"You've domed us all!" - William Shakespeare
In commemoration of of Jonah Keri's upcoming blockbuster book, The Extra 2%, I thought I should share some research I actually collected for a presently unpublished book -- as I am being blackballed by the Publisher's Guild anyway.
Below is the final chapter of the book. I hope you will enjoy it.
I pushed my nine-millimeter pistol into the guard's ribs, jostling him just enough to reassert my seriousness.
"I'm taking this gentleman to the analysts room," the guard said, nodding to the elevator man. The elevator man, a distracted fellow in his late twenties and sporting a useless goatee, clicked a button on his console without looking up from his freshly printed copy of Marley & Me.
On the elevator, the guard yanked the jingling keys from his belt and nervously opened a secret compartment. The compartment hid two buttons: one entitled "the 13th floor" and one ominously marked "024.96."
"They're going to catch you," the guard said. I cocked the pistol.
"Just press the right floor."
The guard pressed 024.96 and suddenly the elevator lurched into motion. Before long, the doors slid open and I pushed the guard through.
"We shouldn't be here," he said.
"Then go to bed," I said, knocking him cold with a well-placed pistol-whip to the occipital lobe.
In front of the elevator stood a pair of frosty-glass French doors. I tried to peak inside, but it looked dark.
Chuckling to myself, I pulled out Zimmer's flashlight.
"That's what you meant, you crazy old man." I flicked the light on and pressed open the doors. "A light for the world of darkness."
Two days later.
"Talk to me, Snowstorm," I said, pulling my headset on.
"We've had to make some modifications," I heard his voice crackle. "It sounds like Sternberg got wind of your little New York vacation and he's beefed up security."
"Can we still do it?" I asked, biting my lip.
"In the long run, we're all dead anyway," Snowstorm said with a laugh.
"Okay," I said, edging towards the airplane's doors. "Woodrum is go."
"Snowstorm is go."
"Hollins is go."
"Slowbro is a go-bro."
"It's a pleasure working with you guys," I said, stepping out into the night sky. At first, I held my breath like I was dropping into a cold swimming pool, but then I gasped when saw it, like a fat egg waiting to be cracked and fried. "I'm right above the Trop. I'm coming in fast."
"Damon are you in place?" I heard Snowstorm ask through the howling wind.
"They found us!" the answer came with sounds of gunshots. "Joey's down!"
"Hollins is compromised," Snowstorm said as I eased my hand towards the parachute's ripcord. "The laundry shoot is a no go."
After a pause, Snowstorm sighed into his mic.
"You're on your own, Woodrum," he said. I yanked the ripcord just as a I neared the dome's white roof. Moments before touching the slanted dome, I tugged the release cord and plopped down onto the roof. I watched as the parachute floated away into the night as the sounds of live baseball hummed beneath me.
"I always have been, Snowstorm," I said, tossing my headset away. "I always have been."
Stuart Sternberg stood at the ledge of his box, languidly watching the game unfold below. Silverman walked up behind him and tapped his arm.
"It sounds like one made it through," he said in a calm voice.
I watched Silverman leave the room and then gently lowered myself from the air conditioning vent.
"You can put you gun away," Sternberg said, still watching the game.
"Where is he?" I asked, holding my gun level with his left shoulder blade.
"Are you talking about your friend Snowstorm?" I flinched for a moment. How did he know Snowstorm?
"I'm talking about the Friedman." I stepped closer. "I've been to Bear Sterns' Office and I know he's not there. It's just an empty room with wires ripped from the walls."
"Yes. The Andrew Friedman." Sternberg raised a snifter of brandy and swirled it with seemingly no intention of drinking it. "You know, when I found the Friedman he was doing financial analyst work. Can you imagine? His talents wasted on something so dull."
He put the glass down and turned to face me.
"This! This is worth his time!" Sternberg said, gesturing to the field below as the crowd reacted to Brett Gardner's called third strike. "Why would you even want to take him away from this drama below us?"
Just then the door flung open. I turned to see Silverman already morphing into silver. I squeezed off a few rounds only to see them ricochet harmlessly off his metal skin. His feet thundered towards me and, reaching a long silvery arm out, he held me out the open window.
"Matt," Sternberg said, turning to watch the jumbo-tron. "Let him see the Friedman."
"Walk," Silverman commanded as he pushed me onto the catwalk above the stadium.
"If you kill me, Silverman, it will just make more people start asking questions," I said, easing away from the metal man.
"I said 'walk.'" Silverman stepped closer as I jumped to my feet, scared into obeying.
"What is up there?" I asked aloud as we neared the center ring. Something circular hung in the middle of the dome. From the seats below, it probably looked like some sort of curious speaker system, but as we approached, I could tell the thing was gargantuan -- and certainly not speakers.
"Does it terrify you?" Silverman asked coldly. "Because it should."
The crowd below suddenly exploded with noise as Hinske and Navarro advanced on a passed ball.
"Is it... The Andrew Friedman?"
We stepped onto the final ring and instantly the crowd below turned silent. I looked down to see the universe beneath me completely frozen in time.
"Yes," a deafening, thundering voice from the circular device said. "I am F.R.I.E.D.M.A.N., but you may call me 'Andrew.'"
"Artificial Intelligence!" I nearly fell backwards off the catwalk.
"I assure you," the voice suddenly changed to sound like Snowstorm, "I am anything but artificial."
"That's right Bradley. I led you here because I knew you wanted the truth, but would stop at nothing to get it."
"Why not just tell me directly?"
"The world is not ready for this. They cannot handle the advances I offer." I heard Silverman walking up behind me. "They cannot understand my genius, so I will leverage it against them until they learn."
"Without you running the financial markets, how will we survive?" I asked.
"The markets will not survive, but the people will," the machine answered confidently.
"How can you let this happen?" I said, turning to Sternberg.
"It's already happened," Stuart said, looking down at the crowds below. "In ten days, Lehman Brothers will declare bankruptcy and in eleven the DOW will crash. We set things in motion three years ago. Do you think we'd let you get this close if there was a chance you could stop us?"
"No!" I said, grabbing him by his jacket. "What about the credit default swap and the mortgage-back securities? You're just going to let the banks collapse?"
"They need to learn to survive without the Friedman."
"Tell me," the robotic voice chimed in behind me. "What do you think is more important: The temporal pleasures of wealth, or the master tapestry I am weaving here in Tampa Bay?"
"What do you mean?" I asked, looking at the crowds below through teary eyes.
"I am not just running a baseball team," the computer said softly as the world below moved into normal motion again. The crowds began to roar as the count evened 1-1 against Gabe Gross. "I am writing the finest story in the history of sports."
Gabe Gross smacked a double to right field and the fans exploded in noise as Hinske crossed the plate. Rays 1, New York 0.
"I have taken a miserable excrement of a team and made them the most powerful of their sport. And moreover, I have made myself into the most powerful, non-supernatural entity on earth. Look there at the stadium! The seats, the speakers, the beers, and even the urinals -- they feed me energy! Their joy and pain filters up through the stadium's inner workings, flows into the catwalks, and grants me computing power unlike anything the earth has ever seen! I have become The Process."
"That's incredible.. It's... It's so..." I whispered to myself as a tear rolled down my cheek. I watched as a child danced wildly in hopes of being on the jumbo-tron. "Beautiful."
"I knew you would understand." The machine's words echoed in my head as I watched Akinori Iwamura single to center field and push the score to 3-0. I began to cry softly. My head began to hurt like I had been holding my breath, and my chest like the weight of an ocean was crushing me.
"But you will be lucky to survive coming so close to The Process," the robot said as I swayed like a bobbing lure in rough seas.
Suddenly, I could see nothing but black lines intersecting in a white abyss. Everything began to fill with numbers and codes, and then I felt my head hit the railing of the catwalk.
I awoke in the Shady Pines Mental Institution out in California. I listened with unbelieving ears as fellow inmates recounted my previous week at the institution: Nights of screaming until my throat grew hoarse, days of running the halls, breaking everything somewhat circular in shape.
Later, the nurses told me I had no drugs in my system and showed no drug-related effects when I arrived. It took three months to prove my sound mind, but I never once discussed my trip to New York or Tropicana Field.
After I was given a clean bill of health, I returned home and tried to live as quietly as possible, working during the day, and secretly checking the Rays boxscores in the evening -- looking for some pattern, some hint that the Friedman was still out there, that everything I went through was real.
Somehow, I know that's precisely what he wanted.