19 Chapter 19-DRI Nodders Device

The Nodders Room was bare of beauty as she correctly assumed. Its walls were simply cream, not peeling or dirty, just pale cream. There was no decoration at all and nonetheless, the beauty in front of her surprised Catherine even more than she could imagine.

Sean saw the stunning emotion register on her face before she could conceal it. A slight smile played on his lips, he guesses he gets that a lot.

"By the way, I hope you don't mind, but I just had to say how stunning you look today Catherine." He complimented him with a ridiculous wink.

Catherine was beyond shocked as she strolls his words were like vanilla icecream, sweet in their typical sort of way, it was the richness of his tones-glorious and warm. He was indeed flirting with her. Her heart! Oh her heart!

Astonishment doesn't quite cover it. She felt like someone just took her inner spark of wonder and spilled on kerosene. The smile she showed on the outside can't nicely reflect what she felt inside; it's like every neuron of her brain was trying to fire in both directions at once. She still doesn't want to trust him but the man was unbelievably likable. She thought, maybe a little hope with her boring love life isn't that bad.

It wasn't what he said though that made her turned scarlet as she's been doing a lot of blushing these past few days it's his smile.

The way his lips lifted upward. The way his one dimple crinkles. The way his teeth are flawlessly aligned. The soft glow his happiness gives. His smile was a ray of sunshine, and she was sunburned head to toe. Why was he flirting with her now? They are friends but there are never more than friend. Yet how could she felt something deep inside?Disgusted with that thought she waltz in hastily.

When they stepped inside, Catherine was beyond awestruck. The device was enormous like an MRI scanner but this Nodders Device was much bigger and fancier, it consists of a large doughnut-shaped magnet that has a tunnel in the center. Nodders are placed on a table that slides into the tunnel. It has larger openings and is helpful for Nodders with claustrophobia.

"I called that device the 'Nodders Device'." Nasir interrupted her thoughts as the surprise in her face was visible from a mile away.

Nasir added proudly "This device was so sophisticated that during the sleep of the Nodders, radio waves manipulate the magnetic position of the atoms of the brain, which are picked up by a powerful antenna and sent to a computer. The computer performs millions of calculations, resulting in clear, cross-sectional black and white images of the brain. These images can be converted into three-dimensional (3-D) pictures of the scanned area."

"That makes sense, it looks like a normal MRI but that one was more futuristic," she said impressed.

"If an MRI can detect a variety of conditions of the brain such as cysts, swelling, developmental and structural abnormalities, or problems with the blood vessels; the Nodders Device was way more advanced, hundred times greater than a standard MRI and topping even the most advanced scanners elsewhere in the world. The technologies used at the center were some of the most important tools available for understanding the structure and workings of the lucid and non-lucid dreams, which was important for both basic and translational research." Nasir added proudly. He then explained the basic information and uses of the device.

Last year, the DRI team received a $9.7 million Nodders Initiative grant to pursue the next generation of brain imaging with the magnet courtesy of Sean. Nasir explained this while Catherine watched in awe.

"Are you ready Catherine?" He inquired, bracing himself, but she just smiled sweetly, made rote apologies about not listening to his explanation earlier.

"My point is the human brain was akin to a supercomputer built on top of a clunker. The clunker was your primitive, reptilian, survival brain. The supercomputer was what does your proper thinking, is logical, fair, and kind. When you were afraid, the bandwidth of your supercomputer gets used up, leaving the clunker to do all your thinking for you. You go from awesome to primal and basic in a heart-beat, and this device can do way more than those and more than just scanning your brain activity" Nasir explained while the rest were listening like a school kid ready for a fairytale story.

"What if we could wake up in our dreams and live out our wildest fantasies, every night? What would we do? He added.

"The obvious answer was this machine, this baby." Pointing towards his beloved device.

"This baby here can monitor your activities in the Land of Nod, So we added a sophisticated tracking nanotech, it's like the normal GPS but this one is designed solely for your dreams. Your lucid or non-lucid dream Catherine." He added proudly.

"We'd tried this with Sean and Nathan but it doesn't work with them so let's try this on you." He hopes for a better result this time.

"I have a theory that somehow my intuition says that this tracking nanotech will work in your consciousness or maybe more."

"What is that?" She asked pointing to the nanotech in Nasir's hand.

"These babies here were injectable, there were manufactured with the best nanotechnology in history."

"What on earth it was supposed to mean? You have me confused there for a minute." Catherine asked.

"Nanotechnology was a very small, or 'nano' particles. These were particles that we're less than one hundred nanometres or about one-thousandth the width of a human hair." He then proceeded to explain the nanotech.

"The nanotech tracker has been applied to the design and engineering of advanced injectable biomaterials. But this one here was way more advanced. While the nanotech runs into your bloodstream to your brain this baby was programmed to stays in your brain and track your activities."

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"Ohh!, So this one here will be in my bloodstream for the rest of my sleep?"

"Yes!"

"Was there any side effect?" she asked as she looks at Sean, catching him rolling his eyes as he pretended to yawn. Grinning, looking exquisitely groomed for the lecture circuit -fit and tan in a black turtleneck, his facial hair elaborately landscaped. Damn that man and his flirting. What the hell happened to him that changed his demeanor? Catherine stared.

"None, No side effect," Nasir added immediately.

"Are you sure?"

"Well, a little on that matter, Nanoparticles may damage the lungs but we made sure your body has developed a tolerance to most naturally occurring elements and molecules that it has contact with. It has no natural immunity to new substances and was more likely to find them toxic but you don't need to worry about it, we programmed the nanotech to avoid any organ damaged".

"Wow that was amazing"

Nasir looked genuinely pleased with the compliment. But Catherine stared at him unconvinced with his explanation.

"See? It's like a passive GPS tracking system this nanotech will monitor your location and will store its data on journeys based on certain types of events. So, for example, this Tracking Nod system may log data such as where the device has traveled in the past twelve hours. The data stored on the computer tracking system and usually stored in internal memory which can then be downloaded to a computer at a later date for analysis" he added.

"Can you guarantee my safety?"

"Yes!" A note of flicker annoyance in his voice like he's getting worked up toward something.

"Should I signed up for any contract?" she asked.

"Yes, Sean and I can arrange that later."

"Okay, it settles then! We need to hurry up to save Nathan! I'm confident of Miah's ability to protect him but many feral creatures were lurking in the Dark Forest than I can imagine." Eyeing Sean.

"I anticipated your interest in that device and yet here you are, concerned about Nathan!"

"Of course I am worried, he was my friend too, and by the way, are you one hundred percent sure this plan of yours will work?

"Don't fuss, Catherine, you were in good hands, our technicians were expert and well trained. They can collaborate with the scientific staff on a peer basis during your sleep and besides, I'm here to supervise. We'll be integrating and clustering into expertise groups and we'll build around specific infrastructure to monitor your progress" He added.

"Okay then when do start?"

"How about now?" Sean asked smiling.

--

In a moment's flash, they stand amid vast darkness. It was the complete shutdown of light, except for the dull light around them. This darkness weighed heavily on their shoulders. The darkness felt as if it were brooding and rotating eating them alive. The lone dark lurking, and the sheer depth of their darker self creeping out, take their fear to a level they never knew. In that wasteland of darkness, there was nothing for their minds to hang onto. There was no familiar sight, no sound other than the howling of the unforgiving wind and the sinister chilling of weather.

"Oh! Crap! Are we back in the Dark forest?" Sean asked confused.

"I don't think so, wait! If I'm not mistaken, we are in the Wasteland, she responded in an even more confused tone. Her eyes could not penetrate the darkness no matter which way she turned. The streams of waste were awful, the smell of a dreadful...Sulfur and a lot more.

"Goodness me! it stinks like hell in here!" He said.

"What's going on?" She asked herself. Fear hits her like a falling tree in an ice storm. The hair on the back of her head stands up. She was horrified by this vast, empty, wasteland that surrounds them. It's pitch black. And yet they don't have any idea why they were here.

The pungent vapor filled their nostrils, turns their stomach. Only the hearts beating in their chests stopped them from becoming as frozen as the landscape. When Sean whirled around to at least see the tracks they had made, there were none. The only way to navigate was from Catherine's fire and in only a few hours if they won't leave this hell, they'll be dead in no time from shivering under the stars as the wind was chilling their bones.

"Why the hell are we here?" she asked Sean.

Did they land here on purpose or this was a landing gone wrong? They need to do something. She was thirsty. So much so that her throat burnt and her eyeballs were quite dry. Yet there was nothing to drink.

She needs water now. She was in the grip of silent panic. She cannot concentrate on anything else, even breathing was hard. The next step was her heart starts to beat harder and faster, adrenaline levels rise. She was having a panic attack.

"Sean? Let's go back. I can't take this anymore."

"Are you sure?" He can feel it, building like an unstoppable snowball in the pit of his stomach. --

They both wake up faster than a cat in ice-water, every sense urging them to claw their way from that hellhole.

Catherine felt woozy and lightheaded. Her brain felt like it was being stretched and let go like an elastic band and she was beyond drowning, drowning from that hell. Her balance became worse, her vision was blurry. Her mouth was dry and her palms were sweating. She wanted to cry about the state that she was in but she couldn't. She was weak but she won't let anyone knew how weak she was. She couldn't produce any tears or won't.

"This room was on fire," that's all Sean said. Panicked, his voice sounded like the words were formed of smoke, his lungs charred. The air smelt of burning, acrid, chemical infused, and choking - no wonder Sean could barely speak.

The alarms sound, an odor of smoke in the air.

"Where the hell was everyone?" He asked himself. Searching for his team.

Before any real fear room hold, they were on their way out from the Nodders room, it's only when she was in his arms and he realizes the stairs weren't an option, his heart starts to pound. He needs to save her, Catherine was having a panic attack. He needs to choose now! And faster!

The smoke thickens and he let her down to the floor. She copied him, crawling to the street-facing window. It's too high to jump, a broken neck for sure, but from here rescue was at least possible. So now they hold their hearts out to the almighty and pray rescue comes in time.

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