Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Know Circuit - Interlude - Part 4.0

Interlude Part 3.0

The rest of the group was none too happy with his rash use of the prototype. They spent precious minutes berating him the next night during a hastily arranged meeting. While both Lydia and Carl seemed genuinely concerned about the unforeseeable side effects that might result from hardware that hadn’t been thoroughly tested, Rolfsberg and Wong seemed more jealous than concerned. Everyone in the group had some form of cybernetic replacement either from necessity or by choice. Balfour got the impression any of them would jump at the chance to be the guinea pig despite their protests.

Lydia’s almost matronly concern bled through her criticisms. “Do you realize the danger you could be putting yourself in? We have no idea if that thing is even safe to be around yet, much less implanted internally. You could get radiation poisoning. It could explode. It might even start draining your body’s energy or interfere with your nervous system. We have no idea.”

Acknowledging the dangers, Balfour countered, “And what better way to find out? It isn’t like we weren’t working up to human trials eventually.”

“We should have discussed this.” Rolfsberg simmered. “I would have gladly volunteered if given the opportunity. You made a unilateral decision that could affect all of us. If you drop dead, how will we explain that to the board?” Balfour doubted very seriously that Rolfsberg actually would have volunteered. It isn’t that he would have objected to the dangers of human testing, he just wouldn’t have put himself in danger. But since it was obvious the engine worked in a human host, he wanted it for himself. “I want the next prototype. If I can improve on the fabrication time for the casing, we can each have one.”

“Why do you get the next one?” Wong snapped. “I volunteer too!” The two of them had already developed an unhealthy grudge. Rolfsberg was rather domineering. He showed Wong little respect, probably because the Chinese man was the youngest of the group and had just graduated. For his own part, Balfour thought the kid more brilliant than Rolfsberg and at least on a par with the other members of the team. Perhaps sensing his own inferiority, Rolfsberg badgered and bullied Wong at every opportunity. The other team members wouldn’t take Rolfsberg’s bullying, but Wong did.

“Quon!” Lydia snapped. “It’s too dangerous. None of us are getting anything implanted.”

Carl spoke up finally. “Now, Dr. Carlisle, let’s not be hasty. Rolfsberg, how long will it take you fabricate more casings?”

“At least two, maybe three weeks.”

“Can we have five more prototypes in the next month?” he asked.

“Five? What are you saying?”

“I’m saying we have a month to watch Dr. Balfour here, see if he starts losing hair… well, more hair.” He grinned sheepishly. “We’ve got the best opportunity in the world to study the engine’s effects on a real life human subject. If he starts to show any signs of deleterious effects, we can certainly yank the thing out and replace it with a standard cybernetic power supply. Meanwhile, we build enough engines for all of us.”

“You think a month is enough time to adequately test for negative side effects?”

“I think a month is enough time to study the immediate effects. Look, we’re already in neck deep. This experiment is so beyond the pale of accepted procedure, if we get caught it’s going to cost all of us our jobs at the very least. Maybe our careers.” He paused to let the previously unspoken implications sink in. They all knew the potential consequences; they’d known it all along despite never having uttered it aloud. “But… if this thing really does what we think it can do, and if these abilities Dr. Balfour has displayed are typical, we can write our own ticket. The energy implications alone are priceless. There’s not one LGL that wouldn’t pay us a king’s ransom for this technology.”

‘Or kill us for it,’ Balfour thought.

Lydia’s face scrunched up in a sour glare. “So we either succeed, or we destroy our careers with nothing to show for it.”

“Or we all die to horrible, unforeseen side effects,” Carl added with a sardonic grin. Lydia lowered her eyes. “Besides, aren’t you the least bit curious what you could do with that thing?”

Her smile was an emphatic yes.

Go to Interlude Part 5.0

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