Chapter 4: The Grand Plan
That night Elaine sat up, before going to bed, trying to think up of a plan. The funny thing is it felt great. She felt like a little child again about to embark on a forbidden journey. But she had to focus and think. She knew she couldn’t just walk up to the door and enter. There were many obstacles in the way. First, there is a security guard sitting there. Second, her ID does not open restricted doors. So, if somehow, she got past the security guard, she won’t be able to simply scan her way in. Then she had no idea what is on the other side of the door. For all she knew, there could be a series of doors each requiring a different badge to open. For her to gain access, she would need the right badge and for the guard to somehow think she worked there.
Her giddiness at sitting and devising a scheme deflated like a hot air balloon. She realized that she was not a heroine in a Mission Impossible Movie, she was a simple scientist with no knowledge of scheming. So as horrible as it sounded, she gave up for the night and intended to sit and wait for divine intervention. Her days spread into weeks and soon fall turned into winter. It seemed that the bitter cold had put a freeze on all her thoughts of breaking into the impossible wing.
Then one day Elaine woke up and finished her usual morning routine and headed for her apartment door. When she opened the door, she almost got a heart attack. Elaine’s next-door neighbor, Mike, was standing getting ready to knock on the door with his arm raised in the air and towering over her. Mike was a man in his late 50s or early 60s and he could be best described as a Santa Clause impersonator. He was heavy-set and had a full beard that was mostly white with a few blonde streaks. Elaine’s reaction completely scared him as well, so they were both left in a very awkward situation. Mike eventually smiled and asked her where she was going in such a hurry. She looked surprised at his question, and checked her watch, it read 7 am.
“ummm...it’s 7am, and a Friday, I’m going to work of course.” Elaine responded quizzically.
He chuckled “welcome to Houston darling, due to a possibility of snow, everything is closed. My own pipes froze and I was wondering if I could borrow some of your tap water, yours didn’t freeze as well, did they?”
“No, they didn’t, I left them dripping last night, but are you sure that the companies are all closed.”
“Check the news sweetheart everything in Houston is closed, I’m sure they are more worried about us driving on icy roads, than anything else.”
The man was right, just mention the word freeze or snow and everybody down there starts to panic. Elaine had lived in Canada for two years when she was about fourteen and she could remember perfectly what it was like having to shovel the driveways in the morning, now that was real snow. But she totally gets it, they are not as prepared down in the South due to the infrequency of the matter.
So, she let Mike in to help himself to some water and as soon as she saw him out, an idea hit her. The beginning of a great master plan was brewing in her mind. She could use the weather conditions to her advantage. If people were stranded at home, due to the weather then perhaps security would also be less prominent. She could manage to somehow get into the other wing. The only problem remaining is the fact that her badge will not open the other door. But she figured if her luck is still running then the opportunity might just present itself and all will work itself out.
So, she quickly left her house and scrambled to her car. She was getting ready to set down her phone in one of the cupholders near the armrest. When she spotted it. She had left a magnet in her car the other day when she was working on her car stereo system. Then phase two of her plan began to take shape. If she left her ID card near the magnet long enough it could wipe it clean and it wouldn’t work anymore. Then perhaps when they get it fixed, she could ask for access, or somehow get access to the second wing. She grabbed her ID and ran the magnet along it several times and then put them both in one of the cupholders for extra measure.
Elaine began her drive and could feel the adrenaline rushing through her body, her heart was beating faster, and her palms were getting sweaty. After miraculously making it to work despite the icy streets, she made her way, through the stabbing cold, to the door and finally walked into the enveloping warmth of the main entrance. Hope was sitting as usual at the front entrance. She looked surprised to see Elaine come in.
“Elaine! What are you doing here today? We’re closed due to the horrible weather.”
“we are?” Elaine asked, trying to fake a surprised face. “the weather is not even that bad, I’ve been through much worst in Canada.”
“Wow, you lived in Canada?” she asked. Elaine nodded silently. “well here, everything usually closes when things begin to ice over since it rarely gets this cold. An email was sent out to everyone...I guess you can just head back home.”
Elaine thought for a second “well it would be a shame to go home after I already made the trip all the way here” she reasoned “so I might as well go check on a few of my solutions and see whether or not they need to be tweaked, I could leave early though.”
Hope seemed satisfied with the reasoning and gave Elaine a smile as she headed to the door leading to Wing A. Elaine scanned her ID and tried the door, but it wasn’t opening. Success! She thought to herself, the magnet idea must have worked. Elaine continued trying to scan the badge several more times to make sure that her struggle seemed genuine.
“What’s wrong Elaine?” Hope yelled over to her.
“My badge must not be working on the door,” she responded innocently.
“So it must be true.” Hope added with a pensive look, further confusing Elaine.
“What is true?” Elaine asked, trying not to sound guilty or scared.
“Oh, sorry, it’s just that I got a few e-mails today saying that something is wrong with the circuitry and a lot of people were having problems with their badges. One of our pipes out back burst and it must have short-circuited something”
“well, it’s a good thing most people aren’t here due to the weather,” Elaine added
“Not really, there are about a dozen other scientists here, besides you of course, but most of them are in wing B. Apparently they had an event today with outside scientists being invited in to see the progress of some research, I’m not really sure what the details are.”
“So how did you get them in?” Elaine asked, hoping that there was simple fix.
“Well, I had to call Mr Rutherford to clear it with him first, but I ended up giving them master keycards that can unlock any of the doorways and those seemed to work fine. But I don’t know if I could do the same with you, Elaine.”
“Please!!!!!” Elaine begged “Could you ask again for my sake. I really want to check on my solutions today and it would be a whole month’s work down the drain if I can’t add the buffer at the right time.” which was true, Elaine was in no way lying, she really did have a new solution enriched with nutrients but the key part was adding the buffer at the right time.
“Well, okay” she responded. She then promptly got on the phone and hastily asked Mr Rutherford. It seemed that she had caught him at a bad time by the apologetic tone of her voice. “Please remain in your lab area.” She said addressing Elaine and then dove under her desk and took out a plastic key card. “Oh and return it to me before you leave today.”
Elaine nodded, thanking her profusely and hurried towards the door. She scanned the card and the lock clicked. She looked back at Hope gave her a thumbs up and continued to walk through the door.
As Elaine was making her way to the lab, her insides were jumping for joy. She couldn’t help but smile. The opportunity presented itself and she seized it, so it felt amazing.
Elaine got into her lab. It looked weird empty. Sure, nobody usually spoke when they were working, since it apparently interrupted their train of thought, but still, it seemed quieter to her. She proceeded to check on her nutrient solution and it was doing well. The purpose of the solution was to supply nutrients to healthy cells and the nanobots only. She had placed genetic markers on the surfaces so that the cancer cells will not get any of the nutrients further starving them. After waiting an hour, she added the buffering solution to help stabilize the mixture and bring it to a pH that is compatible with body cells. Since their research was technically over, this was overkill, but she had figured if in the future something were to happen to the nanobots and they needed more nutrients to operate, she would be ready.
Technically this concluded the work she needed done for the day but the idea of going to the other wing sent butterflies into her stomach and she suddenly felt nauseous. She couldn’t back out now, she had to satiate her scientific curiosity. Thus, she reasoned that she would just walk towards the door and then at the first sight of danger she would turn around and just walk back. Throwing further reason into the wind, she made her way to the door that connects both wings. There was a security guard next to the door. But he looked different than the one that she saw the last time she walked by. So she walked up to the door with the master key card tucked in behind her ID. She looked at the security guard, smiled and nodded.
“Horrible weather today.” Elaine said, trying to ensure that her voice was not shaking.
“Yeah, tell me about it. Arnold couldn’t even make it here, so I’m stuck here, while the wife and kids are home alone.”
“Oh no!” she responded sympathetically “well I hope everything is alright with Arnold, it is weird not seeing him today. And I sure hope everything continues to be okay at your house. Listen if you need anything let me know”
“Thank you Ma’am.” He said courteously. She scanned her badge, heard the click, and made her way through the door.
Elaine was wrong, there were no series of doors behind that first one; it must be because the door was a connection between both wings. What she saw next was odd, to say the least. She wasn’t sure what she stumbled upon.