Chapter 4, The Secret Lab
4: The Secret Lab
The building could not be seen from the main road, for most this was just a small country road; Two lanes cutting through the forested foothills of the Appalachian range. The car turned to the right, up an unmarked gravel road, then made a left around a cluster of trees that led to a small manned gateway. The doctor drove the car to the checkpoint; the guard gave a brief nod and flagged the Doctor into the parking lot.
The building was unspectacular, at least from the outside.
”A shack!” Thomas thought.
It was a small wooden two-story structure, very plain. It reminded him of the temporary classrooms that were set up across the playing field at his school. He was inwardly disappointed at how ordinary the place looked. He was expecting more from the Laboratory that the Doctor described as his workplace, back when they had their first phone conversation. A sleeping cat on the porch was not an encouraging sign.
“Don’t wake up Mr. Spitz” The doctor said, “He doesn’t like to be disturbed from his naps.” He smiled slightly as he led Thomas and Nan through the main door. They walked down a short hallway and cut to the room on the left. The Elevator unseen from the entrance was strikingly out of place. It’s inside was brightly lit with a fluorescent glow, and air seemed to be flowing in from a hidden updraft vent. Once the doors were closed, the deceptive rustic setting was left far behind.
There were six underground levels according to the panel. One floor down, at Sub Level One, the door slid open revealing a long corridor lined with doors.
”The staff’s offices,” Explained the doctor,
”Our library and most of the electronics are housed on this floor, The fun stuff is below. We will get to it soon enough; I just want to fill you in with some background information, there is something I must show you first.”
The Doctor pulled out a thin card from his wallet, swiped the lock and entered a password on the numerical keyboard. The door lock snapped and the door slid open revealing a nice but sparsely decorated office. On the wall to the right hanging by pushpins was Thomas’s drawing. Thomas winced.
”That vision of yours is what kept me inspired. I had told you of my losses, and mentioned a little bit about my research”. The doctor reflecting on the drawing, choose his words carefully. He didn’t want to go overboard with the technical jargon. Turning to his guests he finally said,
“What I am about to tell you is extremely confidential, and must not ever be mentioned outside of this facility when you leave.” His stern look bespoke the urgency of his words.
”I must have your word that you will reveal nothing of what I am about to show or tell you.” He turned his gaze from Nan to Thomas. Both nodded.
”We can go back in time, at least four years back, after that the mathematical model breaks down.” Nan started to worry that Dr Mendel might have gone over the edge. The good doctor was beginning to sound like that mad scientist in the “Back To the Future” movies.
”We have done it in testing, and we have proof. Although we have not sent a living creature back, the algorithms check out on paper.” A screen descended slowly from the ceiling behind the desk as the Doctor was talking. He moved over to a small console in the corner of the room, flicked a switch and continued,
”Let me show you something that we retrieved from the vaults of an office security system in Bethesda. They save these records by order of their manager; This video surveillance tape of their garage parking structure was made February Ninth, Two thousand. Over two years ago”
A grainy black and white television image flashed on the screen, there was no movement as the camera scanned an almost empty indoor parking lot: Level four, section B.
A date on the lower right confirmed the stamped date and time; 2/9/2000, 12:55 AM.
”We sent the probe to this location last week.”
On the screen, an elevator in the back opened and closed to no effect. Nan and Thomas were hypnotized by the image on the screen. The doctor advanced the tape. At one O’clock exactly, the picture flickered and seemed to flash, going quickly snowy and then returning to normal.
”There!”, the Doctor said, “Did you see it?” Nan and Thomas shook their heads.
”Let me play it back and freeze the frame for you. It was only in existence at that time for a second, but it’s a start!” The image restarted on the screen, the elevator door opened and shut.
”Now watch” Said the doctor. The image halted, jumped and halted again. A black spot was seen in the center of the picture as the doctor advanced the film, frame by frame.
A gray blur formed in the center of the blackness, a white square with squiggles on it came into range. It looked like a piece of paper floating, with a small silver disc next to it. Quickly it materialized, then just as quickly flashed out of the picture,
”Let me back it up just a bit, and work on the focus for you.” He typed something into the keyboard. The screen showed it clearly to be a piece of paper; only now blurry printing could be seen. As a dial was adjusted, the paper came into sharp focus. it had a date hand written in black ink:
”Test 107-B August 20th, 2002”
The disk glued to the bottom of the paper was a coin, a quarter, the camera zoomed in to the date, “2002” Even as the time signature on the lower right of the frame showed , “2/9/2000”.
”We obtained this surveillance tape from a dusty vault. It had not been touched since the day it was made. No tampering yet conceived could have affected this, the original tape.”
The doctor opened his desk drawer and removed a sealed clear plastic envelope; it was the piece of paper that had been seen in the film.
”Meet the first successful time traveler.” He handed Nan the envelope.
”Whoa! that’s a neat trick” Said Thomas. Nan said nothing.
”I’ll show you the device we used to send it back later, that’s on the lowest level”
”That’s got to be a trick” said Nan uneasily.
”I assure you, it is quite real; we have penetrated the frequencies that hold the fabric of time intact. We have out stepped our boundaries and returned to moments past. Our tests say we should be able to leave an object in the past for up to three hours, before friction between the layers starts to interact. and the future is phased back out.”
The doctor pulled another piece of note paper from his desk, he handed it to Thomas asking him to sign and date it. Thomas took the pen, addressed the paper, and handed it back to the Doctor who folded it, returning it to his suit pocket. He then went over to the same tape in the machine. The time was fast forwarded by the doctor who stopped it momentarily, then let it advance on its own. At 1:10 AM precisely the screen blurred again, this time the paper was quickly brought into focus.
”Well” said the doctor smiling, It looks like tomorrows experiment will be a success!” Nan and Thomas’s jaws dropped.