Released: November 2, 2015
Max Finlayson, Missing Male #4 from Limetown, divulges the purpose of the doomed research facility to APR journalist Lia Haddock.
Transcription by /u/jaimefeu Edit
The third survivor of Limetown to reach out to me, Dr. Max Finlayson, missing male #4 in the Limetown commission report, was different from the others, to put it mildly.
Max Finlayson: I really think the best defense humanity has for itself is the miracle that is ice cream. Everything else is just variations on societal masturbation.
Lia: Right, but you were talking about a beach?
Max: Want you to meet me at a little cove a mile north of lifeguard tower 10, there’s this giant, beautiful waterfall. Looks like it’s pissing on the beach, it’s glorious.
Lia: (laughs) Ok. So, are you sure you’re entirely comfortable speaking with us? Or-
Max: Look, I have nothing to hide. My life’s an open book, I know what’s coming for me. And like the good reverend and his little piglet, I accept it. In fact, I welcome it.
Lia: Death, you mean.
Max: God, no. I’m not an idiot. I just want the chance to not be sitting on my hands like I have for the past ten years, waiting for a bunch of masked mercenaries to bust down my door and stick a knife in me. I’m not the type of guy, Haddock. Frankly, it’s been torture.
Lia: Then why are you choosing to talk now?
Max: Wasn’t time. I know that sounds mysterious as hell. And frankly, well, I’ll stop. Odds are pretty good they’re listening to us right now.
Max: We’ll talk on the beach. Let’s say tomorrow around 1? That good for you?
Lia: I-I’ll make it work.
Max: Great! And do yourself a favor, start paying for stuff in cash. And get new phones while you’re at it. Let’s see if we can delay the inevitable. (line disconnects)
I do what he says. I start paying in cash, purchasing my airfare at the airport. I fly across the country, drive an hour and a half north from Arcada. I’m rerouted twice by massive wild fires eating up the drought stricken forests, losing precious time in the process. After an 18 hour journey, I park my rental car 40 minutes from the beach and walk.
Sure enough, he’s there. Alone. A man in his fifties, dressed in a white linen shirt and jogging pants, waving at me from what looks like a small campsite.
Max: What do you think? Should we keep it? The waterfall, I mean. It looks like it’s pissing on the sand, right?
Lia: Uh, sure.
Max: First time I came here, I wasn’t even walking yet. I don’t think a single rock has moved. You want a Clif Bar? I got a thermos full of coffee.
Lia: You made it seem like we didn’t have a lot of time to spare?
Max: Hence the coffee and the thermos. You look like hell.
Lia: I’m just happy I found you.
Max: We’ll see about that. Have a seat on my car cushion, Haddock. I can tell you aren’t one for small talk, and I respect that.
Max picked up a long, thin piece of beach wood and snapped it in half.
Max: (wood snaps) In case I have the urge to illustrate. Now, I’m gonna move quickly, so if there’s anything you don’t get, just shout, ok?
Lia: Do I get to ask questions?
Max: Of course you can ask questions. I was a professor for 12 years, for Christ sake.
Lia: Good. Because I have a lot of questions.
Max: Then I guess we better get started.
And like that, Dr. Max Finlayson, the lead researcher in Limetown, a man no one has heard from in a decade, began to explain exactly what he and Oscar Totem had been working on, using nothing more than a stick in the sand. But let’s step back for a moment and reset. (Limetown opening theme) My name is Lia Haddock, and I’m an investigative reporter with APR. It is very difficult for me to open this episode with any grand context. First, to address the phone call that ended our last episode, I’m told my parents are safe and that’s all I will say about it for now. Secondly, as most of the world knows, because of the leaked 911 call I made to authorities immediately after, the man I spoke to for this episode is now either missing or dead. And it’s because he spoke to me. But not allowing the world to hear his words would be, I feel, even more unforgiveable. (music starts) I encourage my listeners to approach this interview with an open mind. And to have patience with Max. He was a man unwilling to allow himself to accept his part in the modern tragedy that is Limetown. And the guilt of that manifested itself in interesting ways. But he was also a man willing to face the darkness for our benefit. If anyone who loved Max is listening, I am so sorry for your loss. Please, stay with us. (music ends) Before we get back to my conversation with Max, I’d like to address a small minority. Those of you who have never heard of Dr. Max Finlayson. (music begins) Sparing you a deep dive into his academic and professional background in neuroscience, a breathtaking dive to be sure, Max has become more famous after the events of Limetown because of his connection to Oscar Totem. And because where there are voids in a story of great popular interest, society will fill it with something, anything. For that, I’ll turn it over to my producer Mark Green, our resident Dr. Finlayson expert. It’s important to note that this audio is from a conversation we had in the hours leading up to my flight west. (music ends)
Lia: Hello Mark.
Mark: Thank you for this opportunity to geek out.
Lia: Yes, the idea to have you is entirely my own.
Mark: I just wanna say this up front. I have worked in radio, helping to tell very important and consequential news stories for the last 12 years, and I’ve been nominated for a Peabody award on two different occasions. I’m a very serious person. (5:46)
Lia: But you're really here to talk about a bad made for TV movie.
Mark: Yep, let’s talk about Signals.
Lia: For those of you that don’t have cable, or for those of you with taste, Signals was a made for TV movie that premiered on the Sci Fi channel in, 2007?
Mark: Correct, it was a book first.
Mark: By Dr. Akshay Chandraskan, a pioneer of sorts in speculative history.
Lia: Ah, yes, a pioneer. In the book and the film, Chandraskan posits that the purpose of Limetown was to contact alien lifeforms.
Mark: Correct. Namely a being of pure energy, a conscious being that Oscar Totem stumbled upon in his free time whilst scanning the signals. And the twist is that, not only does Max discover a method of communicating with this gargantuan extraterrestrial being floating deep space, but he falls in love with it.
Lia: Which wouldn’t be a problem.
Mark: If he didn’t already have a wife, right.
Lia: Here are a few lines from Mark’s favorite scene from the film, used with permission from its publishers, Auratora Films.
Deirdre: (music begins) What about respect for the love between two people?
Max: Of course I have respect for our love, but I also have respect for the cosmos and my place in it. Deirdre, can’t you see? (music fades out)
Lia: You could relate.
Mark: As terrible as the writing was, and it was terrible, I could really relate to this guy’s vision of Max. A deeply conflicted, insanely brilliant dude who was driven by curiosity, above everything else.
Lia: And it doesn’t end well for him.
Mark: Ah, no. (laughs) He summons a swarm of Lovecraftian beasts down on the town, kills Oscar, it’s a mess. But he does it for love, which I think is kind of beautiful, you know? Like, we all have these sinister theories about what happened during The Panic, but I’m really enamored with the idea that it all went to hell because of a love that couldn’t be named.
Lia: If you could ask Max anything in this interview, what would it be?
Mark: Same as anyone. What the hell were you guys doing in there?
Back at the beach, Max stood over me, stick in hand. His $5 sunglasses still sporting the UV sticker on them.
Max: Let’s start at the beginning of human history, how’s that? So since the dawn of mankind, we’ve been constantly trying to answer the same question. How do I, Max, transmit an idea from my mind to yours, Lia, with the least information lost during dissemination? Language, the written word, the telegraph, telephone, television, the internet. These were our precursors. Precursors to what? Mind to mind communication. (makes buzzing sound) The implants. See the scar?
Lia: I see a line. Extending upward from your left ear.
Max: The implant was designed as a final solution to that question. If you want no information lost, you must remove every barrier. You’re sharing information directly from one mind to another.
Lia: Mind reading?
Max: Reading implies work, this is a link. Imagine every child born is immediately implanted with a small metal pill the size of an aspirin, conductive on one side, able to pick up the billions of electrical bursts that constitute human thought, decode them, and send that signal out to its brothers and sisters implanted elsewhere. You can only hear it if you have it.
Max: Impressive is the word you’re searching for.
Lia: I was gonna say monstrous.
Max: Ah, well, I had a 50/50 chance. (rustles for a moment, pops open a bottle) The human brain is largely unmapped, even now, ten years later. No existing technology at the time could possibly have picked up every signal, let alone transmute it into data. But, Oscar and I discovered a pattern of thought that coincides with what I call ‘The Second Self.’ When you see a beer, more often than not, your Second Self doesn’t say, that is a beer. But when you’re looking for a beer, when you’re formulating the need to drink a beer, the word ‘beer’ is in your mind, and right before you ask for a beer, your brain practices the sentence before you can express it. Before your conscious mind is aware of it. In fact, hate to break it to ya, but your conscious mind is usually the last to know. It usually discovers what you’re doing with the rest of the world. So what the implant does, is it tunes into your subconscious’ Second Self and transmits it out into the world. The easiest way I can describe it in its most reductive terms, is that once this thing is inside you, you essentially become your own short wave radio station, broadcasting thought out into the world with very little control over what you put out and what you take in.
Lia: So you can’t read my mind?
Max: No, but I don’t really need to. You emanate a healthy skepticism, Haddock.
Lia: I’m just trying to take it all in. (10:45)
Max: Think of it this way. Most thoughts we have are stilted, unfinished, seemingly meaningless. Jump. Bird. What. Log. First. Last. This. That. (Word Soup begins in background, under Max’s dialogue) A quote from a song you didn’t know you heard as you were walking by the bodega. So when you take two people who have this device and put them in a room, what happens? Suddenly they’re both hearing each other’s gobbledygook. It becomes what I affectionately call ‘Word Soup.’ Now, imagine having 10 people with the implant. Put them in a room together, and suddenly you have so much noise that you can’t even hear your own thoughts. It’s maddening. (Word Soup fades out) That’s where the supplement comes in. In order for this technology to have any practical purpose, you have to fiddle around a bit with the natural chemistry of the brain. So we developed a compound that, if you take every day, same time, after a hearty meal, you can better control what you put out. And, more importantly, it allows you to focus in on one distinct and recognizable voice at a time.
Lia: What’s in it?
Max: Little bit of this, little bit of that. The tiniest dose of LSD.
Lia: You’re saying that everyone in Limetown was taking psychotropic drugs?
Max: No, Lia, not everyone. It was an experiment, you have a control group.
Lia: Well who was in the control group? And who was part of the experiment, for that matter?
Max: I’m telling you about flying to the moon and you’re asking me what the astronauts were wearing? Why are you giving me a face like I just farted?
Lia: It’s just odd to me, Max, that you would put what you were actively testing into your own brain.
Max: Of course I put it in myself, why wouldn’t I?
Lia: It was untested.
Max: This was me testing it, what’s the big deal?
Lia: Well, I, I guess that depends on if you can take it out.
Max: It’s a bit of a dicey proposition. Technically, yes, but there’s a 50/50 chance I end up like Winona. And personally, I’d like to keep my wits about me right up until the end. Give those bastards a killer one liner before they slit my neck, know what I mean?
Lia: Winona had the implant?
Max: No, she’s just naturally so charming. Speaking of which, we should probably be heading over to mi casa e huerta. (12:53) You wanna grab those empties?
When we reached the top of the cliffs, Max turned around, took off his sunglasses, and looked back on where we’d just come from, a mournful look on his face.
Max: (sighs) Let’s hold up a second.
Lia: What are you thinking?
Max: Trying my best not to. When I was five or so, my uncle took me out past where the breakers are now and just hurled me like a rag doll into the oncoming waves, over and over. I loved it. (laughs) My mom held it against him for the rest of her life. (sighs) Wanna follow me in your car? I don’t think I’ll be heading back this way. (walking)
It was early afternoon. The ocean flickered a million shades of gold and blue as I followed Max’s car down a winding coastal highway. Maybe 20 minutes south of the beach, we pulled into an unpaved one lane road leading deep into the hills. The road led to one destination, a rust covered gate with a warn sign that read, ‘Test Site.’ I think he meant it ironically. Max hopped out of his car and kicked the gate open, motioning for me to drive through so he could close it behind us. From there, I could see Max’s hideaway. His home was an architectural marvel. White Gehry curves contrasted with stained Redwood panels. It was set into the hill with large bay windows that overlooked a majestic Pacific vista. As Max ascended the ivory stairs to his front door, I noticed his house was set inside an equilateral triangle of wooden poles. Maybe 20 feet high, each with several megaphones bolted on them in every direction. I followed Max into his grand foyer. Sunlight streamed in through a set of windows above a curved wooden stairwell, which led to a curtained off loft upstairs. As I took in the scene, Max used a fork to dig coffee grounds out of his French press.
Lia: I mean no offence, but am I the first person you’ve had over?
Max: The second. But certainly the first who’s opinion I care about. You want a seltzer?
Lia: Uh, sure. Was this built for you?
Max: I’m not sure, to be honest with you. I’m not sure I care to know. It’s part of the severance package, if you will. It’s been a good place to tinker. Internet’s a piece of shit.
It was while Max poured me a glass of seltzer that I noticed a small silver pistol sitting at one of his work desks. Next to it was a box of ammunition. Seeing it, I wasn’t afraid of Max, but for him.
Max: There you are.
Lia: Max, I’m not sure I want the answer to this, but several times you’ve mentioned someone coming for you.
Max: And you wanna know if you’re next.
Lia: I wanna know what I can and can’t say. You know, this is going out to the world.
Max: Lia, darling, the clock started the minute I picked up the phone. As Crazypants McBraindamage said, we’ve all got a role to play. I know what’s coming for me.
Lia: Yeah, I can’t in good conscience push you to-
Max: Conscience has nothing to do with it. You’re not listening, Haddock. Your job is to keep the tape running while I talk and, God willing, make me sound smarter than I am in the edit.
Lia: So, you’re saying whoever is coming for you, you want them to come?
Max: I’ve spent 10 years waiting, sitting on this, feeling like I’m living in the Flintstones. Ten years of watching people flip out over incremental improvements, new features. For $79.99, you can bump it up to 16 gigs a month, it makes me want to puke, Haddock! It makes me furious, knowing that the tech exists, that I invented. That blows everything else out of the water, but being unable to tell anyone. I’ll take whatever’s coming to me, just let me be heard, please. You mind if I smoke? Because I’m going to. (lighter flicks)
Lia: Ok. In the spirit of being heard, can we talk about the Man You Were All There For?
Max: What do you want, his shoe size?
Lia: At this point,-
Max: Forget about him, Haddock. The less said, the better.
Lia: I can’t tell if you hate him, or you’re protecting him.
Max: Both. Neither. He was the secret sauce, but I made the hamburgers. Next question, please.
Lia: Max, you just said you were gonna be an open book.
Max: Next question, please.
Lia: Ok. Dr. Chambers talked about the advance from animal to human trials. Were you the first?
Lia: Who was?
Max: Frank Banner was the first successful implant, Frankie B. Subject #1.
Lia: So, why him?
Max: So why not?
Lia: Well, you’re saying it was completely arbitrary? The first person you experimented on?
Max: We knew Frank was a decent human being with a generally happy disposition.
Lia: We being you and Oscar?
Max: Frank was a good friend. He loved cats and knit sweaters. And he believed that what we were doing was gonna change the world. And it could have, if they’d let us.
Lia: So, what went wrong?
Max: (lighter flicks) Oscar had an office in the same building we held sessions in. It had a personal bathroom that I liked to use from time to time, so shoot me. Anyway, one morning, he bumped into me coming out of his office and gave me an earful. (music begins) Mind you, Oscar was not someone that gave earfuls. He was a very peaceful, guru-ish kind of guy. You’ve seen the type. We worked around each other all the time, but he had no idea how to actually talk to people or be something other than mostly a prick.
Lia: I can imagine.
Max: So I apologize and leave him to his business, but I can’t help but watch him from down the hallway, through his door. Shoot me again, I’m a curious guy. He goes to his desk immediately, opens a drawer and pulls out an accordion folder. And on the side of it, embossed, is a hummingbird.
Lia: Did you know what that meant?
Max: No idea.
Lia: So it was some kind of secret project?
Max: Well a super duper double secret project if we’re being technical, Haddock.
Lia: Did you find out what it was?
Max: I made inferences. We developed tech at Limetown that far surpassed anything our competition had, it seemed like par for the course that some shadowy branch of something somewhere was courting Oscar the whole time. The question is, did Oscar cave? Did he give up all our secrets in return for untold riches, that I don’t know the answer to. But I can guess.
Lia: You think he didn’t? He died a martyr?
Max: No, I think he did and they killed him anyway. Refresh your drink?
Before I could answer, Max had crossed the room to an old player piano. He took a seat on the bench.
Max: (bench scrapes against the floor) That’s the price of doing business with evil people. (Max begins playing piano) I liked Oscar, I liked working with someone with vision, but I don’t mourn Oscar. I hate what happened to him, but you can’t deny he made his bed. (piano plays sharply)
Lia: That’s rather harsh.
Max: (piano cheerfully plays) Better? I’ve had a lot of time to ruminate on it. My mind’s made up. Lot of people died because of him. Lot of people suffered a lot, and then died, because of him. I’m not saying he deserved to die, I’m really not.
Lia: I’d like to know who killed him.
Max: Well, if you’re asking me to name names, you’ll have to excuse me, I have to draw a bath.
Lia: Why not?
Max: For your safety, Haddock. The truth is, I don’t really know. It was a Panic.
Lia: I don’t believe you.
Max: (piano sharply ends) You weren’t there. People were wearing masks, structures were on fire, I was being held at gunpoint. A lot of things were happening at once. And the sound.
Lia: But you had a mental connection to Oscar, right? The way that you describe the implant, it-it seems like it’d be impossible not to know what he was going through. Am I wrong?
Max: No, you’re right. When you’re right, you’re right. I heard his every thought as if whispered in my ear. I heard what he was saying to himself as he was being dragged backwards down the town thoroughfare to his public execution. I heard every bumbling apology, every terror stricken Hail Mary his mind could conjure. At the risk of sounding crass, the whole thing was actually quite illuminating. By then, I’d experienced the natural amplification and quickening of thought that accompanies imminent death, but I’d never experienced it with someone as intelligent as Oscar. The mind holds out hope, it MacGyver’s everything it can, desperately seeking some external salvation. Perhaps this rake could be used, or this rock, if only my hands were free to grab them. Perhaps I can reason with them if only my mouth wasn’t gagged. Then, when the physical world no longer has anything to offer, the mind turns inward, upward. To the spiritual. Oscar was a devout atheist. But at that point, what’s the harm in asking. I think Oscar would take pleasure in knowing that even in his final moments, he was contributing good data. Or not. He’s not around to answer, is he?
Lia: And you don’t know who did it?
Max: I know it doesn’t matter, Lia. The tech was good, it was perfect. It’s just, people. You know, it’s been 10 years and I still remember every tone. Happy, (plays note with every tone) sad, anxious, angry, jealous, and of course the sweet peace that accompanies brain death. (slams piano shut) A little simplistic, in hind sight.
As we walked down the front steps of his hideaway together, his hands in his pockets, mine gripping the recorder for dear life, I was overcome with the same feeling I had when I left Winona at the motel. The feeling of gratefulness. But also, like Winona, like the reverend, the paranoia around every aspect of revelation told me more than almost anything actually spoken.
Lia: (car revs) Ok, I have one last question.
Max: I’m not giving you my phone number, so stop asking.
Lia: I actually wrote mine on a pad in the kitchen.
Max: What was your question?
Lia: What are those for?
I pointed to the megaphones bolted to the wooden poles.
Max: (sighs) When you have an implant in your brain that allows you to hear what I can hear, you tend to trust your intuition more. I have this feeling, a sense of a darkness that moves. Sometimes it’s near, sometimes I go months without feeling it, but I never don’t feel it. Never. And since I reached out to you, I really feel it, and it’s getting closer. So, I built those with the hope that I can maybe put up a fight or something. Who knows?
Lia: What do they do?
Max: Layman’s terms? They emit a very loud tone. I’ve done some studies on myself that show that at the right decibel level, that tone can really mess with the implant. The theory is that if I ever get cornered, I can just flip those suckers on and slip into the night.
Lia: Hope you never test that theory.
Max: It was nice meeting you, Lia. Safe travels home. (footsteps moving away)
And that was our conversation. It was on my drive back to my hotel a couple hours later that Max called me. I was instructed not to, but I, um. I’m gonna play the call now.
Lia: (loud tone heard in background) Max?
Max: Goodbye, Dorothy.
Lia: Can you hear me? What is that?
Max: Lia, thank you for speaking with me.
Lia: Max, I can barely hear you. Is someone there with you?
Max: Yes, they’re all here. And they want you to know something. I was wrong, Lia.
Lia: About what?
Max: Don’t try to run. (loud static)
(Limetown closing theme)