As every product needs testing, Garry and Mona make a baragain to work as top-secret testers... though not necessarily for the product they imagined. (First in a triology of stories!)
Chapter Description: As every products needs testers, Garry and Mona make a baragain to work as top-secret testers... though not necessarily for the product they imagined. (First Story in the triology of (Jumper/Losing Weight/Final Tester)
Garry Thompson sat behind the old oak listening for the sound of a car while waiting in the gloom of a fresh morning. Having travelled all the way from America it was strange to now having nothing to do but to wait, but hell it was worth it. He grinned as he remembered the image of the deep mountain valley his contact had sent him.
Having jumped everywhere from Yellowstone to an air-plane, not mentioning a skyscraper, Thompson was still enthralled by the sheer beauty of the countryside, promising a long glide maybe even down to the sea.
The sound of a car approaching woke him from daydreaming, making him listen intensively. He heard an engine dying and a door being opened.
“Mr. Thompson?!” Someone shouted.
Garry grinned, grabbing his glider and his bag, coming forth to see the person calling him. Middle aged, probably the age he was and definitely the same height, the man looked a bit lost as he stood in front of his Peugeot, looking for him, waving when he finally discovered him.
“Hello Mr. ...” Garry began stepping out of the forest.
“Villiers,” the black-haired man with a tone grey replied. “Please come you can put the bags in the trunk.”
Having done so Garry took place besides the man.
“No mask?” He asked with the hint of irony.
“We have little traffic down here,” Mr. Villiers replied with a smile, starting the car “But you never can be too sure.”
Garry nodded, while not too illegal, his little jump was not exactly legal either and neither of them wanted trouble with the local authority.
“About the other part ...”, he began.
“Oh, the jumpsuits,” Villiers noticed with a smile, driving into a smaller field way, barely large enough for the car. “No second thoughts?”
“Testing it as payment sounds strange.”
“Not as much as you might believe,” the other man replied starring ahead on the road. “We are testing the products for a major company we don't need to talk about.”
The car reached the end of the way, leading to a larger house surrounded by large fences, looking strangely modern for the area. They stopped at a gate.
“We want the best and fittest to test it in a place which is far away from the public so the concurrence doesn't get a hint of the technology.”
With this words Villiers took out something looking like a remote control and by pressing the button he opened the gate.
The car drove in and the gate closed behind them.
“My partner and me,” Villiers explained as the car stopped in a large courtyard and both stepped out. “And the other tester, testing the female suits.”
Garry looked surprised but didn't ask more questions as the other man opened the trunk and handed him his package.
“Follow me I will show you your room and introduce you to the others.”
Following Villiers inside Garry found the inside of the villa as modern as he had expected, the walls decorated with new looking art. Still, the way everything seemed fresh, he would bet some dollars that no one actually lived down there, at last for long.
Passing some closed rooms, they finally reached his, sparely decorated, it mostly consisted of a bed, a chair and a table where Garry could put down his bags. On the bed lay a jumper, red and with two blue stripes crossing the middle. It didn't look very impressive, neither did the plain white sport shoes.
“This is it?” Garry asked amused.
“Don't judge it by the outside,” the other man replied.
Garry noticed something else besides the jumper. White briefs and a white band with a yellow bar in it.
“The underwear?” He picked both up. “Headband?”
“All part of the jumpsuit-set,” Villiers replied. “Wash-room is at the end of the floor. Washing after every session is required to see how much you sweat and you will always get a new suit. Come downstairs in the living room when you are ready.”
His host left, giving Garry some privacy.
Strange!, he thought while changing his clothes and putting his own back in the bags. At least I don't have to wash them myself.
Once he wore the recommended clothes, Garry left his room. Out of curiosity he tried opening the door to his left, but finding it closed. Next, he tried to open the door in front of him, discovering a room nearly identical to his, except for the clothes on the bed which definitely belonging to a woman. Deciding better not to anger anyone, he hurried downstairs.
In what seemed to be the living room he found two women locked in talk. One wore normal comfortable clothes for jogging and glasses, the other wore a suit similar to his, but pink with yellow stripes.
“Oh, I see our other guest has arrived,” the woman with the glasses said. She had curly brown hair and extended her hand when looking up. “I'm Mrs Villiers.”
He shook it. “Garry Thompson.”
“Mona Fisher,” the other woman with long blond hair fixed by a sweatband said, her blue eyes glittering. “And you can believe me that this is my true name!”
Garry laughed. Partly out of nervousness, partly because the colors of her jumpsuit just looked over the top.
“I think anonymity is something we all prefer sometimes,” Mr. Villiers – though Garry agreed with the other tester that this was hardly his name – noticed, walking in from behind, dressed in a jogging suit similar to that of his female partner.
“While my partner is building up the equipment, let me tell you what we will do today,” the man began, handing Mrs. Villiers a case she quickly began to unpack on a table where a laptop was already standing. “To test the different suits, I will make some training sessions with you today. Just so you two can test and rate the various aspects of the products. My partner will then – before, after and during our sessions – test your biological reactions, by taking blood, feeling the pulse and mental checkups ...”
“Whoa wait, wait!” Mona exclaimed, raising her hands. “This sounds more like a biological experiment than product testing.”
“No, it sounds more complicate than it is,” Mr. Villiers reassured her. “But the suits are a very expensive investment for our company and we need to measure every possible effect they could have on you.”
Mona looked rather skeptical at her host and for a moment Garry was sure she would say no and leave, but then she nodded, relaxing a bit.
“Okay,” she gave in. “It is your money.”
Mr. Villiers nodded. Meanwhile his partner had opened the case and placed its interior on the table. She activated some program of the laptop and then connected it with a strange looking machine Garry couldn't identify. Besides this machine was one seemingly for taking the pulse, something like an emitter and something like a platform, clearly connectible to the laptop, too.
They did make an investment here, Garry thought, interested, but not surprised. He knew how much top-sport-gear was worth.
“Not all this is ours,” the woman explained, noticing his look. “We lend something of other companies.”
“Where shall the cutting of the research budget end,” Mr. Villiers noticed in a mock-sad voice. “Now let us begin. Then we can all have a well-deserved breakfast.”
The machine Garry hadn't been able to identify, was to test blood and he winced as the woman used a needle to take some from his middle finger, never having been particular found of visits to the doctors because of this.
This was followed by feeling of the pulse and having to stand on the platform which according to Mrs. Villiers, who unseen to him or Mona checked the result on the laptop, some sort of high-tech scale.
“This,” she added at last, pointing some ribbons connected to some sort of small display, “is the mobile transmitter I must ask you to wear during the sessions.”
“Why?” Mona’s voice had once again a skeptical tone.
“To let me see your stress level.”
The tester looked not completely convinced, but before she could say more Mr. Villiers called from the kitchen.
The breakfast consisted out of a bowl of cereals which tasted oddly sweet to Garry in a way he couldn't put his finger on.
Having finished breakfast, they were lead outside where they started the warming ups.
“I know you will probably find my tempo rather slow,” Mr. Villiers said handing them the ribbons and showing them how to put them on. “But remember this is no race to test your stamina but this suit.”
Both testers nodded and Garry felt himself standing uneasy on his feet already, feeling the urge to move along with a strange feel of warmth amongst his body ever since breakfast.
The faster I do this the sooner I can jump, he thought smiling as they began to jog.
It was an easy path. The soft earth made it easy for them to run after their host. After a while Garry wondered whether the fence only surrounded the entrance of the villa or if it truly enclosed such a large area.
Then his thoughts wandered to Mona, thinking how she certainly looked attractive. His eyes wandered to his side. There she ran while the width of the path allowed it for the moment. Suddenly her blue eyes met his. Embarrassed, Garry let himself fall back.
He started to breath more heavily, not much but still more than he was used to considering the short distance and easy path. Garry kept up, but it became harder and to make matters worse, he felt his shoes becoming loose. Just before he felt really exhausted, they had somehow reached the house again. There Mrs. Villiers was waiting by a table she had placed outside, her gadgets on it as two bottles of water.
“Congratulation for making half of it,” she greeted them, as both began to drink. “How do you feel?”
“Exhausted,” Mona admitted, breathing slower “I feel somehow warm in here.”
“Well, let us see,” Mrs Villiers replied, restarting her tests from before the breakfast.
“Looks all fine,” she concluded before turning to Garry who had retied the bootlaces of his shoes.
To divert his attention of the pain in his finger he looked around and noticed an area with obstacles. They reminded him of an obstacle course he once had raced through, but seemed not really high enough to be of any difficulty for him.
“Further training?” Garry asked as Mrs Villiers fastened the sphygmomanometer around his left arm.
“Yes, for later sessions,” his hostess explained showing on the scale. “One step please.”
“Good results?” He asked after noticing the woman smiling behind the monitor.
“Yes, I notice your metabolism is doing quite fine as expected.” Mrs Villiers replied “This shows the suit is no hindrance.”
“I feel a bit hot,” Garry explained, looking at Mona who had begun with stretching. “And I feel like the suit gets loose.”
“This is intended,” Mr Villiers threw in. “Without revealing too much we use the newest development in nanotechnology to make the material more flexible. It should become tighter again in course of this session.” He looked at his watch. “Time to continue.”
They once again jogged through the forest, but this time Mr. Villiers kept a modest tempo. Still when they arrived back at the villa Garry felt exhausted, as did Mona, as he noticed by her breathing harder.
“The suit definitely gets slacker,” the female tester noticed, pulling at her arm where the suit was now visibly hanging.
“We will check this,” Mrs. Villiers promised, disappointment in her voice as he studied Mona's body, while thus put down the ribbon. “But this must wait. After your checkup you have one hour of rest. Your new suits and shoes already lie on your beds and the shower awaits. Please throw the old suits in the bags we placed on your rooms.”
Having finished his check up and leaving the Villiers to analyze the data, Garraty went upstairs, where Mona had left a minute earlier, finding her holding her new jumpsuit, sweatband and underwear just rushing for the bath.
“Do you mind if we talk a bit later?” He asked.
She looked at him skeptically, but finally nodded.
“I'll knock at your door.”
With that she left him alone on the floor, ready to look after his own room.
Later, after his own shower, it indeed knocked at his door while he sat on his bed. When Mona entered, wearing the female version of the new suit he wore, she looked more relaxed. Indeed, he found she looked even better and somewhat younger than when they had first met, for sure due to having eaten something and the training, not to mention the effect of a good shower.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry,” was the first she said, while closing the door behind herself. “I know I was rude, but this whole situation ...”
“Is weird, yeah,” Garry concluded knowing exactly how she felt. “You don't really trust them, don't you?”
She shook her head.
“With all this equipment it looks more like testing some sort of medicament than anything else to me.”
Garry thought about it.
“The meal tasted a bit strange and I feel a bit hot since then ...” He stopped. “But seriously, taking all this cover just to run tests with some pills ...”
“Would you take part in a medical test just for a jump?” Mona replied sounding irritated, only to add calmer. “It could be some sort of doping substances, with us being fit and doing these sessions it is perfect ... I should have insisted eating what I brought.”
“Whoa wait a moment,” Garry replied, raising his hand in a defensive gesture. “We still don't know that. It could all be true. Besides these two hardly look like drug dealers.”
Mona placed herself on the chair besides him, feeling the heat again.
“You can never be sure ...” She stopped. “Look I don't want to sound paranoid, but promise me to tell me if you notice something strange.”
If they were mad scientists or corporate henchmen, they would probably have listening devices installed here, he added mentally, but put this thought aside for it clearly was paranoid.
“So how do you like the landscape?” Mona began.
She clearly wanted to change a topic, so Garry followed the lead. They talked about different thing like their jumping techniques, where they had jumped before, which sport they did besides this and so much more. Garry felt a certain connection growing which maybe was more than their shared love for sport. Before he had time to explore it though, it knocked on the door and Mr. Villiers entered.
“I didn't want to disturb you,” he excused himself with a smile, “but I need you to fill out forms and then come down. For concentration and better results do it in your room please.”
With this he gave them two pages and left.
“We can continue later,” Mona suggested with a smile. “If you like.”
“Would love to!”
A few seconds later, Garry sat on the table in his room and read through the form, going with the hand over his face and feeling the stubbles.
I need to shave myself, he thought. Or does she like guys with beards?
He concentrated once again on the form in front of him.
1.How do you feel right now?
Full of energy.
2.Did you sweat more than normal?
3.Describe the last training session.
We had two long rounds through the forest, the first one was more challenging since we ran faster and I had to sweat, the second was pretty easy.
4.How do you rate the supervisors(honesty requested)?
They are nice and seem very competent, though it is clear they have no experience in extreme sport.
5.Your greatest fear?
Garry rubbed his chin again, finding the feeling of his stubbles somehow comforting. Should he truly write that the blood tests gave him the creeps? Surely not! So he wrote:
Getting too old to be active./Getting seriously injured.
6.Any suggestions what to do better?
The suit got loose after some time, so an improvement of the material seems needed. Also, to truly test the suit you need to make the sessions more different(you probably already did judging from the obstacle course I noticed).
7.What are suggestion for improvements in our design.
Under the last question Garry found an arrow directing him to the second page, where he found the contour of the suit he just had worn. Looking to the colored pencils laying on the table besides the sheet the tester thought about it.
Coloring forms seemed childish for him, yet the suits could definitely look better with other coloring, so he made it completely deep blue with just two stripes of red at each arm, just like the one he had worn years before when he started parachuting.
Having finished his forms, he walked downstairs, only to find Mona there already, sitting silently on the chair besides Mrs. Villiers who just finished the test. It was stupid, but Garry felt a bit embarrassed that he had seemingly needed so much longer for his form than his fellow tester, but overplayed this with a smile.
Being tested himself and once again wearing the ribbon, he and Mona joined Mr. Villiers who already waited outside.
“Ready?” Their host asked. “Then let me give you another tour through the forest.”
Garry suppressed a moan for while he felt himself full of energy, he had secretly hoped for the obstacle course which promised much more challenge and change. Exchanging a look with Mona, he found her having the same thoughts and the glance in her eyes, seemingly hungry for challenge, made her look even younger than he had believed before, college age at last.
Blaming the good French air for it, Garry fell behind his fellow tester as they began once again to run through the forest, allowing his own thoughts to wander as his feet ran down the now known ways. He imagined the view he would have on the place of his jump, a deep valley in front of him and much ahead of him the promise of an ocean. There he would jump, jump and feel happy, fell free.
While in his thirties he was still in his prime, he knew that time would eventually demand its tribute and top jumps like this were a sweet present he needed to take when they were given to him and …
Garry stumbled and nearly fell, as one of his feet had stepped on the under part of his suit. The latter had somehow become large enough to partly fall over his shoes. He wanted to shout at the others to stop so he could pull it up, but found them a good way ahead of him already.
Deciding not to risk getting lost, Garry ran faster, this time concentrating completely on the here and now. After all, wouldn't it be a cruel joke to go through all this just to not being able to jump because he had been hurt due to his own inattention?
Biting his lip, Garry hurried to catch up with the others and as he had reached them, Mr. Villiers let himself fall back giving Mona the lead.
“Problems?” The man asked.
“The material is loosening again,” Garry explained, looking up at the man frustrated. “The shoes also, worse than the first time.”
Mr Villiers nodded, his expression serious.
“Your partner has the same problem,” he noticed, nodding in Mona's direction. “We will try to jog the rest of the way, but tell me if you have to stop.”
Garry nodded, feeling heat once again radiating of his body as the larger man jogged ahead … then he wrinkled his brows. Hadn't Mr. Villiers been his height before? Garry tried to remember, but as he did, he got the vague idea, that the man looked older now than he had only hours ago.
Clearly this was crap. It was the stress and
especially now he should look at his feet instead to not stumble or possibly
fall again. The jump was what mattered, everything else was just seeing ghosts.
Once again confident and looking mostly on his feet Garry made the rest of the
As they arrived at the house, Mona was glad to hear that Mr. and Mrs. Villiers decided to leave it by this one tour for this session, telling them they had realized the failures in this version of the suits were far too grave for them to continue.
After her own check-up, she intended to wait for Garry, but as Mrs. Villiers came closer to him with the needle, she intended to take his blood with, he looked away, the fear clearly visible in his eyes. Seeing this Mona decided to turn away and leaving for her room. No need to embarrass him by showing she had seen.
Boys were such wimps sometimes, Mona thought amused. And men, too.
She rushed to her room, putting down her clothes. As she did so, she noticed they were unusually sweated. Normally she prided herself to have a better constitution, so the material was probably at fault. The hobby-athlete took up the clothes once again placed on her bed. They had the same design as the ones before, but did look smaller.
Mona stopped in her movement, taking a closer look at the now too large suit. For sure the old one had worn out quite a lot during the short training session. The product seemed truly like a failure and probably a waste of money, so why didn't Mr. and Mrs. Villiers looked more disappointed or frustrated?
It was the sound of steps coming from the stairs which distracted her. Deciding it wasn't important to her, as long as she got the promised jump, she grabbed her new clothes. Mona loved being the first one in the bath and wouldn't get robbed of this just because she thought too much about something which wasn’t her business. After all, she felt hot but otherwise fine, indeed she didn't feel as hungry as she usually did. When she passed Garry on her way to the bathroom, promising to meet him later, she found herself full of energy as she had only felt as a teenager.
In the bathroom, Mona quickly turned on the hot shower, undressed and checked up her body under the hot stream. Aside from feeling good she also felt her body being smoother and slenderer than it had before, touching her hips and firm breasts she believed to even feel an improvement.
“Must be the air,” Mona noticed with a smile as the water washed the shampoo out of her blond hair. “After all people tend to live long here.”
After the shower, on her way back to her room, she thought about the positive side of the suit's failure, for it would allow them to make the jump quicker, maybe even today. Parachuting was great, but the kick of jumping was pure ecstasy, a feeling of freedom, better than sex …
Automatically Mona's eyes turned from her door to the one leading into Garry's room. He was good looking indeed, but … The tester scowled, turning back to her door and forcing herself to enter. What was she thinking? She wasn't there for that and while he was good looking, she had no reason to trust him so far, especially since it was the worst possible time for an one night stand save any kind of relationship.
Closing the door behind her, Mona decided that once again the air was having an effect on her. She sat down on the bed, thinking about when she had trusted too easily before and what it had cost her.
Lost in thoughts about old times she nearly missed the knock on the door.
“You can come in,” she called.
Garry entered and Mona noticed his face looked clean shaven. She liked it, but briefly wondered why he had taken the time for this.
“I didn’t want to disturb you,” he began, “but I thought you wanted to come.”
“I forgot the time,” Mona said finding surprisingly that this was indeed through as she must had daydreamed. “Sorry.”
“No problem,” Garry replied, waiting a moment awkwardly.
“Please sit down.” Mona gave him a smile. “I think we are allowed to rest between the sessions and making our reports.”
“Did you notice how Mrs Villiers looked?” He asked while placing himself into the chair next to her. “She definitely isn't happy about our latest results.”
“She was probably involved in creating the material,” Mona agreed, not being sure of it and feeling only slight sympathy for the woman anyway.
“Good for us,” Garry noticed with a wide smile.
“Why?” The other tester asked perplexed not being able to follow.
“The sooner these suits fall apart the sooner we can make the jump, maybe we can start today,” he explained, smiling even wider. “If it is as great as I imagine it is, I think I will even repeat it.”
Mona scowled; they were for sure thinking alike. Trying to distract herself, she looked at her bag, resting besides the bed.
“I will only make it once,” she said.
“Why?” Garry asked, sounding both disappointed and surprised.
Mona never came to answer it since it knocked at the door and Mr. Villiers entered.
“Time for some more questions,” he explained with a slight smile, placing one form on the desk. “Ready?”
“Always,” Garry replied, taking his form and looking at Mona he added “See you downstairs.”
Mona nodded and watched both men leave the room. Had Mr. Villiers always looked that old? Deciding she was seeing things, the tester shook her head and went to the desk, noticing the forms had the same questions like the one before.
1.How do you feel right now?
2.Did you sweat more than normal?
Yes, though the suit did a good job absorbing it.
3.Describe the last training session.
There was one round jogging in the forest. Mr. Villiers was nice enough to remain at a low speed. I hope the next sessions will be more interesting, because a jumping suit is something else than just a jogging suit!
4.How do you rate the supervisors(honesty requested)?
If they had any involvement in the material for the suit, rather poorly. At last, they are flexible enough to stop a session once the product fails.
Mona thought about it. This sounded pretty harsh and Mrs. Villiers had looked rather depressed ... No there was no reason to be kind, especially since honesty was requested.
5.Your greatest fear?
There was it again. Why did they ask the same questions again? Should she answer the same? She couldn’t quiet remember what it had been, so she just wrote what was on her mind:
Getting good grades in college and a good job.
This felt wrong somehow, but Mona decided to ignore the feeling. She was here to test a suite. Not deep-analysis of her psyche.
6.Any suggestions what to do better?
Give us more time for ourselves. Alternatively, you could allow the person to decide when to resume the testing so we really feel good.
7.What are suggestion for improvements in our design.
She looked at the color pencils, but stopped herself from taking up the pink one … this would be too much cliché. Instead, she used the one the yellow one, filling out the line of the suit, then adding stylish stripes of black, imitating the look of Beatrix in Kill Bill.
Grinning Mona looked at her work. She always had liked drawing when she was younger, but when she had grown up had more and more lost interest in it. She shortly played with her hair, but hearing the steps of the floor, clearly Garry going downstairs she sighed, grabbed the sheets and followed him.
Having finished their checkups, the testers were led outside.
“You know such a suit has to be used for more than just running around,” Mr. Villiers explained as he led the two test persons to another part of the property. “I think this new training session might be a change.”
The caught Mona’s interest. She looked ahead interested, discovering something which looked like a showjumping course with different sort of obstructions. First there was a small Swedish ladder which was open to both sides an which they seemingly had to climb over and down again. Next came a pole just high enough over the ground for them to crawl through which was seemingly the intend. A bit away there was a balancing pole, not terribly long but not very broad either. Then there was a climbing rope hanging at a tree and after it came a broad footbridge leading up steep and ending over a place of sand where they for sure were expected to jump in.
“Climbing, crawling, balancing, climbing again and finally running up and jumping,” Mrs. Villiers explained. “I understand if you feel tired, so make it your tempo.”
“Mhh …” Garry’s eyes wandered over the parkour. “I don't feel tired.”
“Great,” Mrs. Villiers said, stepping up from behind them, holding a folding chair and having her laptop in a grey laptop bag which hang at her left shoulder. “You really are having a good condition. Are you good at sport in school?”
Garry looked a moment at the woman in confusion, then he shook his head.
“I finished school …” He stopped a second, looking even more confused, “years ago. I'm not a teacher.”
“Oh good,” Mrs Villiers noticed with a smile while placing her chair on the ground and handing Garry his wristband. “And you Monica?”
Monica looked at the woman suspiciously, she sounded nice, but …
“It has been years since I graduated,” she lied, not interested in revealing she wasn’t completely sure about the numbers at the moment. “Can we start now?”
Mr. and Mrs. Villiers exchanged a look and then the woman nodded and handed her the wristband.
“Remember we want to test the suits by longer use,” Mr Villiers explained. “So, try not to get quickly exhausted.”
Both product testers nodded and Garry eagerly started by climbing over the Swedish ladder.
Not really hard, he thought as he climbed down the other side and began crawling under the pole. Back in school we did have a similar one …
Crossing the balancing pole, he wavered as some sort of dizziness seemed to sink over his brain like a fog. Garry shook his head; the dizziness receded a bit and he managed to finish the pole.
“Is everything all right?” Mr. Villiers asked, standing by the climbing rope to offer assistance.
“I feel just a bit dizzy,” Garry revealed. “Maybe I'm more exhausted than I thought.”
“Okay,” Mr. Villiers replied.
Garry starred at him a second. Somehow the way the man smiled didn’t seemed okay to him. It was as if … he had been expecting this. He wanted to ask more, but Mona was closing up from behind, so he began to climb up until he reached the top and then to slide down. From there, he hurried up the footbridge, jumped down in the sand at its end and jogged back to the beginning of the course.
It was the fourth round or maybe already the fifths that he began to have problems, not just that his jumping suit once again became loose, he also had the mad impression that the obstacles were becoming harder, almost as if they grew during each round.
Arriving at the climbing rope, Garry swallowed a bit by seeing its height. His muscles ached already, when the thought of climbing it. Still, he grabbed it and began the ascend, too large was the fear to look weak to Mona, or even Mr. Villiers who was standing at the rope, seemingly waiting.
He managed to reach the top, but once there he made the mistake to look down. The ground seemed impossible far away and his head began swirling. Yet, he could clearly see Mr. Villiers and even worse Mona waiting for him. He imagined he could see a sparkle in her eyes, teasing him for his weakness.
“Can I go on?” he heard her asking their host and on the positive answer he only heard her running away.
Cursing himself, Garry loosened his muscles, trying to slide down, but stopping so on half the height since his hands began to burn. To his surprise he suddenly felt two large hands grabbing him over his hips. Trusting them, he allowed his hands to let go a bit and slide the rest of the way down.
“I am sorry,” Garry said, once he landed with both feet in the sand, feeling his cheeks glow red in embarrassment and heat.
“No problem champ!” Mr. Villiers assured him with a jovial smile.
Garry looked up at him, sensing something was wrong but being unable to put the finger on it.
“Why don't you continue?” The older man suggested. “Mona isn't far ahead and I tell you next time you come here you can just pass while she is above. Mh?”
“Great!” the tester exclaimed with a wide smile, pulling back part of his sleeve which hang over his hand and began running after Mona, every exhaustion pushed away by the thought of lapping his rival when she was climbing the rope … after all he couldn't let himself be beaten by a girl!
Garry did manage to leap Mona while she was climbing up, but he had little time to relish victory, as when she tried to slide down again part of her jumpsuit's trousers went up causing her to slightly burning her left leg and having fallen if not for Mr. Villiers catching her.
This caused Mr. and Mrs. Villiers to consult, while Mona looked after her leg and brushed away the tears her eyes threatened to spill. Finally, it was decided this test run was to be stopped and the testers could return to their rooms for a well-deserved rest before the next run began.
On their way back to the checkup, Garry saw Mona limping at the side of Mrs. Villiers who silently talked to her and actually felt sorry for his former feelings. After all this was no competition, they were just testing these suits … weren't they?
He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. It wasn't that he felt exhausted, strangely despite all the test runs they had gone through he did not, but somehow, he felt slightly dizzy … or rather in a way he couldn't really describe, nearly as if it was thinking that seemed harder and different now.
“Are you feeling all right?” Mr Villiers asked in a friendly tone while his partner was doing the check up on Mona.
“Yeah,” Garry said with a sheepish grin. “It is just I still feel dizzy.”
“For sure you don't drink enough,” the host decided. “This is very important when doing sport.”
“Maybe,” the tester admitted, partly because he couldn't remember how much he had drunk since the morning and why hadn't he felt hunger by now …
“Oh, and how are you doing?” Mrs. Villiers asked Garry back at the house, showing him to stand on the scale as Mona walked upstairs. “The obstacles are pretty tough compared to the ones in school.”
“Oh yeah, but we don't do such one in school,” the tester explained, excited to tell of his life, as he was standing straight as the supervisor checked the results on the laptop. “Yours are way cooler! Tom always says … says …”
Garry stopped a bit perplexed.
“I mean we did not have such things in school,” he corrected himself. “My friend Thomas always liked such stunts. I think I got infected by him back then.”
“Interesting,” Mrs Villiers replied with a smile, placing the cuff around his arm while removing the ribbon.
“Yeah.” Garry noticed, the cuff getting thicker. “Thomas would like it here.”
Mrs. Villiers didn't respond but removed the cuff of his right arm and picked up the syringe.
“Left hand please,” she told him and he gave it to her though unwilling.
Not wanting to see it Garry looked away as the woman disinfected the top of his middle finger and instead looked at his right hand where the previous needles had taken the blood. Indeed, there was no sign of a wound on any of his fingers and as he pulled back the sleeves, now reaching to the middle of his hands, he found no wound at all.
“Why don't you go upstairs and prepare for the next test run,” Mrs Villiers voiced stopped his chain of thought “We have some really nice things prepared for you two.”
“Great!” Garry replied.
Very happy that he had felt no pain at all this time and already forgetting his former worries he began jogging inside and upstairs.
Behind him Mr. and Mrs. Villiers exchanged looks.
In his room Garry found the sheets with the questions already lying on the table. Yet he paid them little mind as he grabbed his new clothes from the bed and went to the floor. Right there, facing him as coming herself from her room, was Mona, holding her own new clothes. Looking at each other a moment they had the same thought and both rushed for the door of the bathroom.
Mona won and could hear Garry cursing at the other side of the locked door. Grinning, she enjoyed the feeling of victory and realized how her left leg barely hurt anymore. Curious, she undressed and checked it, finding it in a better state than she had initially thought. Indeed, it was barely red anymore and hardly hurt, as if it had healed a lot during the short time … though she probably was just imagining things.
Don’t be a crybaby, Mona admonished herself. You don’t want to be one of these girls who always run to their mommies because they got a scrap on their knee.
Deciding not to block the bathroom too long, she stepped in the bath and let a hot stream of water wash away the sweat and dirt this test run had brought her. As she covered her breasts with well smelling shower gel and found only a slightly enlarged piece of fat, she stopped for a moment having a strange feeling before resuming the motion and covering her whole body which completely lacked any body hair.
Having finished showering, drying her hair and body, Mona grabbed her new underwear consisting out of a pant and a shirt, but stopped again for she just knew something was missing … That their supervisors had forgot it this time.
I had it before but …
She probably could go through the bag she had thrown the used clothes in, but this meant she would get dirty again. Right now, the feeling that something was missing passed and as looked at the underpants and shirt she wondered what more a girl was supposed to need.
Giggling she finished dressing herself and threw the bag with the old clothes into her room before knocking at the door to the room on the other side.
“The bathroom is free now,” Mona said, opening the door. “I …”
Surprised she discovered Garry kneeling at the bed, holding a jumpsuit which according to the design and signs of use was his own, but several times too large, even much larger than the overstretched jumpsuit he wore right now.
“I …” he began sounding as if he had been discovered with the hand in the cookie jar and even looking like it, which struck Mona strange for a moment “I was just looking through my stuff.”
“How could you ever jump in such a large suit?” Mona asked surprised and slightly amused.
Garry cheeks became red and he put his suit back in his bag.
“I don't know,” he admitted for everything else had sounded stupid.
“I'm sorry for making it a race.” Mona said, feeling a bit sorry at the sight of him feeling uneasy. “It was childish.”
“No problem,” Garry replied with a smile, putting back the sleeves of his jumpsuit. “I was acting a bit childish myself.”
“I'm also sorry that I have not been nicer to you,” Mona continued after a moment. “I had a friend once with whom I made several jumps … but then he sold me and others off to the police not to get arrested.”
“I called him worse,” Mona replied with a grin. “But I think we can be friends … at least until the jump! Maybe we could exchange our addresses then.”
“Cool!” Garry agreed enthusiastically.
“See you downstairs,” Mona said, going out of the room and closing the door behind her.
Back in her room she felt relieved to have said this to Garry, he was nice and she wanted very much to get close to him, to …
Mona scowled, realizing there was something she had wanted to do with him she now had forgotten, a desire she did not feel now. She shook her head in confusion, but whatever she had wanted she would for sure remember later. Right now, she did have some tasks she had to finish to not get into trouble.
A bit later the tester sat on the chair and looked down at the questions, a pencil in her hand and feeling as back in school much to her chagrin.
1.How do you feel right now?
2.Did you sweat more than normal?
3.Describe the last training session.
We had a round full of obstacles we had to complete again and again. It was fun!
4.How do you rate the supervisors(honesty requested)?
Mrs Villiers has been very nice when I hurt my left leg. She is brilliant!
5.Your greatest fear?
This made Mona chew at the pencil. Should she be honest? Their supervisors had been nice, so:
Friends betraying me. Mean teachers. Endless sitting around. Werewolves.
Mona had to stop herself from giggling as she
found this answer particularly silly for a reason, she could not even explain
6.Any suggestions what to do better?
There should be more interesting test runs like the last. The testing should be more fun.
7.What are suggestion for improvements in our
Mona stopped, starring at the form of a jumpsuit and then looking at her own. Red and with two blue stripes didn't seem very interesting to her, and thinking about it a moment she grabbed the pink color pencils and filled the form all out save for the middle of the breast where she left a white diamond.
For a moment she starred at it and smiled as it now was similar to the costume of the Pink Power Ranger she had once seen at television, while babysitting her niece and nephew for the first time. She had just been three year older than them, but already felt very mature, so the show hadn't appealed to her then, but now it seemed really cool to her. The rangers fighting evil like a nasty witch, the cool song, the adventures …
Mona stopped herself from humming the song.
This is childish, she thought and starred at the picture. And this is too pink!
Still while she knew it was childish, it was at the same time appealing to her and anyway, there was no way she could erase it now. Grabbing her sheets, she walked downstairs, finding Mr. and Mrs. Villiers talking.
“The change come faster than expected.” Mr. Villiers noticed.
“I really wished we had …” Mrs. Villiers replied, but stopped when seeing Mona entering. “Oh, ready already?”
The tester nodded, looking up at her supervisor as she handed her the sheets.
“The picture might not be so good,” she admitted, feeling suddenly very nervous about them not liking it.
Mrs. Villiers took a look at the second sheet and smiled.
“I think it is very good,” she praised, showing the picture to Mr. Villiers.
“We should show it to the design section,” he agreed with a smile. “Now ladies I must prepare the next test run.”
With this he left for the door leading in the backyard, passing the Laptop which laid on the table and pressing a button. Though Mona didn't really have a clear view because Mrs. Villiers blocked part of it, she believed for a moment to see the image of two rooms, resembling hers and Garry's before it returned to the Windows-Desktop.
“You really did a good job,” Mrs. Villiers noticed, kneeing to get on eye-level with Mona and adjusting her suit a bit. “You helped us a lot in our research.”
“Great,” Mona said, happy to have helped, instantly forgetting the worry for a more interesting thought. “Do you believe we can jump today?”
“Sure,” Mrs. Villiers promised. “I and Mr. Villiers will see to that.”
The tester felt enthusiastic about this, but then she noticed something. “You look sad.”
The supervisor looked at her thoughtfully.
“While I and Mr. Villiers test the product together, he is testing the practical effects while I test how it affects …” Mrs. Villiers hesitated, “your motivation. Unfortunately, my field doesn’t make so much progress.”
“I think you do a great job,” Mona tried to cheer the woman up. “The jumpsuit really motivates me.”
“You like this more than school?”
“Yes!” the tester replied. “I think school is boring. I like going out and do stuff.”
“Well,” Mrs. Villiers noticed, raising with a smile, “then I think I will make the small check-up now, so you can go outside and see what my partner has prepared to you.”
“Yeah!” Mona exclaimed enthusiastically, following the woman to the laptop, only to say in a low, conspiratorial tone: “Mhh … Mrs. Villiers.”
“I think Garry is really scared of the needles.”
Mrs. Villiers looked a moment surprised, then she smiled at Mona in a special way, which made the tester feel warm.
“He sure is,” she agreed, imitating Mona’s conspiratorial tone. “Sometimes boys are really wimps.”
With this Mrs. Villiers sat down at the laptop and Mona stepped giggling on the scale.
Soon they were joined by Garry who made the usual fuss when he had to give his blood but didn't complain.
Finally, Mrs. Villiers lead them outside straight to a part of the backyard they hadn't seen before.
“Why didn’t you show it earlier?” Garry asked.
“Because we wanted to surprise you,” Mrs. Villiers explained with a smile, wearing her laptop in a bag under her arm.
Seconds later Garry and Mona were indeed surprised.
It was a large construction made of heavy wood. A rock-climbing wall with a rope and a ladder led up and a spiral slide led down again. Under this was a pipe clearly meant to crawl through it to the other side. Attached to the main frame were three belt swings and a monkey bar. A bit aside was a small sand pit with some colorful toys.
“A play center?” Garry asked surprised.
“This is for children!” Mona exclaimed irritated.
“But no,” Mr. Villiers replied. “It may look like one but only because we need to really test the suit to its extremes and there is nothing better than this.”
The testers looked skeptically.
“You helped us so well in the previous test runs,” Mrs. Villiers noticed from the chair her partner must had placed there before and opened the laptop. “It is just like the obstacle course.”
“Really?” Mona asked skeptically.
“Really,” the woman promised.
Both testers didn't seem enthusiastic, but when Mr. Villiers asked them to climb up the rock-climbing wall to test if the suit stopped them in their movements, they did and slide down the slide they did so five times each time more enthusiastic.
Next, they crawled through the tube some times to test the jumpsuits flexibility and soon Mr. Villiers helped them climb the monkey bar. Then they resumed climbing the rock-climbing wall, which strangely seemed to be larger now, but even more, as was the tube when they crawled through it, making it much easier and fun to get through.
When he told them to use the swing to test the jumpsuit's bottom again, they were reluctant, but Mona soon found that since the swings fitted them perfectly, they hardly could be made for little children. Once she was certain of this, she actually enjoyed it very much, especially, when Mr. Villiers stepped behind them and helped them to get higher.
After a while their host, under the watchful eyes of Mrs. Villiers, led them to the sand pit where they were told how to test if the suit was prone to have sand in it by shifting sand around with the various animal and geometrical like forms, helped by a little bucket and riddle screen. They found this test to be very much fun and when – after a time the testers had no way to measure – Mr. Villiers told them to stop, they felt very sat to leave this part of the test behind.
“Mr. Villiers,” Mrs. Villiers told her partner, seeing the look in Garry's and Monas's eyes. “Why don't you go in already and prepare things while I stay here with them a bit longer. The suits need a lot of testing.”
Mr. Villiers smiled down at the testers sitting in the sand pit and nodded, causing them to cheer.
“Ok,” Mrs. Villiers said after a while “Time to make the check-up and then to get in again.”
Mona rose from the sand, feeling bad for having to leave after she managed to make such a beautiful picture in the sand with the sun, crocodiles and lots of stars.
The girl's check-up was no problem, but when it was the boys turn to give some blood, he shook his head.
“No.” Garry said defiantly.
“You are a baby,” Mona told him with a wide grin.
“I'm, not,” the little boy replied angrily.
Knowing he had to prove his words, he stepped to Mrs. Villiers and gave her his hand. The woman took it easily in her own as she disinfected the middle finger's top.
“Baaaby!” the girl continued to tease.
“Ready!” their supervisor declared.
On these words the little boy looked surprised at Mrs. Villiers who had managed to take the blood sample of his finger while he was distracted.
“I am not.” Gary told Mona defiantly one last time, crossing his arms.
“Right,” Mrs. Villiers said with a smile. “You were very brave.”
The boy felt happy by this praise and the look on Mona's face, yet something on this seemed odd … Yet, as he tried to think about it, he found his eyes wandering back to the playground. Forgetting the odd feeling, he silently wished that Mrs. Villiers let them play a bit longer on it.
“Time to go!” the woman declared, despite Garry's silent wishes.
She had placed the blood samples securely in the bag and now put the latter over her shoulder. Once done, she grabbed both children's hand and led them back to the house. The boy shuffled, due to stepping on his trouser legs.
“It is loosening again.” Garry whined, “And I lose my shoes.
Mrs. Villiers laughed.
“It is ok sweetheart,” she calmed him down. “Leave the shoes outside, Mr. Villiers has a surprise for you.”
The testers got the message and eagerly pulled the hostess's hands to get into the house faster.
“Easy! Easy!” Mrs. Villiers told them at they arrived at the house, but the children had already stormed in, both losing his shoes on the way.
Garry and Mona arrived in the house at the same time and found Mr. Villiers already expecting them.
“Oh. there you are,” he noticed smiling. “I guess Mrs. Villiers already told you about the surprise.”
“What is it?” Mona asked.
Images came up in front of her mind. Of plush toys and balls, sweets and surprise parties.
“Well first I have something for you two,” their host said and took something from the table and handed it to the children.
“Duplo?” Garry asked, sounding disappointed as he looked at the little green Duplo figure of a man.
“Oh, it is not just that,” Mrs. Villiers noticed, stepping in from behind the children, holding two pairs of lost shoes.
“We have no idea how to jump properly,” she explained in a sad tone. “So, since you are experts, we hoped you could show us, it might help us in modelling future suits.”
“Sure!” Mona said slowly, trying to remember how she had jumped before.
“You need a … a high place,” Garry said, trying to remember as he starred at the smiling little figure in his hand.
“A very high place!” Mona added excited, “A mountain.”
“Such high!” Garry explained, rising his hair as high about his head as he could.
“No!” Mona replied angrily and climbed on the couch as quick as her oversized jumpsuit allowed it. “Such high!”
“And what do you do then?” Mrs Villers asked very interested.
“Jumping!” Mona answered and made a big jump on the couch before jumping from it giggling.
“And we glide with paral... parak....” Garry said, wrinkling his forehead as he struggled to say the word. “Parachute!”
To emphasize his words, he held the figure up and let it slowly go lower while moving around in the room, making swooshing noises. Mona soon joined him, but beginning higher by climbing on the couch before going lower.
“I jump from a plane!” the little girl giggled.
Mr. and Mrs. Villiers watched the scene smiling before talking amongst themselves.
“This is great!” Mrs. Villiers told them after a while, clasping with her hands. “We really learned a lot from you two, but now it is time for you to make the tests and then prepare for the last test run.”
Both children looked up, unhappy to have to stop now.
“Must we?” Garry whined.
“It will be over quickly.” Mr. Villiers replied with a supporting tone while his partner linked the laptop with the scale.
Unhappy Garry walked on the scale and let Mrs. Villiers take his pulse, but when she connected the laptop with the machine to test his blood he winced and actually made a step back.
“Hey, hey,” Mr. Villiers said, walking to him from behind so that the tester could lean at his large legs. “Don't be afraid, it is just a little pain.”
Garry nodded but looked away when Mrs. Villiers rose the needle and actually felt tears runs through his closed lids as he felt the pain.
“It is over already,” Mr. Villiers assured him, as he picked him up. “Shall we go up and change your clothes?”
Garry nodded, covering his face as he suddenly felt very ashamed of his tears. He was a big boy! Still his pride didn’t prevent him from allowing Mr. Villiers to carry him upstairs. In the strong arms of the man, he felt protected and when they reached his room and the adult placed him on the bed besides the new suit, the tester didn’t feel upset anymore at all.
“Here we have the new questions,” the host said, handing a sheet of paper over to Garry.
The boy looked at them as he was sitting on the bed with his feet unable to touch the ground, but couldn't make out what to do with them at first. Then he slowly remembered that the signs on it were supposed to mean something, that he should know what they meant because he was a big boy and able to read …
“Auw do … do …” Garry began, but as much as he tried, he couldn't figure out the meaning of it.
“It is all right,” Mr. Villiers assured him, as he noticed the look of desperation in the look of the boy. “It was a hard day, so why not let me read it? It goes quicker anyway.”
Garry nodded and handed the sheets to the man.
“How do you feel right now?” he began.
“Mhh I want to play!”
“Did you sweat? Or got dirty?” Mr. Villiers asked, while writing notes on the sheet.
“Nuh, nuh,” the child replied, hiding his clearly dirty hands behind his backs.
“That is why you don't need a bath now,” his supervisor noticed, causing Garry to smile wildly as he had managed to fool the man. “Do you remember what you did during the last training session?”
“We slided and swung and climbed and … and crawled through a laaarge tunnel,” the child explained enthusiastically, forgetting for a moment that Mr. Villiers had watched them. “And we played in a sand pit.”
“Sounds like fun!”
The man smiled and looked down at the paper.
“Garry can you remember what you did before that?” he asked, watching the boy intensively.
The tester thought a moment very hard, looking at his hands he had moved back to his knees, then he grinned.
“I climbed a rope!” he said, shaking his legs. “And and ...”
“Do you remember what you did before that?”
The boy looked at him with a blank expression. Though he tried very hard Garry couldn't remember anything.
“It is ok,” Mr. Villiers said when he noticed that the boy nearly cried in frustration. “What do you think of me and Mrs. Villiers?”
“You awe nice!”
“Oh, and what are we doing here?” he asked. “What do we work at?”
Again the boy struggled.
“You are teachers?” he tried, his words getting more pronounced, no sign of lisping.
“Not quite.” Mr. Villiers smiled. “We are here to test products and you two help us testing them.”
Garry nodded, remembering again and feeling stupid to have forgotten that. He remembered playing hide, as the grown up came with his car to pick him up and then … Of course, he and Mona were helping these two nice grown-ups … and they would jump! Not really sure anymore where and how they would jump, he yet knew they would … and it would be the best jump ever!
The boy looked up, grinning sheepishly, as he realized he had ignored the adult while daydreaming.
“What are you afraid of Garry?”
Garry looked at his little feet dangling, as terrors came all too easily to his agitated mind. Fear of the dark and what lived in the darkness under his bed. Fear of waking up in a wet bed and having to eat all vegetables. Fear of not being taken serious by the big kids who already knew letters and not being allowed to play with them. Fear of being on Santa’s naughty list … So much fear, it nearly caused him to start crying. He didn’t, but only because he remembered one fear Mr. Villiers could help him with. The adult had said he wasn’t a teacher, still …
“I …” He swallowed. “I fear that the gwon-ups … grown-ups in big kid school aren’t as nice as in kindergarten!”
Mr. Villiers gave him a smile and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I bet they will!” He promised. “I also bet lots and lots of money you will find a lot of friends there.”
Garry beamed at this. He couldn’t wait to be big boy in grammar school.
“Now enough scary stuff is there something you would want more?” the man asked.
“I wanna play in a pool!” Garry declared. “Wid plastic toys and a ball.”
“I think we can arrange that in the future,” Mr. Villiers replied smiling at the image. “Now look at this.”
With these words he handed him the second sheet with the form of the jumpsuit on it.
“Now I want you to color this suit,” the man explained, laying the crayons he had taken from the table on the bed besides the child, adding encouraging: “Just do it the form and color you like!”
Insecure, Garry first looked on the sheet, then on Mr. Villiers, holding a finger in his mouth while he did so before. Finally, he grabbed the red crayon, just holding it a moment. He had colored with something else before, something thinner, but what? Deciding it didn’t matter as the excitement of the task rose in him, he took them all and the sheet and let himself slide off the bed onto the floor.
It really didn’t matter what he painted with before, as he loved crayons best of all. They laid perfect in his little hand and gave him the best colors. He began to paint while laying on it he first used the blue one, drawing lines in the contours of the suit and somewhat over them, too. Then he used red and painted something resembling a circle in the middle of the breast. Forgetting he was just supposed to fill it out, he added something round resembling a brown head, added some yellow lines as hair and two brown shoes and hands.
Finished, he stood up and proudly presented his work to Mr. Villiers, who still sat on the edge of the bed, watching him the whole time.
“I know some people who will love to see it little man,” he praised, making the boy beam in pride. “Do paint many pictures in kindergarten?”
Garry nodded wildly. “Yes. There are toys and books with pictures and sometimes Mrs. Ellie reads to us.”
“Sounds like a fun place,” Mr. Villiers noticed, placing the sheet on the table. “Now, let us get you dressed in your new jumpsuit.”
“Can dress myself!” Garry insisted.
To prove it, the boy pulled his arms inside the suit and tried to get out which proofed a hopeless effort since he had forgotten to open the zipper.
“Sure!” Mr. Villiers assured and opened the zipper and helped him out. “But this suit is just so complicated!”
Garry’s underpants practical fell from him and with few efforts he managed to release get off his shirt, standing naked and grinning in front of the man.
“Impressive!” his supervisor praised, putting the way too large clothes into a trash bag and placing this besides the bed. “Now, let us see if you can dress yourself, too!”
So, he handed the boy who had definitely no problem with his lack of clothes, a piece of underwear. Garry instantly felt there was something off about it. It had an elastic waist band, was heavily padded and white except the colorful dinosaurs.
“I need no diaper,” the naked tester explained.
“Sure not!” Mr. Villiers said in a serious tone. “But this is no diaper, because a diaper has tapes you know?”
Garry looked skeptically, scowling his face as trying to remember what a diaper looked like, absent-minded touching the underwear.
“This is a training-pants,” the man continued to explain. “It is specially designed to help testers like you, like the underwear before. But it is a bit different because it shall help you to do what you came for … Do you remember?”
Again, the boy tried hard. For a moment he felt like he was in a fog. Suddenly, like a flash, a thought made his face beam.
“Jump!” he exclaimed and jumped on the floor, barely able to contain the excitement.
“Right!” Mr. Villiers said with an impressed smile, kneeling down to get eye to eye with Garry. “Now, the faster you put it on, the faster you can jump.”
This seemed to energize the boy even more and as he looked down at the 'training-pants' in his hand he found the soft feeling very appealing and the dinosaurs looked so very cool that they could hardly been worn by babies … after all he for sure didn't need to pee in it for he knew how to use the potty … he was a big boy!
Now feeling the urge to test this underwear to finally being allowed to jump, he found that he had actually forgotten how to get into it.
“First one leg, then the other,” Mr. Villiers noticed helpfully as the boy looked at him puzzled.
Smiling as he felt silly, Garry nodded and followed the man’s instructions. Once he had managed to do so he beamed proudly at the grown up.
“Very good,” the supervisor praised, grabbing Garry under the armpits and placing the giggling boy on the bed. “Now let’s finish the rest.”
With this Mr. Villiers began to put socks and shirts on the boy, who didn't mind being dressed one bit. After all, he was going to jump, a thought which made him giggle once more as he was put in the jumpsuit.
“Ready,” the man said, putting the sweatband around his head. “I don't think shoes will be necessary.”
To proof it, he grabbed Garry once more, holding him in his arms as he took him downstairs. Meanwhile the toddler felt strange, as a part of his mind told him that something was not right. Yet, his consciousness was not being able to figure out what.
Feeling insecure, Garry instinctively put his right thumb in his mouth, smiling absent-mindedly as the strange feeling vanished. It was instantly replaced by a comforting feeling of emptiness which was easily filled by the rhythmic movements and the warmth of Mrs. Villiers body.
“There,” the grown-up said once they had arrived, setting him down in the room downstairs. “You help Mrs. Villiers in her test while I prepare your jump outside, ok?”
With this the man left and Garry discovered Mona, who was sitting on the couch. She played with Duplo figures, not noticing or maybe not minding him. He then looked at Mrs. Villiers who was smiling at him from her place before the laptop.
“Now Garry,” she addressed the boy. “do you want to help me by my tests?”
The tester nodded shyly, his thumb still resting in his mouth.
“Then come here.”
Knowing good boys obeyed, he walked over to her. The training pants felt strange in a way, comforting as it pressed against his legs as he walked.
“So, just a second,” Mrs. Villiers said as she gently led him to stand on the scale. “Fine! What a big boy you are.”
Garry nodded, removing the thumb of his mouth and raising it above his head.
“So wig!” he declared proudly.
“Right,” Mrs Villiers replied with a smile. “A big boy already.”
With this she went away from the desktop, putting the cuff around the toddler's arm.
“And what is the big boy's name?”
“Garry!” he exclaimed proudly.
“Oh, and further?” the woman asked, starring directly into Garry's eyes as if she was searching something. “What is your full name?”
Pondering a little the toddler suddenly smiled.
“Thamson!” he explained. “Wike my mummy and daddy.”
“Really? What a coincidence! Where do you live?”
Garry felt insecure again, as he tried hard but could find no image of his home. Suddenly feeling lost he began to whimper in frustration and a little fear.
“Shh … it is all right.” Mrs. Villiers reassured him, calming him down.
From the other side of the room, Mona looked up from her game, scowling for a moment before returning her interest to her little figures.
“Now,” Mrs. Villiers continued. “Can you tell me what you like to do Garry.”
The toddler had no problem with this at all.
“Good!” Mrs. Villiers noticed, smiling at the excitement of the toddler. “Where did you jump from?”
Scowling, the toddler tried hard.
“Weally high towers.” He giggled. “It was naughty!”
“It sure was!” the woman replied, smiling encouragingly. “What more?”
“Mountans,” the toddler said. “Dawk places …”
“Mhhhm …” Garry nodded. “Planes!”
To emphasize this, he let his hand glide in the air, making sounds like a plane.
“Oh, you had so many funny jumps for such a little boy,” Mrs. Villiers noticed, as she walked to the laptop.
Thomas nodded, giggling as he remembered all the fun he had, or at last all the fun he could remember, but stopped surprised as the cuff grew larger around his arm, pressing it.
“Where do you live Garry Thompson?” the woman asked while standing at the laptop, watching the toddler closely.
Surprised the tester looked up, for a moment believing she had asked this before but not sure … instead two images formed in his mind, one with of his mummy and daddy in front of a house. A big city. Another of him in another house, but without his parents, all on his own and strangely this image seemed to be clearer than the first and eventually replaced it.
“Wiginia,” Garry said absent-mindedly, still wondering why he couldn't remember any toys in this house. “Cushbows Woad … I life in tha woods … I have a wake and see ducks and wabbits!”
The last part seemed very important to him and as he could see the woman smiling, he knew it was.
“Such a lovely place,” Mrs. Villiers noticed as the cuff became loose again and fell of the toddler's arm. “Now one thing left and you can jump.”
With that words she connected a machine with the laptop Garry needed a second to identify. When he did, pure infantile horror raced through him.
“Noono,” he whined, backing away. “Needle hurts.”
With these words, he fell backwards, turning around to crawl away in the direction of the couch, hoping to be able to hide behind it. Maybe he would even had reached the couch from where Mona was watching him with interest, but he had no practice of crawling, so suddenly two strong hands grabbed him and took him high in the air.
“No need of running away now,” Mr. Villiers told him with a smile.
The man had finished his task outside and having returned unnoticed by the toddler.
“No wanna needle,” Garry whined, emitting something very close to a sob.
“Shhh,” the grown up calmed him down, holding him close. “This is just a tiny needle. Once it is done you can jump.”
The tester felt tears running down his face and snot threatening to leave his nose. Only the thought of jumping returned some sort of self-control.
“Jumping?” he asked, nearly begged.
“As long as you wish,” Mr. Villiers promised, going through the toddler's hair. “If you can be a big boy and help us.”
Garry didn't answer on this, but didn't fuss either when he was carried back to Mrs. Villiers who smiled at him.
“There now,” she said as she took the middle finger of his left hand and disinfected it. “Soon it is over.”
As if to proof it, she quickly picked in his finger, allowing the needle to take some blood. The pain was too much for the toddler, causing him to cry uncontrolled, hiding his face in Mr. Villiers shoulder, sobbing despite all efforts of the man to calm him down. He cried even more as he felt that he had tinkled a bit in his training pant and feared that if the grown-ups found, out they would not let him jump.
Lost in his personal small hell of fear and pain, Garry only stopped when fresh hair told him that they were no longer inside the house. As curiosity slowly replaced his horror, he noticed there was a strange construction. Hanging on a beam, held by elastic ribbons were two seats, the fabric printed with happy animals, swinging slightly about a blanket spread over the grass.
“Humper,” Garry noticed, pointing at the seats.
“Very good!” Mr. Villiers praised the toddler in his arms, putting the ribbon with the emitter on the erected arm. “As I promised.”
Such he placed the tester in the seat, while Mrs. Villiers put Mona in the other seat. The seat of the jumper pressing against his groin, Garry felt the wet part of the training pants stronger. Despite his former worries, this wasn’t horrifying for him anymore. The only thing he felt was the slight comfort by the warm feeling, his legs strongly standing on the earth and the excitement about what would come.
“Now,” Mr. Villiers said, kneeling down in front of both toddlers now hanging in the seats while his partner sat herself a bit aside, unpacking the laptop from the bag and placing it into her lap. “Let's see how you can jump.”
The testers starred at their supervisors in confusion, swinging back and forth.
“Do it,” the man said. “Show me how good you can jump.”
Garry looked up at the grown-up with confusion, not being sure why he was here, or what he was supposed to do, but the words struck something in him. More by instinct than conscious decision he bent his knees and pushed himself up.
The ribbons pushed him higher than his little muscles ever could and he began to laugh even before his socked feet again touched the soft blanket. Instantly he jumped again, only to have Mona imitating him.
Both babies did so endlessly as they were unable to count or grasp the passing time. Without having words to describe what they were doing, as the word 'Jumping' was the last thing to vanish from their minds, they only stopped when their legs became too weak to make one more push.
After another check-up, Mr. and Mrs. Villiers – though these were of course not their true names – sat on the couches in the large living room. The world outside slowly became darker, but they paid it no mind, being too deep enthralled to watching the laptop displaying various curves. One block of these displayed amongst other a wave with the word ‘Pulse’ above it, the other showed ‘Brain Activity’.
“If just there would have been a way to make them wearing the sweatbands constantly,” the woman whose name wasn't Mrs. Villiers complained. “The data of their EEG is much too sporadic for proper information.”
“Nothing short of constant magnetic resonance imaging would have given us proper information,” the man whose name wasn't Mr. Villiers replied. “As we know most likely not even this. Besides this isn’t what this test-run is about.”
“It should have been,” the woman replied. “It is the process of regressing of the mind we have to research to really make progressions.”
“What could would a baby with an adult mind be? We can deal with it, once we control the regression properly. Maybe they won’t even show any mental regression, once it is slowed down,” the man replied in a slightly disinterested tone. “We had enough of these discussions in the team. Let’s return to the analysis.”
“Right,” his partner agreed reluctantly, taking a cup of coffee. “I say since it is the first test of this version of the formula, we shouldn't take anything for granted.”
“Agreed. Once we make more test-runs we will know more, but as scientists we are allowed to hypothesize,” the man noticed. “The changes in the formula hardly could have led to this faster rate of regression. We should presume that the exercises led to it.”
Quickly the woman made some clicks with the mouse, bringing a line with the word ‘Age’ about it on the display. The picture revealed two lines, one blue and one pink, sinking steadily, though with some strong drops during the parts overwritten with ‘Activity’.
“Probably,” she admitted thoughtfully, as if reading an article. “The body regresses by exploiting its own structure. It is doing it in such a rate to maintain enough energy for the regression and the exchange of nearly all old cells into new ones … younger versions, down to the length of the telomere. It not lets the person feel any hunger or large stress at all. So why does it regress faster when confronted with activity which should take away these resources?”
“Don't forget that the animated metabolism counts much,” the man replied. “As I theorized it could not just amplify the effect but make it more effective and …”
“We should at last wait to see at which age our test-subjects stop regressing,” the woman stopped him, placing the coffee cup back on the table in secure distance to the laptop. “If they stay around the 3 months border this effect is only temporary.”
Thoughtful, the man looked down at the floor besides the table. There, placed on a soft blanket, laid two babies. One little boy and one little girl, dressed in jumpsuits similar in design to the ones they had worn at the beginning of the day including the bracelets and sweatbands, with the exception that these versions of the jumpsuits were footed.
Content and not in the slightest interested in the conservation of the adults, they would not have been able to understand a word of anyway, they were playing by grabbing after the plastic animals, mirrors and forms hanging from the activity center they laid under. Occasionally they even put their feet in their mouths and tasted them.
“Don't it struck you odd that they have fat?” the woman asked thoughtfully.
“Baby-fat is natural at this age,” the man replied.
“Fat isn’t fat Doctor,” the woman replied slowly, emphasizing every word as she eyes Garry and Mona on the floor. “We theorized the test-subjects stopped regressing at this state, because it is the start of their life outside the womb, or the process lacks the resources to go on …”
“I was never convinced of this,” her partner reminded her.
“But if it isn't the lack of resources which stops the process or the young age of the cells …” the woman continued, ignoring his interruption. “If the process could continue until all is left is the first cell, using only the resources of the body?”
“You mean it is something in the body chemistry of infants which stops the regression?” the man replied, following the thoughts with rising enthusiasm. “Maybe an enzyme which makes the infant use its energies different from even toddlers? Good idea Doctor! We have to discuss it with the team once we are back at the central.”
Suddenly an icon looking like a letter appeared on the display of the laptop and began to blink.
“Speaking of the devil,” the woman whispered, opening the E-Mail and reading:
Dear Mr and Mrs Villiers, ;-)
we received the data and the faxes with the filled forms. The whole team is already busy to evaluate them.
Please don't forget the bags with the clothes for the sweat analysis and make sure the blood samples are cold enough ... yes, we know how to handle it.
We burn to get the rest of it soon and hope you don't enjoy the French countryside too long because we need to discuss it.
The higher-ups told us to remind you to call the number and tell the company to clean up once you left with the material and the test-subjects.
A souvenir would be nice!
The woman shook her head and looked back to the former adults now playing innocently on the floor, her face scowling.
“You still don't like it and that is O. K.,” the man, who had noticed the look, noticed. “But remember we are doing it for them, too. For all humanity! If our tests accelerate the research only for a month, we will save millions.”
“Guess that is what doctors all over the world said by their own small experiments,” the woman said, much to her own surprise since she had long ago decided to remain silent about her doubts. “I can't but remember the story Mona told up in their room, about the man who betrayed her … it may have been a bad experience but it was part of what made her herself. Now it is gone and what is left?”
“A baby who will grow up living in a world without the fear of ageing and then inevitability of death,” the man replied, smiling in a strange way. “Where she can jump forever with a body never ageing, never failing ... this is it if we manage to control the process.”
He stopped a moment, knowing they had deactivated the small cameras which had surveyed all parts of the room, but still not wanting to speak too loudly.
“I heard the rumor the higher-ups are thinking about scrapping the tests all together and using the formula for other fields.”
“Agriculture,” the man noticed with a grim face, his voice becoming rough. “Imagine you have cows giving the best milk. No need for a butcher after some years when they are too old to produce it. Use the formula and you got a calf which you know will deliver the right milk without the need for breeding and all its costs. Or chicken, sheep and other animals. It would save farmers the cost of breeding or buying new animals except for their flesh and could bring the company billions worldwide. Don't forget the owner of pets who don't want to lose their best friends.”
The woman listened shocked. It was one of the fields they had always suggested their product could be used for, but reducing it to just that …
“Of course, no comparison to the hundreds of billions we could expect a formula working perfectly for humans would earn us. But the current version is good enough for animals we know grow up quick enough and whose memories no one cares about,” the man added. “The government will of course restrict tests on humans or ban them outright. Years will pass. Many will die we could have helped and in the end another company with less scruples or more luck than we might advance the research of this formula on their own ...”
“I see,” the woman replied.
She didn’t care for who perfected the formula first, but the thought of the people they could save by finishing it just one year earlier … Silently she swore herself that she would make 100 and more test runs before she would allow that ... the formula used for animals?! Still, her eyes wandered to the former adults now playing innocently on the mat.
“What about the test persons?” she asked. “Sam, have you heard rumors what happens with them … once we have our data?”
The man whose name was Sam, leaned on the couch, starring at the ceiling.
“I have not heard more than you. Once we are done, they take them and don't tell us more, but …” He smiled. “Not long after our third test-run I went through some newspapers to google for a new car. Looking over the front, I found a small article, saying an infant around three months old has been found in a basket placed in front of the Hospital in Dover. It was a quite good picture of the baby in it with a birthmark above his right eye … can I hear you mind working Doctor?”
The woman who was not Mrs. Villiers guessed he probably could. She would never forget anyone of her test-subjects and this once had been a pretty hard case. They normally got the medical files of all their ‘patients’ well before they arrived, but this time someone had made a mess-up. It turned out, he had had a very well-fixed cleft lip and the result, when it had gone back up during the regression had been … unhappy.
“Yes, this one,” the man read her thoughts, his voice becoming softer as he continued. “Andrea … I don't think the company chooses the old baby in wicker-basket in front of an orphanage for every former test-subject – this would be too conspicuous – but adoption agencies, maybe even in other countries? Where there is money there is a way, you know?”
Andrea knew, knew very well that he might lie to her, to calm her down, knowing that though the higher-ups could be cautious, the hope of using and selling the biggest scientific discovery of this Millennia … maybe even all human history, would remove a lot of scruples. Had already removed a lot of scruples given the amount of money already used, the risks already taken … but murder?
Having met the higher-ups in the regular meetings, Andrea couldn't imagine anyone of them ordering such a thing, especially since given the risk of being discovered, it would make the difference between 20 years in prison for illegal medical experiments or execution. A lawyer, hired by the higher-ups to explore the legal complications had explained this to the team very clearly.
Andrea was just deciding to google a bit on foundlings once she was back in the states, when her thoughts were stopped by sudden, awful wailing. Looking down they noticed that Mona had begun to cry, earning her even Garry's attention. A quick look at her partner made the woman realize that she wasn't alone in her surprise.
“I don't think she minds us talking about her adoption,” her partner joked, “It could be she is hungry, meaning the process has stopped.”
“Better prepare both bottles,” Andrea suggested, saving the exact time in the laptop. “I will make the final check-ups.”
The man left for the kitchen while the woman knelt before the crying infant, softly stroking her hairless head to calm her down.
“It is all right,” she lied in a sympathetic voice, knowing it hadn't been all right anymore since the former woman and the former man had eaten the cereals with the drug in it. “Soon you can sleep.”
When the little girl had calmed down, Andrea opened the zippier. Checking the infant's diaper, she discovered it slightly wet and could smell the smell of a little poo, telling her that the digestive apparatus had begun to work properly again. She also noticed that Garry looked at all this with curious interest while chewing at his hand.
She smiled. “Once you are done getting younger, I will need to pick you with the needle just one more time!”
Suddenly the infant began to cry, prompting the woman to think that maybe a spark of the man who had arrived her today had survived … or that the process of regression had already stopped in him too, and the little boy had hunger.