It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive.
C. W. Leadbeater
Doktor Frogg was pleased with how smoothly the project was proceeding. Every session showed that Alison was making progress in her abilities as a psychic. He was also being very careful about keeping the secondary function of the unit, brainwashing, hidden from his assistants and anyone else at the University that showed interest in his experiment.
After Alison finally got over the initial shock at scoring high with the Zener Card test she became more efficient at matching cards. Frogg was being very careful not to try to push the issue and cause outstanding improvement in her abilities too quickly. He had two reasons for that. Reason number one was that he didn't wish to alarm his subject with rapid and radical change. The second reason was that the device was operating in some unknown territory neurologically speaking. Baby steps would help to prevent any psychological or physiological damage to the subject.
The schedule had a tendency to fluctuate, partly due to the fact that Alison was a freelance artist and partly due to the fact that Garcia and Lizowski were involved in summer athletic programs. It was apparent to Frogg that the work they did for him was less voluntary and more necessary. They must have messed up somehow and the work they put in on the psionic enhancer experiments was to gain favor or earn credits needed to stay enrolled. Any other scientist would have been incensed at being assigned lab assistants that were more sports jocks than scientists. For Frogg, it worked in his favor. They were less likely to be so nosey as to closely examine his invention and discover its hidden purpose.
As the device slowly and minutely raised Alison's abilities, it also recorded her brains responses and abilities to synchronize with the enhancer. This would give him an idea of how to bypass her brains' natural resistance to being coerced into altered states.
Once Alison consistently scored high with the Zener Cards, Doktor Frogg moved onto Remote Viewing. Garcia and Lizowski would go to some location on or off campus. One of them would just relax as the other would take notes and photos of the surroundings. While they were away, Alison would focus her concentration on which ever one of the assistants was designated as the target and try to "see" where he was. She would then attempt to give descriptions of his surroundings. To Frogg's approval, she showed proficiency in that psychic ability as well. At first it was just vague things like colors and shapes, then later her descriptions became more specific.
Frogg decided to test her ability to sense not only where the target was, but what he was doing. He chose Lizowski as the target that day and instructed him to be involved in an activity. It was Garcia's responsibility to record Lizowski's movements and surroundings.
Alison sat quietly in the comfortable chair, relaxed, her eyes not seeming to be focused on her own surroundings. "Trees, a gray shape with water flowing over... oh a fountain. It's of a woman holding something," she murmured. It was typical of her other sessions.
Frogg checked the camera and sound equipment he used to record Alison's progress. He then noticed that she was kind of swaying, her head turning slightly side to side. Her eyes were darting back and forth, yet did not seem to be focused on anything in the laboratory. "What's happening now?" asked Frogg.
Alison's eyebrows pulled closer together. She shifted her weight in the chair so that she was positioned somewhat sideways, her gaze over her left shoulder. "Every thing's moving, coming at me," she said as she continued to slightly sway.
"Can you describe any of the images?"
"It's hard. As soon as I can see something, it comes towards me and rushes past."
Frogg thought that he might have been pushing her a bit too hard. Maybe it would be a good idea to end this session and give her a couple of days to off to recoup before trying again.
Alison's swaying motion went from smooth and slow to quick and jerky. She then cried out, threw up her hands and went sailing out of the chair.
"Alison!" Frogg went to help her off the floor. "Are you all r..."
"Butt." Alison interrupted.
"A butt. You asked me what I was seeing. That's what I saw. A great big butt right in my face."
"That does it," he thought. "I have pushed her too hard." Frogg called Garcia on his cell phone. "Hey, I'm calling it a day."
"It's a good thing," the voice on the other end returned. "I was about to call you to tell you we were going to have to end the session."
"Bring your notes and the recorded footage back to the lab," Frogg glanced at his watch. "We'll grab something to eat, and I'll go over the data later." One of the perks of having a well funded project was that not only did it pay for supplies and equipment, there was no restriction on treating his assistants, his test subject and himself to lunches or dinners all on the endowment's tab. Every day that they worked at the lab they'd go out for at least one meal. He was careful not to make it elaborate though. He didn't want to raise any red flags and compromise the project.
They chose an Italian restaurant not far from the campus and engaged in innocuous conversation. Doktor Frogg preferred if they limited discussing the project as much as possible during breaks and meals. That was to insure that they wouldn't get "burned out". He prohibited discussing the most recent tests, especially when the data had not yet been fully examined.
The conversation consisted of movies, music, Garcia and Lizowski especially loved to talk about sports and girls. One subject they all could talk about was Professor Conniff. He was very much involved in the administration of the Engineering department of the University, but didn't instruct many classes. When he did, it seemed that he was just re-phrasing word for word whatever chapter from the text book the class was on that week. Lizowski said that he loved taking classes from Professor Conniff because all he had to do was to memorize the "Points To Remember" section at the end of each chapter and he would do well on tests. That with the fact that he could get away with skipping more than half the classes.
Garcia pointed out that Professor Conniff didn't grade any of the tests either. He'd get students to do that for him. At least he showed great interest in all of the experiments and developmental projects in the Science and Technology departments.
Alison wouldn't know anything about that, being an artist. "I'm just trying to figure out what's the deal with his hair?" She wondered. "It's like an over-the-top Elvis Presley style in platinum."
"Not exactly a hair style you'd think someone with an authority position would choose," pointed out Lizowski.
"Yeah," Garcia agreed. "Instead of saying, 'respect me', it says, 'mock me'."
Frogg couldn't help but join in on their laughter. Not that his usual hair style was much better. At least in his defense, he couldn't help the way his hair looked too much. It was thick, wavy, and had a tendency to do whatever it wanted. Conniff's 'do was on purpose. Obviously he put a lot of time and effort into making it look like a poofed up pompadour.
Lizowski was laughing at the last comment and winced as his hand went to his side.
"You okay?" his friend asked.
"Yeah," Lizowski answered. "It only hurts when I laugh."
"What happened?" Alison asked.
"Oh, I just took a little spill earlier today." Lizowski answered her with his typical, eyes half closed smile of his. "No biggie, just a bruise."
"It's why I was glad when Doctor Grier ended today's session," added Garcia.
"Aah," Frogg butted in raising a hand. "I haven't made any conclusions on today's session yet."
"That's right bro," Lizowski agreed. "So I'll change the subject. How's about for tomorrow's dinner break we go to Don Eduardo's? They make the best Mexican meat ball soup."
Alison shook her head. "You guys go ahead if you like. I'll have to sit that one out."
"Don't you like Mexican food?" Frogg asked his test subject.
"Not really," she replied. "It seems that no matter what I order, everything tastes the same to me."
"How so?" Garcia asked.
"All I can taste is the salsa," Alison explained. "And the jalapenos. Even if they are the mild kind they just over power the flavor of everything else, making it all taste the same to me. I might as well just be eating the salsa and I don't care for salsa all that much."
"All right then," Lizowski said. "Sushi again?" They all agreed on a local Japanese restaurant. Frogg didn't particularly enjoy sushi, but the tempura at that establishment was very good.
After they finished the meal and parted, Doktor Frogg returned to examine the days experiment before returning to the Lair. He uploaded the digital video of both Alison at the laboratory, and the footage of Lizowski recorded by Garcia. He set it up so that both of the videos were shown side by side, and synchronized in the timeline as well.
The video of Lizowski revealed that he was in a nearby park, skateboard in hand. He was standing by a fountain of a woman in flowing grecian robes holding up a conch shell with water flowing from it.
Frogg's eyes darted from left to right, observing both Alison and Lizowski's actions. Lizowski tossed his skateboard onto the pavement, expertly hopped onto it, and began to skate through the park, picking up speed, sailing past trees and bushes along the walkway. Frogg noticed that Alison had shifted her position in the chair, mimicking the skateboarding stance that Lizowski demonstrated. She continued to move, shift her weight, even glance left to right exactly as the skater and at the same time.
Lizowski continued to pick up speed as he skated, a determined expression grew on his face. Frogg guessed that he was about to perform some kind of stunt. Before he could get the chance to, some children ran out of the bushes into his path. Lizowski quickly dodged them. He lowered his stance and struggled a bit to recover his balance. Before he could regain control, a tall and very obese man stepped into his path. Frogg was watching without sound, but he could see that both Lizowski and Alison were crying out at the same time. Both had raised their arms in anticipation of impact. Lizowski skated right into the fat man, his face slamming into a very large rear end. As Lizowski lost control and landed sideways onto the concrete, Alison fell from the chair onto the laboratory floor.
"Yes!" Frogg shouted out in triumph as he pounded a fist onto the metal table. "Yeeowch!" He had forgotten that he wasn't wearing his claws.
Frogg decided it was best not to let his subject or assistants know how exceptionally precise Alison's last remote viewing session went. Instead he moved along to testing her for telepathy. It's pretty much what she had already been tested for with the Zener Cards, but without the crutch of only 5 different symbols to choose from.
One of the assistants would be in the observation room; a small chamber with one way mirror-glass. Alison would be in the laboratory main room. The assistant would have a picture or photo of one item such as an animal, toy, chair, or a flower. The assistant was given the instruction of clearing his mind and focusing his concentration on the photo, trying not to allow his mind to wander from anything but what he was gazing on. Alison's job was to make a sketch of whatever came to mind.
The next couple of days were dedicated to the telepathy tests. Each time she would spend a few minutes of conditioning with the psionic enhancer, then the latest experiments. Every attempt showed marked improvement.
The last session of that type of test, Frogg gave Lizowski a picture of an elephant to focus on. After a couple of minutes of gazing off into space, Alison began to sketch. Frogg glanced over her shoulder and saw that what she was sketching had a definite elephant shape to it.
She continued to sketch the elephant but when it looked as though she was more than half way done with it she stopped. Her eyes seemed to be focused on something not physically in the room. She gazed into empty space like that for about fifteen-seconds, then tossed the sketch aside, took a clean sheet of paper, and began to start over.
Frogg felt disappointment creep over him. She had been doing so well. Perhaps the latest adjustments he made to the device had a degrading effect. He continued to watch as she finished her sketch. It was of an attractive young woman with a rather docile, almost sleepy expression.
"All right Alison," he learned to conceal his reactions to her performance. It was best not to let the subject see any excitement or displeasure at the results. "Why don't you take a break while we document these results?"
Alison went outside to stretch her legs. Lizowski returned from the observation room. "So how'd she do this time, doc?" He asked.
"Well, it certainly wasn't an elephant." Frogg replied.
Lizowski glanced at Alison's sketch she left on the table and drew in a sharp gasp. He picked it up and stared at it slack jawed.
"What's wrong?" Garcia asked his friend.
Without saying a word Lizowski held up the sketchpad for Garcia to see. "Hey, that looks just like Star." Lizowski could only nod in silent agreement.
Frogg's attention was peaked. "Who's Star?"
"She's a girlfriend of mine from a few years back. We broke up after she went goth. Not that I wanted to. She knew that I wasn't into the whole goth scene and decided that we didn't have enough in common anymore." He looked at the sketch again. "This is exactly what she looked like before she died her hair and had her lip pierced. I've been thinking about her all day."
"Whoa!" Garcia exclaimed.
The news was encouraging to Frogg. Alison had started to draw the elephant, but because the memory of Lizowski's old flame held more emotional importance to him, the image she received changed from the animal in the photograph to the portrait of his ex-girlfriend.
"I think we can determine today's session as a hit instead of a miss," Frogg grinned at his assistants. "Don't you agree, gentlemen?"
Both of the students were too stunned to answer.
The next afternoon Doktor Frogg had the lab to himself. His two assistants had the night off and he planned on doing some upgrading on the device, then testing it when Alison arrived. A shipment of new electrodes and wave modulators had just come in and Frogg was busy with changing out the old hardware for the newer, more efficient stuff. He was seated at a workbench intensely focused on his task. Some of the components were very expensive and he didn't want to be wasteful in case that generous endowment for the project were to become somewhat less generous with carelessness.
He had all of the new components installed but one. The casing around the last electrode had jammed. It should pop open with just a bit of pressure applied upwards with the end of a screwdriver, or a coin should do it even. Frogg kept shifting his weight and the position of the psionic enhancer, trying to get the leverage he needed for the infernal piece to comply to his will.
Holding the head piece in his left hand, the screwdriver in his right, he pressed harder and harder until the unit slipped. It slid from his grasp, rolled across the table as the business end of the screwdriver gouged across the palm of Doktor Frogg's left hand. He cupped the back of his left hand with his right, and pressed his wounded hand into his chest. Pain shot up his palm into his arm. He gingerly tried to take a peek to asses the damage he'd done to himself. As he slowly took his hands away from his chest, the fabric of his white lab coat stuck to his palm, then slowly peeled away revealing a gash at the base of the palm running from about the pinky finger almost to his thumb. Blood was oozing freely from the wound and had soaked his bright, white lab coat.
A wave of nausea went through him. He quickly jumped from his chair which was a big mistake. Now a wave of dizziness arrived to keep the nausea company. His right hand grabbed onto the table to steady himself and he became aware of a faint buzzing sound in his ears. He needed to make it to the sink where there were paper towels to staunch the bleeding with. He glanced across the lab to where the sink was located. It seemed as if it were further away than just a few moments ago. The buzzing sound became ringing, then the ringing grew louder and louder as the dizziness and sickening feeling intensified as well. He tried to take a step toward the sink then grabbed onto the table again. He knew he wasn't going to make it, not when he was feeling like this. His vision started to blur, colors seemed to mute, turning grayish. He held onto the table as if for dear life trying to will away the sensation that he was going to throw up any second. The ringing in his ears became deafening. He couldn't feel himself falling. It was as if the entire laboratory just tilted up as he watched his right hand slide away from the table. He didn't even feel himself hit the floor.
".....ank.....ank.....ank...." A woman's voice, faint and far away. "Frank..... Frank..." A little clearer now. The voice was familiar. The name was not.
Besides the voice, the other thing that came back to his awareness was the laboratory ceiling. Rows and rows of beige-white rectangles. He didn't know that's what it was, it was only what his blurred vision could make out. Then the next thing his awareness was able to grasp was the face of the young woman bending over him. It was a familiar face that went with the voice. Bending over? He then realized he was on the floor and tried to get up. The nausea and ringing sound returned.
"Don't move yet," the girl said. "You still look very pale. Stay down." The girl left his side.
Frogg wasn't in any position to be arguing. Lying motionless seemed less unpleasant than trying to move anyway. The girl didn't go far. He could hear the sound of running water. She returned and put something wet and cool onto his forehead. "Alison," her name returned to him.
"Better?" Alison asked.
"A little. I still feel like I might throw up though."
"Wait here, I'll be right back." Alison left him again. This time exiting the laboratory. She didn't go far. He could hear the shift, slide, clunk of the soda machine in the hall.
She returned with a can of soda in hand. "Try to sit up. Slowly! Take it easy." She opened the can and showed it to him. "Ginger ale. It always helps settle my stomach when I feel queazy."
She helped Frogg to sit up, her arm across his shoulders to steady him. Frogg took the can with his uninjured hand and sipped. The sickening feeling decreased almost immediately. "Thank you," he said in a weak voice. "That helps a lot." His vision was still badly blurred. "I can't see very well right now."
"Oh, here you go." Alison removed the dampened paper towel from his forehead and placed Frogg's glasses back onto his face. "It's a good thing that they didn't break when they fell off. Have you considered wearing contact lenses?"
"Contact lenses and I don't get along very well." Frog answered. He began to feel as if he were thinking more clearly. "How long was I out?"
"I don't know," Alison answered looking more than a bit worried. "You were unconscious when I got here. I'd better take you to the emergency room."
"That won't be necessary."
"You must have lost more blood than it looks like you have if you're passing out. Let me take a look," Alison began to remove a wad of paper towels that were stuffed into the palm of Frogg's left hand. He had been so out of it he hadn't even noticed they were there.
Alison lifted the makeshift bandage to reveal a wound that was still seeping. "Oooh," the color drained from his face again and he swayed sharply.
Alison quickly replaced the paper towels into his palm and grabbed his shoulder to steady him. "Frank... Frank! Are you still with me?"
"Do you usually faint at the sight of blood?"
"Only if it's my own."
"Well, that's good to know, " Alison couldn't help flashing an amused grin, "and a relief that this isn't as serious as it first looked. How did this happen by the way?"
"I was installing new components into the enhancer when the screwdriver slipped."
Alison raised up on her knees, peered onto the surface of the work table, grasped the offending tool and examined it. "This thing looks like it has some machine oil on it, metal shards too. We'd better clean that cut out." She placed the screwdriver back onto the table. "Can you make it over to the sink?"
Frogg nodded an affirmative. Alison helped him to his feet and steadied him as they made their way across the laboratory. When they reached the sink, Alison turned the water onto a gentle flow. "I'm going to run some water over your cut. You'd better look away."
Frogg complied and looked over his right shoulder. He winced as he felt the cool water trickling over his wound.
"This isn't as bad as I thought," he heard Alison say. "It's long, but not deep. It just wants to bleed a lot. Cuts on the hands and head have a tendency to do that. You won't even need stitches." Alison turned off the water and placed a fresh wad of paper towels onto his palm. Then she walked over to the first aid kit that was a few feet away, opened it and removed some items. She returned and placed the bandages, an antibiotic gel and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide next to the sink.
She removed the paper towels again and held his left hand over the sink, "This should bubble out any grit or oil that might still be in there." She poured the liquid into the gash on his palm.
The dull ache that had been coming from his wound suddenly woke up to sharpness again. "Gah!" Frogg flinched and started squirming.
"Frank, I need you to hold still."
The hydrogen peroxide began to bubble causing a sickening, tickling sensation to crawl around his palm and up his arm. "Kind of hard to right now," he said between gritted teeth. "What are you putting on it anyway, Pop Rocks?"
"Yes, I'm pouring candy into a wound," she picked up some more clean paper towels, placed them into his palm. She then took his hand in both of hers and pressed.
Frogg jumped, "Ow... ow... OW!" He instinctively yanked his arm nearly pulling his hand out of her grasp. "Hey! That smarts!"
"I have to apply pressure to stop the bleeding." Alison calmly explained.
"Yes, but do you have to use your GI Joe kung fu grip?" His foot kicked involuntarily at the cabinet below the sink.
"I had no idea you were such a big baby."
"Gee, thanks Florence Nightingale."
"Nah, more like Florence Henderson," she retorted. Frogg couldn't help but chuckle. She turned her gaze from his injury toward his face, grinned and said, "At least you still have your sense of humor."
Once the bleeding stopped, she applied the antibiotic gel and bandaged his cut. "You're going to need to get out of that," she said and pointed to his lab coat.
Frogg glanced down. He had forgotten that he had bled onto the white over garment. It was stained with blood from the middle of the chest down to almost where it stopped at mid-thigh. His face turned pale again as he staggered backward a couple of steps. Alison placed her hands on his shoulders, steadied him and helped him into a chair.
"Do yourself a favor and just keep your eyes closed for now." She unbuttoned the lab coat as he complied, holding his eyes shut even as he stood for a moment while she removed the soiled garment from him. "You're lucky. The blood didn't soak through the lab coat onto your clothes."
"Lucky?" Frogg snorted, "Tell that to my hand." Frogg could hear the water in the sink running again. He opened his eyes. Alison had placed the soiled coat into the sink and was running water over it.
"You need to call custodial or whoever takes care of these things. It's been rinsed out soon enough, they might be able to keep it from staining." Alison turned off the water and ringed out the material.
"I'll do that," Frogg said, "but more than likely they just throw them out and get new ones."
Alison left the damp lab coat in the sink. She retrieved the half-full can of ginger ale where they left it by the work table, pulled up a chair, sat across from Frogg and handed him the soda. "How are you doing? Any more nausea, faintness?"
"I'm much better, thank you." Frogg took another sip of ginger ale and felt it start to relieve is stomach. "Right now I feel more embarrassment than anything else."
"Don't be embarrassed. A lot of people can't stand the sight of blood."
"It's silly really. I've had much worse than this, and I didn't faint then."
"How so?" Alison's curiosity was peaked.
Frogg held up his right hand. "See this?" He asked, referring to a patch of pink skin that covered most of the back of his hand.
"I've noticed that before," Alison acknowledged. "Isn't that a birth-mark?"
Frogg shook his head, "It's a scar from a chemical burn. A caustic liquid was spilled on it during a chemistry class. Oh, and this," Frogg turned over his left hand and pointed to a series of scars than ran in a thin white line from just below the first knuckle of his index finger, across his middle finger, to above the second knuckle on his ring finger. "This happened in an engineering class. I was trying to cut some metal for a robot the class was designing. These three digits were sliced off. They were re-attached in the emergency room." Frogg let out a long sigh, "I didn't faint during either one of those incidents, but nowadays if I get more than a scratch, it's lights out."
"It sounds like you have some kind of post-traumatic-stress-disorder," she said reassuringly. "More importantly, it seems as though you are awfully hard on your hands. You should consider wearing welder's gloves, or chain-mail gloves, or... something."
"Yes," he smiled, "or something."
"Whatever you had planned for us to work on today will have to wait until that cut heals a bit." Alison remarked.
"But there is so much we have to do," Frogg protested, "and I still have an electrode to install into the head piece."
"It'll have to wait," Alison crossed her arms, "if you don't give it a rest and allow that hand to heal, it will just open up and start bleeding again." Frogg gave her a sidelong glance. "You might as well accept it. You can't conduct the experiments without me anyway and I won't cooperate until your cut gets better."
"I guess you're right." Frogg finally relented. "I'll just have to sit here until nine o'clock."
"A friend's giving me a ride home. He won't be able to make it before then."
"I could give you a ride home right now." Alison offered, "It's no trouble."
And have her drop him off at the Lair? Unacceptable. "Uh, no that's not a good idea. I can't get in touch with him before that, his cell phone is on the fritz." The truth was, Red and Voltar were on a mission and wouldn't be available to come pick him up until later that evening.
"I don't like the idea of leaving you here with nothing to do for that long."
"I'll be fine." Frogg reassured.
"No, you won't," she disagreed. "You'll sit here, get bored, start tinkering around, and probably get that cut of yours to start bleeding again."
Frogg wondered if her insight was due to her heightened psychic abilities, or the fact that they'd been working so closely together for the past several weeks that she could predict what he was most likely to do. He had to admit it to himself, that's probably what would happen.
"I know," she brightened, "let's go see a movie. There's a new comedy that premiered last weekend. I've been wanting to see it, but haven't had the chance. It'll be good for us, we could both use a laugh."
It would get his mind off the project for a while, and his injured hand. "Oh why not," he smiled. "You know what they say about all work and no play."
Frogg dialed the extension for custodial and reported the damp lab coat. Alison helped him to put away the psionic enhancer head piece and lock up the laboratory. Once everything was put away and secured, they headed out together.