When the car approached the gate it quickly opened up just long enough to let the Royce in. It did not even slow down, but kept up going at motorway speeds up the double lane road. Frank looked around and finally said to me, “Where the hell is this place?”
“Remember, sir, it is underground.”
Almost as soon as I said that we turned a corner and entered a downward slope into a tunnel. The car was finally slowing down. The car came to a stop in what looked like a huge atrium, but with the floor carpeted. Waiting by our car door was a fembot dressed in what looked like what a research scientist would wear. I immediately synced with it and knew her task was to greet us and bring us to wherever we were to go to. The route or destination were not revealed by her public file. She was called Gracey.
Gracey opened the door and in a very pleasing voice told Frank and me that we were, “Welcome to Maidstone Labs. If you would follow me I will take you to our reception room.”
While we walked she gave us the usual P.R. speech about Maidstone Labs, “The facility was designed by Sir Terrance, himself. Maidstone employs over 450 researchers, scientists, technicians and support staff. Many live on site in order to be close to their research at all times. So far over 2000 patents have been granted Maidstone Labs since it opened. Besides the lab research spaces there are restaurants, theaters, and other facilities to keep the staff happy in their work. In fact, just last year a six acre water park opened for the staff. The water is kept a relaxing 85 degrees all year round. If getting wet is not your cup of tea there is also a skating rink where the lab’s hockey team plays every Wednesday and ---"
This dialogue went on for six more minutes while we walked down hallways or stood in elevators. Finally, we entered a large room that looked like a hotel lobby. This, Gracey announced, was the reception room. She led us to a bar where she offered Frank a refreshment of his choosing.
Behind the bar was a pretty redhead that asked what Frank would like.
“What I like and what I should have are two different things,” Frank said with a smile. “Do you have iced coffee?”
“With or without cream?” came her overly cheerful response.
“Cream and sugar please – what do they call you?”
“I’m called Cherry,” she said without losing her smile. She handed Frank his drink and he took a sip.
“How long have you worked here Cherry?
“Do you have to keep bar here all the time?
“No, I work at several of the watering holes at the Lab.”
“I imagine you meet a lot of interesting people here.”
“Not really, most of the researchers are pretty geeky.”
“Don’t geeks like to drink?”
“Yes, they do, but mostly they talk about science and stuff I don’t understand. I can’t complain; the pay is great here. I make three times what I use to make working bar in London.”
At the sound of a door all three of us turned to see Sir Terrance enter himself.
“Mr. Huntington, welcome to my playground.”
“Thank you, you have a lot of nice playmates,” at which Frank raised his glass towards Cherry. Lutts seemed to ignore that and told Cherry, “Scotch on the rocks.”
After taking a sip, Lutts pointed with his glass and said, “Let’s start with the main lab.” Frank followed him and Lutts’s GAIC robot and I followed four feet behind. Other than the identification number of Lutts’s GAIC I could not sync any other information. GAICs are like me, but are generalized for many tasks. That is what the “G” stands for – General. A lot of nickname their GAICs General so and so, or Genbots.
“The main lab,” Lutts explained, “is probably the most advanced bio lab in the world. We actually won’t be able to enter it, but there are several observation windows that will give you a good view.”
“Why can’t we enter?” asked Frank.
“An important question; my lab is a BSL-4 rated facility. That means that we can handle and contain the most dangerous biological organisms known to man and maybe unknown.” Frank saw a fleeting smile on Lutts’s face. “The cells I developed to reattach spinal nerve cells had to be developed in a BSL-4 environment.”
“You don’t do any military research do you?”
“Heavens, no. Wouldn’t touch the stuff or their money. Frankly, I would find the world’s military imagination rather limited. They are not interested in life, only in ending life. Our hopes are to enhance life. I hope my gifts to humankind will bring us closer to world harmony.”
“I didn’t know you were such a humanitarian, Sir Terrance.”
“I lost my parents to warfare, Mr. Huntington. I have no family, thanks to war and religion. I find neither of these notions helpful to humankind’s long term health.”
“No doubt. I agree. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people, like my sister, who believe in Yahweh or Allah and will condemn to hell anyone who has a different flavor of religion from themselves. How long have you been an atheist, Sir Terrance?”
“The moment my parents were riddled with bullets. To this day I don’t know whether the look of horror on their faces was from the fact they were being killed or that their god could allow this to happen to them. As Epicurus said so well, ‘Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?’”
“So is science your religion?”
“No, science is my mistress. The more I love her the more she will reveal.”
“That is rather poetic. Is there a romantic under that hard rational exterior, Sir Terrance?”
“How can anyone who loves life and knowledge not be a romantic?”
“Fair enough. So you don’t do your work for the money?”
“No, the money is only secondary. Look at my cancer cure. I charge only one thousand pounds for the treatment. An operation to remove a cancerous lung cost a hundred times that. I could have demanded the moon for my cure, but I did not. The medical establishment was not very happy when I killed off their biggest money maker. They got rich while millions of people died from cancer. I could be richer than all the billionaires combined if I charged what the market could bear, but I chose instead to practically give it away.”
I could tell from Frank’s expression that he was surprised at the forcefulness at which the good doctor spoke. It was forceful, but not apologetic.
We entered a long room with large windows. Beyond the glass looked like a large space station where many of the technicians were wearing white suits complete with helmets. The array of machinery was astounding and Frank found it impossible to guess what they did.
“What is that bank of equipment over there?” Frank asked pointing to the far left.
“Those are my own brand of sequencers – they can sequence a human genome in 3 minutes.”
“If I recall it takes several hours to do that. Why don’t you market it?”
“I will eventually, but I always like to keep a slight edge over the competition. The technology has been patented so I have plenty of time. Over there is our super computer. It is the most powerful computer in the world – but the world doesn’t know it yet.” said Lutts with a slight smile on his face.
“So what is your big project they are working on?”
“Oh, I am working on curing the greatest scourge facing humankind.”
“What is that? Stupidity?”
“Close, Mr. Huntington, close,” Lutts said with another of his slight smiles fleeting by. “Let me show you our Bio Bank next.”
With that Sir Terrance walked to the door that had been opened by his GAIC robot which had anticipated his master’s move. The Bio Bank room was another BSL-4 area except it was cold and like the other labs had a viewing area where we could see it. It was really cold. Minus three hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit or as they would say in the UK - 195.79° Celsius. Either way it is cold enough to freeze my circuits and preserve any biological material indefinitely. Even I was glad to be in a nice warm viewing room.
Frank asked if I could take a photo of the Bio Bank and Lutts said, “Of course. What are your impressions about it?”
“Size. I can’t believe how many Dewar vessels you have. There must be over a hundred.”
“Off by a factor of three.”
“How tall are they?”
“A little over eighteen feet. Each can hold over three hundred gallons of liquid nitrogen. Even though they are insulated we do not heat the Bio Bank so the air is almost the same temperature as liquid nitrogen. We do that as a security measure. Unless you are fully fitted with a heated biohazard suit you would freeze to death in less than two minutes. “
“I suppose those suits are like spacesuits?”
“Very good, Mr. Huntington. Yes, they are. They have to have their own oxygen supply as well as heat source and insulation. They don’t need to be vacuum proof, but it does keep your breath contained so we don’t have excessive buildup of dihydrogen monoxide ice.”
“Ha, frozen water. I always think it sounds like a poison when I hear water called dihydrogen monoxide,” chuckled Huntington as Lutts had another of his very small smiles. I had by that time taken over 100 photos of the Bio Bank at various angles and perspectives. Frank likes me to be ‘creative’ in my photography.
“Mr. Huntington, it is time for lunch. Will you join me?”
“Of course. Frozen TV dinners?”
“I have something less plebian in mind. My GAIC will show you to a guest room where you can freshen up and then he will take you to the castle where we will continue our conversation.”
“This way Mr. Huntington. It will be a pleasure for me to serve you,” intoned the GAIC unit with a slight British accent that sounded like some posh butler. Lutts headed off in the opposite direction like a man on a mission.
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