Chapter 8, Simulations, Test runs and the bare facts
8: Simulations, Test runs and the Bare facts.
Time seemed to fly, the cold dips were getting more and more tolerable, Thomas was becoming immune to the cold waters. In the simulation room, the technicians were getting better in making the aircraft look more solid. The first time he had been told to block the path of the green projected craft, it simply broke apart like green toothpicks of light, with no real weight or heft.
“I’ll never be able to catch these” He complained. “I can’t even feel them”
A team of engineers went to work on the project, and two months later came up with an impressive improvement. The planes now had weight and what they described as “Presence”
“This is much better” Thomas declared after the first test, although he was not successful in making the catch. Even though he could not be hurt, it was scary having the small planes flying at you. The Tech people said they would get more and more realistic as the testing continued.
”You will do a lot more damage to them, then they will to you” They explained. Thomas would find out soon enough what they meant.
The tests were getting more intense and now there was usually a briefing an hour before the testing, held in a circular room at deepest level. They called it the War Room. The meetings would be sometimes attended by a handful of Technicians and Scientists. Doctor Mendel was always in attendance, as was Doctor Roth. Doctor Xavier was his medical doctor and was on hand most of the time. Doctors Fong and Haley were the technicians who worked on the physics of the Grow room they were also usually in attendance. Thomas was surprised to see Leah Mendel sometimes sitting in on the sessions.
Four Months into the project Thomas was finally ready for his first trip to the Grow room, he had been prepared and carefully briefed as to what to expect. Each step of the Doctors plan was gone over in detail;
Each Jump as he called them, would seem real, he would be projected back into a three dimensional physical world, he would engage with the surroundings as if he were there, but in reality these were tests and elaborate practice sessions; Simulations.
“Have you ever seen Star Trek, the Next Generation?” They asked,
“This will be like the Holodeck on that show.” Thomas nodded. All variables that might occur would be monitored, and to a small degree controlled. Everything in the testing would be programmed as if it were an actual run. Everything would run as if it were a real time jump, but in fact it would not be. These were tests. There could be only one real Time Jump, Which would be the actual mission day.
It was during a briefing in the War Room a week before the first test, that Thomas first found out that he would have to make the jumps, wearing nothing. The Doctors mentioned it, and went on talking. Thomas thought for a few minutes, wondering if he had heard correctly, then he started giggling. Dr Roth noted that Thomas was somewhat uncomfortable, Thomas knew not to interrupt, but was glad when Dr Roth addressed him.
“Thomas, are you OK?” He questioned. Thomas stammered,
“Did you guys just say I was not going to be wearing anything when I make the Jumps?” The room grew silent. Dr Mendel cleared his throat and said,
“That’s right Thomas, we can not allow any inorganic material to be transported back, there are several reasons why it would not work, we checked all the variables and all material tests failed.” All the eyes in the room were on Thomas, who found himself blushing.
“Naked?” He asked again incredulously. The Doctor shook his head. Thomas giggled some more, then he said,
“Suppose I don’t want to?” Dr. Mendel looked first at Doctor Roth, then he looked around the room to all the other scientists and then back to Thomas. He said without a trace of humor,
“Then I suppose we would either scrap the mission, or release you and find another volunteer, and start again from scratch.” Everyone in the room held their breath. Thomas was clearly conflicted, now he felt that everything was dependent on him. He didn’t like the idea at all.
“Would you like some time to think about it Thomas?” Asked Dr. Roth. Thomas nodded, then asked,
“Will anyone see me?” Doctor Mendel hedged the question;
“You will be alone in the room and wear a robe up to entering the room.” Then he added, “We will need to have you go naked through the complete sterilization process, before we send you on your first jump, and every time you make a Jump thereafter. Maybe you could give it a try and if you really object we can take it from that point to see what you want to do.”
“Thank you Sir,” Thomas said slowly, “I think I want to talk it over with Aunt Nan, Can I give you my answer tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Dr Mendel replied. Memories of Nan’s initial explosion came to his mind, his heart sank, but he never changed his expression.
“I call an adjournment to this meeting, we will pick up where we left off tomorrow afternoon” He said, standing up and pushing his seat back. All present in the room took their cue and stood up as well. Thomas felt terrible; he had halted the meeting, and in fact may have halted the whole project, now he wanted to cry. Doctor Roth came over to him, and unexpectedly gave him a hug,
“Don’t worry Thomas, You are right to speak up, Talk it over with your family, I’m sure you will come up with the right answer.”
“Will they kick us out of our house If I say no?” Thomas asked.
“No Thomas, it’s in your contract. You and your family would still be taken care of, but you would no longer be part of the project.”
“Just because I wouldn’t take my clothes off?”
“The Doctor wouldn’t say it unless it were absolutely necessary” Dr Roth replied.
Thomas walked up the driveway, as usual the door was open. Ralph was in his room doing his homework; Thomas would see him later, now he wanted to talk to his Aunt. Nan was in her studio, the door was shut, and classical music was playing inside. Nan usually listened to Classical music when she was painting, She liked the studio room, it had large skylights that allowed natural sunlight into the room. She set her studio up with her easel, and a workbench for paints brushes and solvents. Charcoal sketches lined her wall, and leaning against the wall, large stretched canvas, with wooden frames, some painted and others with sketches on them, others primed and ready. Thomas knocked on the door, He knew she was busy when the door was shut. He knocked again, heard Nan talking to someone, and then she came and opened the door. Thomas caught a glimpse of a young man, sitting on a chair on a platform in the room, he was covering himself up with a flimsy robe. Nan was working on a figure study, the painting on her easel revealed the young man. On the canvas, His nude body in a standing pose was holding a pole like an oar. The likeness on the canvas was very good, Thomas thought.
“You’re back early today Thomas” Said Nan, as she used a rag, to wipe the excess paint off her brush. She noticed Thomas’s expression and asked if he were OK.
“Yeah Mom,” That’s how he addressed he now, “But we gotta talk”
Nan glanced at her watch, she still had a half an hour left with her model.
“OK dear, she said, I’ll be done in a half hour, why don’t you start your homework, and we will talk at dinner” That was good enough for Thomas.
They had a nice dinner together, Nan had made spaghetti and meatballs, one of Thomas’s favorites. He picked at the plate. After Ralph was done, Thomas asked if he could talk to his Aunt in private,
“What’s a matter?” Ralph asked, “Why can’t I listen”
“Cause you can’t” Thomas snapped. Nan sensed the urgency in Thomas voice, and told Ralph to go watch some TV. Ralph jumped up, put his dishes in the sink, and went to the TV room.
“Now tell me what’s bothering you?” Nan asked.
“Is it wrong to be naked” Thomas asked. He knew how his real mom felt about it, he had been taught to be modest, and was even was self conscious at his old schools gym lockers with all the other boys. Nan stared at him for a moment to gauge the expression on his face.
“Why do you ask?” Thomas painfully explained the situation at the Lab. Nan had signed a contract that allowed the Scientists to conduct whatever experiments and conditions they felt necessary as long as no physical harm came to Thomas. She was grateful that they had given him the opportunity to bow out this late in the training; she could sense Thomas’s reluctance.
“Well honey,” She started, “There is nothing wrong with the human body, The Lord made it a beautiful thing, in both men and women.” She looked at Thomas for any response, and then continued.
“The problem most people have, is not with the body, but with the mind” Nan really did not want to bring up the matter of sex. Up till this time she had taught her kids to be cautious and not let any adults “do anything” to them or their private parts.
“If I’m naked, is that like having sex?” Thomas asked. Nan took a deep breath,
“No, it’s not the same thing. There is nothing wrong with being naked; it’s the way the Lord created us. It’s only when we do, um, bad things when we are naked, that we should watch out for, and avoid” Nan had always considered herself progressive, and wondered why it was so hard talking to Thomas.
“Then there is nothing bad about being naked?” Thomas asked again.
“Well, I wouldn’t go to school or shopping naked” Nan joked, and for the first time that evening, Thomas seemed to lighten up, he smiled.
“A doctor can ask you to pull your pants down, but if a stranger did it that would be a different story, See what I mean? Then you would say No! But if you trust the people you are with, and they have a good reason, well dear, it’s still up to you. Remember, no one can make you do something you don’t want to do.”
“That guy you were painting, wasn’t he embarrassed?”
“No dear, I’m an artist and I was paying him to pose”
“And he didn’t mind?”
“No, not at all” Nan continued. A lot of artists paint naked people, they are called “Nudes” but you probably knew that, you’ve seen my paintings of course” She waved her hands towards her studio.
“We are close enough to the National Gallery in Washington, it’s time I took you boys up there to see some really great Art. Nan sensed relief in Thomas’s body language. “We’ll take a field trip this weekend,”
“I like the people at the Lab, Dr Mendel and Roth and Xavier, I really don’t want to let them down”
“I understand Honey, you do whatever you want to do, I support you completely, whatever it is.”
“Thanks Ma” Thomas gave her a big hug, and scooped some more spaghetti on his plate.
Ralph had a somewhat different take on the matter that evening. Thomas was sitting on the chair in Ralph’s room, he told Ralph about his dilemma. Super Hero posters were plastered on Ralph’s wall, and toys were scattered around the room. An army of green plastic soldiers making an assault on his bed, with tanks and cannons in the lead. Ralph was already in his underwear for bedtime.
“Oh Boy, I’d love to be a naked giant” He laughed, jumping up on the bed, and toppling half the troops” He started stomping barefoot on the attacking infantry.
“Know what I’d do?” He laughed, “I’d pee on my enemies, all of them! Mua-HaHaaaa” He laughed giving his most sinister Super villain laugh. Thomas rolled his eyes, and found himself saying something that Dr Mendel occasionally said,