a novel

Notoriously vain seventy-eight year old ex-marathoner, JIM DEVEREAUX, a respected Supreme Court justice who wrote the four opinions legalizing euthanasia for “hopeless mental incompetence”, finds himself, in 2030, chairing a committee that will decide THE PRESIDENT’s fate. Never a towering intellect, the president suddenly begins to behave irrationally; he breaks off relations with France triggering an arcane provision of the euthanasia laws that provides for the high level committee. The president’s diagnosis, Hyperlucid Syndrome, is a rare and irreversible form of mental illness but the sudden onset is atypical.

Unbeknownst to all but a few, Devereaux had established years earlier, with generous anonymous financing, XXVI, a group of his former marathoner peers—himself, FRANCOIS, a French-American who is a ranking official at International Intelligence (I2), PETER, a British neuroscientist and Nobel laureate, and VALERY, a Russian-American scientist, inventor of the eBAR, a unique device for surreptitiously recording a person’s thoughts, who lives in the sprawling XXVI headquarters in the Marin County, California hills—whose purpose was to advance world peace and tranquility as a “counterforce” to I2, headed by BILL CAWTHON, a brilliant and devious ideologue.

Devereaux convinces the beautiful and unscrupulous MARY HAMILTON, newly elected senator from New Mexico, to join XXVI, bringing youth and femininity to complement the aging founders and he secretly enlists the group’s help with this agonizing decision about the president. Devereaux’s slavish dependence on logic to drive conclusions comes from his lawyer father, despite the efforts of his right-brained artist mother, and he still feels the tension of the opposing forces of logic and intuition when the going gets tough.

Senator Hamilton is also a member of the committee; the other members are AL NEWSOME, a Texan and Speaker of the House, and WALTER REASONOVER, the president’s Foreign Affairs Advisor, an openly gay African American who is probably the most influential man in Washington. Each member of the committee has a history with the president and something to win or lose by what the committee decides. And each has divided loyalties; each working more than one side of the geopolitical street.

As Devereaux embarks on his characteristically meticulous efforts to discover all the relevant facts, he begins to suspect that I2 is somehow forcing the issue. And, contrary to his inviolable rule for XXVI—unquestioned trust among its members—he is forced to entertain the possibility that Francois is a traitor to the organization. Mary, too, suspects Francois and her own I2 connection, a result of Cawthon’s exploiting his knowledge of her earlier illicit affair with the president, reveals Operation Sandman, an I2 plan to depose the president who, unlike his predecessors and the current vice president, is less than enamored of Cawthon’s operations. Try as he might, Devereaux can’t ignore his friend and confidant Francois’s erratic behavior. And when Devereaux discovers that a drug, lucinogen, developed in Peter’s Oxford laboratory can cause rapid onset of the Hyperlucid Syndrome in animals he suspects the essence of Operation Sandman. He learns that Francois is in fact supplying the drug from the I2 “pharmacy” to Reasonover who is surreptitiously giving it to the president. According to Peter, the effects of the drug are permanent, irreversible. If so, then Devereaux will be forced to a decision that he never intended to make in a specific case, to recommend the president’s death, dictated by his own earlier judgment that “hopeless mental incompetence” is grounds for euthanasia. Operation Sandman would succeed.

But other forces are at work.

Reasonover suspects something amiss with Devereaux, and discovers the eBAR micro-discs, recordings of people’s innermost thoughts and motives. The device uses signals elicited by laser rays emitted from a source embedded in Devereaux’s reading glasses and detected by nano-chips in his violet hued contact lenses; it is the color of the lenses and the reading glasses that tip off Reasonover that something is amiss. Valery’s invention is the sole property of XXVI and Devereaux uses it frequently, sharing the recordings with the other members of XXVI as they make plans to influence events for good. Cawthon arranges Reasonover’s sadistic murder (he is no longer of use to I2) and when Devereaux reads the news story, he recognizes the unmistakable trademark of the European Nuclear Commission, EuNuc, in the death scene. EuNuc is the other counterforce to I2, but with less noble motives than XXVI. EuNuc, aware of Newsome’s vulnerabilities, manages to enlist him as their agent to assure that Francois carries out the mission they plan for him.

Each of the remaining committee members seeks a meeting with the president. And each concludes that he is seriously deranged, as does a distinguished psychiatrist, an expert in Hyperlucid Syndrome who recognizes that the sudden onset is atypical, but concludes that the president is irreversibly mentally incompetent. When Devereaux sees the president, he seems to be regaining a modicum of sanity. Devereaux discovers the existence of another drug, lucinin, which, unlike lucinogen, causes a hitherto unrecognized reversible disorder that is otherwise identical to hyperlucid syndrome. As Devereaux begins to put the pieces together and to betray his belief that the president will recover, Cawthon decides that Devereaux must go and makes plans to accomplish that. EuNuc reaches the same conclusion for different reasons, and adds that task to Francois’s task of substituting lucinin for lucinogen.

Cawthon’s plan leads him and his minions on a dramatic transcontinental pursuit of Devereaux, culminating in a botched attempt to murder Devereaux and other members of XXVI at their Marin County retreat. The device secretly implanted in a critical area of Francois’s brain by EuNuc while he was in a coma following an automobile accident and controlled by Newsome at EuNuc’s direction is discovered and removed. When Newsome arrives at the arranged rendezvous to retrieve the device, Devereaux and Mary Hamilton are lying in wait, as are Cawthon and his trigger man. Newsome is killed and the killer takes dead aim at Devereaux, saved only by Cawthon’s cold execution of his assistant. Mary retrieves the weapon and for a time wrestles with whether to kill Cawthon or Devereaux, but is convinced to do neither by the justice. Cawthon and Devereaux come to realize, as their lives are hanging in the balance that in spite of their polar opposite convictions, there is need for both force and counterforce. At a meeting of the members of XXVI sometime later, a beautiful evening on the terrace of their retreat, Devereaux, recalling earlier words of Peter’s, offers a toast.

“To life and health and all the shenanigans necessary to perpetuate them.”