The Chip, as it was referred to by the more shy and retiring members of Time, Limited, was about the size of a large old-fashioned postage stamp (Frank showed one of those to Gillian and told her they used to cost a dollar). Its structure consisted of interwoven multifunctional nano-devices that influenced the environment around them to bend the gravitational fabric of the Universe and create a space-time distortion.
Nobody except the Director and the Vice-Director knew how many chips were in existence at any particular time. Some of the chips have been lost during earlier experiments. Some were successfully dispatched to and retrieved from other times and spaces with microscopic samples of... whatever the chips managed to pick up during the brief moment they were allowed to exist elsewhere. In the recent years, some of the chips were sent off for longer periods of time to hopefully collect larger samples.
While the size of a distortion created by each chip was sufficient to let through larger objects and possibly even living beings, the consequences and risks of such transfers were still being studied and most likely would be for years to come. Additionally, the certainty factor of the space-time coordinate model was still hovering around sixty-four percent, which meant in four out of ten cases the chip could end up anywhere anytime, and not necessarily where it was supposed to go.
Aside from the chips that did not come back at all, some came back half-melted, some – with what looked like acid burns on their surface. Some came back seemingly intact, but the containment chamber chemical, biological and radiation filters detected substances (some of them unknown) that could be lethal to all organic life. Those chips were destroyed on the spot.
One of the privileges of Time, Limited was the right to dispose of anything at will at any time, if deemed necessary by the Director or the Vice-Director. Knowing that one or both of the people in these positions would be invariably approached by the representatives from military complexes of various nations, as well as terrorist organizations to obtain dibs on experiment results, Time, Limited included in its selection process a test for one's natural predisposition for treason, greed and corruptibility. It was not that all employees were expected to be angels in the flesh. But aversion toward personal gain at the expense of safety of others was a highly desired characteristic.
The chips were complex devices and expensive to produce. However, Frank and Nja agreed that an inanimate chip, no matter how valuable, was a preferred test subject until the certainty factor reached ninety-five percent.
- Considering how quickly after the inception of Time, Limited the certainty factor had reached sixty-four percent, I wouldn't be surprised if eighty percent were just around the corner. I am sure that would accelerate your experiment schedule and boost your equipment and materials requirements.
The optimistic prognosis was made by one of the executives from a contract company, eager to fill as many purchase orders for one of its most prestigious clients as possible.
- I know what you are getting at, Paul, and I'd like to curb your enthusiasm just a tad, - Frank replied, - The further we go wit this, the more thorough we need to be. Yes, the successes we've had so far are impressive. But it will be a while yet, before we can risk sending a living creature through a rift.
- Aww, come on, Frank! Surely you can at least start sending mice and frogs.
Frank rose, his impressive stature bringing the images of an angry King Kong, Hulk and Thing into the suddenly uncertain executive's mind. The Director of Research gave the man a hard stare, tossed a used-up marker over his shoulder to hit a trash dispenser diagonally across the room with a loud clang, and walked out. The exec turned to Nja in consternation.
- What did I say? It was just a suggestion!
- Eighty percent certainty factor implies a twenty percent probability that the subject will end up at an unpredictable location at an unpredictable time, - Nja replied - That means one in five. Imagine popping up billions of years in the future, on the surface of the Earth just before our sun goes super-nova. Or somewhere out in space beyond the event horizon of a black hole, where you would be stretched into a string one atom in diameter for an infinite length of time. Or just before the Big Bang. Would you really wish that on a living creature? Even if it were a mouse or a frog?
Grand Dame rose gracefully and walked out, the clacking of her designer shoes fading down the hallway, leaving the executive to ponder the possibilities.
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