“Thank you for coming today.” said Christopher. “We'd like to begin today's demonstration by showing that this prototype which we call AG6, can sustain an anti-gravitational field to support itself.”
There were some sounds that came from the audience that indicated everyone was not convinced. Every few years scientists would claim they have found solutions to some very ground-breaking problems in the fields of energy, cold fusion, alternative fuels, transportation – the list goes on and on. Most of the time just small advancements were shown but affordable or practical solutions would still be years away. There had been some surprises over the years in computers and electronics but for the most part, transportation and energy haven’t changed for decades. In some respects, we have taken steps backward. So the skepticism shown on many faces of the press were understandable.
“AG6 is comprised of an array of 144 individual anti-gravity cells networked together,” Christopher continued. “Each cell has the ability to generate an anti-gravitational field that nearly surrounds itself. But when many cells are linked together, they produce an AG field that encompasses the entire matrix.”
This made perfect sense to many in the audience, but others just looked at one another with questioning glances. They could only quote Dr. Jenkins but they had no idea what he was really talking about.
“I'll demonstrate.” he said. “AG6 weighs approximately 59 kilograms, or around 130 lbs. Once it is activated...” he nodded to a team member who did something on a nearby computer, then nodded back. “...it is virtually weightless.” He nodded to two team members on either side of the device. They bent down and with a single finger on each hand, they lifted the device from the floor. The gasps from the audience gave Christopher a burst of pride. AG6 was literally floating about one meter off the floor.
The audience got to their feet and the entire auditorium was glowing with camera flashes. The applause was deafening and lasted for a full two minutes, as Christopher nodded to the audience in mock humility. He knew this was the biggest advancement in science that man had ever seen, and it was his creation. This was a culmination of his life's work. Of course, even he admitted that this was just the beginning. Until he could figure out how to expand the AG field to encompass more than just the AG cells themselves, this had no practical use. But this was a step in the right direction, and it would provide funding that would allow research to continue for years. At age 60, Christopher felt he had years left in him. His mind was as sharp as ever and he felt that nobody else truly understood the complicated mathematical formula behind the billions of AG field adjustments now taking place on the stage.
As the applause died down the questions started coming in from every direction. Christopher answered each one. Two hours later the auditorium was empty and the team had brought AG6 safely back to the secure lab. They knew that from this point forward, this prototype would be the focus of every physicist around the world and would need to be protected with heightened security.
Christopher thought a lot about that day. It had been over two years ago. He shook his head as he thought about all the work that had gone into expanding the AG field beyond the AG cells but they were no closer to a solution than they were two years ago. But like any good research team, discouragement can never be a factor - all it does is create a distraction, and that was something Christopher could not afford.
“Dr. Jenkins.” said a voice behind him.
Christopher turned to see Warren walking toward him. This was Saturday and although Christopher didn't pay any mind to the day or time when work was concerned, Warren typically didn't come in the lab on weekends. Christopher was irritated at the interruption. Warren was a good guy and very smart. He was about the only one who Christopher could discuss the formula with since Warren had a PhD in both physics and mathematics. Christopher didn't have the patience to work with incompetent people – there was too much to do. So when Warren applied for the open position after the demonstration of AG6, Christopher was impressed with his credentials and educational background. He didn't know at the time that Warren was a religious person. Normally religion didn't come up at work, but Warren had a way of working it in somehow – always innocently of course – despite that fact that Christopher had a mandate that there would be no religious nonsense discussed around him. So the sight of Warren outside of work hours caused a rise in Christopher's blood pressure.
“Sorry to bother you,” said Warren, seeing the look of irritation on Christopher's face.
“Oh, that's OK.” lied Christopher. “What's going on?”
“I just left something on my desk that I needed to pick up,” answered Warren, “I'll only be a second.”
“Alright.” said Christopher as he turned back to his desk.
“Oh, there was one other thing.” said Warren.
“If Warren weren't so good at what he does, I'd have him fired in a minute.” thought Christopher. “What's that?” mumbled Christopher as he turned back toward Warren.
“My wife was wondering if you wanted to come over for dinner tomorrow night. It should be fun.” said Warren with enthusiasm.
“I'm going to put his position up for grabs on Monday. I'm really going to do it this time.” thought Christopher. The nerve of this guy wanting to extend our relationship beyond work. He could just imagine sitting in Warren's living room with little kids crawling all over him. He'd rather have a lobotomy! What's next? Will Warren try to talk him into going to church with him?
Christopher's pause told Warren that he had overstepped his bounds. “Hey, maybe another time huh?”
“Ya.” said Christopher as he turned back to his desk.
Warren walked for the door, but just before he got there he turned back to Christopher.
Christopher noticed him stop and just put up his hand in a “Don't say any more” motion.
Warren turned back to the door and left the lab, the security door clicking behind him.
Christopher let out a sigh and said out loud, “Well, maybe the rest of the weekend will be mine now.” He turned back to the white wall where the AG formula had been written. He often turned to this wall and stared at the formula hoping that something would stand out. Hoping that he could catch something that he had missed.
His desk phone rang. Christopher slammed his hand on the desk, frustrated at these interruptions. He let it ring until it went to voice mail. He let out another sigh. The phone rang again, and again his hand slammed the desk. But this time he answered it with obvious frustration in his voice. “Dr. Jenkins here.”
“Chris. This is Paige. I'm glad I caught you.”
Christopher took another deep breath before answering. “Hi Paige. What's going on?”
“Did I catch you at a bad time?” asked Paige.
There was a pause as Christopher tried to gather his wits before he said anything to his younger sister that would hurt her feelings. “No. Just working.”
“On the weekend, well that's a surprise.” she said lightheartedly. But Christopher didn't respond so she continued. “I was just thinking about you today Chris. I'm wondering if you are alright? I haven't heard from you in a while and...”
“I'm just fine sis. No need to worry.” interrupted Christopher.
“You know me. It doesn't matter how old we are, I still worry.” said Paige.
There was an awkward pause.
“Anything else?” asked Christopher, a little more fierce than he meant.
Paige broke the silence. “Well... Robert and I were just thinking... we wondered if you would consider coming to our home for the Christmas holiday. It's a little over five months away which would give you plenty of time to wrap up whatever you need and just come and relax.”
Paige couldn't bear the silence, so she said, “Maybe you can just think about it, huh? None of the kids are coming home for Christmas and Robert and I thought it would be nice to just sit and visit.”
Another pause. But Paige wasn't going to let Christopher off this time, so she waited.
Christopher just sat there and thought to himself. “What could possibly be more aggravating than spending a few days with my sister and her dolt of a husband. I'm 62 years old, why can't they leave me alone! So I'm single – I choose to be. I like my life and I don't need anyone pushing their agenda on me.” He finally thought that honesty would be best and said, “Look Paige, I really don't think I'd like to. I am perfectly happy spending the holidays by myself. You don't need to worry about me.”
Paige blurted out, “It's not just always about you Christopher. Since my kids have married and moved away, I get lonely too. Robert and I get along just fine, but it's always nice to have visitors – someone you can catch up with, and just sit around and talk about old times with. You are the only family I have left and I don't intend to let us get old and die without spending some time together.”
Another pause as Christopher gathered his wits. “Paige, I have a lot of work to do. Our grant money runs out mid-next year and it will be hard to...”
Paige interrupted calmly, “I understand Chris. But don't fault me if I keep trying OK? I love you.”
“Talk to you later.” is all Christopher could muster. He hung up.
Christopher shook his head. All his life his sister had been trying to strike up a relationship, but their interests were so different that he wondered if he would even miss her if he never talked to her the rest of his life. She and Robert were just workers – manual laborers. They never did apply themselves and get a degree. They decided to have children instead and now look at them. Their kids are married and gone and now they are left to their boring lives. They are also active in their church and so much of their time was centered around it. The few times that they did talk, the conversation always seemed to devolve into a discussion about religion. And what a waste of time that is. It would be more interesting to talk about fairy tales and how to rebuild Humpty Dumpty. If his AG research worked, Humpty Dumpty wouldn't have fallen anyway. The thought made Christopher smile for a moment, but then he let his distaste for religion fuel his anger again.
“What is the point of wasting your time on something that has no real value?” he thought to himself as he turned in his chair and faced the white wall again. He was really getting angry now and he said out loud in a mocking tone, “Believe this, believe that, kneel here, light this candle, don't eat that food, wear this but don't wear that, talk to an imaginary being... what is the point?”
“What's going on? Are you alright Christopher?” came a voice by the security door.
Christopher yelled before he whirled in his chair to face the voice. “Why can't I get some privacy? It's late Saturday night – why can't you people just stay home!”
It was the Dean of the college of science and he was obviously taken aback at Dr. Jenkins reaction. “I was just leaving and saw the light on and thought I'd see if everything was OK. I didn't mean to interrupt anything.”
Christopher was very embarrassed but his pride didn't let him show his loss of control. “I apologize Dean, I'm just trying to concentrate but I keep getting interrupted.”
The Dean asked, “Are you alright Dr. Jenkins? I know the stress can get pretty high when...”
“I'm just fine. Again I'm sorry for the outburst.” said Christopher.
“If you need to talk...” asked the Dean.
“I'm just fine, thank you. I just need time to gather my thoughts. A weekend is a welcome respite – at least it usually is.” answered Christopher.
“OK then. Have a good weekend Doctor.” said the Dean as he left the lab.
After the door lock clicked, Christopher stood up quickly and said with disgust, “I may as well go home – I'd get more privacy there.”