The rest is history. It was eventually proven beyond anyone's doubt - well, beyond the doubt of anybody worth taking seriously - that John was somehow acting as an Oracle: he was able to answer almost any question anybody asked, in any language. And he would do so always accurately, but with a delay which could be anything from seconds to weeks. He seemed to be able to respond to more than one question at a time although, thanks to the variable response time, it was not always easy to tell which answer corresponded to which question.

His answers to questions were generally to the benefit of all mankind: how to provide free energy, feed the world, halt Global Warming, cure the common cold, ensure worldwide peace and love, deliver motherhood and apple pie and free beer for all. Queries about weapons and bombs and destructive devices were simply never answered, even questions disguised with benign intentions were ignored.

The obvious military paranoia cut in early, of course, fearing that this was some kind of attack, in the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers style. But the benign intent of the answers given, and the censorship of anything with dangerous purpose, rapidly reassurred even the most suspicious Generals. John's answers to many questions were entirely consistent too: their purpose was to provide assistance to Earth, not contact and conquest.

Invariably, he would not respond in the language in which the question was asked. Despite having no previous facility with the tongues of humans - as opposed to the languages of computers, in which he was fluent - he seemed to be able to speak any language he chose. One of the earliest questions was: "why do you talk in so many languages?" His answer, almost instantaneous on that occasion - was that he responded in what he considered was the best language to express the answer, although personally I've always wondered if it was simply a way to ensure that John's utterances did not become the preserve of a single power bloc.

In later times, John would be accompanied everywhere by interpreters and guards - there have been several attempts on his life - and a dozen recording devices tracked his every movement, every sound. He would even, as it turned out, speak aloud in his sleep, in the bathroom and at other more intimate moments. These recordings were pored over by a panel of experts, pulling out the nuances which only native speakers could identify, not to mention the linguistics Departments of Universities all over the world.

John still did not know what he was doing. He continued to be entirely unaware of his utterances. Even when he was shown recordings of himself, he at at first continued to deny their existence. Later he would come to some kind of intellectual understanding of what was happening, but somehow deep down he never really believed.

It was almost as if he had a second personality co-resident in his brain. This turned out to be almost exactly true: one of the questions asked early and often was: "how are you answering the questions?" The answer, when translated from highly idiomatic Russian, was that there was another intelligence resident in John's brain, a representative of the Originators with the clearly expressed aim to impart useful and non-aggressive information. Apparently, it needed a certain kind of mind as a host: highly intelligent, but more importantly, one able to really focus, to concentrate on a single activity for months or years at a time.

The purpose of the first Message was basically a kind of bait, to attract a mind of the right calibre to solving its puzzles and putting it in the right state to receive the true Message - the third Message. The second Message was just an encoded stepping stone - a bootstrap loader, as one old programmer put it - to deliver the final communication into John's head.

Of course it made sense, given the physics: a locally installed intelligence could give responses in timescales much shorter than anything communicated at the speed of light and with a much higher bandwidth than anything possible from a noisy quantum coherence channel. Yet it seemed that whatever it was that had taken up residence in his skull did nevertheless have a communications channel to the Originators. John never answered questions on how that communication worked, presumably because there was no language on Earth in which the answer made any kind of sense. There are some things we cannot yet know.

So, John was now the Official Receiver, in contact with whatever intelligence it was out there in the Stars. The original transmissions stopped a few months later, the first and second Messages now being redundant having done their job. The receiver project and the corresponding transmitter efforts were abandoned shortly afterwards and never completed. There was no point, of course.

Now, I am John's official secretary, biographer, Engagements Manager and, yes, companion and lover. He needs me to look after him, something I had been doing for a long time before the Miracle, I belatedly realised. Of course, he is always surrounded by other people in an ever-changing dance of inquirers and recorders. But it is me who is always at his side.

Part 6

...Then a Miracle Occurs Book Cover If you have enjoyed this story, then why not take a look at the others in this collection? An eclectic mixture of science fiction and mystery/ghost stories under the title ...Then a Miracle Occurs.

Four Square Less One Book Cover You may also enjoy my earlier collection of fifteen interlinked short stories under the title Four Square Less One. Can you work out the hidden connections between all of the stories?

New Bridge to Lyndesfarne Book Cover Bridge at War Book Cover Death on the New Bridge Book Cover Bridge of Stone and Magic Book Cover Why not take a look at my Lyndesfarne Bridge series of novels: New Bridge to Lyndesfarne, Bridge at War, Death on the New Bridge and Bridge of Stone and Magic.

Findo Gask - Goblin Detective Book Cover I am now working on a new series of Private Eye fantasy novels. The first is called Findo Gask - Goblin Detective, featuring the eponymous Private Eye, Findo Gask himself.