Quade finished his tuna and corn sandwich and continued his conversation with Hans. “Luper is not ready yet.”
“He’s making great progress with the silicon-nanotubular chips,” Hans said.
“I know. I’ll drop in again today and have another chat with them.”
“That Frieda girl,” Quade said, raising his eyebrows.
“Of course. I want both of them to start together, but they’re not quite ready yet.”
“They’re an ideal team despite their differences. That ruse of yours setting up Unit 19A worked like a dream.”
“Yes, I had to get him away from working with Andina. She was too suspicious.” Quade pulled another face.
“She’s a good kid,” Hans said.
“But she’s not right for what we want, is she?”
“I suppose not,” Hans said. “Give me half an hour with them and then you can go down.”
“Okay, I’ll leave it for an hour, just in case.”
“Just in case what?”
“In case Big Hal is there. You know the way he blabs and blabs, the old gutbucket.”
When Hans left, Quade went over to the neurochip unit in Area 47. The Security Officer, Victor Bindel, let him in.
“Good afternoon, Victor,” Quade said.
“It’s all go today …”
Quade looked at Victor and waited for him to continue.
“Big Hal brought a troop of visitors around …”
“Don’t worry, I didn’t let them into the big lab.”
“How did you manage that?”
“I said there was an important meeting going on. I wish he’d insist on proper dresswear. Half his group looked as if they were going to Bondi Beech.”
“Well, it is over 110˚F out there.”
“I suppose, but he doesn’t look well in those extra long Bermuda shorts. His fat stumpy calves aren’t his best feature.”
“You mean, after his blubber belly slopping all round his midriff.”
“He’s put on a ton of weight in the last year. He’s eating like a horse.”
“If I were him, I’d keep wearing my suit. He looks much better in it.”
“Anyway, that’s rid of him for the next few weeks. Well done, Victor. See you later.”
Quade walked down the corridor to the glass doors. They opened automatically when he arrived. He walked through and continued straight ahead into the lift and pressed button 4. When the lift stopped, the doors opened opposite the big lab. He walked over to the door and typed in his security code, 78233, and went in.
“Good morning, Quade … I mean good afternoon,” a tired technician said.
“How are things going, Rose?”
“The best knit is in Dish D. Dish R isn’t too bad either. I think we can discard the others.”
“Okay, contact Broc and get permission.”
“Will do. I’ll ask him to see you this evening.”
“Not before 4 p.m., I’m going to Unit 19A shortly.”
“Fair enough,” said the technician.
Quade continued his tour of the lab. He went over to the incubator and peered through a portal into the diffused light in the chamber.
“How are these ones doing?”
“Excellent. We can begin testing in two weeks time.”
“How long have they been in there?”
“Exactly 34 days.”
“Perfect. I might have some new helpers for you by then,” Quade said.
When Quade called into Unit 19A, Luper and Frieda were both dressed in white. Luper had a simple V-neck sport shirt, casual slacks and white shoes. Frieda had a tight-fitting top, a white flared mini skirt and white bobby socks.
“Anyone for cricket?” Quade quipped when he saw them.
“Hello,” Luper said.
“Are you back again?” Frieda said indifferently.
“Why, did you miss me?” Quade said grinning at her. “How are you getting on?”
“We’ve nearly completed the experiment. We’re up to 80 hertz,” Luper said.
“We’ve started taking 5 hertz intervals to finish the rest of the survey up to 100 hertz,” Frieda said.
“That sounds reasonable. Well … what happened?”
“Our best results occurred around 70 hertz.”
“We measured a maximum of 12 percent enhancement.”
“We’re getting slightly higher results with our neurochips, but we need to repeat the tests. Are you still interested?”
“Frieda and I have been thinking about that. We’d both love to give it a go.”
“As it happens, there may be an opportunity to transfer you in about two weeks time. I’ll have to get back to you though, if you don’t mind?”
“We’ll have to see Hans about it as well. We don’t want to go behind his back,” Luper said.
“I understand,” Quade said. Then, turning to Frieda, he added, “You’ll love it in Area 47, Miss Delvin.”
She cocked her head indifferently as he left the room.
Later that evening Quade met Broc Fulton, the Computer Ethics Committee man. He was a gentle soul fully dedicated to his work. Broc’s main task was to ensure that the Laws of Conscious Entities were observed. Whenever there was an issue involving the degree of consciousness attained by a computer, Broc was called in to make the final decision. Earlier, Quade’s technician, Rose Allen, had phoned Broc to let him know that Quade wanted to see him. Quade wanted to discard over twenty neurochips that had failed to reach the desired threshold. But before Broc met Quade, he called into the main lab in Area 47 to see what the issue was.
“So Rose, you say only two neurochips in the latest batch have reached the threshold.”
“That’s right Broc. Quade wants to discard the other chips. They’ve be in the incubator for 34 days and we checked them all this morning.”
“Okay, please set up the tester.”
“It’s ready, here. I’ll turn on the Random Interrogator—it’s really a Quality Assessor or a QA-Probe.”
Rose gently inserted the twenty-four probes into the incubator, one over each dish, and turned the analyser on. A series of light emitting diodes (LEDs) flickered on, one after the other. During the next twenty minutes, red lights started turning on in the display channel. Each red light represented a failure and corresponded to one of the dishes. Eventually, no more red lights came on and only three green lights remained out of twenty-four.
“I though you said only two of the dishes had reached the threshold.”
“That was all when I tested them this morning.”
“Let’s see … that indicates dishes D, E and R have reached the threshold. What was the level you set for the test?”
“Seventy-seven percent. I always leave a two percent error just in case.”
“Very good. Okay you can discard the others without going to the Council for permission.”
“I’ll see Quade and tell him myself. As a matter of interest, what was special about those three?”
“I’ve the code here. Should I go ahead an open it?”
“Sure. We’ve made our decision so you can reveal the code.”
“D, E and R, represent Numbers 11, 12 and 13. That’s good. There were only slight changes in electrolyte concentration from batch to batch. Let’s see … the levels around there were 300 milliosmolar—exactly normal for such neurons.”
“Where did you get the neurons from?”
“Dr Fulton, you know perfectly well where we get them—from the hospital.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be facetious, I meant were they from an adult or a child?”
“We always try and get newborns; they give the best success rates.”
“Yes, unfortunately some babies still die from natural causes in 2025.”