Category: Casefile, MSR
Summary: Prime number theory turns deadly?
Disclaimer: X-Files characters belong to FOX Corporation and 1013 and that Chris Carter fellow. I suspect I will never make any money doing such ridiculous things as writing stories about old TV shows.
Author’s Note: This is loosely based on mathematical concepts that I really don’t understand so I’m pulling out my artistic license to explain all unlikelihoods.
Original web date:28/03/2010
The music was hauntingly dissonant, a cacophony of atonal and abstract intervals with no discernible melody. To the untrained ear it was merely meaningless noise. However, the gathered aficionados were anything but untrained ears. They sat in a small circle, six pairs of eyes closed, six minds at the ready. Together they intoned seemingly random numbers at a low frequency…99923 99929 99961 99971 99989 99991 100003 100019 100043 100049 100057 100069 100103 … The gregorian-esque chanting oxymoronically both completely clashed and melded perfectly with the odd scattered musical tones.
Kieran Jackson felt the tones reverberate through him, traveling through his guts and up into his solar plexus. He recited the numbers automatically and focused his mind on their inherent power. Slowly, he felt the physical world floating away from him, the carpet under him dropping off, the walls around him expanding to infinity.
When the space around him started to resonate with intense waves of something both disconcerting yet eerily familiar, he chanced to open his eyes.
Kieran was only partially surprised to find that his companions and his own physical body were suddenly somewhat missing. The space before him was hazy with faintly coloured mist and though he could still see the dingy real-world room he supposed his physical body still existed in, he knew his real self was now floating in this other reality. He had never experienced such a phenomenon before, but still instantly understood the waves of light creating the colourful mist to be the visual equivalents of the musical dissonance he could still hear reverberating in the background. He experienced a moment of pure awe and elation. He had made it. It was real. It was perfect. He let his mind meld with the vibrations travelling through the space and the numbers began pouring out of him… 41162039 41162041 41162071 41162087 41162101 41162119 41162123 41162131 4116216… They pulsated through his now-ethereal being, perfectly in tune with every nuance of the unearthly space. Kieran had to admit he had doubted the stories – but it hadn’t stopped him from hoping, dreaming, willing its reality. It was everything he had imagined and more – impossible to put into words. The numbers – they floated around him, through him, in him. The entire dimension was in tune with the numbers. The space was the primes and the primes were the space. As he wandered aimlessly in his new environment, Kieran found he could propel himself through what would have been walls in the physical world. He could still see these physical structures but they had no meaning in the prime number reality. The harmonics spoke of a different physics, one of beautiful frequencies that resonated with the numbers.
At once his world was both vast and atomic. Distance was no obstacle – the space was at once infinite and infinitesimal. Kieran found he could travel what would have been miles in regular space in the span of mere seconds. This ability was ingrained in the interaction between the constant flow of primes and his now-ghostly body.
As he cautiously explored the new space Kieran began to sense ruptures in the numerical waves, areas of dissonance sensed from afar. Coming up close to one, he realized it was a presence much like his own. So he wasn’t the only one to have found this place – other mathematically inclined explorers must have discovered it in much the same way. Feeling a particularly strong dissonance from a nearby area, Kieran tried to pull away, to dissolve back into the ebb of numeric music. But the strangeness kept approaching him until it overtook all other sensation. He tried to run but his non-physical body no longer responded the way he wanted. The dissonance drew closer until Kieran was overwhelmed by its power. It was not like the other presence he had felt – there was an innate darkness to it that thrummed in a pulsatingly dark wave. The wave swept through him and intensified in its throbbing eninimity. Then, just as he felt completely buried by the dark wave, the space around him began to pulsate with growing intensity, growing wrongness. Kieran tried to move but couldn’t fathom how to escape the increasing darkness. It pounded through his blood. He could feel it approaching closer, quicker, the thundering unnaturalness of it pounding through his body.
It hit him square in the chest, a not-quite-physical-yet-still-very real feeling. And then he felt the resonating vibrations of the misty world falling away from him as he sank lower and lower. His body began to feel more solid, more tethered to the physical world. The pulsating numbers began to fade … 98867063 98867107 98867147 9886…
And then he felt the pain. As his body slid back into the solid world, the room with its achromatic tones and numerical chanting, his sense of euphoria flitted away and was replaced by a cold, stark, overarching pain. He heard his chanting companions gasp and scream from what seemed like a long distance away. Something about blood. Something about an ambulance. Not that it really mattered to him anymore. He had felt that other world, a place where he had finally felt at one with the inherent mathmaticalness of the universe. As his life slipped away in a viscous sea of red, Kieran remembered the pure vibrations of the primes and, for once, felt at peace with his existence. The room still hummed with the atonal chords but the chanting had stopped as five stunned students gaped at their dead companion. He had been fine. And then he suddenly had a gaping hole in his chest. No one had seen, heard anything. No shots, nothing. Nothing but the strange music and the rhythmic numbers… 97026529 97026583 97026593 97026641 97026649 97026731 97026733 97026737… And the haunting power of the primes.
“I come bearing caffeine,” Scully said as she opened the office door while carefully balancing a coffee tray, her briefcase, and a bakery bag. An early morning consult had precluded their usual morning coffee run together and as her bespectacled partner looked up from studiously studying a file, Scully felt a twist of fond familiarity.
“Hey Scully, listen to this,” Mulder replied with his particular brand of enthusiasm that, sixteen years in, still lit off tingles along her spinal column. She cocked her head at him expectantly as he hit play on the garish stereo behind him. She never knew what to expect and was expecting to hear the cry of a lost banshee or the lost tapes of spoken reticulan. Therefore she was a bit surprised when semi-recognizable notes of sorts came through the speakers. Not that it was exactly music – certainly it wasn’t about to make the top 40 countdown – yet she felt there was something oddly familiar about the strange sounds. “What do you know about prime numbers, Scully?” Mulder asked as he turned the volume down. She looked at him oddly, waiting for the other, more-paranormal, shoe to drop. When he didn’t deign to continue, she launched into lecture-mode.
“Well, primes have fascinated number theorists for decades. Ever since Pythagoras mathematicians have tried to find a pattern that describes the occurrence and frequency of prime numbers. Carl Gauss was the first to produce a function, the logarithmic integral, which gave a fairly precise estimate for the number of primes. Bernhard Riemann then added to Gauss’s function by adding harmonic waves which then allowed the logarithmic integral to fit perfectly with prime number occurrence. In fact, the Riemann hypothesis is the closest anyone has ever gotten to mapping out prime number frequency – however, no one has ever been able to prove the hypothesis. Even though billions of zeros have been found to lie on the critical line, indicating that it is likely correct, there is no actual proof of the theorem. Now with the importance that primes play in public key cryptography, there is fear that anyone who solves the Riemann hypothesis will also find a backdoor into decrypting RSA security. Basically, they might then be able to circumvent the toughest electronic security codes used today. But it’s all conjecture – the likelihood of anyone ever solving Riemann’s hypothesis with our current set of mathematical axioms is quite low. And even if it were to be solved, it isn’t at all clear that it would actually affect computer security,” Scully intoned on her patented ‘scientific lecture setting’.
Mulder mentally catalogued yet another science-related topic that Scully, like usual, could probably write entire Wikipedia entries on, citations and all. Listening patiently, he nodded at all the appropriate moments and then slammed the paranormal shoe down on the ground.”Okay, but so how do prime numbers kill?” he asked with his usual cocky ‘I know something you don’t’ tone. Scully tilted her head questioningly and raised her eyebrow as expected – it was, after all, a quintessential act in their ongoing basement production.
“Mulder, did you just suggest that prime numbers themselves are perpetrating homicide?” she asked, only mildly incredulously. Sliding one of their ubiquitous red and white file folders across the desk, Mulder tilted his chair back and watched her in anticipation. The file contained three separate police reports gathered from around the country. Three unexplained incidents on three highly regarded campuses. The first involved a young man being found dead in his small apartment near MIT with no signs of foul play. In fact, it appeared that he had literally died of thirst. No other cause of death could be found and no explanation of how a healthy 20 year old could let himself succumb to thirst and starvation. The other two deaths were equally, if not more, odd. One from a month earlier at UCLA and the other, just two days ago, at Princeton.
Studying the reports, Scully noted that the latter two deaths were virtually identical. Both incidents had been called in by students after the victims were inflicted with what seemed to be gunshot wounds. All the witnesses claimed that they hadn’t heard any weapons fired and that no one else had entered or left the room the crimes were committed in. Forensics confirmed that both victims died of through and through gun shot wounds but not a single bullet had been recovered, even after the scene had been re-examined numerous times.
Each crime scene photo was also eerily similar. The groups of students all admitted to being part of some sort of prime number cult, committed to following the obscure theories of a Dr.Ivan Dag, creator of a synthesis between numerology and musicology. A modern mathematical mystic following in the footsteps of such mathematical geniuses as Pythagoras and Ramanujan. Dag had been an ambitious up and comer in the field of number theory before taking a trip to Gottingen, the traditional German stomping grounds of eminent mathematicians such as Gauss, Dirichlet, Hilbert, and, of course, Riemann.
The police reports all indicated that they had followed up on each of the surviving cult members but that their stories were all consistent. Their investigations into Dag left some suspicion as the man had been missing for many years. After visiting Gottingen, he had fallen out of favour with traditional number theorists but had continued to publish work with the help of an undisclosed private funder. His last article on what he entitled the Riemann Space had been published in 2005 and then he had completely disappeared, leaving behind, unclaimed, all his assets. No note, no indication of foul play.
“So? What’s your theory, Mulder?” Scully asked, a tad apprehensively “And what’s with the music?”
“I’m leaning towards psychic projections as the most probable cause but three separate cases of psychokinetic nerds would be a big coincidence. So I reserve theorizing until we’ve interviewed some of your math geek compadres,” he replied with an implied wink. “I’ve been trying to access Dag’s articles on this so-called Riemann Space but everything I can get my hands on is encrypted up the ying-yang. Everything except a link to an mp3 file that is somehow part of the process. That’s what we’re listening to right now. Somehow these weird notes are tied into Dag’s big theory. Anyways, we’ve got a meeting tomorrow morning with one of the Dag’s former research assistants at Princeton. This guy Olafson also taught the latest victim, Kieran Jackson. Maybe he’ll be able to let us in on the big secret.”
His math geek crack earned him the expected pseudo-scowl and a near paper cut as Scully playfully frisbee’d the file back at his head.
They arrived in Princeton in the late afternoon and went straight to the police station to meet with the investigating officer, a Detective Greg Wallace.
They were directed to Wallace’s desk and waited for him to finish dressing down another officer in front of the entire station full of cops. Wallace was a burly brick of a man with a standard buzz cut and a frown that seemed permanently etched onto his face. As he dismissed the cowering younger officer, Wallace made a show of blatantly ignoring the agents for a minute as he purposelessly shuffled papers around on his desk. Finally, as he began to feel the burn of the intense beam of annoyance being directed at him from laser blue eyes, Wallace turned and regarded the impatient agents.
“Agents Mulder and Scully? I understand you’re here investigating the Jackson homicide. I have to tell you off the bat that I don’t see why the federal government is wasting their time and money on this. There’s nothing more you can do here – we’ve covered all the bases,” Wallace grunted by way of introduction.
The agent exchanged a look that both conveyed their mutual annoyance and a subtle cue for Scully to start the questioning. Although his years with Scully had tempered his innate propensity for pissing off local cops, it was definitely still prudent for Scully to take the lead in irksome situations. Even if she was the one shooting lasers out of her eyes. “Well, we would still like to investigate the situation for ourselves,” Scully started diplomatically. “What can you tell us about the victim and his group?”
Wallace cleared his throat in an obvious sign of impatience as he replied.
“Kieran Jackson and his group were all graduate students in number theory at the university. They were involved in some cult-like ritual when he died but none of them would say what they were trying to do. After reading through some of Jackson’s notes, it seems that they were trying to access some sort of alternate reality based on prime number theory. Now, I did some undergrad courses in math myself and after speaking with the professors at Princeton, I can assure you that this is all bullshit. The concept of this so-called Riemann Space is total garbage, just a fantasy they came up with to hide what really happened.”
“Which would be?” Scully asked.
Suddenly Wallace didn’t look quite as smug as he tried to quickly string together a plausible explanation for what had occurred. “Er, well… Clearly the participants are lying about what happened. Jackson was killed elsewhere and transported to the scene after death. That explains the lack of casings at the scene.”
Scully regarded the detective incredulously. “Are you implying that this group of math students, none of whom have ever previously been in trouble with the law, were somehow responsible for not only Kieran Jackson’s death but that they then also managed to smuggle his bleeding body through a community centre full of witnesses? I’m sure you have noticed that the centre’s only entrances and exits were far from the room Jackson was found in. Also, interviews with front desk personnel indicate a positive ID on Jackson that night as he signed the rental agreement for the space upon entering the building. Therefore, the students would have had to have drawn him away from the building and then brought his still-bleeding body back into the building through public spaces. If that is your explanation for what happened, I would seriously question your objectivity in this case, detective.” As Scully spoke, more and more officers had begun to turn their twitchy ears in her direction and more than one had to suppress a smirk-encrusted grin as they watched Wallace become more and more uncomfortable with each word. Also, knowing Wallace’s general modus operandi of never backing down, a good number of the onlookers were hoping for a quick escalation from minor argument to full-fledged screaming match.
Mulder felt the nervous tension increase dramatically as more heads turned to observe his own personal fiery redhead chew out a detective she had barely met. As Wallace took a step forward and jutted his chest into Scully’s personal space Mulder had to resist the instinct to inject his own body into the situation. He had a healthy sense of survival and wasn’t about to volunteer to be the next victim on the Scully warpath. Stepping in on her battle without consent would have likely resulted in his sleeping alone in his own dingy motel room that night. And dingy room sans hot-as-hell-when-all-fired-up partner wasn’t what he was aiming for.
Towering over Scully’s deceptively small frame, Wallace visibly gathered what was left of his wits and set his expression to ‘barely-concealed-and-quickly-growing-anger’. “Well, Agent Scully, if you are questioning my objectivity in this case, I would love to hear what your opinion is. Because if you’re falling for this Riemann Space bullshit then I would seriously question your qualification in understanding this so-called alternate reality. I can’t imagine that you could possibly understand the mathematics these students are talking about. I, on the other hand, have at least enough of a background in math to I know when I’m being played for a fool. And if you’re here to suggest that Jackson was killed by ghosts or witches or aliens then I’d like to see your evidence to that effect. Because, you see, Agents, I’ve taken the time to check up a little on you two and I’m not about to have this case turned into some big joke.” As Wallace built up steam Mulder couldn’t help but feel a minute twinge of empathy for the verbal take-down the man was about to receive. Not that he felt anything for the detective other than total contempt, but the man was just so unaware of what he was asking for. Indeed, although it had been eons since he himself was so naive as to believe that Scully’s ability to command respect was proportional to her stature, Mulder could still easily remember the instant he learned exactly how wrong that belief was. As Scully stood her ground, taking the detective’s words – spittle included – evenly, Mulder subtly maneuvered himself closer to her and laid the briefest of touches just above her sacrum. The glancing touch went unnoticed by everyone except her and, through previous controlled studies of his partner, Mulder knew it was about as much moral support as she would allow. When it was clear Wallace was both finished and particularly pleased with himself, Scully nodded in a mildly condescending manner, as if to say ‘sure, sure, whatever moron’ and then proceeded to make her rebuttal.
“Detective Wallace, if you have, indeed, taken the time to, as you say, ‘check up’ on us, then you should already know that, ghosts, witches, and aliens included, our solve rate is amongst the highest in the bureau. Furthermore, your assumption that we do not have the background in theoretical mathematics to understand the complexities of the Riemann hypothesis and it’s more mystical offshoots are, I assume, founded on stereotype and pure conjecture. In fact, I would be happy to discuss the significance of Riemann’s harmonics on the zeta-function landscape with you, if your mathematics background would allow for such a conversation. As for my opinion on what caused Mr. Jackson’s death, I would have to defer until Agent Mulder and myself have actually investigated the case. Suffice to say that, unlike you, I don’t believe we can make a determination based solely on this meager report.” She spoke in that particular self-possessing manner that allowed her to produce perfect statements without any time to prepare.
Mulder still observed her with wonder even after so many years – the grin he hid at her deft oratory skills only present in his eyes. He also noted that many of the obviously-eavesdropping officers were not nearly as reserved with their amusement. Apparently it wasn’t everyday that the clearly unpopular Wallace got reamed out by diminutive FBI agents in front of the entire station. It was, indeed, a moment that the rest of the officers would fondly recall in years to come. As Wallace began to truly blow his gasket, Scully merely raised one contemptuous eyebrow and turned to calmly exit stage left. Mulder took her lead and followed along, his hand in its customary position, his lips glancing down towards her ear as he murmured discretely to her. “You know, Scully, you wouldn’t think I’d find it so hot when you yank on another guy’s balls like that.” Her only response was a look double-dipped in disapproval and bemusement.
They went from the station to the crime scene, a local community centre near Princeton University. Records showed that the space had been rented to Kieran Jackson for four hours on the night of his death. A positive ID had been made by the front desk clerk who had taken Kieran’s payment for the rental. The clerk had also directed the other group members towards the room as they arrived. Consistent with the statements of these other participants, the clerk had not seen any of them leave the building until after the police had come and questioned everyone involved. Upon examining all possible exits, Mulder and Scully determined that it would have been virtually impossible to drag a bleeding dead weight back into the rented room unseen and without leaving traces of blood. The room Kieran Jackson had died in was still cordoned off by yellow police tape and offered little in the way of clues. Even the keen investigative eyes of Mulder and Scully, which often spotted otherwise unnoticed minutiae, couldn’t tease any more info out of the blood stained 70’s avocado green walls. It was as if Kieran Jackson had been shot by an invisible bullet.
Looking around to the only other clue, a stereo system that the group had been using, Mulder pressed play on the machine. Neither agent was particularly surprised when familiar-yet-odd atonal harmonics flooded the room. Tapping on his nose with a knowing look, Mulder flashed his partner a quick ‘told you so’ wink.
“Nice tunes eh, Scully…” he quipped.
Knowing the types of grand leaping to paranormal conclusions that was likely occurring in her partner’s head, Scully attempted to temper his excitement with a dose of rationality. “Just because they were playing the music doesn’t mean they knew any more about this so-called Riemann Space than we do. They’re college students, Mulder. It might ave just been an experiment – a couple of esoteric theories to whet their imaginations, plus a sprinkling of mysterious music and probably a few tokes off a joint to make the whole experience more mind-opening.”
Eyebrows raised at her use of marijuana-related slang, Mulder threw in the most obvious counterpoint. “Yeah but how many experimenters end up dead of invisible bullets?”
Scully sighed her momentary defeat. She knew he was right on this one – as unlikely as it was that the students had found some alternate reality in this room, there was still no way of explaining the manner in which Kieran Jackson had been killed. “Let’s go Mulder,” she finally replied. “I’m starving.”
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you that reading so close will ruin your eyes?” Mulder said as he pushed through the weather-beaten motel room door, a bag of take-out in his hands. ”
Listen to this, Mulder,” Scully said in response, deep in thought and completely ignoring his comment. “The officer who was first on the scene at the UCLA death of John Chew reported that strange music had been playing at Chew’s apartment when he was found dead. He specifically noted this because he thought it was odd that the music was still playing so many days after the victim had died. At first he thought it indicated that someone else had been in the apartment in the meantime but then the computer tech figured out that someone, probably Chew, had programmed the music to loop indefinitely.”
“I bet it wasn’t Britney,” Mulder stated flatly.
“I’d say you’re right on that,” Scully replied wryly.
Food still in hand, Mulder flopped down on the mass of pokey bedsprings, looking up at his partner mischievously as he deliberately jostled up the flurry of papers spread on the bedspread.
“Stop thinking so hard and eat your rabbit food darlin’,” he said in his worst southern drawl.
Frowning as expected at the sarcastically-expressed-yet-truly-felt endearment, Scully kept on reading as she held out her hand, knowing it would immediately be filled with a plastic tub of fast food salad, dressing exquisitely dabbed on, exactly to her specification. “And they found a stereo at the other site too but there’s nothing in the report about what was in it at the time,” Scully mused amidst a mouthful of wilted iceberg lettuce.
“Yeah, and I just found something in my pants – you wanna see?”
Mulder replied, barely retaining half-chewed bits of genetically-modified-rainforest-killing beef in his mouth. “I think the music has something to do with Riemann’s harmonics – I remember reading somewhere recently that there are some mathematicians that believe the harmonic frequencies are innate yet different to our physical experience of space-time,” she continued.
“C’mon physicist girl, it’s late and I wanna lick the lo-cal Italian dressing off your lips,” Mulder replied as he slid his way closer to her.
Scully sighed. It never failed – when he couldn’t sleep due to having his frontal lobes stuck in a file all night, all she wanted to do was drag him under the covers and when she was stuck on a thought, he was invariably goofy try-to-steal-your-tofutti-cone Mulder. Oscillating somewhere between the impossibility of invisible bullets and the possibility of warm human interaction, she was dragged forcibly to one side with a touch of soft lips on the back of her neck. Leaning into the now-familiar-yet-still-tingle-evoking sensation, she let the file fall from her hand and gave in to the warmth of his very real, loving existence.
Dr. Jon Olafson’s office was covered in whiteboards, each drenched in messy formulae and haphazard graphs. The man’s appearance screamed mathematician – from the ratty brown loafers to the grey argyle sweater vest, to the slightly off kilter wire-rim glasses. As he stood to greet the agents they noticed his eyes didn’t completely focus on them, and his shoulders were held so tightly that they nearly met his ears. “Uh, good morning agents,” Olafson said hurriedly. “I understand you have some questions about Kieran Jackson?”
“Good morning Dr. Olafson. Yes, we’re here investigating the circumstances around his death. Can you tell us what you know about what happened?” Scully started, silently agreeing to take the lead.
“Well, Kieran was one of my graduate students. I don’t know much about what happened to him though – he hasn’t been around much lately.” Olafson replied nervously.
“Why is that doctor?” Scully asked congenially.
“Kieran’s been involved in his own project for the last six months or so, one that did not fit into the direction I am taking my own mathematics. He spent most of his time on this project and has not been attending classes,” Olafson answered.
“What can you tell us about this side project?” Scully asked, shooting Mulder a knowing glance.
“Well, it may be difficult for you to understand as a layperson. It had to do with an esoteric interpretation of the Riemann hypothesis which is a theory that predicts prime number frequency,” Olafson explained condescendingly.
Mulder smirked invisibly as he felt Scully tense up a smidgen.
“In what way was his interpretation different than the standard understanding of Riemann’s predictions of non-trivial zero distribution of the zeta function? And does this have anything to do with Dr. Dag’s so-called Riemann Space? We understand you used to work with Dr. Dag,” she asked, the smugness in her tone evident only to the well-attuned ears of her partner.
Olafson blinked a few times as he ogled at Scully, newfound admiration shooting obviously from his awkwardly shifting eyes. “Yes, indeed, Kieran was obsessed with Ivan’s idea of the Riemann Space. Ivan’s conjecture wasn’t so much an alternate understanding of the hypothesis itself, more of an extension on the harmonic frequencies that suggests that there is a reality based on Riemann’s harmonics that can be accessed through a pure understanding of the hypothesis,” Olafson gushed, sparkles of elation shooting from his otherwise twitchy eyes.
“What sort of reality?” Scully asked, giving Olafson a small dose of her well-honed skeptical look.
“Well, supposedly one that can only be accessed through a deep immersion and understanding of the primes.”
“And how does music affect this reality?” Scully continued.
Olafson startled at the unexpected question and looked at the agents strangely.
“Ah, you are referring to the music of the primes?” he asked cautiously.
“Music of the primes?” Scully repeated questioningly, implying that Olafson should continue.
“Yes, Ivan believed that part of the immersion required to discover the Riemann Space was the affect on the human body and consciousness of resonating Riemann harmonics transformed into musical tones,” Olafson explained, attention still entirely focused on the surprisingly mathematically astute redhead.
“Do you believe this Riemann Space exists, Doctor?” Mulder finally asked, interest piqued, paranormal spidey-sense set a tingle.
Olafson shook his head awkwardly, laughing nervously. “No, no. That’s where Ivan and I disagreed. There is no evidence that the music of the primes is anything but that – music that mimics the harmonics. There is no proof that it, in any way, affects human consciousness. It is an interesting thought experiment but Ivan really believed in it. In truth it’s just a myth, but many fine mathematicians have been lost in the search for this Riemann prime reality,” he said.
“And do you know how to get in contact with the other students that have been involved in this project with Kieran?” Scully asked. “They seem to have disappeared since the incident.”
Olafson shook his head. “No, I don’t even know who these students might be. Kieran was a loner here – he scared the more serious mathematicians off with his mystical ideas.”
“One last question, Dr. Olafson – if it were possible that Kieran had found this Riemann Space, can you think of any reason someone would want to kill him because of this? Is there something about this space that could threaten other mathematicians or others in the field?” Scully asked.
“You know, that’s something I’ve been wondering about myself. Ivan believed that the space could have some useful properties in terms of prime number theory and the integer factorization problem.”
“Are you suggesting that the Riemann Space could be thought of as a way around the difficulty of factorizing large semi-primes?”
“Yes, Agent Scully. Ivan believed that existing in the Riemann Space would allow consciousnesses to become in tune to primes in a way that would then allow factorization of RSA sized primes,” Olafson continued, still staring at the rare woman who seemed willing and able to discuss esoteric mathematical ideas with him.
“So Dr. Dag believed that the Riemann Space would be a threat to RSA security…” Scully mused aloud for Mulder’s benefit.
“Yes. But Ivan had a lot of crazy ideas like that. It doesn’t mean that any of them were actually based on fact as opposed to pure conjecture,” Olafson continued.
Looking up at her partner pointedly as Olafson commented on Dag’s penchant for ‘crazy ideas’, Scully pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Thank you Dr. Olafson. You’ve been very helpful,” she said as she felt Mulder’s readiness to end the interview.
Olafson gleamed at her praise, staring at her longingly while she and Mulder silently conferred as they turned to leave the office.
Stepping out into the hallway Mulder’s previously blank expression shifted to a sly, obnoxious teasing look. “Hey Scully, who knew prime numbers could be such a turn on,” he murmured in her ear as he leaned in towards her suggestively. “I’ll have to start studying up on some Riemann for the bedroom.”
Scully pseudo-ignored him amicably, pushing against his sternum with her shoulder but not deigning to reply to his remark as they strode by the various poorly-dressed student mathematicians. Halfway down the hall she stopped short in front of a bulletin board clad in flyers and classified ads, causing Mulder to briefly stumble against her as he found the anchor for his hand stopping unexpectedly. “Look at this, Mulder,” she said, pointing at the board.
“Look at what?” he asked in confusion. Scanning the bulletin board, he couldn’t pick out anything of significance.
Scully tapped a small piece of paper with two numbers on it. “The number on top – 98867413 – looks like it may be a large prime and the one on the bottom seems to be a local phone number,” she said pensively.
Mulder grinned. “Nice eye, math geek,” he said with a squeeze of her shoulder.
Scully eyed him with mock irritation as she called the number and got a terse message with only an address and a time for that evening. Scribbling it down quickly, she showed her result to Mulder contemplatively.
“Smells like an exclusive egghead cult to me,” Mulder mused as they continued down the hall.
Neither noticed the man in a nondescript grey suit studying them with interest from around the corner.
The man in grey walked stiffly away from the university building, trying to fit in with the various and sundry students but failing rather miserably. The manner in which he kept anxiously looking over his shoulder was anything but smooth and both his gait and demeanor screamed government agent. Luckily for him, the people he walked by were generally involved in their own thoughts and no one took note of the nervous stranger in their midst. Thoughts were flowing through his cranium at a torrential pace – he had doubted that anyone would catch onto their elaborate scheme and now, having being most likely proven wrong, he did not have a contingency plan on hand. Even now he couldn’t quite believe that any other governmental types had even considered the possibilities that they were involved with. Especially a G-Man! If anyone were to figure them out he would have expected his own (former) people or someone from the agency. G-men just didn’t have the ability to think outside the box. Or so he had presumed, based on years of personally-gathered empirical data.
This was an unexpected snag in the plan that had been coming together rather nicely. They had been working on this for nearly a year and were close to solving the first of their two main problems. There was no way they were going to let Mr. and Mrs. Nosy-FBI get in their way now.
They had whiled away the afternoon following up on the reports from the other two deaths but had little luck in uncovering anything they didn’t already know or suspect. Other than the possible connection of the ‘music of the primes’, none of the other investigating officers mentioned anything remotely mathematical in their case reports. Like most cases that got shuffled down into the basement, there had been little comprehensible evidence and lack of desire to correctly interpret the little evidence that was available. Without the mathematical background and the propensity to explore odd phenomenon, the cases had been written off as unsolvable.
Without much else to go on, Mulder and Scully approached the address from the cryptic message on the university bulletin board in hopeful anticipation. The place itself was yet another non-descript university building, florescent lights, dirty couches, beige walls and all. Due to the evening hour there were only a few students around as they made their way down to the basement. “Hey Scully, are you going to put your math wiles away or am I going to have to take on some nerds?” Mulder jibed as they ventured into the building. His comment earned him a quick elbow jab and a muted aura of amusement. As they continued to haphazardly toss friendly rejoinders about, neither noticed the suspicious figure lurking behind the bushes near the corner of the building.
Dressed in government-standard poorly fitted suit and the ubiquitous sunglasses at night, his attention perked as the FBI agents entered the building and a sly grimace grew on his otherwise non-descript face. He and his partner had earlier agreed that it wasn’t yet time to panic but the fact that there was, indeed, another gathering and that the FBI had shown up for it was not good in any way, shape, or form. It was time to take the offensive and re-establish their control over this project.
The man in grey, known only as Jones, quickly strode over to his vehicle and a few minutes later arrived at a non-descript apartment building nearby. Looking around suspiciously, he entered a dingy basement apartment where another man dressed completely in grey sat fiddling with a complex-looking top-of-the-line surveillance system.
“Play it, I need to go in now,” Jones said authoritatively. “What happened at the meeting?” grey no. 2, known only as Smith, asked.
“A bunch of the regulars and the two suits I saw at the school this morning showed up. Like I said before they’re definitely fibbies. Either way they probably won’t get into the space but I want to be there in case another one of those kids gets in there again.”
“You think they know about our involvement? What if they’ve been asking around up at Meade about us?”
“We’ve been through this before man. No one NSA has a clue what we’re onto here. We’re on our own and we’re close. I know we are. I can already feel the numbers in there, I just need a little more time to learn to control it before I can start pulling larger factors out of the landscape.”
Smith grinned at his partner’s confidence – he knew very well this ability they were trying to perfect would make the two of them rich beyond imagining. Being able to factor large semi-prime numbers into their two large prime factors would allow then to break the RSA security algorithms used throughout electronic banking systems.
With this ability, they would easily be able to transfer funds from hacked bank accounts into their own. With this ability they would be light years ahead of still-theoretical quantum computers that could, possibly, also perform this little mathematical trick. With this ability, they could steal fortunes from their dingy little basement base and disappear with millions in their accounts.
He thought of how fortuitous that they had been paired on this project to begin with. They had been exploring the concept of the Riemann Space as part of a NSA project when they had stumbled across a small internet cult built on concepts of mathematical mysticism and the ideas of Dr. Ivan Dag. Exploring the ideas further and following the procedures outlined on the webpage, both eventually managed to enter the space and experience the power of the primes. They had then immediately realized the implications of this alternate reality and had subsequently gone AWOL on the NSA to explore the criminal possibilities more closely.
Since then they had been stuck on three problems that had, thus far, prevented them from obtaining their riches. First, it had taken awhile for them to properly tune into the numbers in the space. They had discovered that they were not equally adept at absorbing the harmonics of the space and so they had agreed that Jones, the more proficient of the two, would be the one to go in and explore the space more fully. Jones had then made significant progress since he had first started his trips nearly a year ago. After several trips he had become better attuned to the frequencies and was quickly learning to hear larger and larger primes. Factoring semi-prime composites was more difficult but he had also been making progress on that front. He predicted that it would take at least a month or so before he could reliably generate the length of numbers that the RSA codes currently used.
The second problem was a bit more of a challenge. Whereas Jones was sure that he could factor larger and larger semi-primes while in the Riemann Space, he wasn’t able to remember the factors when he returned to the non-prime reality. He had also, so far, been unable to transmit any information from the Riemann Space to his physical-Earth-bound partner. Though Dag’s interpretations indicated that there should be a way for communication from the Riemann Space back to regular reality, a sort of mind-portal between worlds, they had been unable to determine if it was actually possible. This was then a major hurdle in their desire for ill-gained riches – without the ability to transfer the knowledge gained in the Riemann Space to the ‘real’ world, they would never be able to use their newfound ability.
The third problem was also fairly significant and had only appeared in the past few months. The space had been theirs to explore unhindered for months – but then the pesky geeks had started showing up. The first one had stayed too long and had starved his real-world body to death, having found the Riemann Space by himself in a secluded university apartment. His death had been informative on many levels – that there were others capable of entering the space, that time in the space was not experienced in the same way as real-world time, that there were real-world consequences to staying absorbed in the space for too long.
The second student had been more of a challenge. Jones had encountered the student’s essence in the space a few times and hadn’t known what to do with the new presence. Then, almost by chance, his own presence and that of the student’s had come in close contact and he had instinctively attempted to shoot his weapon.
If he had been asked whether his not-quite-physically-present weapon tethered to his ethereal body should have functioned properly in the Riemann Space, Jones would have emphatically laughed at the idiocy of the question. It only showed their lack of understanding of connections between the space and the real world when the weapon discharged and left behind a very real dead body. It made no sense and was completely unexpected but it certainly gave the two men in grey a definite advantage. From that point on they were confident that they would have all the time they needed to sort out their problems. Even after the last student Jones had killed in the space, it still meant that only three people had found the space in nearly a year’s time. By their calculations, they only needed a few more months to be able to properly manipulate the space according to their needs. If it meant a few more dead pocket-protector types then, well, really what was the problem? Especially considering the previous cases had been written off as unexplainable, unsolvable, dead ends. Now, however, with feds on their trail… it was a lot more serious than offing a couple of kids.
“I have to go in and get rid of them if they make it into the space,” Jones explained hurriedly as his partner considered the implications of potentially killing two government agents. Smith looked a bit apprehensive but knew that Jones was right. They were in too far to quit. He pressed play on the computer and the odd atonal frequencies began to resound through the attached speakers.
The room was cream of wheat bland but those strangely familiar harmonics assaulted their ears as they entered the nondescript space.
Mulder quirked a grin both at Scully’s expression as she recognized the same atonal ‘music’ she had first encountered the previous morning in their office and at her atypical lack of awareness when all the young male math-heads immediately focused on the female that had entered their space.
There was a moment of uncomfortable, anticipatory silence as all three students looked at each other nervously. Scully looked over the scene appraisingly. Mulder was giving her the ‘I’m deferring to your expertise in this subject’ body language and the students were all huddling together defensively. From what she could remember of the original case files, there had been six students all together when Kieran Jackson had died. Their school pictures had been included with the file and she vaguely recognized the three nervous twenty-somethings gaping at her. Finally, thinking of one thing that might break the ice, Scully looked at the group and said, “98867413”. The effect was instantaneous as the students all visibly relaxed and they nodded at each other knowingly.
“I’m Agent Scully and this is my partner Agent Mulder. We’re here investigating the death of Kieran Jackson and we believe that your group may be able to offer some insight into the events that led to Mr. Jackson’s death,” Scully continued. Again the students eyed Mulder and Scully warily but after a brief silent consultation of their own, one of them finally spoke.
“Yeah, we knew Kieran. He started this group,” the young man volunteered apprehensively.
“And were any of you there when he died?” she asked, already knowing the answer but wondering what their response would be.
Again, jittery looks flitted about the room and no one chose to respond.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Scully continued. “We’re not here to accuse anyone. We just want to obtain some more information around the circumstances of his death.”
Tension still filled the room but finally a slightly exasperated voice broke the atonal-frequency-adorned silence. “Look, like we told the other cop, we don’t know what happened to Kieran. He was there and then all of a sudden he fell over and was bleeding all over the place,” one of the other students recanted.
“What do you mean he were there, Mr….?” Mulder interjected, instantly picking up on the paranormal aroma of the phrase.
“Boyd. Eric Boyd. Like he was in the Riemann Space. It’s what we were all trying to do. It’s what we’re trying to do here. And he actually got there. But then…”
“So none of you have been to this Riemann Space?” Mulder continued.
“No, just Kieran. But we’re all getting closer,” Eric replied.
“How do you get there? How do you know when you’re getting closer?” Mulder asked.
“That’s what we’re doing here. You can stay and watch but you can’t get there unless you can really feel the harmonic frequencies of the primes in you. You have to really understand and integrate the aura of prime number theory – not just with your rational mind but with every cell in your body. It’s a whole body experience.”
“How much do you know about this process? Where did you learn about it in the first place?” Mulder questioned.
“We mostly learned about it on the net and from Kieran. Oh and Kieran learned a lot from Olafson before he switched back into more mainstream mathematics. Anyway, Kieran was the one who really believed in it – at first the rest of us thought it was just a joke, you know. Like get together with a bunch of math guys and have a beer and talk theory with the funny Riemann harmonics playing. It was just a fun get together until Kieran actually got there.”
“Any idea why Olafson turned away from this concept?” Scully interjected.
“I dunno for sure. But Kieran said it was cause Olafson saw a greyman poking around in his office and it freaked him out.”
“A greyman?” Scully asked, eyebrows rising in question.
“Yeah, a weird guy in a grey suit. He’s kind of been following some of us around. Kieran said he saw the greyman around his apartment a few times. I think it’s top secret government shit you know – like they don’t want regular people to access the space.”
“What else can you tell us about this Riemann Space? Other than Kieran, do you know anyone who’s been there?” Mulder continued.
“Well, there’s been at least a couple of other guys. The first guy we’re not sure about – he was this MIT guy and he was really into the concept of the space but then he just totally starved himself to death or something weird like that. We think he actually got into the space and forgot to come out but there’s no proof or anything. And then there was that other guy at UCLA that said he was getting closer to the space and then the next thing we heard was he ended up dead. Kind of like what happened to Kieran right?”
“And you’re not afraid of accessing this space even after all these deaths?” Scully questioned.
“Well, there used to be more of us but the other guys are a bit freaked right now. I’m a bit freaked too but last time I tried I was so close. I have to take the chance and try again – I have to know what it’s like.” Eric looked around at the other two students who were nodding in unanimous agreement. They still looked apprehensive but seemed ready to meet their fate, regardless of outcome.
“One last question – you mentioned that the first student at MIT starved to death by being in this space for too long. How do you get out of the space when you’re there?” Mulder mused.
“Kieran said there’s a couple of ways. Like you can connect yourself to someone who’s on the other side and he can pull you back by actually physically connecting with you. Or, you can shut out the frequencies when you’re in the space and you’ll be sent back to your real body,” Eric explained. “Anyway, that’s really all we know. If you want to find out more, you gotta try to get to the space yourselves.”
Mulder eyed Scully, the skepticism clear in her guarded stance and the slight pique in her lower lip. Smiling at her discomfort, he took her coat off for her and gently-but-firmly led her towards the middle of the room. Eric had turned the volume up at the end of the question and answer session and the three students were all sitting, eyes closed, chanting numbers that Mulder could only assume to be prime.
Still obviously uncomfortable with the séance-like qualities of the affair, Scully sat down with Mulder and tried to resist as he took her hand in his. He held fast to it though and she finally acquiesced, letting him work through some of her tension with his thumb on her palm. She felt the tightness ease from her shoulders and relinquished herself to the calming feeling of Mulder’s warmth as she let the odd tones and chanting wash over her. Her tendons began to loosen and he whispered to her to close her eyes. She surprised both of them by complying wordlessly and Mulder could feel her relax as she absorbed the harmonic frequencies in the room. Scully realized she could feel a numerical rhythm and numbers began to spontaneously lodge in her cerebrum as if they were floating in the air around her.
Mulder continued to hold onto her hand, feeling the connection between them pulsate through their eternally co-mingled bodies. As the minutes wore on, however, he began to feel something essential missing in their connection. Squeezing her hand gently got him no response and even as he was just opening his eyes, he knew something was different.
Scully was still sitting beside him but her logical brain, her sly wit, her stubborn tenacity, was elsewhere in places likely unreachable for him. Her body was there but her consciousness was elsewhere.
Scully startled back to herself, embarrassed that she had, evidently, fallen asleep in the middle of the slightly-ridiculous number-chanting ceremony. However, as she slowly took in her surroundings, she began to understand that she was no longer in a university basement with a smattering of student mathematicians. The air around her was doused in a mist of muted colours but she still somehow recognized her surroundings as the same dull university basement. The notes that had been playing in the room now were just generally playing everywhere in her new sphere of existence. The frequencies were in the walls, the air, her body. She could even feel Mulder’s hand still gripping hers intently in a peculiar phantom-limb type of way. Even through the thickly-coloured air she imagined she could see the telltale signs of worry on his expression and she tried to squeeze his hand to reassure him that she was alright.
“I’m okay, Mulder,” she said forlornly into the void in a non-logical, fairly desperate, stab at communicating quasi-telepathically from wherever she was. If it wasn’t so completely unlike her to have fallen asleep on the job, she would have supposed that she was lucid dreaming. But there was something different about the space which she now unexpectedly found herself occupying. It was actually a place in and of itself. And it was, both strangely and completely expectedly, resonating with prime numbers.
Concentrating all her energy on her partner, she said it again. “I’m fine, Mulder. Don’t worry about me.”
And she knew it wasn’t just her imagination when she heard his glib-but-worried voice respond. “Earth to math geek. Please be careful.”
Smiling to herself, Scully started exploring her new environment. It was as if she were standing on a different plane of existence, floating somewhere between the regular world and the upper atmosphere. Everything was foggy and ghost-like and she could walk and see through what would have been walls in the regular world. Distances no longer had concrete meaning as she drifted through the space. And everything, everything, everything was infused with prime numbers. They radiated from every direction and Scully could hear them, smell them, feel them vibrating through her new specter-body. The primes were the space and she was the primes. Not only could she hear large primes radiating from the space around her, she could perform mathematical operations with an ease that was completely unnatural. She found that she could think of any number and the space would tell her every way in which that number related to a prime. Even highly time-consuming, difficult operations without specified algorithms, such as knowing if a number is prime or if it is the product of two primes.
And then she knew exactly why the killer wanted the space for himself. If she could hear the products of large semi-primes then it was only a matter of time before she could take the public key of a RSA code and deduce its private key counterpart. And that would mean she would have the ability to crack some of the toughest computer security systems available before anyone figured out the RSA system had been compromised. “Mulder, I know why he’s doing it,” she projected with her mind, “Olafson was right – he wants to crack RSA keys.”
She heard his acknowledgment of her epiphany briefly before she began to continue exploring her new reality. Propelling herself through resonating frequencies and the reverberating primes, Scully found that she had near-instantly gone the Earth-equivalent of a few hundred metres when she heard Mulder again. “Keep the reports coming, Scully,” his voice rumbled through her mind in a distinctly different timbre than the resonating frequencies around her.
“I’ll tell you when I find anything,” Scully replied with a tinge of her ‘whatever mom’ voice. “I feel some sort of… of… I don’t know. Something nearby. I’m heading over there now.”
“Where?” Mulder’s barely concealed panic voice replied.
Scully didn’t respond as she felt for the new sensation of a strange dissonance in the space around her. It both drew her and repelled her and she could feel the innate not-rightness of the feeling. Yet coming closer to the feeling, she found she could nearly sense the real-world equivalent of where the sensation extended from. The confluence of the two realities was, at once, both indescribable and innate. She somehow intuitively understood that if she could only find the source of the feeling it would lead them to their killer. As she moved towards the reverberating dissonance, she began to feel another sort of oddity – also a dissonance but one that did not project the same discomfort and malevolence. Approaching this new sensation before further exploring the nearly opaque area of darkness she had been heading towards, Scully found that the frequencies of the entity before her was much like her own. As she concentrated her energy on the body-like form in front of her, she even began to feel a kind of recognition in the prime frequencies that flowed from the form.
Somehow, she knew it was the young man from the room. Eric had come across the barrier and was also in the space. Scully could feel the joy emanating from his being as he stood awash in the primes that flowed through their bodies. Although the joy created a dissonance in the fabric of the space, it was a rosy-coloured rupture, not one of darkness. Absorbed by the amazement resounding from Eric’s hazy form, Scully was shocked to find herself nearly enveloped in an oncoming darkness of spirit. It was the resonance, the dissonance from before. And it was clearly not projecting the same exalted rose-tinged feelings. It was as if a giant, overwhelmingly powerful and horrific sound wave was overtaking the entire space around her. Different than the innocuous energy projected by Eric’s form, this sensation was inescapable and approaching quickly. It turned the colours in the prime number-infused mist into a growing blight of nothingness. She could feel Eric’s presence freeze in panic, the rosy-emanations quickly dispersing within the oncoming darkness. Shouting at Mulder, she didn’t quite know what to say.
“Something’s wrong,” was the most she could get out as the dark dissonance crawled on top of them.
All of a sudden Scully felt Eric’s presence completely drop away from her altered reality. The reverberations in the space that indicated his being disappeared and she instantly understood what had happened to him. Instinctively, she realized she was going to be the next target and she launched her ghostly Riemann Space body out of what she assumed to be the line of fire. Having no clear conception of where the attacker was firing from, she could only hit the deck and hope. She was nearly down on what purported to be ground in this unearthly space when she felt the force hit her in what felt like her solar plexus. The sensation was inexplicable – somewhat phantom-like but most definitely based in reality. She could feel the frequencies of the primes dying away as she seemed to fall down through various strata of atmospheric pressure.
99801571… 99801587… 99801593… 99801631… 99801677.
Her body began to solidify again and she could almost feel the scuffed linoleum floor underneath her, the reassurance of Mulder’s hand in her own. And then she felt the pain.
“Scully! Scully! Hey, come back to me, Scully!” he shouted, both her ear and her mind as she drifted back from the hazy plane of prime numeracy. Her surroundings began to appear more solid in nature and the vague surreal-ness of the prime number-infused space ebbed away from her consciousness. She began to feel the physical sensations of cold linoleum on her back and a frantic pressure in her side as the misty colours morphed into regular fluorescent lighting. As she came back to the world as she generally knew it, it became clear that there was a massive amount of confusion and fear haphazardly strewn about the bleak basement room. Two of the students were standing over Eric’s prone body, trying to staunch massive amounts of blood pouring out of his torso. They were both shouting in panicked voices about him not breathing and frantically asking Mulder what they should do. Mulder, however, was clearly more focused on pleading with her to wake up although he did, on occasion, yell instructions to the agitated students.
Looking up at her partner through half-mast eyes, Scully wondered aimlessly why she felt so weak. She had felt perfectly fine before going into the Riemann Space and hadn’t expected the transition back into proper reality to be so energy-draining. She tried to reflect on her experience in the space but couldn’t even begin to explore the immense amount of data rebounding through her head with endlessly conserved kinetic energy. It was as if all her thoughts at having such a rationally inexplicable experience had stolen the energy that existed in her body. But that wasn’t a logical idea, nor did it explain the surge of pain she was beginning to feel in her right side, a sensation that began as a dull ache and grew quickly and exponentially into pulsating agony.
“Mulder?” she muttered feebly as she pulled all her strength together and opened her eyes.
Her partner was very obviously wearing his panic face and his intense golden-flecked irises bore into her vividly as he breathed a gigantic sigh of relief upon hearing her barely audible voice. His left hand reached out to make delicate contact with her sweat-infused facial features as he ensured that she was, indeed, back with him on the same plane of reality. “Hey Scully, you okay?” he asked inanely, the loquaciousness of his language-producing frontal lobes easily defeated by the mass amounts of fear being produced by his overactive amygdala.
“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully, foregoing the expected response due to her own confused, misfiring neurons. The piercing ache in her side was absorbing her ability to think and she still couldn’t quite understand what had occurred. “What’s going on?”
“Don’t worry about it, Scully. The ambulance is on the way and I’ve got the bleeding under control. You’re gonna be fine,” Mulder murmured in his ‘trying-my-best-not-to-freak-out’ voice.
“What bleeding, Mulder? What happened?” she asked again, agitation clear in her still-shaky voice.
She feebly tried to rise from her prone position to examine for herself what was happening but as she attempted to lift her oddly-numb body, an intense spasm of pain shot through her cells and she involuntarily gasped in agony.
“Shit, Scully! Don’t try to move – I think you’ve been shot and you’re bleeding like crazy,” Mulder said in a tone that expressed a perfect blend of terror and exasperation. He softly but firmly wrapped his free arm over her ribs and held her to his lap as he continued to put pressure on her wound.
“What do you mean you think I’ve been shot, Mulder? Either I was shot or I wasn’t, there isn’t any in between.” she asked in a barely-discernible-yet-clearly-skeptical tone that allowed Mulder a brief moment of frazzled amusement before his expression turned back to pure consternation.
“I don’t know, Scully. One minute you and that kid Eric were both fine and the next he had a giant bloody hole in his chest and you had a small bloody hole on your side. It looks like it just got a little piece of your right side but it’s hard to tell through all the blood,” Mulder finally responded. “It was crazy, Scully. We were the only ones in here – no one came in and there was definitely no shots fired in here. Anyway, don’t worry about it, the ambulance is going to be here any second now and you’re going to be fine.”
“Let me look, Mulder. I don’t think I need to go to the hospital,” Scully said weakly, again struggling to sit up. This time she realized she was going into shock as the pain did not seem as intense yet she felt limper than overcooked fusilli as she attempted some upward progress. Knowing that resistance was futile, Mulder reluctantly relinquished his death-grip on his partner and helped her push herself up a bit so she could look at her injury.
“S’not so bad, just need a couple sutures,” Scully slurred as she examined the amount of missing flesh from her right side. The bullet had just grazed her somewhere between her false and floating ribs and the wound was deep but would not require anything other than some cleaning up and a routine sew-up.
Mulder raised his eyebrows in a ‘yeah right’ manner but, astutely, declined to argue with her self-diagnosis. “Sure, Scully, whatever you say. Let’s just get you to the hospital and we’ll figure it out from there,” he replied.
“What about Eric?” she asked, trying to get a better view of the other side of the room which had gotten progressively quieter as she had become more lucid.
“As far as I could tell he was gone from the start, Scully. I was checking him out when you got hit and I don’t think there was anything anyone could have done for him but the other kids tried for a bit,” Mulder replied quietly. “What the hell happened in there?”
Scully bit her lip in concentration and tried to piece together what she could remember of her venture into a different reality. Her synapses were dulled by the fatigue enveloping her body but she could still clearly recall the intense feeling of dissonance in the otherwise harmonious space. “I could feel the killer, Mulder. I think if I went back I could lead you to him,” she replied, the determination in her voice only slightly dulled by the shakiness of her speech.
“No way, Scully. At least not for awhile. We have to find out more about this Riemann Space before you go back on your own,” Mulder stated decisively. “I won’t let you do it.” He instantly felt her tense in his arms as he made his declaration and thanked his lucky stars that blood loss would likely mitigate the intensity of the incoming argument.
“It’s not up to …” Scully started to retort but she stopped short as their argument was interrupted by large amounts of uniformed people arriving at the scene.
Paramedics and policemen flooded through the door mere minutes apart. The Paramedics arrived first and Mulder indicated for them to first check on the probably-dead student. Pushing aside the two students still hovering in shock over their friend’s bleeding body, the paramedics checked for any signs of life. After a few minutes they had determined that any attempt to save the young man would be futile – the amount of blood lost and the severity of the injury meant that he was gone. They had just moved over to check on Scully when three policemen burst in on the scene, led by their new acquaintance Detective Greg Wallace. Wallace took one look at the agents and grimaced noticeably. “What the hell happened here?” he asked in his best gruff-cop tone. Mulder was being pried away from Scully by the paramedics, feeling both relieved that they were there to help her and annoyed at the necessity of being physically detached from her. As he heard Wallace’s voice resonate in his ear, he turned in irritation.
“Same thing that happened last time, Detective. They were both shot in the Riemann Space by a killer who’s looking for exclusive rights to the place. There’s no other explanation for what happened,” Mulder stated emphatically.
“Don’t be stupid, Agent Mulder. There is no such thing as this so-called Riemann Space. It’s not possible. And seeing as you’re the only one uninjured person with a weapon in this room, I don’t think you’re the most credible witness – or should I say suspect,” Wallace replied sarcastically.
Mulder raised his eyebrows at the accusation but didn’t allow his hackles to rise to the bait. Very methodically and unemotionally, he intoned, “If you would like to examine my weapon, feel free. You’ll find that the clip is full and that it hasn’t been discharged in days. You’ll also find that those other two students over there will tell you that no one left nor entered this room and that no shots were fired yet there is a dead man and an injured agent in this room. I’m also sure you will find upon autopsy that the student died of all the effects of a gunshot wound yet without any physical bullet having hit his body. In other words, there is no plausible explanation other than the one we have provided.”
Turning away from Wallace to refocus his attention on Scully, Mulder found that she was now barely able to sit up yet was still very effectively staring down the two burly paramedics. “I am a doctor and I’m qualified to make my own diagnosis. I do not need to go to the hospital, especially if you are qualified to cleanse and suture the wound. If you are not qualified, a pressure bandage will suffice until I can get the wound treated properly,” Scully was saying as she applied her best glare to the two stunned-looking men. “I assure you, I will get it sutured within three hours which should be fine if you can leave us some saline to rinse the wound with.”
Mulder groaned internally as he made his way towards his obstinate partner. He was starting to understand her plan and couldn’t quite tamp down the co-mingling infuriation and admiration that propagated from his intestinal tract as he approached her deceptively frail form. “Forget it, Scully. I won’t let you do it,” he stated firmly as she turned her head towards him, her finely honed radar-for-one indicating that he had returned to her proximal area.
He knew the raised eyebrow was coming even as it attacked both him and the paramedics at the same time. “Mulder, don’t be ridiculous. Our suspect is out there and we can’t give him more time to get away. It’s been too long already – I have to go back and find him before we lose him for good. I was close – I could almost feel where his physical body was. If I go back now and find him, I can direct you to him,” she retorted with as much emphasis as she could muster.
He was being ridiculous? She was the one who was clearly in shock, could barely sit up, and had a gaping wound in her side! Sometimes she was so stubborn he wanted to bash either his or hers, or both of their heads simultaneously against a brick wall. “We don’t even know if he’s still there, Scully. Maybe he left the space after he hit you two and he’s taking off as we speak. You’d be risking yourself for nothing.” Mulder sputtered, the irritation easily gaining ground on any remaining tinges of admiration.
“Nothing except all the other people that he is going to kill, Mulder. This makes it two homicides in less than a week. This man wants the space to himself and is obviously willing to go to any means to maintain his control over it. I have to do this, Mulder and I need you to do it with me,” she continued through gritted teeth.
He had to hand it to her – anyone who didn’t know her would have little clue that she was struggling just to get the words out. However, the fire behind her argument was not quite the inferno he knew it could be and he was, again, almost glad the shock took a little off her ability to spew her usual retorts of molten lava at him.
“No way, Scully. You’re proposing that you’re going back into an alternate reality that we know next to nothing about, gunshot wound and all, to take on an armed and dangerous killer who will stop at nothing to keep his secret safe. It’s totally insane!” Mulder reasoned with remarkable patience.
She gave him the look he knew was coming – the one that silently shouted ‘and the things you’ve done are not insane?’ And he had to admit that she certainly had him there – from chasing phantom memories while suffering debilitating seizures to traipsing off to Antarctica with a bullet wound to the head… As much as he wanted to press the mute button and refuse to listen to her very valid arguments, Mulder knew that they could continue to argue just as proficiently if both were suddenly struck dumb. And in the end she would win so, really, they were just wasting time and energy. Biting the corner of his bottom lip in frustration, he reached out and snagged the tips of her fingers. Running his thumb against the back of her hand in defeat, he wordlessly communicated his annoyance at her stubbornness and his growing fear over what she wanted to do.
The fact that she didn’t immediately shoo his hand away in front of so many sets of curious eyes was foreboding at best. Even so, she only allowed his concerned contact for a mere sprinkling of seconds before she let go and visibly steeled herself to the task ahead. Eight sets of disconcerted eyes watched as she indicated that the paramedics should rinse out her wound again with saline. “Lady, you are insane. You have to get this looked at,” one paramedic said when she involuntarily yelped as the saline hit the nasty-looking ragged tear in her skin.
“I told you, I’ll get it looked at soon. Probably within two hours at most. As long as I have the saline, it should stay clean enough to suture then. If you require me to officially waive your services, just get me the form. If not, I thank you for your concern but you’re free to go,” Scully replied with a politeness clearly painted in irritation.
The looks shooting about the room dripped with astonishment. The cops had already taken the little evidence they could find and were technically ready to leave but were all glued to the linoleum watching the scene develop. Even Detective Wallace seemed inclined to stay and be proven wrong if the feisty redhead was going to somehow catch the killer. The paramedics exchanged an expression of disbelief before one of them took charge of the situation. Radioing in to their dispatcher, he indicated that they would be taking longer than expected to reach the hospital and would likely be unavailable for the next hour or two. He knew only his seniority with the ambulance service and the leeway it gained him allowed him to make that call and not be questioned endlessly about what was going on. Which was definitely a good thing because he had no understanding of what really was going on except for a minor conception that the injured agent was going into some alternate reality to catch a murderer.
Which made no sense at all. But if she was staying here on some sort of inane mission, he somehow felt obligated to at least stay and make sure she didn’t bleed out while she was at it. The cops were looking to Wallace for their next move. They were done gathering evidence but their curiosity was also piqued. They also knew that the likelihood of Wallace putting away his sour grapes was highly unlikely. Wallace himself was fighting an internal battle. As much as he disliked the smarmy, know-it-all attitudes of the feds, he did have to admit to himself that he could not come up with any other explanation for the two homicides. And the female agent was a bitch but didn’t seem to be a complete idiot – if she thought there was a chance of catching the killer, maybe there was something to this plan. Not that he bought this whole alternate reality bullshit but… He reluctantly admitted to himself that he wanted to stay because he was grudgingly becoming impressed by the feds. They seemed to have an eerie understanding of each other and Wallace knew exactly how difficult it was to develop that sort of partnership in law enforcement. And the fact that the woman had been shot and still refused to give up on the mission… He wanted to see how it all turned out. Turning to his two men, he said gruffly, “Well, we should stay in case the shit hits the fan.”
That left the two distraught and wide-eyed students. They had witnessed two of their friends die in the past few days and were both clearly in shock. However, they felt tied to the situation somehow and both felt compelled to stay, if only because they didn’t want to go home. Shrugging at each other, they sat down on a bloodless patch of floor, and started chanting… 99789947… 99789953… 99789967… 99789973… 99789997… 99790007, thus indicating their intention to remain.
However, the fact that no one chose to leave was barely noticed by either Mulder or Scully as they quietly discussed their plan. The paramedics hovered nearby with saline at the ready but didn’t dare step within the approximately ten foot glaring radius of the injured agent. “I’ll be fine, Mulder. It’s clean and barely bleeding with this bandage on. I’ll lean against the wall – that way when you have to go, I’ll still be supported. And it looks like the paramedics are staying so even if it ends up taking longer than last time, they can keep the wound clean when you leave. So just play the music and listen for my directions,” Scully stated calmly, putting all other concerns out of her mind as she focused on what she had to do.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything for the pain Scully? Just something to take the edge off…” Mulder tried feebly as he helped her prop herself against the wall. “And how about having those cops go get the target when you figure out where he is? Then I can stay here…”
“No, I don’t know what effect painkillers will have on my ability to enter the space. And I don’t think I can communicate with anyone else from inside. This is how it has to be, Mulder – so let’s just do it and get it over with,” she replied through a poorly hidden prolonged wince. She closed her eyes, knowing that the argument had been won and that Mulder would soon be cueing the music of the primes. As her blood pressure rose and the shock began to wear off a bit, Scully felt as ready as she would be to perform her part of the plan.
Although the wound burned with every breath, it wasn’t anything that she couldn’t withstand for awhile. And there was the chance that she wouldn’t even feel it in the Riemann Space. Or so she hoped.
The peculiar harmonics filled the air and she tried to breathe deeply through the pain that was beginning to worm into every cell in her body. She could hear the students chanting the numbers – 693100537… 693100559… 693100571… 693100579… 693100633… 693100637… 693100679. The sound of the primes being intoned and the odd resonances of the music intertwined in her consciousness and she felt a growing aura of comfort enveloping her. The primes were trying to speak to her again, she could almost hear them emanating from the crackly linoleum, the ecru walls, the fluorescent lights.
Scully tried to leave her physical body behind as before and she rose higher into the colourful mist of numeracy but the throbbing pain refused to let her go. It tethered her to her body even as she absorbed the presence of the primes, as she heard and saw the now-familiar Riemann frequencies leisurely swim through the hazy space. Realizing that she could not force the pain to relinquish its hold on her, Scully sought to deepen the connection between the wound in her side and the music of the primes. As she began to hear numbers that equated with the pain, her attachment to the other world finally began to dissipate and her consciousness was, again, wholly entrenched in the Riemann Space.
It was just as she left it, misty and wonderful, prime numbers resounding in a fantastic cacophony that only a mathematician or physicist could fully appreciate. With her innate skepticism set aside for once, Scully sank into the numbers inherent in the space and found that, once again, she could think in primes. Leaving the physical confines of the university building where her corporeal body remained, she found the travel tougher than before and understood that the weakness in her body was affecting her abilities in the Riemann Space. The resounding of the numbers pierced her being with an unpleasant force she had not experienced on her previous trip and the rate at which she could maneuver around in the space was limited by the distress she felt.
Seeking out the intense disharmony of the killer, Scully moved in what she believed to be the same direction as before. Trying to let the beautiful rhythmical drumming of the primes propel her through the pervasive discomfort, she began to sense an oncoming darkness radiating from a particular direction. Moving in that direction was nearly torturous though as the dissonance of the killer tore through her. She could only manage brief forays towards the vileness that the presence discharged and gasped in distress as she doggedly approached the extreme dissonance.
She could hear Mulder shouting in her mind, asking if she were okay and stopped to send back a sarcastic ‘just peachy’. As she stopped she found that she could still sense the equivalent to her position in the real world. She was only a few blocks from the university building where Mulder was and the dissonance was coming from straight ahead and it was fairly proximate to her position. “Time to get going, Mulder,” she projected with her conscious mind. “Target is near your location and stationary. Leave the building and start heading west. I’ll direct you as you go.”
She could imagine his reluctance to leave her side but knew he wouldn’t let his feelings get in the way of the case. The anger she would douse him with if he didn’t do his part was not something he would willingly engender.
“You’re the boss, Scully.”
His sarcasm-and-worry-tinged voice projected through her mind and the disharmony in the air ceded just a tad, allowing her to push her way towards the killer. It wasn’t far in distance but she felt as if she were moving through sonic waves of pure pain, the reverberations of evil pulsating through her weakening ephemeral body as she inched closer and closer to the target. Finally, she could ‘see’ the dirty little apartment from which the radiating dissonance sprouted.
“Up two more blocks and then turn right. It’s the third house on the north side. Basement apartment, entry in the back,” she shouted with her mind, feeling herself get lose strength with every projected word. She could barely hear the music of the Riemann Space as it was drowned by the cacophony of pain that irradiated her from every direction. She knew she was not going to be able to keep it up much longer. She could almost feel Mulder running as fast as his fancy shoes could take him but even her sense of him was dimming as she neared the target. She was beginning to lose herself between spaces, the weakness of her physical body affecting her strength in the Riemann Space and her consciousness not strong enough to cross back into her real body. Partially drifting a sea on waves of prime numbers, Scully couldn’t quite block out the frequencies that kept her in the Riemann Space. She was seized with pain and could feel herself adrift, tethered to neither reality, hoping that Mulder would find her wherever she was.
Feeling exponentially more panicked the longer he was separated from Scully, Mulder ran towards the target, listening for any further instructions. Scully’s directions had been sparkling clear in his mind. He really hoped he hadn’t been hallucinating again. “I’m at the door, Scully,” he projected into the space around him, waiting for a response before he entered the room, seeing if she had any other information to relay. When she didn’t respond, extreme distress settled deep into his gastrointestinal track and Mulder barely remembered to approach his target slowly, without any suspicious movements.
Two of the cops had followed him so he was covered as he approached the basement door. Strangely, it was unlocked and Mulder turned simultaneously turned the knob and drew his gun. Opening the door, he found himself pointing his weapon at a non-descript man in a grey suit standing with his back to the door, looking intently at data readings on an arsenal of computer equipment the gunmen would be impressed by. There was also another man dressed all in grey in the apartment but he appeared to be passed out on a stained couch.
“Freeze, FBI,” Mulder announced loudly as he nodded for the cops to follow him into the room.
At the computer, Smith startled at the unexpected voice and quickly pressed one button on the machine before he lifted his arms slowly and turned to face Mulder. The music of the primes ceased to play as his astonished mind sought to interpret the implications of a FBI agent appearing at their door. There was no way the g-man could have found them. There was no one who knew where he and his partner were hiding out. Unless the g-men his partner had seen had somehow used the Riemann Space to communicate. Which would mean that they had solved one of their key problems – they could, somehow, speak through the realities, to communicate knowledge discovered while in the space back to someone back on the physical plane.
Smith waited for his own partner to return from the Riemann Space – with the music stopped, his consciousness would be quickly pulled back to his body and he might be able to get the jump on the g-man. Maybe then they could figure out how he and his partner could communicate through the space. Perfectly timed, the g-man was walking towards him and the cops completely disregarded the unconscious man on the couch who was, unbeknownst to them, quickly becoming not-so-unconscious.
Jones felt his consciousness get pulled back to his body and wondered what might be happening back in their hovel-come-homebase. Having gotten rid of the latest intruders in the space he had felt confident that no one else would be interrupting his work. He had been working on factorizing semi-primes and had been planning on staying for awhile yet. Smith had never turned the music off before, having always let Jones come back in his own time. This did not bode well. Even as he just touched down in his physical body, Jones could sense the extra presences in their apartment. He felt for his weapon and held it securely as he felt himself fully emerge in regular reality. Slipping the safety off silently, he planned his shot – he would go for the g-man first and then worry about the cops.
As the g-man walked towards Smith, Jones drew a bead on the back of his head, aimed, and…
She had been painfully squeezed between realities, the strongly attractive yet soul-destroying dissonance locking her in place until, suddenly, the dissonance faded. Even as her mind was slowly clearing and ability to think reappeared, Scully knew where it had gone.
The killer was returning to his body. In his apartment. Where she had sent Mulder.
The thought hadn’t even fully hit her before she started reflexively calling a frantic warning through all of time, space, and as many realities as may or may not exist.
“MULDER WATCH OUT, HE’S COMING BACK!”
Mulder approached Smith, weapon drawn, about to frisk the man when he heard Scully’s disembodied voice scream in his head. Reflexively, he turned abruptly, swung his weapon around past the confused cops next to him just in time to fire as he saw the no-longer-unconscious man on the couch pointing a gun at him, finger starting to pull on the trigger.
Jones’ head exploded, spraying an incongruously bright red liquid on the dreary walls and carpets.
Mulder took a second to breathe a wordless thanks to space in general and to his partner in particular before he was back out the door at a Olympian-worthy pace. He knew he should stay behind and deal with the implications of shooting a suspect but he figured the cops could take care of the mundane details for awhile at least. He also knew no one who knew him would have believed for a nanosecond that he wouldn’t be running back to his partner regardless of consequence.
When he got back to her she was still ‘out’ and Mulder had to fight not to hyperventilate due to a mix of hard running and panic as he gripped her shoulders gently.
“Turn the music off,” he called to the students who instantly complied. “Hey Scully, I’m here. C’mon back Scully, I’m waiting to see those baby blues,” he coaxed, shaking her gently, remembering to be careful of her still-open wound. “Prime numbers are cool and all but you got someone waitin’ for you on this side.”
When she didn’t show any sign of stirring, Mulder considered his options. The paramedics were still there but should he move her physical body while she was stuck in some math world? Jesus. The things they had to consider on virtually every case were mind-boggling. What the hell was he going to do? What would Scully do?
“Damn it, Scully. C’mon, wake up and tell me what the hell to do,” he said in exasperation.
When he heard her say “let’s go get someone to sew up that cut, Mulder,” he wasn’t quite sure whether he had just heard it in his head but when he felt Scully tug at his hand, a river of pure relief surged down his spinal cord. Looking down, his elated, copper-infused, ridiculously-emoted eyes and his most-charming smile greeted Scully as she opened her eyes. Smiling sleepily at him, she asked, “That means that we got the bad guys again, right?”
“Hell yeah, we did, Scully,” he replied. “Now, let’s get that little sewing job done and we can have some quality no-prime-numbers-allowed time on the couch…”
She wasn’t about to argue with that.
An eerie, atonal-yet-oddly-harmonic music infused the air of the small room. A middle-aged man sat near the middle of the room, eyes closed, slowly and deliberately chanting numbers. 6644550037… 6644550053… 6644550067… 6644550119… 6644550127… 6644550139… 6644550179
He was almost there – he could feel the numbers infuse his mind with an intensity he had not fathomed possible. He had been wrong. Kieran Jackson and his old friend Ivan Dag had been right. Dr. Jon Olafson found himself in a place he instantly understood to be ripe with opportunity. He absorbed the numbers coming from every direction, from the very air itself, the strange mist emitting primes at will. It was unlike anything he had ever experienced and he was instantly addicted. The rhythm of the primes pounded through him and he could not imagine a better feeling for someone who truly understood pure number theory.
And then he felt a slight dissonance appear in his field of energy…
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