June 7th, 1996
I knew full-well the true purpose for which Nikki had been hired. It was, ironically, me who had initiated the first steps towards the construction of the Consciousness Projector.
Of course, Steve would not know this until I found the appropriate time to reveal the fantastic truth to him.
In the meantime, he believes, as was my original explanation to our original lab assistant and chimp handler, Melanie Edwards, that I am establishing a project that deals with a device capable of producing highly-detailed images, brain scans, that will visually indicate all the memory functions within the brain.
As it is a known fact that the activity within our gray matter is the result of a complicated series of connections brought about through a myriad of minute electrical charges, Steve had thought my idea rather ingenious.
Of course, I purposely failed to mention that the ingenious idea had originally been of his very own conceiving.
Anyhow, he seems thrilled to be working on something more challenging than simply reverse engineering some of the new technology available.
Unfortunately, he also seems far too thrilled in the new lab assistant.
In my first life, the sophisticated brain scanner that we had managed to develop became an imperative and integral unit of the Consciousness Projector. It was, in a sense, the key to helping us focus or aim the device more accurately. It was the sights on the gun that fired the bullet; in this case, the projectile being my incorporeal consciousness.
In early 2013 we were nearing completion of the prototype model. We needed test subjects - decent test subjects.
“Decent?” queried Steve. “What do you mean by decent.”
“Maybe appropriate is a better word. I mean we need something better than some simple lab rats. I don’t want to use rodents, we need something more…”
“Simian?” he said as more of a suggestion than a question.
“I know a girl at Futronics. She’s an ape wrangler working under Frank Myer.”
“Frank Myer? Didn’t Nikki also work under him?”
“Yep, in fact they used to be good friends before they had some serious fallout.”
“Not Mel whatsisface…uh, Melanie Edwards?”
“Oh, you know her. Of course, you met her at the wedding. You never told me how things worked out?”
“They didn’t. Jungle Mel was a bit too…wild for my liking. I can see now that she’d be great with monkeys.”
“Yeah, Mel of the apes. Give her a call. See if she can help us set up a program?”
A week later Mel was in my office for the interview.
She was more concerned over the welfare of her charges-to-be than over the fact I had failed to ever return her calls.
Socially, she had accepted her standing with me. Professionally, even with the prospect of a substantial salary increase, she needed to lay down some strict rules before she was willing to accept the job we were offering.
I had new respect for her after that.
“I need to know exactly what sort of experiments you’re busy working on?”
“They’re to do with memory; memory loss and retention.”
“Memory? The brain?”
“That’s right!” I had smiled. “We do have very strong evidence to support our beliefs that the brain is the main organ where the memories are stored.”
“Really?” she sneered sarcastically. “Just because I work with apes, don’t mean you got any right to treat me like one. I get enough patronizing from Frank Myer at Futronics, thank you very much.”
“I always wondered, what does the Fut in Futronics stand for? Futile?”
She came back quickly with, “Nah, for putting your Fut in it!” I laughed loudly and she added, “I need to know if these experiments that you’re planning to perform will involve any form of surgery? If you’re intending to slice up any of those marvelous creatures’ brains, then you can find yourself another…”
“The experiments are absolutely harmless,” I said trying to gain her confidence. “We will only be using very sophisticated equipment to map out their brain patterns.”
“I give you my word.”
“If they’re so harmless, then why aren’t you using humans? Surely…”
“We need to make a record of their learning patterns. That’s why we need them as young as possible. The learning curve in a human is too rapidly established…and too…subtle for our equipment.”
“Yeah?” Her frown still indicated her wariness. “You said it was sophisticated?”
“That’s the truth, but it does have its limitations.”
“This equipment…device of yours? What sort of method does it use to perform these…scans?”
“Exactly, it’s just a much more refined CAT scan.”
“Well, I’ve heard that some of the radiation used in those sort of devices can be highly dangerous.”
“It’s no more harmful than getting a few x-rays. Stop worrying now.”
She did. The first smile to caress her face since the start of the interview appeared bright and white through her thick lips. “In that case, I’m your man!”
“In that case,” I informed her, “allow me to show you the extent of your duties.”
I should have actually said to her, ‘Your professional duties!’
The naïve, giggly girl had grown some balls over the years. I felt aroused.
There was a very good chance I would be calling on her socially again in the near future. I just hoped that her décor had also undergone some serious alterations.
Mel had stared approvingly at the section of Global that we had specially converted into the living, playing and, more importantly, learning area for the chimps. She had, though, suggested a few minor, yet necessary, changes and additions.
She frowned as we entered the adjoining puzzle room.
“What are these?” she asked spying the ten, large, evenly-spaced puzzle boxes.
“Your prime objective!”
“Yes, each of these has a unique method that must be used in order to open it and reach the…reward.”
“Whatever it is that chimpanzees like best? Bananas or whatever?”
“They usually love sugar cubes, but I don’t like to give them too much; it’s bad for their teeth and makes them a bit too hyper.”
“You’re the expert. You figure it out.” I walked over to the first box and pointed to the solution that was printed on a laminated note and pasted onto the conundrum. “Just follow the instructions.” I read, ‘One – push green button! Two – pull yellow chord! And three – turn blue lever!” Mel followed the instructions to the letter. “Voila!” I declared as the door on the box gently lowered to the ground revealing an empty space within. I joked, “What? This reminds me of that old song, ‘Yes, we have no bananas!’ She shook her head in ignorance, so I demanded, “Make us a requisition of the stuff you’ll be needing? In the meantime we need you to follow this program carefully.” I handed her an itinerary. “It’s very important that you keep strictly to that schedule. Don’t jump the gun and try to teach them the lot in a week, okay?”
“I got it!”
“The difficulty progresses with each new box. The last is extremely intricate – well, for an ape at least.”
She read the instructions on the final puzzle box before saying, “You’re right! Ten steps is going to be a rather daunting task to teach.”
“I heard you were the best at this sort of thing!” I stated. “I have every confidence that you’ll succeed.”
“When do my babies arrive?”
“Another month still! That’s what we were promised. The female still needs to be weaned.”
“Right, you could cause permanent damage taking her away from her mother too soon.”
“They’ll all be delivered at the same time. In the meantime you can start saying your goodbyes to mamma Frank and Futronics.”
“First thing tomorrow morning. I’m looking forward to working for Global.”
“Of course! Who wouldn’t? We’re a lovely bunch of bananas.”
A month later Steve came into my office and said, “They’re here! Mel’s taken them to The Jungle.” That was the term we had started using for the specially prepared area. “Come on, let’s take a look at the expensive little buggers. Let’s go and see where all that money went.”
“About bloody time too,” I said jumping out of my chair. “I hope we haven’t turned Global into a five star zoo for nothing?”
The two males sat frightened, clutching to each other, in the far corner. Their eyes darted nervously around their strange new surroundings, and they screeched nervously everytime one of us approached anywhere near to them.
“Don’t worry,” said Mel comforting me. “It’s normal. They’ll be happily settled within a week. A little calm and kindly help is all it takes to adjust them to their new environment. I’ve done it many times already.” She glanced over at the female. “It’s her I’m concerned about. That ain’t normal at all.”
“What?” I asked watching the smallest of the three enjoying the swings and other play equipment that we had installed. She also screeched, but in sheer enjoyment, as she leaped from one apparatus to the next. I became nervous as she suddenly darted towards me before searching my jacket’s pocket. She returned to her playing, seemingly disappointed at not having discovered anything of value.
“Wow!” exclaimed Mel. “This is definitely a first for me. That’s one brave little girl. Seems very intelligent too.”
“Maybe you should start the program with her?”
“Definitely! I wasn’t thinking I’d be able to get any of them into the puzzle room for at least a month. But the way she’s carrying on, I might even start her off today already. You certainly bought yourself a unique, lovely, little lady there.”
“Have they got any names yet?”
“Yeah, the company that delivered them gave it to me!” She picked up a clipboard. “Here they are. The males are Bobo and Jake, and the little girl is Natty.”
“Yeah! It’s okay! If you don’t like it, it’s still early enough to teach them different. Did you have something else in mind?”
“Nah, the names are fine. Stay with them.”
I looked over at the female and said, “Nutty Natty want a nut?” In an instant she was searching my pocket again.
Mel laughed. “It might be a good idea to put a few nuts in that pocket.”
“I’ll be sure to get some after work.”
Shortly, on that very same day when I was in Steve’s office, discussing some of the more mundane tasks that come with running a multibillion dollar company, Mel burst in unannounced.
“Oh, very funny big boss man! I never would have expected something like this from a professor. Big joke; real mature!”
“What are you babbling about?”
“You know what I’m on about. I guess you two thought it would be great to put one over on the new gal, hey? It’s so damned obvious, you should both be ashamed of yourselves.”
“What the hell are you…”
“Natty, of course!”
“Na…what about Natty?”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about!” Then she turned and stormed out again.
Steve and I followed her back into The Jungle.
Mel of the apes turned to face us as we approached. “Still playing dumb, big guys?”
“What’s going on, Mel?” asked Steve.
“Yeah sure, like you don’t know?” She unlocked the door to the puzzle box room. Then she called to Natty. “Natty! Come show the other kids what you can do!”
We quickly followed Natty through the door and watched as she proceeded to open all ten puzzle boxes in the space of two minutes. She screeched her disapproval at the absence of any rewards as each door subsequently revealed an empty space within.
Our jaws, like the doors of those ten gaping boxes, rested on the floor.
Steve and I stared at each other before we both saw the realization in each other’s eyes.
Then we started to laugh hysterically.
Mel stared concernedly in puzzlement as the two mature joint CEO’s of Global expressed their unbridled joy.
Yep, we went ape!!!
I knew then what Doctor Frankenstein had felt when he witnessed his creation come to life. I shouted, “It works! It works! It’s gonna work!”
“This is so weird, Corn! We haven’t even tested it yet. What am I saying? We haven’t even finished building the goddamned thing yet!”
“I know! But this shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that we will! And, Great God in heaven it’s gonna work. It’s gonna work perfectly! Perfectly!”
We marched proudly out of The Jungle.
“We’re gonna do it, Corn! I can hardly believe it, we’re actually gonna do it!”
“Yeah, but not today! Not tonight! Tonight we celebrate! Tonight we celebrate our victory!”
“Yeah, tonight we get blotto over our future success!”
“This is like counting the hatched chickens before the eggs have even been laid. I think time travel is gonna be really confusing?”
After our third round of drinks, I declared, “I saw it with my own eyes, and I’m still having trouble believing it. Actual, irrefutable, undeniable proof that time travel is possible! Whoo!”
“Keep your voice down.”
“Natty just made history today as the first time traveler and we gotta keep the whole affair secret? What was the name of that sheep? Dotty?”
“Yeah, Dolly. First official cloned mutton chop to trot her way into the history books. Ain’t nobody ever gonna remember our dear old Natty. Don’t seem right somehow?”
“We’ve already discussed this plenty. We got ourselves something far more powerful here than The Bomb.”
“I know! I know! Don’t worry yourself none.” I suddenly thought of something. “Gee, I wonder how old Natty is?”
“She was only just weaned.”
“Nah, I mean mentally. It must have taken some time for her to learn all those combinations?”
“I guess? Maybe a year…even two?”
“Shit! I hope I make it that far.”
“Don’t worry, you’re looking great. You’re good for another twenty still.”
“And you’re a damned liar, but I still love you.” I raised my glass to make my tenth toast of the evening. “To the greatest mind of the twenty first century who, unfortunately, for his own protection, must remain unknown to the public at large; to the man who perfected…will perfect bona fide time travel; and to my best friend and partner in crime – Steven Matthew Ferran.”
“Once again I humbly acknowledge your worthy praises.”
“I was just wondering. What if we completed the machine and then decided not to send Natty’s consciousness back?”
“But we’ve already seen that we do.”
“But what if we don’t?”
“An interesting concept, but for safety’s sake in the line of an expected continuity, it would be better for us to follow the anticipated path.”
“Hmm, you may be right. How long did you say before we do that? A year…maybe two?”
“Ask Mel. She can tell you how long it would take to teach a chimp to open all those boxes. Besides, at a rough estimate, I’d say we’re about eighteen months away from completing the prototype.”
“What about that revolutionary development I told you the German’s have come up with?”
“Yeah! Couldn’t that speed up the process?”
“Only if it really is as revolutionary as you say. From what you’ve told me, it would be the ideal technology for our Interphase Chip.”
“Right! And by all the evidence, it would seem it is.”
“You’re probably right. Still, we don’t want to rush anything. In the end, it’ll be your mind on the line.”
“What about you? Don’t you want to touch the face of immortality too?”
“I’m only doing this to help you. Any other reason would seem…selfish…even immoral. I dunno? I think we were only meant to have one life. We need to put some faith in the hereafter.”
“You’ve chosen a great time to go all religious on me. Sometimes you can be a real pain in the ass. A goddamned cold shower and party pooper all rolled into one.”
He gazed sternly at me before saying, “She’s gonna die you know?”
“Natty! Once we send her consciousness back, her body will swiftly perish.”
“You told Mel the machine is harmless.”
“She won’t be dead! She’ll be back in the past somewhere; happily munching on bananas and sugar cubes.”
“You gonna tell that to Mel?”
“You leave Mel to me, okay?”
“I intend to.”
Fifteen months later Mel had flown into my office. She was livid!
“What did you do? You lied to me! You said you wouldn’t hurt my babies in any way. You said your machines were harmless!”
“What are you talking about?”
“What about Natty?”
“You’ve screwed up her brain or something?”
At The Jungle I asked, “Where is she?”
“In the puzzle box room.”
I moved swiftly into the room with the ten large boxes. “Where?”
“Behind number 3!” she said pointing a finger. “Look at her! She’s terrified!”
“Terrified? Of what?”
“Everything! It’s as if everything around her has suddenly become daunting or…unfamiliar.” She moved slowly towards her. “Look! Even me! It’s as if she doesn’t even know me anymore.” Then Mel said those disturbing words, “She’s only now acting the way she should have done on that first day. It’s like her mind’s been wiped clean of everything she’s ever learned.”
“Oh, God, no!”
“Yeah! What did that machine of yours do to her? No wonder you were too scared to put a human into it!”
“What?” said Steve.
“You heard me!”
“But we haven’t done a thing! We were scheduled for a go this week, but I postponed it. You know I’ve been having second thoughts about performing the procedure!”
“I know! So explain to me what’s going on?”
“I…I have absolutely no idea. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, we’ll have to postpone indefinitely now. We won’t be proving a damn thing by sending a…mindless monkey back, now will we?”
“You’ll just have to be more patient then.”
“No! I’m not prepared to wait any longer!”
“What are you saying?”
“We don’t need the chimps. Just finish building the goddamned thing and send me back!”
“No! Never! Not without first…”
“Don’t be an idiot! It’s pretty obvious now that there’s no sure way to test if a time machine is working properly without getting into the bloody thing.”
“You’re the one that could end up an idiot. The same thing that happened to Natty could just as easily happen to you.”
“I’ll take my chances!”
“If you won’t help me, I’ll do it myself.”
“You know that’s impossible?”
“Yeah, well if I end up frying my brain, it’ll be on your conscience then.”
“Never been more.”
For a moment he was still in thought, then calmly said, “It’s gonna be one helluva giant leap of faith.”
“Alright then, but I want to make sure it’s as good to go as is possible.”
“You got three months. That’ll give us both enough time to sort out all our shit! But after that, ready or not, I’m…leaving! Got it?”
We stared at each other for a long time before he finally said, “Yeah, got it!” Then he added sadly, “I’m gonna miss you, you know?”
“Don’t worry. You’ll be the first person I’ll be looking up.”