Conspiracy Theory – Chapter 1
Jack’s butt was numb and he stretched and leaned, lifting each cheek without getting up. He felt his coffee cup. It was dead cold. Sixty-eight was too damn old to be putting in ten hour days, but he was glad of the work. The Second and Greater Depression had wiped out his retirement accounts even before the previous administration had seized them, or taken them into protective custody to hear them tell it. They were saved in Federal Reserve dollar denominated bonds, so if he cashed them out they’d only be a tenth of the value in new United States Greenbacks. He’d really have been up the creek if his wife’s life insurance had not been ruled fully payable in the new notes.
Guys his age usually had trouble finding work, but his age was a benefit with this struggling niche plastics company. His experience with their obsolete computer and older AutoCAD software let them suck a little more use out of it. The youngsters who came by his cube looked in horror at the six year old box. It might be obsolete but it could still handle files for the relatively simple plastic parts they were contracted to tool and produce.
If you wanted five million crappy parts with flash and uncertain material specs the job was going to Malaysia or Vietnam. If you needed five hundred parts and actually needed the dimensions to resemble spec then Midwestern Molding was the company to shoot your job.
He’d have been delighted to have this computer or the huge high definition screen twenty years ago. He started out years ago with NASA on a machine that you could instruct to do an operation, like rotate a part, and then go use the bathroom, refresh your coffee, say hello to your work mates in the coffee room, and still be back at your desk before it was done.
There were five job files waiting for him. None was labeled hot by some miracle so he skipped down to the third. That file was smaller and perhaps he could finish it off by the end of tomorrow and have a clean wrap-up for the weekend.
The screen showed a standard three view line drawing print with details and a 3D rendering rotating in separate window. Jack couldn’t help the big smile that came to his face. It was a long time ago but you don’t forget a part once you’ve gotten every detail about it in your mind designing a tool to make it. He’d worked with this part when he was at NASA. It was a space suit visor.
He looked at the revisions list and was unsurprised to see it called out a different material. They’d done a lot with plastics since he was a green NASA nerd. The material it called for was stronger and more heat resistant than the original Lexan. The revisions included anti-reflective coating and sapphire on the inside but deep bonded diamond film on the outside. That was a whole new technology they hadn’t dreamed of back then. The gold film was deleted so they must be using separate flip down sun filters and shades.
The seal groove was modified. Likely the seal was new up-to-date material too. There was still room for ejector pins outside the seal groove so this tool as going to practically design itself since he’d done one before. It needed a lot of diamond polishing on the mold for the optical surfaces. That wasn’t going to be cheap. It was still a highly skilled hand craft.
Jack looked at the corner to see who was having it made. Tangent Fabrication. He’d never heard of them but he’d been out of the aerospace game for years. Then his eye caught the part name: Face Shield Motorcycle Helmet.
“Bullshit!” he said out loud. Then he looked over his shoulders. Sudden paranoia made him want to keep this to himself until he understood why. No way in hell was this for a motorcycle helmet so what did it mean? Why would anyone make an obsolete space suit part and lie about what it was?
Jack was agitated enough he had to get up – taking his coffee mug and going for a fresh one. The coffee was old and burnt. If he made a new pot at 3:30 people would complain about the waste. The price of coffee was out of sight. He just rinsed the mug and got water from the cooler.
By the time he walked back and sat again he was calm again. It was even starting to make a little sense to him. If you needed space suits quickly on the cheap most NASA research and data was in the public domain. The basic design was pretty good, not like the suit they used for Mercury which was basically a high altitude aircraft suit. It was far better than the Apollo suits or even the very early Shuttle suits. Modernize the materials and the basic design was damn decent. But who the hell needed space suits and needed to keep it secret?
He wrote down Tangent Fabrication and the address and print number on a Post-It note. He considered putting the CAD file on his key ring drive and decided against it. He wasn’t sure the network administrator wouldn’t see the download. They didn’t run a high security shop. Most of their work was appliance parts and high end toys. Anybody could reverse engineer them by buying the product and measuring it. But they might watch his activity to keep track of his productivity.
He had a funny feeling about this. It failed the sniff test and he intended to find out why. In fact he had a vacation penciled in for next month. It would be worth missing a little fishing time to see what Tangent Fabrication looked like. It was north of Sacramento were he’d been going anyway. He wrote down the revisions on the Post-It and put it in his wallet. Then he pulled a standard base out of the D-M-E catalog and started designing the tool. This was the most interesting thing that had happened to him in years. In that way it wasn’t entirely unwelcome.