I am sure that Eric left prematurely because of me. In only a short space of time it was clear that my presence made him very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, by assigning some tasks he had at least made me feel welcome.
To an extent.
Alice and the Tech team had no issues with my helping them. It was only the Farm Crew that had visible umbrage when I was in their vicinity, whilst Michael and Emile were a picture of ambivalence. It was a tough introduction which made me driven towards gaining acceptance through proving my value to the whole team.
Sensing the antagonism from the Farm Crew, Alice first got me to work closely with the Tech team. Over the next week, I would be the test subject in various vehicles that were placed under attack.
“Not that I’m trying to get out of this as I’m happy to be involved, but why can’t you build a ‘crash test dummy’ for this?” I asked, quite rightly so in my mind.
“We were using one, but the data is pretty static,” said Ricky.
“It needs a human output,” continued Scott, “The data we got from the dummy only tells you certain things.”
“You will be able to give us data that the dummy cannot tell us – like how it felt,” said Dan, “This will help us build protective armour for the pilots and drivers and also where to build the strongest defence points on the vehicles.”
“You will still be wearing the dummy jacket,” said Sally, “Though it will be modified to measure synaptic responses too. You’ll also be wearing a pre-emptive helmet for the second phase of the testing that will measure discharges from weapons in a set radius that will help you react accordingly.”
“Okay,” I replied, amazed at how they carried on from each other, “I guess that answers my query. Just one other thing, how did you do that?”
“Appear to carry on the explanation from each other. It was seamless.”
“We’re networked,” they all said in a quadraphonic unison that was more than a little creepy.
“Right, but how?” I questioned, “And just one of you this time!”
“We created a link between each other’s thoughts,” said Dan, taking the lead, “Basically, our thought-stream sends a signal to a central node which is shared out amongst the others. We can shut this off whenever we want and only use it when working.”
“But why?” I asked, probably being somewhat naïve.
“Two reasons,” said Scott, “Firstly, if there is a group problem our thoughts are all amplified and we can solve the problem much quicker than on our own.”
“And secondly,” carried on Ricky, pushing his luck somewhat, “If one of us is working on an individual problem that we may be struggling with, then our thought process can be intercepted by one of the others to work towards a solution.”
“Makes sense I guess,” I agreed, “Okay, that’s my questions answered. Shall we get on with the testing?”
The only vehicles that they had built so far were the automated cars and a small one man tank. The first tests that they were going to perform would be on the automated cars. The first part of this would be in automated mode and then in free drive mode with the pre-emptive helmet on.
“What we’re attempting to measure here is how the vehicles react to a blast radius and whether we need to modify them. You’re not going to come under any direct attack, though it will be a bumpy ride.”
And so the testing began. For the next few hours I provided vital feedback about how blasts of different magnitudes at varying distances from the vehicle travelling at a range of speeds had an effect. After a short break of an hour, I was given the pre-emptive helmet and the controls to the car. This was the part of the test that I had been waiting for.
The helmet was really a misnomer as there was no physical presence of a helmet at all. It was actually just a piece of code patched directly into the digital versions of the visual and motor cortex’s The code was in tune with the immediate vicinity and had it mapped out in a series of concentric spheres. It looked for breaches in these circles and anticipated impact points. It then sent messages to the relevant cortex’s about how to react best. For instance, if the impact was going to happen ninety metres in front of the vehicle travelling at thirty metres per second in three seconds, then an immediate sharp swerve either left or right would be required.
Although not fully human controlled, it was designed to give us the edge. The tech team fully intended to have two versions of the cars with the automated one being used for the localised transport network and a lightweight freely driven one for speedy movement between zones and ultimately resistance purposes.
These tests were actually enjoyable compared to the automated vehicle tests. These ones actually gave me a sense of purpose. A sense that I was achieving something as part of a team. And at the root of it all, a sense that by putting myself in a controlled firing line that I was building trust.
After a few more hours of rigorous testing it was time to analyse the results. I watched as the tech team pooled their findings in subconscious conference, waiting for them to ask for my input. They never did. I thought that perhaps my on the fly feedback had been enough for them and tried not to feel a little bit left out.
Eventually, they acknowledged my presence.
“EricToo, thanks for your help today,” said Sally, “Your feedback has been vital to us. Based on what you have told us throughout the testing process we have taken on board some of your recommendations and made the necessary improvements.”
“Yes,” continued Ricky, “The freely driven car is now twenty percent less likely to be affected by a medium magnitude blast within fifty metres of the vehicle.”
“We have also been able to make improvements to the pre-emptive helmet,” said Scott, “The reaction time to blasts is now ten milliseconds quicker and the information processing to the relevant cortex’s is a further ten milliseconds on top of that.”
“As you can see,” said Dan, annoying me that they couldn’t stick to speaking though one person, “Having a human subject rather than a simple dummy automaton has helped us make huge steps to wards making the machines as efficient and as manoeuvrable as possible.”
Annoyed as I was by their insistence of pass the parcel speech, I was relieved that they had given me credit for my part in the testing process. To be a subject is one thing, but to be the inspiration for change is another. And though I was not suffering from delusions of grandeur about my part in the improvements considering I actually hadn’t done the hard coding, I did know that they couldn’t have made those improvements without me.
And that to me was something to cling on to.