STORM THORGARTEN was your classic Teutonic dork -- reserved, devoid of many social graces, and having no life aside from his work. He was outwardly happy all the same, in his small world, with few friendships and only a large gray cat named "Mac" to share his evenings. Thorgarten had given the cat that particular appellation after befriending the animal outside a Fleetwood Mac concert in Berlin in '77. Storm and Mac were a near perfect match -- each ventured out into mainstream society only on necessity -- usually in quest of food or sex.
Thorgarten worked as a research scientist for a firm which produced electrical products. They had been hesitant to take him on five years ago as he seemed over qualified for the position and talked a bit too eagerly about some far fetched ideas of his own. Nevertheless, Storm proved he was both sober and dedicated, able to reign in his natural curiosity and lead his team in developing marketable products along the company's lines.
One of their most profitable lines was stage lighting and several of their devices used for back lighting and special effects had become status symbols among entertainers. This trend caused a meteoric rise in the company's stock and got Thorgarten named "Engineer of the Year".
After that Storm was able to convince the senior executives -- a panel of cold blooded, purveyors of profit-- to allow him the leeway to launch one of his own ideas.
For the previous half year Thorgarten's team had been doing R&D on an innovative strobe light. The light was designed to project blue flashes on variable frequencies which could encompass an entire stage area or could be adjusted to concentrate upon one performer. When so adjusted, it seemed to form a ghostly halo around the entertainer. As the light pulsed, an optical illusion was created wherein the entertainer's movements appeared to be "freeze framed". Instead of the fluid motion with which the star was actually moving, the light divided movements into strobes or flashes, lending a jerky rhythm. Against the ghostly halo, the effect was vaguely reminiscent of early film which made subjects move so quickly as to appear comical. Then an even more curious thing happened: the light took on a power of its own. It seemed to key itself to the performers rhythm -- the faster the performer moved the faster the light pulsed, and this worked in reverse as well.
There was still one more aspect of Thorgarten's innovation of which he alone was aware and which he could not share with his team for legal and ethical reasons. Storm knew from his own experience during his university days in the Berlin underground that the use of marijuana could greatly enhance the perception of certain phenomena in certain subjects. The germ for his present project had originated back there in the dorm with a few of his classmates, which in those days might have gotten them all ejected. When they combined pot and strobe with heavy metal music, they experienced some bizarre but highly pleasurable sensations, which beggared even their own descriptive powers later.
After graduation, Thorgarten was compelled by obligations to find a job and other realities, to put aside such "nonsense" and concentrate on serious and more practical pursuits. However, his recent success at Creswell Corp finally afforded him the opportunity to trot out his pet project, which until this time he'd had to confine to his bedroom. Now he was able to "come out" with his toy and engage the multi-million dollar research facility and team in its development; albeit, certain of its attributes must remain with him alone.
What's needed Thorgarten mused is some private way to test this thing without legal or ethical liability. Then the perfect plan emerged one morning in the bathroom -- Mac the cat, 70s love child, would be the ideal subject! Storm had a prototype of the light at home which he had assembled and updated concomitant with work at the lab. Carefully, he placed the apparatus over Mac who lounged in shameless luxury on the couch and watched GOOD MORNING, AMERICA. But Tom was hardly prepared for the result.
MOMENTS AFTER the light was electrified, Mac began to exhibit altered behavior. First his posture changed from his normal flaccid state where he would drape off either side of Storm's hand when lifted from wherever he happened to be sprawled. He pushed himself up into a back-bowed, tail-fluffed, and menacing stance. Within another few seconds he was barring his fangs and hissing, something Storm had never before witnessed in his adopted pet. The animal's eyes also appeared crossed and unable to focus. Thorgarten moved quickly to snap off the light and tried to calm and reassure his pet.
<<Hey, Big Mac, what's the matter, it's just a light, I thought you'd like it. I didn't mean to startle you, honest!>> But it took a few seconds for the effects to pass and in the meantime, Mac crouched to spring at Storm who jumped back and dragged the light apparatus away from the couch, hoping Mac would "understand" that the threat was being removed. In the seconds it took to do that, the cat resumed his passive and aloof indifference to everything except the TV screen.
Storm was shaken and greatly perplexed by the experience but there was no time at the moment to dwell on it, he had to rush now to the lab.
In the cafeteria that noon Thorgarten tried to confer with a colleague about the phenomenon he'd experienced that morning. Given his reputation and the secretive nature of his experiment, he had to cast it in rather abstract terms to say the least. The poor colleague simply looked puzzled at the engineer and said: <<I think you're working too hard!>> True to his name, Storm stormed from the room.
Obviously, there was going to be no help forth coming from such mercenary coworkers, Thorgarten had another idea...