Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Patience (08/21/08)
TITLE: The Project
By Shelley Ledfors
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“What are you doing?” Assistant slammed the door open so rapidly, Clerk had to leap aside to avoid being hit. The youngster’s smile vanished and his eyes widened when he saw the near-eggplant shade of Assistant’s face.
“Just delivering this package addressed to Professor, sir!”
“I’ll give it to him.” Assistant tore the box from the boy’s hand. “How could you be so stupid as to throw this around?” He held the package inches from the boy’s nose. “Don’t you know its value?”
“No, sir. I had no idea. It’s so small I just…”
“You didn’t drop it, did you?”
“No, sir…not at all. I caught it every time.”
Assistant grimaced on hearing ‘every time‘ but he took a deep breath and muttered, “It should be okay...surely they would have packaged it carefully.”
The youngster--encouraged by Assistant’s tone--dared a question. “What’s in there, anyway?”
“ I can’t tell you!” Assistant roared. “Just don’t ever…<I>ever</I> toss what you are delivering again. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir. Never again!” The shaken Clerk fled without daring a look back.
Assistant glanced up at the chart of instructions posted on the wall…though he no longer had need of them. He had cleansed, suited up and entered the class-one cleanroom--where Professor awaited him--often enough in these past months he could follow the procedures in his sleep.
Inside, Assistant’s hands trembled when he tested the contents of the package. He could barely bring himself to look at the readout. If they were unusable…well, to put it mildly, Minister would not be pleased.
“They’re fine. No damage,” he announced with an long exhale into his breathing canister.
He and his boss set to work on the final programming of the miniscule components.
“It’s strange…we may never even see the benefit of what we’re doing today,” Assistant said.
“That’s true. But even if we don‘t, we can be proud of our contribution to the project. The reward to our country will be beyond measure! Eventually we’ll have hundreds--maybe thousands--of modified units installed in the most strategic locations. Through these, our government will gain access to high level meetings, top-secret documents, every form of communication…and no one will suspect a thing!“
The pair finished their work and returned to the outer office just in time to see the hapless Clerk peer through the window then knock. When Professor answered, Clerk thrust an envelope toward him and beat a hasty retreat.
By the time Professor had read through the message he was beaming. “It’s a great honor! Minister himself has invited us to observe the installation of our components into the very first unit which is scheduled for export soon!”
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Assistant and Professor sat surrounded by dignitaries they had previously seen only on news reports. Beyond a glass barrier half a dozen white-suited workers undertook the painstaking installation process. Through monitors which projected the microscopic display, they watched the workers make the intricate connections to link the components to the unit’s data processing and retrieval ports, sensors and more.
Following the installation, workers moved the unit to an adjacent room. Immediately the monitors showed--in perfect detail--the sights and sounds from that room. Exultant murmurs spread among the observers until Chairman silenced them with a raised hand. One test remained. To be successful in its future placement, the modifications to the unit must be all but undetectable. A definitive scan proved it to be so--even from the inside.
Cheering erupted in earnest at this news, yet once again it was quickly stilled. This time by Messenger. Without acknowledging anyone else he strode straight to Minister, saluted, and handed him a folder. Eternity passed in moments while Minister read.
Finally, he cleared his throat. “My friends…as we know, ours in a long-term project. It will take years before the fruits of our labors are ripe for the picking. Some in this room may well have passed on before then. But our patience will be rewarded! Not only is the unit working perfectly…so is the plan. This envelope contains the very best of news! The unit before us will be delivered to a U.S. senator. …He and his wife just signed the adoption papers.”
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