The Experiment

James L. Cowles


© Copyright 2022 by James L. Cowles


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

I don’t remember when it first hit me, or why (?). I’m no different than anyone in the lab, so I wonder if any of the others have given it much thought? We’ve worked on this project for three years, but we really don’t know each other, or maybe I should say, I don’t know any of the others, not even one. 

Three years down and the days have flown by, but I wonder if we’re any closer to our goal than when we first started? But how could we know? Do we each have a separate goal, is there a collective goal, or what? They keep us separated, so it’s hard to tell if we’ve made any kind of progress. I think I’ll have a word with Ron, and ask him if he thinks it would be a good idea to come together now, you know, as a team, and maybe we could compare notes (?). Maybe we could help each other? If nothing else, it would help me overcome this damned loneliness I’m feeling. I don’t think we say over three words to each other during the day, and they keep us apart every night. That’s just not normal. 

Look, I’m a team player and I know Ron said there is an important reason for each of us to work alone right now, but he didn’t tell us what it was. I’m gonna have to know, or I may just have to resign and get the hell out of here, before I grow crazy. I respect the need for scientists to work separately, I mean, I know that’s how some great discoveries are made. But, at some point, it would seem, sharing our knowledge would become more important than individual success, and I want to know if we’ve actually had any success. Are we succeeding? 

I remember when I joined the Army and how I learned the importance of teamwork. It builds trust and I need that right now. I mean, I know each of us are supposedly focused on a different part of the specimen, but I’m not sure I can learn anything more without being able to discuss my findings with fellow professionals. Ron has got to see that, at least I hope so. They call him the team leader, but I don’t see any leadership, or teamwork. Hell, he has never even asked me how I’m doing, what I’ve learned, how I feel, nothing. He is different from any leader I’ve ever seen. Here goes nothing….. 

Ron, can I have a word with you?” “What about, John?” “Well, is it okay if we go to your office?” “Why, John? We don’t have any secrets here. Go ahead, shoot; what’s your question?” “Ron, I, I….. Well, I think…. Uh, don’t you think, I mean, wouldn’t it be a good idea for us all?…… Uh, look, Ron. We’ve been at this for almost three years, coming in here every day, doing our separate thing, researching our assigned area, and having zero conversation with anyone about the papers we’re writing. How can this be a good way to do research? Even Alexander Bell had an assistant, didn’t he? Shouldn’t we be discussing our findings with each other? Don’t you think it’s time we discussed our findings? Wouldn’t that help us all? At the very least you should let us get together socially, at night. What do you think?” 

John, we’ve asked each of you to work separately for an important reason and I’m going to have to insist you continue working alone.” “Ron, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I need to know the reason for that rule?” “John, listen, this is a 5 year project and of course, you are free to resign if you like, but remember, in the beginning we told everyone they would be required to work separately, and each one of you accepted the job on that basis. I might reiterate, that is an important part of the job and why we place such a high value on the process. I’m going to say this one time, then I’ll ask that you either go back to your area and continue your work, or leave and never come back into this facility. Okay, do you understand? I mean, here is the bottom line. We pay each of

you one million dollars per year to follow our process. At the end of the process, we are going to pay each of you another five million. You’ve already earned almost three million. Here's a question for you. Do you want to give up the other seven million, with only two years left in the process? 

Ron, I don’t know how to answer that, because it brings up another question I’ve been wondering about. Why are we paid so much?” “John, I’d like for you to stay, but that’s up to you. No more questions. Please make your decision, and I might add, that goes for all of you. If any of you have had second thoughts, you may leave with John, that is, if he chooses to leave. What are you going to do, John?” “Okay, Ron. you win for now. I’ll stay, but will you answer just one more question?” “No! No, I won’t!” “Ron, Ron, why won’t you? I think we’d all like to know, are we in any danger? Ron? Okay, you can go back to your office, but this isn’t over. Do you hear me, Ron? Why doesn’t anyone else speak up? What’s the matter with all of you? Don’t you want to know what the hell we’re dealing with here? Jim, how about you?” “Ron, go on back to your area and let it go, man. Where else can any of us earn this kind of money? If you’re so worried, just keep your mask on while you’re working. They told us we’d be completely safe if we just follow protocol. Just leave all of us be and go back to work.” “Jim, you’re a fool, and that goes for the rest of you, too! Idiots, all of you.” 

Well, that didn’t end well. I’ve already earned three million and it’s in the bank, but of course, Uncle takes at least half of it. Maybe I was asleep when they told us about the five mil at the end. I thought they said we’d earn a bonus based on our findings. I guess I’ll do it a while longer. I could use that extra five mil, for sure. It would be nice to be financially independent, even if I never really retire. At least I’ve gotten my concern on the record. This damn mask drives me nuts, but I guess I’d better start wearing it again. They are all chicken shits here, every one of them. They may be sorry. Hell, we may all be sorry. 

Ron, Mr. Craddock would like to see you in his office.” Thank you, Margie. Tell him I’ll need about five minutes, okay?” “Ron, he said he would like to see you, immediately.” “Okay, Marge. Tell him I’m on my way.” 

Hi, Margie.” “Hi, Ron. You can go on in, and good luck.” “Do I need luck, Marge? Can you tell me what’s going on?” “Ron, you’ll need to find out from him, I’d rather not speculate.” “That is not very reassuring, but it’s not fair of me to involve you, is it? Come on Marge, tell me, is it about John?” “Ron, you know he doesn’t always tell me everything. Just go on in there, okay?” “Okay. Thanks, Marge.

Knock, knock.” “Come in, Ron.” “Mr. Craddock, you wanted to see me?” “Yes, sit down, Ron. I hear you’ve been talking with John, is that right?” “Yes sir, I sure have.” “I also hear your conversation with him took place in the lab, in front of everyone, is that correct?” “Well, yes sir, is that a problem?” “What do you think, Ron?” “Well, I just told him there were no secrets and asked him to speak up in front of everybody. I thought others might have the same questions, so, yeah, I had an open discussion.” “Well, Ron, tell me, did John want to meet in your office?” “”Yes sir, he asked if we could, but……” “But what, Ron? You thought it would be better to involve everyone, even when the project rule is to keep each participant separate? What the hell were you thinking? Look Ron, I’m aware of the entire conversation, and you clearly blew it, man. Not only did you have a public meeting, you told everyone they were going to receive another five million at the end of the five years. Ron, there’s no guarantee of that. There never was.” “Sir, I, I, well…. What can I say?” 

  “Ron, I am really sorry about this. I like you, but I’m going to have to end your term on this project. No, no. No more talk is necessary, Ron. I’ll ask you to clean out your desk and office, get all of your personal items when you leave here, okay? There will be an escort in your office when you get back there and you’ll need to leave right away, so make it quick with your clean up. Also, let me warn you. You were chosen for this role because of your past service and your ability to process and keep top secret projects to yourself. You will receive a visit from CIA operatives in the next few days, Ron, but I feel I need to warn you. Anything you’ve learned these last few years is of course, top secret. If you tell anyone, we will see to it you will never tell another soul. We shall have to also terminate your entire family and even your close friends. Sorry to be so blunt, Ron, but you will be hearing the same from the CIA in a day or two, and I just thought it would be a little better coming from me. One last thing, We have implanted a device in your brain that will allow us to understand what you are thinking and will both record and notify us if you tell anyone what you have experienced here. Sorry, and good luck, Ron.” 

 Margie. Would you step in here please? Marge, please escort Ron to his office and hand him over to Andy, then return to my office.” “Yes sir.” “Thank you Marge.” 

I wonder what’s going on. My god, they’re escorting Ron out of here. I wonder what he did? Damn, this is some serious shit. Is he crying? Oh man, I think he is. Looks like they’re taking him out of here abruptly; him and all of his shit. I think everyone’s in shock. Damn, look at their faces. Holy shit! Oh, here comes Craddock. He’s going to Ron’s office. I wonder if he’s going to take over that job? Why else would he go in there? I can’t imagi…….

John, Mr Craddock would like to see you in the team office.” “Well, hello Margie. How are you, girl?” “I’m fine, John. How have you been?” “Well, if you really want to know; not worth a damn. What the hell is happening here, do you know?” “Yeah, I know, but I can’t say. You are about to find out, though. Mr. Craddock’s waiting for you in Ron’s old office. You need to get moving, now.” “Okay, Margie, but I was just enjoying your company. Do I have to go?” “John, you are a charmer, but I suggest you get moving.” “Margie, you are the charmer, not me. I’ll go, if you promise you’ll come visit me again. Will you?” “John, get going and I mean it. You are gonna get me in trouble if you don’t go, and right now.” 

“Mr. Craddock, you called?” “Yes, I did John. Please shut that door and come sit down. I have an offer for you. Please allow me to be plain spoken. John. I just fired Ron. He screwed up when he allowed you to ask your questions in front of the others, then told everyone they would receive five million dollars at the end of five years. I don’t have a lot of time, so here it is. I of course didn’t tell you, but I hired you as a back up to Ron, simply because after watching him for a few weeks, I wasn’t sure he could cut it. I’m surprised he made it as long as he did, but in a sense, that's on you. Frankly, I was really expecting you to have questions sooner, but I was not going to make changes as long as you quietly continued your research. His salary was fifty million dollars total, for the full five years. I’m prepared to pay you an additional fifteen million dollars right now, then ten million for each of the next two years. If you say you are interested, you will be given a twenty day catch-up seminar and both I, and it, will blow your mind. You will learn what you have been working on and why. All I can promise you is, you will have a million questions about the universe. ‘Who we are?’ ‘Where we came from?’ ‘How did we get here? and more.’ We will answer every one of them, most right away, the rest, over time, of course. You’ll meet inhabitants from other planets, John, and even travel to those assigned to you. It’s the chance of a lifetime but there are a few risks.” 

John, are you interested? It’s either yes, or no. What do you say?”

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