Bertram: What is your story?
Niall: I was recently released from captivity and have returned to the U.S. in 2028. Things seem to have changed. The computer sees and hears everything anyone does. There must be some vast conspiracy going on but I can’t seem to tell who is behind it or what their motives are. I am determined to do what I can to rescue my daughter and her family but they seem to not notice being oppressed.
Bertram: Who are you?
Niall: I am a former developing nations education consultant who was kidnapped by terrorists and seemingly forgotten when the world economies nearly collapsed. I have been held for 15 years in the mountains near the Afghanistan border. If you want to know more about me, you can read the entire novel at http://www.nopom.info or listen to it in MP3 from there (no ads) or read the novel on Gather.com and see the comments of others.
Bertram: Let’s finish this interview first. Where do you live?
Niall: I have been moving pretty much since I came back. I couldn’t stay with my daughter because that would be imposing. I rented a small house for a couple of months near Washington, DC and took work driving a garbage truck. Then I moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico and worked as a computer operator in the large computer center there.
Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?
Niall: I thought I was but the further along I go the more I begin to wonder.
Bertram: What is your problem in the story?
Niall: To find out about this computer controlled society and how to defeat it, at least to the extent of escaping with my daughter and her family. It’s like fighting smoke, though.
Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?
Niall: Absolutely not. I was held captive for years as a result of conflict. I have never been the fighting sort. But my experience has made me somewhat paranoid. I take some drugs to help with that but there’s still that suspicious edge. I don’t know whom to trust, if anyone.
Bertram: Do you run from conflict?
Niall: In some ways, yes but in other ways I stand my ground. If I see I am in the wrong I will admit my error but if I feel I am in the right I am braver than I thought.
Bertram: How do you see yourself?
Niall: As an ordinary, late middle-aged guy who had some strange events happen to him.
Bertram: How do your friends see you?
Niall: As a nice guy who seems to not understand how things work now. As a guy who puts his foot in his mouth from time to time but who is willing to pull his weight.
Bertram: How do your enemies see you?
Niall: How can I tell? I don’t know who they are or where they are. But they must be watching and hearing every thing I do and say because that computer is everywhere.
Bertram: How does your author, Larry Mason, see you?
Niall: He seems to think I only exist to show how this scary system works. He has me asking questions and arguing with people and even going to school. Of course it has been interesting, I’ll give him that.
Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?
Niall: Pretty well. He seems to have interviewed my parents and talked to my ex-wife and even explored my dreams several times. There isn’t much about me that he doesn’t know.
Bertram: Do you have a goal?
Niall: Yes. I have to save my family and myself.
Bertram: What are your achievements?
Niall: I survived physically and pretty much mentally 15 years of being held hostage in pretty impoverished confinement (dirt floor, little exercise, mostly solitary). I helped set up public school systems in third world nations. I have a really good daughter of whom I am quite proud.
Bertram: Do you have any special strengths?
Niall: No, I am just an average guy in most ways.
Bertram: Do you have any special weaknesses?
Niall: No. Other than the trauma left over from my captivity. The drugs and other treatment I received after release helped with that though there are still some problems.
Bertram: Do you have any skills?
Niall: Nothing but a good liberal arts education and that 20 years out of date. It’s hard to find a career when everything has changed so much.
Bertram: Do you have money troubles?
Niall: Funny you should mention that. The change in the nature of the money seems to be at the root of all these changes I am experiencing. I don’t have any troubles in the sense of not having enough to buy food or housing, I seem to have almost gotten rich somehow while I was out of the country. But money just isn’t the same as it was. I can buy things with it but I can’t give it to anyone else. And there are all these people who wear white clothes and have no luxuries who can give other people money but can’t have any themselves. In fact, I don’t actually need to have any money at all. People will just give me food and clothes and a place to live and not expect anything from me at all. They say the people in white pay them.
Bertram: What do you need?
Niall: I need to understand what’s going on here.
Bertram: What are you afraid of?
Niall: I am afraid of that computer system with its eyes and ears everywhere keeping trace of everything I do. Yes, I know it’s helpful sometimes like when we were hurrying to the hospital it cleared the traffic and made all the lights green and warned people that we were coming and it even got the guy who was driving us to come by and pick us up. But it can be a terrible tool for any totalitarian government. They have to be controlling everybody with it. I just can’t find anybody that’s being made to do anything. Nobody be me seems to worry about it at all. They treat it like a well trained dog or like a servant. Well, I do call it “Jeeves” myself since it seems to act like a superior butler when we talk but that thing gives me the willies.
Bertram: Are you lucky?
Niall: Am I lucky? You think 15 years of abject poverty and threats of death and torture are lucky? But on the other hand, I did get through it sane, sort of, and I did live to go home, such as home is now. I guess, on balance, I have been rather lucky.
Bertram: Do you keep your promises?
Niall: I try but sometimes you just can’t.
Bertram: Are you honorable?
Niall: To the best of my ability. I think an honest person would say I was honorable.
Bertram: Are you healthy?
Niall: Well, I am still underweight and those years of malnutrition have not done me much good but it may have lengthened my life. It sure made me appreciate good food, being clean, and plumbing.
Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?
Niall: Yes, it was a pretty good childhood growing up in central North Dakota. It taught me a lot and we loved each other in my family.
Bertram: What in your past had the most profound effect on you?
Niall: My captivity, obviously.
Bertram: What in your past would you like to forget?
Niall: Nothing really. Of course I suppose there are parts of my captivity that I have forced myself to forget already.
Bertram: Have you ever had an adventure?
Niall: You mean besides being kidnapped? Yes, I was kidnapped a second time though that wasn’t nearly so bad in some ways. Of course, the second time I had to worry about someone else who may mean more to me than I realized. But only time will tell about her. Yes, her being kidnapped, too, did make the second time quite different from the first.
Bertram: Was there a major turning point in your life?
Niall: That’s hard to say. If there was I certainly didn’t realize it was a turning point at the time. Perhaps one day I will look back and say yes that was it, that incident in the bar or, perhaps, landing at the airport in D.C. or maybe just riding the bus back from Albuquerque to the payer school when I finally realized… But then, maybe there wasn’t any real turning point, maybe it was all just sort of a long, smooth curve.
Bertram: What is your most closely guarded secret?
Niall: Secret? Why would I tell you if there were? Why are you asking me all these questions? What business is it of yours who and am and what I think? I don’t think you have any business prying into my private life that way. You aren’t even a payer. I’m leaving. Goodbye.