Treats in the Basement Chapter 3: IIIsteemCreated with Sketch.

in dbooks •  8 months ago
Never suspecting his eminent
advisor of such complete lapses of morning memories, Rupert Flard concluded
that this note must have been meant for him, as a flirtatious gesture from his
love interest. He quickly attempted to summarize his project proposal.

(html comment removed: block)“Well I’ve been thinking deeply
about this and reading the literature, and it seems to me that the biggest hurdle
in flattening is bones.”

(html comment removed: block)“Ahh, bones,” replied Dr.
Bateman, sagely.

(html comment removed: block)“So I was looking into it a bit,
and it looks like as people age, the bones get naturally squishier and thus
more flattenable. Right now, no one knows how squishy bones can get, because even
the oldest people only live a little over 100 years. But it seems to me that
the bones would just keep getting squishier the longer someone lived.”

(html comment removed: block)Dr. Bateman swallowed nervously,
wondering again how old he was, and reflecting that he did feel rather squishy.

(html comment removed: block)“So I got to thinking, and I
realized that maybe the first step to flattening ought to be figuring out how
to age someone so quickly that all their bones become completely liquid almost
instantaneously. And then we can simply pursue reversing that whole aging
process to unflatten the soldiers.” Flard continued. 

(html comment removed: block)“But could they still soldier,
being so very old?” Bateman objected.

(html comment removed: block)“Ahh, I thought about that,” said
Flard, “and I realized that, if you’re being honest, you can’t really expect
much of anyone when they’re flattened. The state is better reserved for
camouflage and self-parachuting from airplanes and being slipped under doors
and such. All the hard stuff is saved for when you’re unflattened again.”

(html comment removed: block)“Oh, fine,” Bateman relented. He
had fatigued and wanted a nap.

(html comment removed: block)“Great! So the first step is to
quickly accelerate aging to extreme levels and see if the bones liquify. I have
no doubt they will, though, so I don’t expect that to hold us up. Then we’ll
work on quickly reversing the aging process. And finally we can apply what we
know about flattening to a biological model.”

(html comment removed: block)Feeling victorious, Flard took
his leave, walked straight to the elevator, paused for a moment , just to dwell
in the sense of historical importance, and pressed the down arrow.

(html comment removed: block)Meanwhile, the scene in the
basement was one of crisis. The tale surrounding this particular crisis was a
tale that had been repeating itself on a daily basis, ever since the nice young
woman in the basement had decided to enlist the enthusiastic and well-meaning
undergraduate, Ben Larmy, to assist with some of the technical parts of her
research. 

(html comment removed: block)The repeating scene consisted of
the following narrative structure: the nice young woman in the basement
thoughtfully prepares a piece of work - yes, perhaps a bit too monotonous, but
still intellectually engaging and at the very least character building – for
the enthusiastic Larmy. Larmy arrives, 10 minutes early, with shiny eyes and an
open heart and nods in attentive affirmation as the nice young woman in the
basement explains the task. Larmy is sent forth, to the other side of the lab,
to complete said task. 50 minutes later, one-third of the way through his set
research credit hours, Ben returns to the nice young woman in the basement,
embarrassingly admitting that he doesn’t have any idea what he is supposed to
do. The nice young woman gathers her strength, and patiently reminds herself
that her duty as a postdoc in an academic lab is to train the next generation
of scientists, and besides, this is simply the investment period put into the
training of the undergraduate, who would return on the investment in perhaps a
few more weeks. Then she calmly re-explains the task, this time at about half
the speed and with a rigorous covering of the background knowledge, as Larmy again
nods in attentive affirmation. The undergraduate returns to the task, realizing
once again that he has not quite grasped some of the nuance. But sensing some
irritation in his mentor, and generally undeterred ever since the leadership
workshop in August, Larmy takes a deep breath and commits to scholarly
independence. This independence then quickly devolves to something ranging from
a snafu to a full-blown disaster, which usually hits its climax at the exact
moment of Larmy’s research hours ending and him going home, leaving the nice
young woman in the basement to exercise her strong problem-solving abilities
and to abide by her general life philosophy of “work hard, work hard.”

(html comment removed: block)On this occasion, the task was
explained by the nice young woman in the basement in the following way:

(html comment removed: block)“So far, we have developed three
types of flattening rods: skinnies, adapters, and the original flattener. The
original flattener, you will remember, converts between its original form and
the flattened form, when squeezed at this location at the head. The skinnies
have the added function of lengthening or flattening, by squeezing either here
to lengthen, and here to flatten. Be careful because the lengthening can be a
bit dangerous. The adapters are our newest innovation, which lengthen and
flatten at variable rates, instead of instantaneously, following the duration
and magnitude of the pressure of the squeezing at the same two locations. It
seems that due to last week’s snafu, the rods have become significantly
disorganized, but I can’t tell which rods are which types simply by looking at
them. Therefore, I want you test each of the rods to determine their type, to
label them with paint – yellow for skinnies, red for adapters, and green for
the original flatteners, and to organize them into separate bins.”

(html comment removed: block)Attending to the instructions
without blinking, and nodding in understanding, Ben Larmy set off to his task, committed
to avoiding another snafu, and because of this noble commitment, he returned in
47 minutes to clarify a point of great confusion with the nice young woman in
the basement. 

(html comment removed: block)With great care not to embarrass
his mentor, Ben Larmy cautiously approached his concern. “Sorry to bother you
so soon, but none of the rods that I’ve looked at so far have any paint on
them.” 

(html comment removed: block)The nice young woman in the
basement’s trained mind deftly saw with great clarity the root of the issue. 

(html comment removed: block)“Ah, Ben, thanks for coming to
clarify. I would actually like you to
paint the rods to distinguish their type. They are not already painted.”

(html comment removed: block)Ben’s face glowed red with
embarrassment. He hadn’t considered this. 

(html comment removed: block)“Ohhhhhh, okay. I understand.” He
then returned to work.

(html comment removed: block)As an undergraduate doing
research at such a prestigious institute, Ben was no dullard, and so frequent
bursts of creativity should not be fully unexpected. To make up for lost time,
Ben invented an ingenious strategy. He would flatten every rod, stack them into
piles, and paint the perimeter of the pile of stacked, flattened objects. Then
he could paint all of the rods of certain type together at the same time. Ben
quickly recovered the rods around the basement, flattened them, and stacked
them up, creating a perfectly organized and stacked pile. Proceeding according
to plan, he brought over the yellow paint to begin. Then his plan fell apart. 

(html comment removed: block)In a flash, the purpose of his
task finally became utterly clear. How
was he to know which flattened rod was which type, and thus what color to paint
it? Thinking on his feet, he realized that he would first need to test the rods
individually.

(html comment removed: block)To unflatten the rod, pressure
would need to be applied to the center of the flattened disk. This then, was
the moment of Ben’s great error. He reached to test the top disk, and pressed
the center. The rod lengthened. Perhaps the resulting chaos would not have
occurred if Ben had been even slightly less meticulous, but his stack of
flattened rods was perfectly arranged, forming a cylinder of such clean
proportions that it was almost impossible to see that it was composed of
separate objects. So when the first rod lengthened, back to its original rod-like
state, a point of pressure increased on the next disk, causing it to also
unflatten. The cascade was immediate and unstoppable. Rods shooting straight up
began to ricochet off the ceiling. The din of clanging metal filled the room.
Some of the rods, re-flattened after hitting the ceiling in specified angles,
floated down majestically, while other rods flew like spears towards the
ground.

(html comment removed: block)The nice young woman in the
basement had, not so much a maternal nature as a militaristically heroic one,
but her response was the same. She ran to the rescue of her flinching student,
into the fray of flying and falling rods and disks, tackling her mentee out of
the way of an incoming projectile.

(html comment removed: block)Lying on the ground on top of the
tackled Larmy, head and neck masterfully protected from whiplash by her
caressing hand, with the last remnants of the metallic gonging sounds fading in
the distance, Rupert Flard, doctoral candidate candidate, hopefully entered the
basement.

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