cock,' he whispered.
* * *
'Dr. Mason,' Nicodemus said with amusement, 'you seem puzzled. Is everything all right?'
Mason's shock at the boy's intellect subsided long enough for him to realize that yes, indeed, something had been puzzling him during their conversation.
'Aren't you in terrible pain?' Mason asked. 'You hide it very well.'
'Dr. Mason,' he said, 'I feel incredible. This isn't surprising, since my body was literally designed for flawless running.'
'But . . .' Mason paused, not wanting to embarrass himself yet again in front of the boy. 'Of course; you cured the puberty problem.'
'No,' Nicodemus said. 'There was never anything to cure.'
'But all the testing . . .' Mason's voice trailed off, as he once again caught himself. 'And why?'
'Your privatized society is indeed an improvement,' Nicodemus said. 'But people are still people. I was a very young boy indeed when I realized we 'mutants' would never be tolerated. So I did what I had to, to buy us the necessary time.'
'Time for what?' Mason asked. His stomach felt very uneasy.
'Time enough to ensure that no one can ever hurt us again.'
* * *
'Sheldon, it's Peter O'Toole,' the lawyer's machine recorded. 'Call me as soon as you get this. I need to arrange a visit to Washington.'
* * *
'[Enter,]' Mason heard as he walked into Ludwig's chamber.
Mason fought down his panic when he saw the large brain'easily twice the size of a normal human's'in a glass container filled with liquid. The brain was covered with countless fibers that ran out of the container and into the computer in which it was housed.
'[May I have permission to explore your memories? It will make our communication much more efficient.]'
At this point, Mason realized that Ludwig had not been speaking at all.
'Yes,' Mason said.
'[Pose your inquiry,]' Mason heard.
Mason deliberated for a moment. He had had a backup question in mind, but now that he truly believed in what the others had said . . . he had to know.
'Besides the jeneers,' Mason said, 'who is the smartest human being who has ever lived?'
'[According to your definition, David Mason is the smartest man with original DNA who has ever lived,]' Mason heard.