Breaking the Paradigm | Chapter 13 | The Elephant in the Room
The Elephant in the Room

Breaking the Paradigm

Chapter 13

The Elephant in the Room

Chapter 13

The Elephant in the Room

Before hitting the hay, I already had my next move plotted out. Maybe that's why, against all odds, I was out like a light that night, sleeping soundly and sweetly. By morning, when I strolled out for breakfast, I felt invincible, like a legendary hero with an unyielding spirit, ready to conquer any challenge on his quest.

On the veranda, joining the girls and Max, was an unfamiliar face. At first blush, he seemed like a seasoned traveler from a less affluent province, somewhere on the fringes of the republic. But there was something about the warmth and intrigue in the girls' conversation with the old man, and the way Max looked at him, almost as if they were rekindling a long-lost bond.

"Ace! Man, I've been missing you!"

The moment he caught sight of me, the old man shot up from his seat and made his way over. That sudden rise, that spring in his step, and that "I've been missing you" – none of it aligned with the image I had of either a stranger or an elderly figure. As he neared with arms outstretched, recognition hit me in the nick of time. "Back off, you old coot!" I exclaimed, only to pull him into a tight embrace, tears streaming down my face.

Benesio Cornelius Marcellus, or Bebe as we affectionately called him, was my oldest pal. Think back: when you're a mere five years old and a nine-year-old has your back, guides you, stands by you—this "big" kid isn't just a friend. He's your hero, your role model. Fast forward a decade: you're fifteen and he's nineteen. The age gap doesn't seem so vast, the bond deepens, but he's still very much that role model and hero in your eyes. Then, three years later, Bebe vanishes off the grid, leaving me in the dark about his whereabouts ever since. To add another layer, Bebe was Clio's cousin and a distant kin of mine.

Our embrace lingered, memories flooding back. But as I recalled the nine-year silence, warmth gradually gave way to a twinge of bitterness. Bebe, ever so perceptive, picked up on the shift in my mood and began in his signature even-keeled tone:

"I'm begging you, Ace, cut me some slack. I genuinely couldn't"

"You're gonna spill the beans, right? What went down? And just... everything?"

"I promise I'll lay it all out for you, but brace yourself—it's gonna need a heck of a lot of booze. After we pay our respects to the senator, we'll settle down, knock a few back, and I'll answer all your burning questions."

"At least clue me in on how you rolled up here this morning."

"I'll fill you in, but that's gonna open up a whole can of worms. One answer will lead to more questions, and then more questions after that. So I'll tackle this one, then you fill us in on the ceremony's plan. Deal?"

"Alright," I conceded with a sigh.

"Yesterday, the senator hit me up and told me to swing by this morning. Didn't go into details, just mentioned you'd need my hand."

And there lay the senator's mystery. He was hip to Bebe's whereabouts and kept me in the dark. Questions swirled in my mind, demanding immediate answers. I shot Bebe a desperate look, but he subtly shook his head, as if silently saying in that ever-calm tone of his, “We said we'd talk tomorrow.

As I’d stated, decisions were already etched in my mind, but I had every intention of keeping my cards to myself. However, with all the twists today had thrown at me, I felt a sudden compulsion to lay my cards on the table. Facing the anticipative eyes around me, I laid it bare, “Top of the list, Demetrius won’t see the sunrise. That’s a given. I’ve plotted every move. And tomorrow… there’s a ceremony in the pipeline… we'll tackle whatever tomorrow throws our way.”

My revelation seemed not to throw anyone for a loop. Every gaze that met mine was inscrutable, and I chose not to unravel the meaning behind those silent stares. Bebe shattered the quiet first: “If it floats your boat, let’s take him out. One less scumbag in the world, right? But don’t you think the current scenario—every sacrifice, every person who laid it on the line—deserves a smidge more thought?”

Bebe has a valid point. Demetrius, in the grand scheme, is but a minor player. His removal might bring short-term satisfaction, but it scarcely addresses the root of our challenges," Max remarked thoughtfully. It seemed he was weighing each word with care. Momentarily leaning forward as if to retrieve something from the table, he then reclined, gathering his thoughts. “Our current predicament demands a more strategic approach. Yesterday marked the initiation of a profound chess match. Dispensing with Demetrius prematurely could curtail what promises to be an intricate game. Regrettably, the outcome might not be to your advantage.

Things didn't pan out as I'd anticipated. In fact, they veered in the exact opposite direction. A barrage of unexpected issues clamored for attention simultaneously, and the roadmap to resolving any of them was murky at best. Each of us retreated into our own thoughts. The routine of breakfast carried on, and I nearly broached the mundane topic of the weather. But then, Fia introduced another complication to our already cluttered game board:

“I'm aware this might seem neither the time nor the place, but I genuinely believe now is the optimal moment to revisit Poco’s letters and research, and to consider...”

“Fia, not now,” I interjected, perhaps more sharply than intended. She brushed aside my interruption with a gentle smile and continued:

"... the implications and conclusions we can draw from it all."

“Enough, Fia,” my patience wearing thin, I interrupted once more. “Can we shelf this discussion for a later time? I get that you're hesitant about my plans with Demetrius, but today isn’t the day for scholarly debates. Let's focus on the farewell ceremony.”

"I understand you all too well!" Once again, Fia overlooked my abruptness and calmly continued, "You don’t want to dwell on strategy today. You’re inclined to make decisions that are either impulsive or, conversely, pragmatic. But have you considered what underpinned your father’s decision yesterday? Purely strategic calculation! Devoid of impulsivity and practicality. True, there’s an element of pragmatism in sacrificing one’s life for an only child, but I discerned more in Uncle Val's actions. Bebe's arrival today has only affirmed my suspicions. Your decision yesterday might have appeared impulsive to some, but I saw strategic forethought in it. In essence, let’s address the elephant in the room: devising any strategy is futile unless we uncover what the government and academy are concealing. What enigma claimed the lives of Poco and those 282 individuals. Only upon unearthing this truth can we formulate any semblance of a strategy, of which Uncle Val’s Farewell Ceremony can only be a component."

We all gazed at Fia, taken aback. There was undeniably an elephant in the room, one we had all subtly sidestepped. Why we turned a blind eye to this colossal issue is beyond me, and I doubt delving into the reasons would prove fruitful. What's paramount is that Fia compelled us to face the hard truths, pushing us into a corner where we'd need to dissect the matter and hunt for answers. Naturally, Clio was the first to broach the subject. Her razor-sharp intellect always thrived in the face of such challenges:

"The first thing we acknowledge is that the free-fall acceleration decreases towards the South Pole. The subsequent aspect is that the system—" Clio paused, casting a glance at her father before continuing, "Regardless of whom we are referencing by 'the system' here—be it the Academy, the Senate, the government, or all collectively—this entity is fervently concealing this fact. In my opinion, our initial step should be to discern why the system guards this secret so vehemently. What is the underlying motive, and why..."

"Everything is quite straightforward," Max interjected before Clio could continue. "The acceleration of free fall is consistent, as dictated by St. Isaac's law of universal gravitation. Questioning the laws of St. Isaac is forbidden—such skepticism is sheer blasphemy and..." Abruptly, His Holiness ceased speaking and gazed at us, his eyes wide with alarm. It was evident that he had uttered these words out of ingrained habit, and now he was ashamed of this habit and afraid of it.

“No, there’s more to this story.” Clio, rescued her father from the awkward moment. "The law of universal gravitation is solid—it holds true given certain conditions. But there's a bigger piece to the puzzle. I've been ruminating on this all night, and some wild thoughts even crept into my mind. I momentarily questioned the Earth’s roundness. However, with a clear sky, the Earth's rounded shadow on the moon was undeniable, an observation aligning with Aristotle's assertions from 2500 years ago. Think, Father! Aren't you a scientist?"

"Well, it seems I'll have to lay it all out on the table, and I hope you're braced for the whole shebang," Max began. "It's just a theory, but a theory buttressed by precise calculations and observations. You know Occam's razor, forget it. Since there is no logical explanation for these data and observations, it doesn’t hold water here. That is why we are introducing a new variable. At first blush, this theory may seem completely off the wall, but believe me, if you mull it over, there’s nothing harebrained about it.” His Holiness took a deep breath, mustered all his courage, and blurted out in one go, “Our planet cannot be a natural object. Only an artificially created object can boast such a shape. The planet likely consists of a spherical shell and an irregularly shaped core. The decrease in the gravitational force from the equator to the south pole is due to the conical shape of the southern part of the planet's core."

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