HOLTZMAN, IBRAHIM VAUGHN

(7593-108B.G.)
© Dr. Willis E. McNelly

Discoverer of the Holtzman Effect. Born on Liesco II during the Great Dark Ages, I.V. Holtzman was the son of the planetary governor. Young Holtzman was nearly killed in a tragic accident in a racing 'thopter in 7565 B.G. and was kept alive only by the most heroic measures of the advanced medical sciences of Liesco. He became the first of very few persons to undergo a brain transplant: his brain was placed in a prototype axolotl tank and wired into a large host computer with an unprogrammed personality blank, on the assumption that Holtzman would imprint his own personality on the machine. The process was marred by an induced psychosis: afterwards, Holtzman suffered from intense paranoia and refused treatment. Since Holtzman's was the first brain transplant ever performed, the extent of his powers was not fully understood.

When Holtzman tapped into the computerized production network and ordered the construction of a peculiar style of spaceship under the guise of the chief engineer of House Holtzman, no one noticed. Similarly, when release papers were presented to the hospital, he was discharged without a second thought. Finally, when the assembly that was Holtzman was placed aboard the odd new ship and connected directly to its systems, no one thought it odd that takeoff clearances arrived in the tower so promptly, or that the scheduling comp fed Holtzman into the takeoff line ahead of other waiting ships.

Before anyone could stop him, Holtzman triggered the suspensor-nullification device and disappeared into the Void. He wanted time to think. So with his ship, which was for all intents and purposes himself, he entered a cometary orbit aimed to attain perihelion in 7556 B.G., nine years away. For the next few years, the library comps of Liesco were plagued by unexplained interruptions in their transmissions: Holtzman was covertly copying the data into his own storage to be studied at his leisure. His mental processes retained their human nature while being sped up by an estimated factor of ten; needing neither sleep nor rest, Holtzman must have thought at least thirty times faster than a normal human.

He had been a mathematical genius before his accident and was most interested in the suspensor-nullification effect. In the time between his escape and 7562 B.G., Holtzman learned more about it than the best minds of the previous fifty centuries. He was evidently driven by a desire to remind his imagined persecutors that he was alive without revealing his position, because the first message transmitted via Holtzman Waves was a strange amalgam of random accusations.

The next messages, explaining Holtzman's discoveries, were emitted from the planetary mass of Liesco II itself, to the intense but brief confusion of Governor Holtzman and his advisors. As the nature of the discovery became clear, excitement seized the academic community of Liesco. But the Governor realized that his son's insane genius could prove dangerous, and came to the difficult conclusion that Ibrahim would have to be controlled or destroyed.

For the next nine years, the Governor’s patrols searched the Liesco system. In 7556 B.G., a patrol scout received a radar image of the ship now known as "the Mad Holtzman." The scout was immediately joined by two cutters, and all three moved in for the kill.

When Holtzman detected them, he sent a wave message to the six nearest inhabited systems, saying, "I have developed an instantaneous interstellar communication device, which Governor Holtzman of Liesco is attempting to keep for himself. If you will rescue me, I will share this knowledge with you." The message, emanating from the primary of each system, was set to repeat while Holtzman tried to outrun the approaching patrol vessels.

By his instinctive action, Holtzman had proven that his discovery could reunite the Empire: the ability to summon reinforcements instantly is the ability to win battles, and to win battles is to maintain an Empire. Of the six systems receiving Holtzman's SOS, five responded immediately.

Holtzman's ploy almost worked: his pursuers got off a couple of extremely long-range shots, ripping up the manipulators for his suspensor-nullification field. The stem of Holtzman's ship blew apart, throwing it into an uncharted orbit and destroying its ability to maneuver. Holtzman was crippled, unable to use his drives; he was rapidly drifting out of the range where his solar panels would provide enough emergency power to keep him functioning. So Holtzman husbanded his little remaining power and sent a quick wave pulse to every inhabited star system he could get an accurate aim on, containing the data for the construction of Holtzman Wave transmitters. Then, with his power beginning to flicker, he shut himself down, and instituted a single wake-up procedure to bring him back up when, as he had calculated, his new and highly eccentric orbit brought him back into the Liesco system in 1,862 years.

Holtzman's actions resulted in the widespread and rapid development of Holtzman Wave generators, bringing on the Wars of Reunification, which raged through the inhabited worlds. So ferocious were these struggles (and so long-lasting) that Holtzman did not reveal his existence during his second return to the Liesco System in 5694 B.G. He did, however, effect needed repairs within the limits of his damaged servos.

Detecting no malevolent activity on his third return, Holtzman sent a brief wave message to Liesco, not knowing that it was now a prison world administered by a few orbital computers. On detecting radio messages from the supposedly primitive planet, these machines immediately sent emergency calls to the Provincial Warden's office on Maktiun III. The Warden sent several technicians to Liesco to find the transmitter and report how the prisoners had managed to build it. Holtzman, of course, overheard all these messages and knew that investigators were on the way. Still insanely paranoid, he decided to protect himself fully: assuming that everything he transmitted would be recorded for the investigation, he "published" (as he described it) his discovery of the Planar Effect. He then dropped back into quiescence, all his receptors tuned toward Liesco.

When the technicians inspected the recordings made by the guardian machinery, they were flabbergasted: all accounts had Holtzman dead and lost in interstellar space. They first suspected a bizarre hoax, and turned to the orbiting computers, which were subjected to extensive diagnostic tests. Of course, nothing untoward was discovered. Meanwhile, the Warden played the recordings to several experts. One was a historian, and he recognized the archaic speech of the Great Dark Ages. Another was a theoretical wave mechanic named Staivan, chief engineer of House Varrik. Staivan, finding nothing inconsistent in the theories and mechanisms described in the tapes, tried to follow the instructions and generate a Node for this "Planar Effect."

He succeeded. The first manufactured Shield was a simple flat effect, about a meter in diameter, admitting radiation in all but the long radio frequencies. Staivan did not realize what he had, though, until he accidentally dropped a screwdriver into the field and saw it gently lowered through the plane of the effect. Staivan reported at once that whatever these messages were, they were no hoax.

He later took the field apparatus into the courtyard to test its resistance to a variety of missiles of increasing power, and, at last, a workman's cutting laser. Thus, as his last discovery, he learned that the Planar Effect did not mix well with coherent light.

The Warden sent a wave to Liesco, where Holtzman was nearing the end of his active period, demanding more information. The situation must have appealed to Holtzman's sense of humor: he broadcast a brief biography and promised to return in another 1,862 years when, he hoped, his reception would be more cordial. He then sent another "information packet" to the systems within range, detailing his latest discovery, and powered down. This was the second and last time Holtzman was to single handedly change the face of the empire, as the Planar Effect spread like wildfire.

When Holtzman made his fourth return in 1970 B.G., Liesco was again at war, this time in a dispute arising from the Second Reunification. But by now Holtzman was a legend who had predicted his own return. The combatants therefore agreed upon a two-month truce bracketing the perigee of Holtzman's approach. On this occasion Holtzman "published" his unified theory, linking the various effects into a single hierarchy of phenomena.

Observers noted that his paranoia seemed to be less intense than before. Holtzman was now willing to discuss himself in precise terms: for the first time he admitted what many had assumed-he was a machine over laid with the mind of a man, even if, as he said, he did not "feel like a machine." Apparently, Holtzman was getting lonely, because he was quite voluble during the passage, and gave his interviewers information on which, he joked, they could base their speculations for the next eighteen centuries.

Holtzman would not discuss what he called "work in progress," but something was exciting him as he left panel range: he stated several times that he could "see the end," and needed only a few more days. He was still too paranoid to let anyone know his orbit, though, and he revealed for the first time that to avoid capture he had rigged a small Planar Field before a normally inactive message laser. His maintenance procedure (always active, even when Holtzman was normally powered down) would trigger the laser if intruders were discovered. No one was sure that he was not lying, but Holtzman's cheerful statement that he had rigged a dead-man boobytrap reminded the listeners that they were dealing with a madman.

Holtzman passed out of range before he discovered whatever he was searching for: his last transmission was a frustrated promise to "finish this thing up first thing next time."

Holtzman's next return, his fifth, occurred in 108 B.G. The Butlerian Jihad was ending, and all intelligent machines had been destroyed except for Holtzman. So many pilgrims had arrived to witness the destruction of the last great symbol of the old order that keeping them supplied caused severe logistical problems, and even, incredible as it may seem, collisions between ships in interplanetary space. The Jihad fleet did not attempt to communicate with Holtzman, but began an intense search which found him after only three days. They cast lots to determine who would make the kill, and the honor fell to Viana Kellis. After drawing near to him, she suited up and entered Holtzman's ship; minutes thereafter, the entire fleet was bathed in the flash of a tremendous mass-conversion reaction.

No one knows what Holtzman's last theory was, if there really was one, since he has not been found again in the centuries since the Jihad. In all likelihood, his fate was exactly what it appeared to be. Both his life and death were tragic, and humanity cannot calculate the debt it owes him. For he was unique: had he not been mad. Holtzman would never have been so determined in his work, had he not been more machine than man, he could not have been so painstaking; yet had he not possessed that essential spark of humanity, he would never have been able to make the intuitive leaps that eventually brought him to the answers he sought.

W.D.I.