19th December 1999
would happen on December 31st? Could he save himself?
By M.T.L. Ebell
Sam Jenkins enjoyed viewing "Good Will Hunting". Wasn't he a Will Hunt himself? A chauffeur to the director of Mensa, Sam knew he had an IQ in the upper ranges. This he had discovered reading Reader's Digest. The Mensa quiz he found in there had been a snap. Further tests and quizzes confirmed this. After that he kept his eyes and ears open and learned all he could about his employer and his world. As a pastime he read all papers and files left by Hank Goddard in the limousine. If his employer left it, Sam figured he could read it.
One day there was a folder stamped Y2K. For over twenty years the year 2000 had been Hank Goddard's obsession. Long before it became politically invaluable, he spent long hours and much research into predicting the outcome of the dreaded row of nougats at midnight December Thirty First 1999. With the immense network of Mensa members he planned, calculated and built. He harvested ideas from diverse cultures and nationalities and he perfected his idea. A realist, he did not expect to "save" the world but he hoped to conserve a core that would take humankind beyond Two Thousand.
The 'Mensa Lab' came into being in the Nineteen Nineties. Situated in the Sahara Desert its closest neighbour was the Hotel Sahara Hilton fifty kilometres away. It rose, a concrete structure shimmering in the desert sun. At a distance its height seemed to vary, looking square at times, at others rectangular. A mirage, no doubt.
In a week's time, in mid-December, eleven people in different parts of the world would receive a neat letter in their mail. These comprised academics, technicians, professors, a schoolboy and a housewife. These were the winning participants of a top Mensa exercise. Chosen from entrants numbering over three thousand, they had volunteered to spend the New Year weekend away from their families, at the Mensa lab. It was all in the interests of science. At this lab they learnt, were the most sophisticated instruments measuring all aspects of human life. Respiration, metabolism, physical and mental activity and even feelings. The members of the winning team would allow themselves to be hooked to these machines so that all effects of the change to the year 2000 could be viewed through the reactions of this cross-section of humanity. The twelfth member was Hank Goddard.
Goddard was a great salesman. Not only had he sold this idea to the board of his organisation, and convinced the World Bank, and other interested bodies into backing this plan, he had also convinced them that it was necessary and would work. Only he knew that this elaborate plan was merely to preserve a fragment of mankind for the future. The Mensa lab was not going to provide details of metabolism over a changing date. No. Hank Goddard believed that the known world would end in the chaos generated by failing electronic systems and he had provided himself with the best raw material for the continuation of the human race.
He included himself in this category with no compunction. He had exceptional intelligence and he knew it. On the twenty-fourth of December he and his team would enter the lab. And would effectively seal themselves in. At nine p.m on the Thirty First, he would activate a switch which would cause the lab to sink twelve feet into the earth. The foundations were a marvellous feat of engineering. The process took two hours at the end of which, the basement of the lab would be on level with the entrance to what could only be termed "The Bunker". In the Bunker, a stark structure with none of the luxuries of the lab, the director hoped he and his team would survive to face another age. Facilities were basic, the emphasis being laid on storage tanks of water, oxygen and food pellets.
Sam took a deep breath. He had read the folder through from cover to cover. A cryptic scribble at the bottom of page four he had copied to ponder on later. So, the director fully expected the world to end. The b......! Couldn't he have given his old chauffeur a hint? He noted that while the other members or the chosen few were to be ferried in helicopters, he, Sam, was to drive the director to the lab from the airport. Well, a little globe-trotting wouldn't be unwelcome. He, Sam, a Vietnam veteran, had lived to face another conflict. He frowned. He was totting up the number of trips the 'copter was detailed to make and mentally ticking off participants when his boss returned to his vehicle.
Hank Goddard was satisfied. The letters had been finalised. Eleven for the others and one for him. Most people had been impressed by the fact that he was taking part in this exercise. A director need not bother. Well known to be a devoted father and grandfather, surely he would prefer to spend the time with his son's family? He smiled. Well, he would be spending time with them. Tim's IQ had been a disappointment to his father but Goddard was not going to let that stand in his way. He was going to save not only humanity but his own family as well. Hadn't he promised his dying wife? Luckily, nobody knew what this stupendously costly elaborate plan was all about.
The limousine swerved sharply. Almost as if he read his employer's mind Sam knew what the cryptic scrawl meant. There was to be an extra trip to the lab. And in that helicopter would be Goddard's son, a man Sam had frequently heard referred to as.... "of no more than average intelligence" and his family. Well, well. Should that be allowed to happen?
Sam did not think so. When Sam returned from Vietnam he had lost his wife and his mother, one to cancer and the other to alcohol abuse. Sam had made a conscious decision then, to live, and felt no man had the right to take away this right. The equal right to live. If high IQ was the criterion it should apply to all. Sam had no way of knowing who would have been next on the director's list of chosen people but he certainly knew someone whose rating was higher than that of Tim Goddard.
Sam set about making travel plans, which he had hastily to cancel. Hank Goddard wanted Sam to accompany him to the Mensa lab, then drive back to the Hilton for a week. "After that I need you to make a special delivery." Then," said Goddard, "you can leave." That Sam might have plans of his own was irrelevant to Goddard; he was the chauffeur after all. That it was a coincidence did occur to Sam. He took it as an encouragement.
Two days before Christmas Hank and Sam arrived at the Mensa lab. The director gave Sam an intensive tour of the place. There was no other audience and Goddard's intense pride in his brainchild colluded to further Sam's fortune. Sam hid the fact that he now knew the blueprint of the lab inside out.
Christmas at the Hilton made a pleasant change for Sam. He did not see any of the arrivals at the lab but knew that everything must have worked out well. On the morning of the Thirty First, Tim Goddard, his wife and his son arrived. There was an emergency, they said, they had to see Hank. "I have to make a "Special Delivery" Sam. Dad said you would help."
Driving to the lab, Sam deliberately shut out the picture of the tense family in the truck. He planned. He would have to be in the lab before the Goddards. And he would have to set off The Switch. This would activate a central locking device which would seal all the doors and windows and start a ventilation system which was programmed to work until midnight.
Following instructions Sam spoke into the speakerphone set the doorway. Ignoring instructions he walked in alone. He made his way to The Switch. He turned it on. The team would all still be hooked to their machines. The director should be out by now. The director was farther out than Sam had expected. He had stepped out to welcome his family.
"Let them all in, I said to Sam," he explained, hugging his grandson as his family alighted. "Where is....?" He broke off as a beeper went off in his pocket. He turned round staring in disbelief. "Who....? Sam?! "Sam! Sam!" he shouted fruitlessly. Then he pushed a button on his beeper. "Listen Sam. What are you doing?"
"It's what I have done Mr. Goddard. It's too late to undo, isn't it?" "I don't understand Sam. Why?"
"Your son's no genius Goddard. Why should he get a chance?"
"You don't understand. I was going to leave."
"Yet..." Sam's voice reflected uncertainty. "My IQ is a hundred and sixty four, Mr. Goddard. Why your son and not me?"
The lab with scarcely a shake or shudder began its descent. Already the entrance seemed shorter. "The boy, Sam, the boy. Not Tim." The director's voice relayed on the intercom had brought out all the other members of the team. Eleven to one. Sam shook his head in disbelief. The director's voice came over, fainter now. "One eighty nine Sam, One eighty nine....."
(To be continued)
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