Starburst Over China takes Detective Jim Sato, a dedicated cop, and Gilda Dobrowski, a small city psychic, back to the StarCenter at Defense Intelligence Agency Headquarters to engage in a Top Secret project to telepathically manipulate a Chinese–a CCP_member–working in intelligence as a section chief in the Ministry of State Security. The duo are hooked up to UB-X-00, a giant AI super computer that enhances their brain waves and bioenergy, in an attempt to stir up trouble–any kind of trouble–which the President of the United States can use in his dealings with China, the No. 2 power, in his bid to maintain U.S. hegemony to stop the progression toward triggering the Thucydides Trap.
About The Author
R. H. Kohno has been writing for a number of years ever since he graduated from English, Advanced Writing Curriculum, at the University of Washington where he also served as editor in chief of the campus literary magazine, Assay. He went through the concentration camp experience during WWII, repatriated to war-torn postwar Japan and grew up there in isolated exile as a lookalike American outsider. He returned to the United States to get married and complete his college education. He has since written a number of works which are described on his website, rhkohno.com. He is the father of two sons living in Oregon and Utah.
A prequel in a trilogy of which The StarMind Alert is the second book, Eye of the Star is a story of the Cold War paranormal psychological warfare waged between the United States and the Soviet Union. It follows Detective Jim Sato, a dedicated cop, and Gilda Dobrowski, a small city psychic, in their attempt to find and destroy a super psychic KGB spy, Sergei Verenich, who has chosen Jim and Gilda to find him. He dares them to catch him. He treats them as playthings in a cat-and-mouse game, tantalizing them with clues calculated to confuse, entice and lead them on in a chase ending up in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. where Jim and Gilda find out what he meant by the Final Solution.
The phone rang in its cradle. Detective Jim Sato of the Franklin Police Department, leaning back in his chair, looked at it with a sense of irritation and hoped it was not something urgent that would take more than a few minutes of his time. He needed to go home to his beautiful wife–three years, and it was still a honeymoon–sluice off the sweat of the hot day in a cool shower and get ready to go out to their favorite Japanese restaurant.
He picked up the phone. “Yes,” he said in a voice laden with wet, late-afternoon weariness.
“This is Gilda Dobrowski.” Frantic and urgent. “I don’t know if you remember…of course you do. I’m the psychic you worked with on the Linden murder case. Remember? It was several years ago.”
The particularly brutal murder had shocked the small city of Franklin situated at the south end of Morgan Valley, two hours away from Portland, Oregon. The case never was solved. The limbs of the body of the young Caucasian woman had been hacked off; the corpse was stuffed in an abandoned Chevy Impala. In desperation Jim and his partner, Ted Wilson, had consulted the psychic. She was skilled enough to come up with a few leads, but they wound up at a dead end.
“I remember you well,” Jim said, picturing the gorgeous features of the young, blond psychic. “What seems to be the problem?”
“I need to talk to you. I’ve been getting these…impressions, these what you might call…messages. Just bits and pieces, now and then over the past few weeks, and I’m concerned.”
“Is it about the Linden case?”
“No. It’s not about that poor woman. It’s about a terrorist.”
Jim frowned with concern. They had been on the alert ever since the Algerian terrorist had been arrested in Washington State to their north. The police were especially worried about the I-5 corridor which would enable any terrorist to gain access to the entire West Coast. Franklin was just one city sitting in its path. Gilda was not one to push the panic button easily.
“You did the right thing calling me, Gilda. Tell you what. I’ll leave right now, since it’s almost quitting time and swing by your house. Okay by you?”
“The sooner the better, Jim. I’m really scared.”
“Be there in a jiffy.”
Ten, fifteen minutes took you anywhere you had to go in the city. It was compact, and a few more minutes landed you in the countryside–farms, seed crops and pastures dotted with sheep and cattle. Jim headed out toward the old Highway 99 and arrived at Gilda Dobrowski’s small but neat quarters in no time at all. When he entered, Gilda smoothed her long, silky, blond hair nervously and took Jim’s hand. She sat him on the sofa while she settled in an easy chair, one that was facing an old TV set in the corner. She made a living as a psychic consultant, but that was about it, a modest living with no frills. In a way, that was the way she was, Jim thought: a no-nonsense person who sought the pith of the matter.
“It seems he’s on the loose somewhere in the area,” Gilda said, her eyes wide with alarm. “And he’s trying to make some sort of announcement by tantalizing me with tidbits of information.”
“What’s he say? This psychic entity,” Jim asked, flipping open his notebook with his pen poised. He had learned to take her seriously ever since working together on the murder case.
“I can’t make it out clearly, because he speaks in fragments, and it comes out in bits and pieces, but it’s always something about microbes, poisoning our water supply, blowing up the courthouse, disrupting air traffic. And he signs off by saying, ‘Beware the Final Solution.’”
“You sure this isn’t just…? Something you imagined, something floating around in the air because of the recent scare?” Jim doubted his own suspicions, because he was sure of Gilda’s capabilities. But he had to ask anyway.
“No, it’s all so real. And the message keeps repeating itself over and over again.”
“You try to find out who it is?” Jim said, taking notes.
“I’m a good receiver, but not a good transmitter, so I’m afraid my questions will get all muddled up and maybe make things even more dangerous.”
“You got to try to find out who this guy is,” Jim said, running his pen along the spiral binder. “If he wants to make some sort of statement, he might even identify himself, if you can get through to him. You know, flush him out and even find out where he’s hiding.”
“You know something about psychics, so you must know that some of us are better than others at doing things, especially receiving and transmitting. I want the police involved.”
“But we have nothing to go on, Gilda. No name, place, face. Nothing.” The young psychic sounded desperate, but Jim couldn’t offer more encouragement.
“We have to do something. Thousands of lives are involved, and it may not be only our area. Millions of people might die. I can hardly bring myself to think of what might happen.”
Jim knew Gilda to be a level-headed person, not one easily panic. “I’ll try to think of something,” he said, checking his watch and getting up. He needed more information to act. He had nothing yet to involve law enforcement. “In the meantime, jot down everything you receive. I’ll need specifics, if we’re going to get involved…you know, a place, a name, anything.”
Jim left the tidy cottage and made his way home which was in a middle-class neighborhood in the north of Franklin. A glow of crimson tinted the clouds hanging over the coastal range of mountains to the west. The sky overhead was clear, and the Kaskin Hills to the east stretched out hazily in the inversion layer that sometimes accumulated at the end of the valley. Everything appeared as it usually had, but his senses were sharpened and the feeling that settled in his chest was oppressive. He entered his home, his thoughts heavy with preoccupation.
“What? Not even a ‘hello’?” Judy said, throwing her arms around his neck. Her bright smile lit her beauteous oval face. Her features were perfect, and her crimson lips were parted in a natural, sensual smile. Everything about his wife exuded sensuality, from her expressive Asian eyes to the way she walked.
“Hi, honey,” Jim said, as if awakening from a trance, and kissed her. “Sorry I’m a little late.”
“Last minute detail?”
“Something like that.” Jim was reluctant to elaborate. Premonition aside, he felt that perhaps somebody was trying to pull off a mind-to-mind hoax, and Gilda, a popular and gifted psychic, was the bait.
“I’m ready as soon as you are, dear,” Judy said, smoothing her clinging, red dress.
“I’m going to jump into a shower real fast and wash the hot day’s work off,” Jim said, loosening his tie and unbuttoning his damp shirt. Franklin was not known to be as hot as some of the other cities in the southern part of the state, but the temperatures could soar above the 100’s in the middle of summer.
“You sound as though you were out in the hot sun digging ditches instead of sitting in an air-conditioned office,” Judy called as he headed toward the bathroom.
Jim wanted to say that what had come up at the last moment made him sweat–a cold sweat. But he said nothing. Stepping into the shower, he let the water wash away his concerns for the moment. When he was finished, he wiped himself off with brisk strokes of the towel and splashed an ample amount of cologne on his muscular body. Going out with his beautiful wife, coveted by so many other men, was a pleasurable experience for him.
The drive to Mikasa was short with the traffic flowing smoothly. Upon entering the Japanese decor of the restaurant, Jim was struck with a momentary feeling of his own Japaneseness which took him back to the times when he heard stories of his great grandfather coming to America at the turn of the Twentieth Century. It seemed like ancient history. But the smell of the food and studying the kimonos the waitresses wore reminded him of his unique heritage that he always meant to study more, at least back to the Second World War when his grandfather, Hank Sato, fought in Europe. He needed to explore his more recent moorings.
Seated on the floor of a tatami room, Jim and Judy faced each other at a low table and chatted about the events of the day while the waitress busied herself setting up a butane stove and a deep pan. Judy worked in Records in the department and related the latest ongoing saga between a co-worker and a musician of a popular rock band in town. Most of the bets were on their finally getting together in the on-again, off-again relationship, marrying and staying in Franklin to raise a family. Her only event of the day was a paper cut. She produced the offended finger wrapped in a flesh-tone bandaid.
Jim took her hand and kissed the finger. His wife laughed at his antics. Though they had been married for three years already, they still acted like newly weds. For his part, Jim said little of his work at the office except that it was his day to catch up on paperwork. He did not mention his visit to see Gilda Dobrowski.
With the sukiyaki pan simmering on the hot plate in the center of the table, Jim piled on the thin slices of marbled beef, leafy spinach, green onions, mushrooms and tofu and added more shoyu and sugar to the beef-laden broth. A beaten raw egg in a bowl accompanied the rice. Whenever they ate soul food, they used chopsticks. At the restaurant, it was, of course, a must. Jim felt a little ashamed that he was awkward at using chopsticks. Otherwise, it was the usual fork, knives and spoons with the pot roasts, stew, spaghetti that interspersed their diet. Jim ate hungrily and for the moment put Gilda’s suspicions or messages out of his mind. But they kept returning like annoying insects.
After dinner he and Judy lingered over a dish of green-tea ice cream. Jim’s mind was already a thousand miles away, and he barely listened to his wife’s happy chatter, though he interjected an appropriate grunt now and then so as not to offend her. Normally he would listen to her, gazing into her eyes, content to be with her.
Back at home they sat in front of TV watching one of their favorite programs. But Jim stared at the set unseeing and only half listening to the dialogue. He knew he had to act on Gilda’s concerns and not just dismiss them as a form of hysteria. He knew her to be basically imperturbable and perceptive. And her fears alarmed him. He wanted very much to discuss the matter with his wife, to get another woman’s point of view of female premonitions, but he dare not for fear of frightening her. That went for anybody, as far as he was concerned. He had to have more to go on, and still it would all remain problematic. Who would believe a wild story pulled out of the ether? They would be tagged as mental cases. And yet the police were not entirely hostile to the idea of applying the talents of psychics to solve crimes, although there existed a cadre of die-hards who saw the practice as unprofessional.
The next morning he swung over to Gilda’s neat little cottage and confronted her with an idea that he had worked out during the sleepless night. A new kind of terrorist on the loose. A figment of Gilda’s imagination? Hardly. Jim had worked with her long enough to know her reliability, and he leaned toward supporting her suspicions. At least he was willing to humor her and even nurture her intuitions lest he overlook a lead.
“You say you’re not a good transmitter,” Jim began as soon as he entered her house. “Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t, and it could be that you’re afraid to try to contact this entity. What if you used me as a medium, as some sort of channel? Could that be done?”
“Yes,” Gilda said, “I’ve heard of work that’s been done through channeling.”
“That way I would be in direct contact with whoever has been accessing you and find out more about him and what’s going on, that is, if you’re right about him wanting to talk.”
“I’m sure that he wants to communicate something, something terrible. There’s such a sinister tone to his voice.”
“I have to ask this, Gilda, before we go any further,” Jim said, “and I hope you don’t take offense.”
“Go ahead. We’ve known each other long enough.”
“Have you been under any unusual stress or been bothered by something personal or had something happen to–”
“Not at all. Everything is normal, everyday is the same and I go about my business and all of a sudden I get these throbbing pulses of pain in my head and then the messages follow. He’s trying to get my attention. I’m sure of it, and it’s so frightening. I’ve never had this happen before.”
“All right,” Jim said, sitting on the edge of the sofa. “Here’s what we do. You put me in a trance or whatever you do to get a person ready to make psychic contact with another entity.”
“I don’t know, Jim, it could be dangerous, to make contact with another source of bioenergetic force. It’s like reaching out into the empty ether and colliding with a mysterious form of life.” She spoke with real fear quavering in her voice.
“Do you think we have any choice?”
“No… I don’t think we do, not if we want to save lives, and that’s what concerns me, because the voice sounds so dead serious. It wants to be heard, to make some kind of point.”
“Then let’s do it.” Jim shrugged out of his coat.
“All right, then stretch out on the sofa, and I’ll get you ready.”
Jim untied his shoes and kicked them off and loosened his tie to make himself as comfortable as possible. He didn’t know much about Gilda’s work, but at least he knew that he was going to have to loosen every muscle in his body and let his mind take over without any distractions or annoying sensations. He prepared himself as though he were a tool, figuring that a medium was nothing more than a conduit from what he had read so far.
Gilda put on a tape of the seashore: the rolling surf punctuated the muffled cries of the gulls. The sounds of the waves were soughing whispers of sighs that nature often offers up when rushing water rolls pebbles and the wind fingers through the branches of the trees.
“I want you to relax totally.”
“And concentrate on what you think of as the mind of a terrorist, sinister, hidden, hard, trained and evil. You have to tell yourself we’re dealing with a form of evil.”
“I can try. I’ll give it my best shot.”
“No, no, that’s not the idea. The idea is to relax and focus at the same time to make the contact as effortless and natural as possible. I want you to slide right into him. I’ll call to him and you just let the words filter through your consciousness by repeating them softly in your mind. It’ll take a few minutes before you’re ready.”
“Will you know when?”
“Yes, I will. I’ll keep an eye on your breathing while I guide you. Just listen to my voice. But I want you to be careful…not careful, I mean, too careful as though you were afraid to approach him…I personally would be. But I want you to be natural.”
The tape repeated itself over and over again, and Jim felt himself slipping into a nether world that was half way between being awake and asleep. He became aware of Gilda’s nearness to him. The side of his face picked up the warmth of her body. He was determined to remain focused.
“You are floating in the warm sea,” she intoned. “The water is caressing your body and the slow, rolling motion is putting you in a wakeful trance. You can see the deep blue of the sky. It is endless and the more you gaze at it the more it deepens and draws you into the universe of the void, deeper and deeper into the emptiness of the ether.”
There was a pause. Gilda’s voice whispered into his ear: “Are you in the void?”
“Yes,” Jim answered in a voice that did not seem like his own. He felt as if he were out of his body, floating freely in an unfamiliar medium. He quelled a momentary pang of fear and willed himself to relax and give free rein to the new sensation.
“Good,” Gilda said softly. “Now concentrate on my words: The terrorist who seeks to speak to me, tell me what you intend to do. Who are you? What are you known by, what is your name, where do you come from? Why do you want to harm us? Why do you hate us? You speak of germs and explosions and wreaking havoc…why? We are a small city…why did you pick us…why are we so important to you? Please answer me, please speak to me. I need to know more about you, since you seem to want to talk to me.”
Jim concentrated on the words whispered in his ear, softly, gently, smoothly, designed as they were to lure out a specter from its hiding place. Minutes passed. Gilda kept talking, calling coaxingly into the spaceless ether, repeating her words over and over again.
Then, suddenly, a voice spoke. From Jim’s lips it spilled forth in a thick, guttural accent.
“So you have found a way to contact me, my dear.”
“You know who I am,” Gilda said, “so please talk to me. Who are you? What is your name?”
“I am pleased to have this conversation,” the voice said. A smile appeared on Jim’s lips. It was the entity’s. “My name is Sergei Verenich.”
“Where do you come from?”
“I entered your country from Russia, but all that in good time, my dear. I know you are a beautiful woman and a gifted psychic. Why haven’t you contacted me directly?”
“I’m not a good transmitter and–”
“Nonsense. You cannot lie to me. You are afraid. I have been studying many of your kind throughout the country, and you are one of the best in the many places we have targeted.”
“Targeted? I’m afraid of what you are up to.”
“You should be.” A long pause, then: “Sergei is going to destroy the country!”
A catch of breath and a pause. “But why us? Why Franklin? We’re not a strategic city.”
“You have been chosen because of your rivers, mountains and coastline.”
“Who is behind all of this?”
“Ah, you want to know everything. I desire that you should know everything. I am the protégé of Vladimir Kuzmich, head of the former Soviet Psychic Investigation Unit under KGB. He is a very powerful man. He and I are going to get even with America. We are going to get our revenge for your having spread confusion, fear and panic in epidemic proportions through remote-viewing, telekinesis and telepathy that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Central Intelligence Agency worked with President Reagan to ruin our country and people and now we will destroy you and enact the Final Solution. You will no longer own your country. It will collapse. Transportation, communication, commerce, trade, banking, defense, medical facilities will all be thrown into chaos, and you will be busy for a millennium just sorting through the pieces.”
“But you will be killing millions of innocent people.”
“That is why you must find me.”
“Find you? A needle in a haystack…is that why…you are using us as a plaything?”
“Hah! After what you have done to my country, you think I’m not going to indulge in a little fun? Hah, hah, hah.”
“It is up to you two to save your beloved country. Sergei has chosen you. You are the anointed ones, and I know you love your country and the people so much that you will dedicate yourselves and even die for your beliefs.”
“How do we find you?”
“I will give you clues to see if you are smart enough to figure them out. You will then report everything you know to the authorities…FBI, CIA, DIA, NSA, all the intelligence agencies and police departments in the country. Everybody you can think of.”
“They may not believe us, they may merely call us mental cases.”
“Ah, how do you say…truly a ‘Catch-22′. You will have to try to convince them.”
“If they will listen, maybe we will convince them.”
“And maybe, my dear, you will go crazy trying. Hah, hah, hah.”
“I will get other psychics to help me…we will organize ourselves into a force…Ow!”
Jim jerked his whole body involuntarily but remained in a deep trance.
“You see,” Sergei said. “A throbbing pulse of pain to the head. That is my calling card, my gentlest touch to get your attention. I could do far more harm if I wanted to but you are my conduit and I wouldn’t want to hurt you permanently. You can forget about organizing other psychics. I know they will be too afraid to take me on, just as you were afraid to contact me on your own. You have no idea how well trained I’ve been over all these years. Vladimir Kuzmich is a modern-day reincarnation of the famous Rasputin. He can even bend forks with the power of his mind, and you have no idea how powerful he is when he is hooked up to his psychotronic enhancers. I could crush your skull, my beauty, with his concentrated bioenergy focused through me but, of course, I would never do such a thing to you, Gilda Dobrowski, my chosen messenger. I would miss looking into your green eyes.”
“You can see me?”
“Yes, of course. We have also perfected remote-viewing, and I know what you look like, even what you smell like when you step out of a shower, and I know what your house looks like and how much you like your friend, Jim Sato. Let’s see if the two of you can figure out how to catch me before the FINAL SOLUTION.”
“What do you mean by the Final Solution?” her voice quavering in Jim’s consciousness.
“That is for you to find out and perhaps even witness.”
“Give us one of your clues. You promised to give us a clue.”
“In time. All in good time. First, the water supply of Franklin is the Titus River, is it not?”
“Oh, my God! You’re going to wipe out the entire city! But why us?”
“You’ve been selected as a demo…isn’t that what you call it?”
“A demonstration, an example…of what I can do with Vladimir at the controls. For us it will be…how do you say…’a walk in the park’. You are totally unprotected and unprepared. Your coastline, for instance, is totally unguarded.”
“Where are you going to strike first?”
“That is for you to guess. It could be the Titus River or the bridges or even your federal courthouse. I could instigate your local disaffected radicals and have them disrupt traffic in your city. Guess, my dear. The fate of Franklin lies in your hands…the fate of the country will lie in both of your hands. Find me, Gilda dear. Now I have told you all you need to know. I will now terminate transmission.”
Jim felt a form of energy slowly withdraw from his body and mind, and he opened his eyes to gaze at the ceiling where he could almost make out an outline of a face as he blinked his eyes against the whiteness.
“Did you see what he looked like?” he asked Gilda immediately.
“No, I couldn’t. I kept trying to image him, but he threw up a barrier, and all I could see was a fuzzy face with a mustache and full beard.”
“He can disguise himself like that?”
“I think he is trained to do anything.” But Jim didn’t think the facial hair was fake.
“You think Sergei Verenich is his real name?”
“That much I think is true,” Jim said with instinctive certainty. “He wants us to find him, but he’s going to play with us first. We have to report what we know. The chief or maybe Frank Flanagan of the FBI. Somebody higher up. FBI headquarters, CIA.”
“Do you think, Jim, that we can go waltzing in and tell them what we found out and have them listen to us?” Gilda was being the even-keeled one now.
“What choice do we have?” Jim said. “We have to alert the police department of Franklin, at least, at the very least, to start looking for–”
“Where and who? All we have is his name. For all we know, he might be transmitting from the East Coast.”
“We have to chance it.” Jim’s first experience in the ether was unnerving, and the effects of the eerie encounter caught up with him.
“Of being ridiculed, put down and dismissed?”
“Yes. The Chief of Police, Daniel Starkey, is a fair-minded man. I’m sure he’ll listen.” A frenetic quality, rare for Jim, crept into his voice.
“But not do anything.”
“I don’t know, but we’ve got to try to mobilize what resources we have.” Jim was feeling all the more frantic, a sense of urgency knotted in his stomach.
“That much I agree to, but I have my status to think of, too,” Gilda said with a note of caution creeping into her voice. “I don’t want to be laughed out of town. That sounds selfish, I know…and I’m very concerned at the same time. This Sergei Verenich means business, there’s no mistaking the tone of his voice. So I guess it’s up to us to stop him. We don’t have much of a choice.”
Buttoning his shirt and cinching his tie, Jim said, “I’ll set up a meeting with the chief right away. I know he’s a sympathetic man, that is, I know he’s always willing to listen to his men and their complaints or opinions, and this one has got to be brought to his attention.”
“I want to be on hand to back up everything you say.”
“Of course. I would want you to be. I’d be helpless without you.”
“Do you remember everything Sergei said?”
“Yes, I do. It’s burned into my memory…the fact that he wants to play with us first.”
Jim Sato left Gilda’s shaken by his experience serving as a medium. He felt weak throughout his body, and his mind was filled with the exchange between the two psychics, a conversation that took place in the nowhere. As soon as he arrived at the office, he trooped into Daniel Starkey’s office, arranged a meeting for the next morning without revealing the contents. He only said it was about apprehending a dangerous criminal on the loose after consulting Gilda and confronting her suspicions and spent the rest of the day taking phone calls, finishing reports and forcing himself to think of a way to persuade the Chief of Police to commit their resources to tracking down Sergei. Jim wasn’t even sure if he could convince him that the contact had been genuine, to begin with. His partner, Ted Wilson, sitting opposite him, commented on his preoccupation, but he did not tell him what was on his mind.
He left the office early. He was anxious to get away and be by himself to organize his thoughts. He desperately wanted to confide in his wife, both to tell her what he was getting into (he knew it was going to be a total commitment) and get her read on the psychic business of communicating with a menacing entity. But he knew he could not. It was as top secret as any classified information meant for only certain eyes and ears. He was alone. He and Gilda were thrown together by the circumstances created by Sergei Verenich and the master psychic, Vladimir Kuzmich.
When Judy walked in through the front door after returning from work, Jim took her in his arms longingly, as though holding his beloved wife was the only real thing he could embrace at the moment.
“You’re home early,” Judy said.
“Had some thinking to do and needed to be alone,” Jim said, almost letting slip Sergei’s name and knowing that if he did, he would have to explain prematurely the whole business to his wife.
“You seem to be working on something important. Another murder case?”
“Not this one.” Jim did not trust himself and immediately changed the subject. “Why don’t you let me make dinner, darling. You must be exhausted, and I’ve sitting around doing nothing. How’s my brand of spaghetti and meatballs sound, with lots of seasoning?”
“You must have been a bad boy today,” Judy joked, “and have to make up for something.”
“If my being wicked makes me more attractive to you, then I’ll let you think so, but I just want to treat my wife well. Is that such a crime?”
“No, Detective Sato. I think your idea of cooking dinner is just fine.”
After dinner Jim helped with the dishes, driven by a desire to be helpful–also by a tinge of guilt–and forced himself to be interested in TV with his arm around Judy’s shoulders. He killed an urge to surf the Internet to locate organizations and institutes that could possibly help him in tackling Sergei Verenich. He would just be scattering his shots, like firing into the dark. And if he made the wrong move, he might provoke Sergei. For all he knew maybe Sergei was sinking his eyes into his mind even as he was thinking about him. A gut-twisting, unsettling feeling, being watched by a trained psychic entity. He pulled Judy closer to him.
That night they made leisurely love. Her body was supple and smooth, and he loved to gaze upon her perfect breasts. When they were bound together, seeking each other, his mind was lost in the moment, and the millions of dead that he saw floating in the rivers vanished into a corner of his consciousness where the nightmares were hidden.
About the Author
Born in 1932, R. H. Kohno grew up in LA and its environs until the outbreak of WWii when his mother and he were evacuated to the concentration camps. His father was arrested by the FBI for possessing a fishing boat–he was suspected of contacting enemy submarines–and put into separated detention centers. After the war, they repatriated to war-torn Japan, Kohno as a shunned American lookalike, and he managed to return to America in 1959. He got married and went to college where he excelled, earning a spot on the honor roll and being elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was editor-in-chief of the campus literary magazine at the University of Washington and taught briefly at the college level. He is the author of a number of works, the most recent of which include Westward Lies The Sun, written under his real name–Robert H. Kono–and Eye of the Star and The StarMind Alert, written under his pen name, R. H. Kohno. His website is http://www.rhkohno.com/.
Carrying on the tradition of service as exemplified by his Nisei grandfather, a veteran with the 100th/442nd RCT in WWII, Jim Sato, a dedicated cop, serves as the nerve ending of a Top Secret psychotronic brain wave enhancer, a giant AI super computer, deep the bowels of DIA Headquarters in an attempt to stop and eliminate Abdul Ahmad, the arch terrorist, who sets out to destroy America. Sato is teamed up with Gilda Dobrowski, a small city psychic, and together they track down the whereabouts of the terrorist and lay a trap for him in Tokyo in a dangerous scheme to eliminate him once and for all, using the U.S. Embassy, the nerve center of U.S. power in the Far East, as bait. The plan goes awry, Ahmad escapes and the stage is set for a final showdown taking place on American soil, in an elaborate setup involving erecting a psychic shield covering the entire country. Lured into the United States by a sophisticated stratagem devised by Sato, Ahmad is detected and the chase is on.
Introduced first to the Director of DIA, Arthur Donnelly, then summarily dismissed by him with a curt, “Welcome aboard,” Jim and Gilda entered an elevator as the stainless steel doors parted like a mechanical maw with Kosovich in the lead. He ran his finger down a row of buttons and punched “Sub-B 5.” They began the long, slow descent without stopping. “Sub-B 5″ was known as “The StarCenter,” Kosovich informed them. Why? Because it was the lowest level of the entire building housing the headquarters of DIA. In case of nuclear decimation, Kosovich said. Jim couldn’t begin to fathom what that meant. The Cold War was over.
When the elevator jerked to a stop, they stepped out into a shining, polished corridor that reminded Jim of a hospital without the smell of antiseptics. They passed several doors on either side of them with single-digit numbers designating them. At the end of the hallway stood two guards at an entrance, a steel door. They were not Marines. They were special guards wearing blood-red berets and clad in navy-blue uniforms with a gold braid crossing their chests. Over their hearts were sewn an insignia of a mythological creature–an eagle look-alike with ribbed black wings and writhing snakes gripped in its talons. They were armed with automatic rifles that reminded Jim of Heckler & Koch .308’s with 50-round clips. They glanced impassively at Allen Kosovich’s ID and clearance. Jim peeked. Underneath the photo was in bold letters: “UB-X-00-A27.” Kosovich punched in the numbered and lettered code that opened the steel door.
Inside a small antechamber, Kosovich had to submit himself to a further check. He spoke into a meshed microphone, giving his name, ID number and date of birth. “Voice recognition confirmed. Proceed to Step Two,” a voice said out of nowhere. Kosovich placed his face against what looked like penny-arcade peepers. “Retina scan confirmed. Proceed to Step Three.” Kosovich drew his fingertips across his tongue and placed his right hand in a clear, plastic tray with mathematical inscriptions where the palm and fingers fit. A dark purplish ultraviolet light produced a pulsating sound. A few seconds passed. “Fingerprints and DNA confirmed. Cleared to enter.”
The heavy vault-like doors opened inwards, and the three of them quickly stepped through. Jim spun around in surprise, because the thick doors closed as nimbly as the swinging doors of a chef’s lair.
They were standing at the entrance of a large room filled with computer programmers and analysts, dressed in white uniforms, bent over their keyboards. Blue tinged everything. Huge monitors were set into the walls alive with coruscating images of formless shapes and colors that kept shifting in an amorphous mass, each different and distinct and yet the same in their intermingling mixture of hues and tints that resembled a living, phantasmagorical organism. The bluish glow filling the room from the high ceiling was alive with the clicking of the keyboards. At the end of the room sat an enormous machine, its lower panel running a digitalized and variegated painted symphony of flashing numbers, letters and icons. Its upper portion with two rows of tapeless silver disks behind a long window kept the super computer in constant motion. It occupied a greater part of the wall. It produced a hum and a steady whirring and clicking sound as the multi-layered disks whirled in opposing directions, some turning clockwise, others counterclockwise.
Kosovich pointed it out. “The heart of Project StarMind. UB-X-00,” he said proudly. “Doesn’t use old-fashioned tapes that can fade and become demagnetized. Uses a series of countervailing disks in each sprocket to create an electromagnetic field that can be replicated and hooked up to the other apparatus. But I’ll let Wayne Trunnell, Supervisor of Project StarMind, explain it all to you.”
Wayne Trunnell was a tall, slender man in his early seventies. Standing at least 6’4″, he wore a white, loose-fitting smock that hung down to his ankles. His hair, thick and unruly, was white. His eyes were dark blue and twinkled intelligently like glistening opals that were accentuated by his still-black eyebrows. His nose reminded Jim of the beak of the mythological bird on the emblem. Smiling in a casual, friendly fashion, he stuck out his hand.
“You must be Detective Jim Sato, whom I’ve been waiting to meet,” he said in a surprisingly young voice. He shook Jim’s hand and turned immediately to Gilda. “And you are Gilda Dobrowski, the famous psychic from Franklin. I’ve been wanting to meet you ever since I heard about you.” He tilted his head slightly as he took Gilda’s hand.
Jim couldn’t quite place the mannerism. It was almost continental–and foreign. Trunnell regarded them both fondly as if they were visiting brethren and knew each other. From another planet? Jim thought. It was as if they were aliens from outer space just dropping in for a visit to a familiar inner sanctum. The huge room with its inset panels of screens holding the twisting images, the hum and whirr of UB-X-00–whatever it was besides a giant brain box–and the clicking of the array of computer keyboards, along with the faint, soft bluish glow reflected off the walls and polished floors, lent an eerie quality to the intense activity in the room. Particularly so, when Jim understood that it all had to do with the control, manipulation and projection of the human mind. And to think that he and Gilda were to be subjected to discovering the mysteries unlocked in their own minds.
Trunnell took them over to the giant machine called UB-X-00 which was all business with its constant humming whirr and flickering lights. He patted it affectionately–paternalistically. It must have been his own design, thought Jim. He had fathered it.
“This is UB-X-00,” the supervisor of Project StarMind said proudly. “I named it that, because it has to do with the total dimension of all the imponderables of the human personality: soul, spirit, mind and everything else we know about ourselves. Consider it the Library of Congress of what knowledge we have of ourselves as a species. Otherwise, we refer to it by its nickname, ‘Yuubee’. And this huge stable of computer wizards and the room it is housed in is called ‘The Nexus’.”
“What’s it supposed to do?” Jim asked in intimidated awe.
“Everything that has to do with developing the potential of the human mind, much of it going beyond the realm of science as we understand it.”
“Specifically,” Jim pursued.
“Specifically?” Wayne Trunnell pondered the question. “Much of it is in an experimental stage. We are exploring it as it explores itself. But specifically, to boil your question down to a single answer that applies to you and Gilda, it is a psychotronic enhancer of the alpha and theta brain waves that are converted to a kind of bioenergy for the efficient functioning of the brain of a psychic, a person who already has the capabilities of projecting their consciousness.”
“Can you explain how that is going to affect us?” Jim thought it was a legitimate, logical question to ask. He wasn’t prepared for the condescending look of amazement that registered in Trunnell’s sngular features, marked by the drawing of his mouth into a thin line and the raising of his dark eyebrows. “Are the effects going to be permanent?” he continued, concerned.
“Well, not really…not in so many words,” he said, his dark blue eyes fixed on Jim. “It is nearly impossible to define what goes on in the brain, even at any given isolated moment, and–”
“Maybe you can start by telling me how Yuubee works?” Jim said.
Trunnell’s expression turned into one of patient indulgence. “I can try,” he said and ran his hand with long, bony fingers over his hoary hair slowly, as though to collect his thoughts. “It is based on the principle of symbiotic synergism, not only between Yuubee and the other scanning equipment, like the MRI and CAT Scan and others, but also between itself and the reciprocal emanation of the brain waves of the Snoopers…er, psychics. We call them, or they like to refer to themselves as, Snoopers. Otherwise, they’re variously known as seekers, seers, probers, sometimes even worse, depending on who is talking about them.”
“That’s not saying very much, Mr. Trunnell. How is it going to affect me and Gilda?” Jim felt he had to get some kind of handle on what to expect before he could even take or understand the first step in the training.
“I can only summarize what has been programmed into Yuubee,” the tall man said, drawing his brows together in concentration. “It has been fed a series of random mathematical equations from all the fields of science coupled with the principles of philology, morphology and semantics present in the unpredictable sequences of human thought patterns, including the representation of the REMs of dreams and nightmares, and combined with the phenomenological dichotomies present in all forms of human perceptions.”
“And that’s saying a mouthful,” Kosovich commented. With his eyes wide and blank, he gazed at Jim’s face which must have registered total non-comprehension. “I don’t understand what it means, either.”
“Can’t you boil it down, Dr. Trunnell,” Jim pleaded. “It is Dr. Trunnell, isn’t it?”
“Yes, indeed, it is, and I can’t even begin to describe to you my many fields of specialization,” Dr. Trunnell said, rather pompously thought Jim. “But, nevertheless, let me add that woven into the fabric of the ‘understanding’ programmed into UB-X-00…sounds so awfully formal. Yuubee. Programmed into Yuubee is everything that is known about paranormal psychology from ESP, psychokinesis, telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, remote viewing, astral flight, near-death out-of-the-body detachment, the ‘White Light’ syndrome to psychotic and hallucinatory typologies, induced by drugs, electrical charges or electromagnetic emissions.”
Jim glanced at Gilda. She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. Either she understood what Trunnell was talking about like an ace pitcher or it was over her head, too. Jim wanted to shake his head to rid himself of the confusion.
“What you’re saying, Dr. Trunnell,” Jim said, extrapolating from his previous experience in dealing with the superpsychic, Sergei Verenich, “is that UB-X-00, Yuubee, helps us to transmit and receive brain waves.”
“Essentially, yes,” Trunnell said. “Alpha and theta brain waves, specifically.”
“Then why is it that,” Jim began as the next logical step, “you are located at lowest level of the basement, deep under the headquarters of DIA? How can the brain waves get through all the interference?”
“Ah, that’s the beauty of Yuubee,” Trunnell intoned. “It can cut through anything and open a path for reception and transmission. As for being stuck in The StarCenter, it is for national security reasons.”
“Which are?” Now Jim wanted to know everything. Was UB-X-00 some sort of death-ray machine that focused laser beams through the psychics to knock down incoming missiles or knock off unwanted undesirables? Dictators, tyrants, key government figures? Terrorists? His imagination ran wild.
“I only need to mention one,” Trunnell said importantly. “In case the government and leadership are destroyed in a nuclear war, or by some other means, the psychics of Project StarMind are meant to restart our democracy and restore civilization as we have known it. Such a responsibility for a select few.” The tall, thin scientist ran his hand across his forehead as if to wipe away a heavy concern. “Now let me introduce you to the Snoopers, as they are affectionately known, rather than seekers or seers which have contentious overtones.”
Trunnell led them through the blue-white light that reminded Jim of the ethereal void in which he had done combat mind-to-mind with Sergei Verenich. Stepping past the row of equipment hooked up in tandem with Yuubee, the tall man pushed the button of a double-panel steel door. It hissed open pneumatically and made the same shushing sound as they entered a smaller room and sealed itself behind them.
They were standing in the reflected glow of the same bluish-white light. The walls were painted the same color as the large room–The Nexus–a washed sky-blue that seemed to continue beyond where it ended as though one could stick one’s hand through the solid barrier. On the upper part of the walls were mounted the monitor screens which held a variety of three-dimensional images, more definite in outline and shape than the coruscating and squirming masses of globs in The Nexus that appeared embryonic by comparison. Around a long table in the center of the room gathered lab technicians garbed in white smocks similar to the one Trunnell wore. The table was crowded with lab equipment: beakers, petri dishes, twisted glass tubing, Bunsen burners, measuring tubes, trays, microscopes, ultra-violet lamps, vials and bottles of liquid, just like a well-equipped high school lab, Jim thought, except he was in no high school. Against one wall with the same kind of screens sat six figures–three men and three women–wearing black helmets with extended goggles and a curved mouthpiece they were speaking into. Sitting in front of computers of different designer colors, they moved a mouse on a larger-than-average pad. The movement of their hands and their incessant, chant-like murmuring flowed together as if one guided the other reciprocally.
“Welcome to ‘The Twilight Zone’,” Dr. Trunnell said with a hint of triumph in his voice. “This is the control center, and the six psychics wearing the Gehirnphone helmets are controlling the images fabricated by pure thought energy. They are the creme de la creme saviors of Western Civilization, the ones who will regenerate the leadership in the event our government is destroyed.”
Jim looked over the six figures, their heads all but concealed by the black helmets, talking to themselves or into the tiny mike built into the headgear. They were all dressed casually, one man in a red and black flannel shirt, a lady in a dark, blue satiny blouse, another man in a bright yellow long-sleeved shirt. The three-dimensional forms danced and changed with the movement of the mouses and the intonation of their voices. Some of the images looked like the interior of a building, a bird’s-eye screen-skating landscape full of mountains and valleys, a blurred visage that kept fading in and out of focus.
“Why are they talking to themselves?” Gilda asked. “It sounds like so much psycho-babble all running together.”
“Maybe it’s some sort of chant,” Jim said, wanting to sound half-way knowledgeable, although he was totally mystified. He had read voluminously about matters dealing with psychic phenomena and the training of the mind ever since his ordeal with Sergei Verenich, delving into mythology, religion, psychology, spiritualism, occultism.
“Actually, it’s voice-activated commands to control graphic image-making,” Trunnell said.
“Why can’t they just image what they are thinking or exercise thought-control?” Gilda queried.
“That is precisely what they are doing by ordering their brains to function in a certain, specific way with their own unique voices,” Trunnell explained. “Their brains, in other words, respond more actively and positively when they hear their own voices. It’s like a personal signature endorsing a command to certain brain centers. The brain recognizes its owner as belonging to itself and performs accordingly. I designed the Gehirnphone virtual reality helmets myself.”
“So, in other words,” Gilda mused, “instead of feeding them the sensation of virtual reality, they are actually producing virtual reality in three-dimensional graphics by their own brain power.”
“Just like you see on the screens,” Kosovich broke in.
“And so what powers their brains?” Gilda pursued. “Is the required bioenergy induced?”
“Through UB-X-Double Ought,” Kosovich said proprietarily.
“Let me explain it with a bit more detail, Gilda,” Trunnell said, ignoring Kosovich. He took her arm and led her to stand behind one of the Snoopers. He pointed to different portions of the helmet. “The Gehirnphone houses a microcomputer. It carries its own titanium power pack and is synchronized with the relay of the pschotronically-transferred bioenergy from Yuubee.”
“You make it sound as if there is a clear conduit between the source and the recipient,” Jim observed. “But I’m sure it’s much complex than that.”
“It most certainly is,” averred Trunnell. “The source is the brain of the seer. Its power is enhanced by Yuubee by the informed transfer of bioenergy. But the transfer does not take place as with an open pipeline. The programmers and analysts in The Nexus provide the embryonic stimulus of the initial image-formation through Yuubee, while factoring in all the resistance that the Snoopers will conceivably run into before they can successfully sort out the input through enhanced mind-power. When they grapple with the variables and focus the charged bioenergy in their own educated way, they can and do produce the three-dimensional pictures you see on the screens.”
“I think I got that,” Jim declared, though his comprehension was edged with doubt and many more questions. “Out of a chaotic mess, they wrestle to create the pictures in their minds with the aid of the Gehirnphones before they project in pure form what we see on the screen.”
“Exactly,” said Trunnell delighted.
“How does bioenergy translate into three-dimensional colored images and graphics?” asked Jim, with some inkling as to the answer.
“Through a combination of telepathy and psychokinesis,” concluded Gilda.
“Splendid!” Trunnell cried. “But don’t neglect to add the super-charged ionization of electrical particles. I know you two will make excellent students.” He patted them paternally on their backs.
“I have to borrow your two star recruits for a moment.” Kosovich grabbed hold of Jim’s arm eagerly. “Now I have a surprise for you and I’m not thanking you for it. It’s what you left me and the other agents with in Washington, D.C.”
The thin-faced man pulled Jim over to a large double-door compartment which turned out to be a freezer. Kosovich flung open the doors. Chilled vapors of frozen air spill out in a cloud.
“There he is. Sergei Verenich. Or what’s left of him. And you didn’t leave much,” Kosovich accused, displaying his anger with a finger jabbed at the remains.
Gilda stifled a scream and stepped back. Jim stiffened and expected the pieces to somehow come together as Sergei’s consciousness had in the ether and attack him. The blasted torso emptied of soft organ tissue with the rib cage spread apart was as he remembered it. The legs had been cut off and lay separately on another shelf, bluish-grey and hairy. Several one-gallon plastic ziplocks contained the soft tissue that the agents had to pick off of them and scoop up off the floor at Hotel George and what was left of the lungs, heart, liver and the rest of the organs that had exploded out of Sergei’s body. The severed arms were tied, and the hands were naturally clasped together as if the previous owner had been converted to religion before his demise. What were obviously his genitals were contained in another ziplock bag. But the head with the thick, brown hair, the short nose, the square jaw. It was gone, not a part of the collection.
Jim swallowed hard and held down a wave of nausea that he knew would be the color of greenish-yellow if he threw up. It had happened at one murder scene where the body had flowers stuck into carved holes.
“The head…,” Jim said weakly. Somehow he had to see Sergei’s head to feel convinced that he was indeed dead. “It’s gone. What did you do with it?”
“Didn’t need it. Had to cut it up to get at the brain,” Kosovich said and leered at Jim’s discomfort. “Besides you’ll always have access to the head, another surprise for you, Sato.” He took Jim’s arm and pulled him over to the far wall which had a single screen mounted above a lone figure wearing a Gehirnphone.
About the Author
R. H. Kohno has been writing for a number of years now, putting a capstone on a long-held dream of becoming a writer, and has produced a number of works of fiction, the most recent of which include Eye of the Star, The StarMind Alert and Starburst Over China (soon to be published), a trilogy of psychic thrillers, and Westward Lies The Sun, written under his real name. He majored in English at the University of Washington and was the editor-in-chief of the campus literary magazine, Assay. He taught briefly at the university level before embarking on a career in writing. He is currently working on a novel and putting together a collection of short stories.