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The Journey

Chapter 6

By Sunshine Boy

The bus ride was pleasant enough; two greyhound busses took everyone to a rather nice looking resort just out of town. There was another grassy field where everyone was gathering so Dan followed the crowd. A different speaker addressed everyone.

"Welcome to the last supper bed and breakfast. All of your bags will be taken to your rooms so you need not worry about them. Your paper work has been processed and our technicians are ready to run you through your preliminary scan to assign you your monitoring devices. Please follow me." The speaker, an older man who introduced himself but Dan couldn't remember his name, led the crowd to a large cabin sort of building off to one side of the field.

Once inside, Dan glanced around at the building's log cabin architecture while yet another man addressed the crowd.

"I'm doctor Brian Riley, the leading technician for the foundation. The computers are all set up for each of you so what I'm going to do is call your names one at a time and you will walk through this device to my right." The doctor indicated a device that Dan thought looked a lot like an airport metal detector.

"The machine is a simple scanning device; you won't feel a thing. After your scan, please line up at the far table for your monitors."

"Doctor Riley, can you please tell us about the monitors? Will we have to wear them the whole time?" Someone in the crowd asked.

"It'll all be explained over at the table but yes you will, however they are small, lightweight, and not a bother at all. Now let's begin shall we." Doctor Riley proceeded to read the first name.

Dan waited until his turn then walked to the machine. Another man he hadn't noticed before sat at the other end of the tunnel scanner behind a computer.

"Just stand still for a moment please." The man instructed when Dan stepped into the scanner. "Okay, oh wait a second." The man said looking intensely at the screen. "Doctor Riley, Doctor Riley, come look at this." He said urgently.

Dan felt a little nervous to say the least but he tried to remain calm.

"Look at this scan doctor." The man said. Doctor Riley took off his glasses and peered at the screen. "Well I'll be damned." He said, "What are the chances?"

Dan couldn't stand it anymore. "Ummm...excuse me, but is there something wrong? Am I okay?"

"Oh not to worry my boy, come take a look." Doctor Riley motioned Dan to the computer where a very cool looking 3 dimensional picture of his brain was free rotating on the screen with some wavy lines underneath.

"That's your brain." The doctor said. "Right below is a spectrograph of your brainwaves when the scan was taken." Dan stared at the image. Everyone has a brain but getting to actually see your own was an unusual, almost indescribable experience.

"It's your brain wave pattern that we were getting so excited about, it's nothing to worry about it's just that it's a very rare pattern, it would take a while to explain but you just have a very nice brain." The doctor allowed Dan to move to the monitor table. Behind him, Dan could hear the doctor and the technician arguing a little, "Is it necessary though, I mean these patterns, they're practically identical, five markers...we usually only get 4." The tech said.

"This is only a preliminary, we shouldn't jump to conclusions at this stage." The doctor insisted. Dan strained his ears as hard as he could but by this time he was out of range.

Dan had crossed the room and was now standing in front of the monitor table. On the table were numerous small boxes, each about the size of a deck of cards with a circular hole cut in the centre each about the size of a coin. Inside that hole was a skin coloured disk and as Dan was about to learn, almost the exact weight, thickness and diameter of a quarter.

"It's resistant to water, extreme temperatures, and impact. That way you won't need to worry about it at all." The woman standing across the table from Dan said as Dan looked at the small disks in their boxes. "Each disk has a sticky side that's used to attach it to the back of your neck where it can monitor brain activity through the brainstem. It's actually a very sophisticated piece of technology." She continued.

"What powers it?" Dan asked.

"The glue on the back is composed of a special chemical developed to very gradually oxidize the dead skin on the back of your neck, this gradual oxidation produces an electric current that the micro circuitry inside the chip uses as a power source. Don't worry though, it's a very gradual process, the chip merely makes use of the dead skin that your body would just let flake off otherwise."

"I see." Dan paused for a moment to word his next question, "does it like...monitor my thoughts?"

"Oh no, don't worry your thoughts are still your own. Try to imagine your brain as a machine that while running makes sounds like say a car does. If we listen to the sounds of a car engine we can guess how fast it's running, we can even guess as to probable problems but we can't see what's happening inside. It's the same with your brain, we're only monitoring the electrical noise of your brain, so we'll know when your asleep for instance, when your under physical or emotional stress or when your relaxed but we won't have a clue as to what your thinking."

Dan nodded and told the woman that he had no further questions so she found the monitor that was to be Dan's and stuck it to the back of his neck just bellow the hair line. Then she typed something quick into a near by computer. "The main computer is now processing your brain waves." She said. "Please go stand or sit over there with those other people and wait until everyone is done."

Dan went and sat with the other people who had already been processed. When everyone was done, doctor Riley received a print out and walked over to address the crowd. "The computer is, as you may or may not know, processing your brain waves and has already begun to isolate certain basic characteristics of your brain's electrical activity. Using that information it has already calculated which people out of all those in this room are most compatible traveling partners, so I will call you up in pairs and give you your room number and keys for tonight and allow you to get acquainted."

Dan was shocked and confused and looked around the room to see if anyone else seemed to share his feelings but as he looked around everyone seemed just as calm as they had been before. The last thing Dan wanted to do was spend a whole month of his personal time, his life experience with a total stranger. As he listened to the names being called he made up his mind that as soon as he could he would talk to whoever was in charge and explain that he would go alone.

"Dan McKinnon and Sam Maxwell."

Dan was already close to the front of the crowd and he jumped up to get his keys. Then he waited as Sam, got up shyly and picked his way cautiously though the crowd. Sam was about the same height as Dan but looked younger maybe only 16. He had short, blond hair and was rather thin. 'He's too thin, probably weak, not the best traveling partner.' Dan thought. Sam got his keys and both boys moved away. It was then that Sam extended his hand and said. "Sam Maxwell pleased to meet you."

'Oh God, he wants to shake hands, what a loser.' Dan thought as he shook Sam's hand and said, "Dan McKinnon."

Next, the boys moved with the crowd out of the main cabin and down a street lined with smaller cabins. Dan and Sam's cabin, E5 was on it's own in a corner where the street turned left. Dan unlocked the door and found his backpack was waiting inside for him along with a much smaller bag that he assumed was Sam's.

"Nice little place." Sam said as they stepped inside. Dan said nothing.

Sam walked upstairs into the bedroom.

"It's nice up here Dan, two single beds. But do you mind if I turn on the air conditioner? it's kinda hot in here."

"No, go ahead, I'm going down to the main cabin."

"Oh, okay. Well I'll see you soon then I guess."

"Yeah sure." Dan said as he grabbed his bag and left. He knew he was being an ass but his mind was one tracked at that moment and he wasn't too concerned about his behaviour.

Dan walked back to the main cabin. As he walked he started thinking about Sam, he seemed like a nice guy but Dan had no intention of traveling anywhere with him or anyone else. Besides, Sam seemed like he was too weak for the journey. 'What if he gets tired and sits down on the trail and decides to quit, then we'd both be out and my only chance is ruined.' he thought.


"Look Dan I'm sure you are a very independent person and very responsible too but this is our policy. If you want to go it will be with someone and that someone will be Sam."

"But sir...."

"There are no buts Dan, what you have to understand here is that this is non negotiable and not only that but if you back out now then Sam is without a partner and therefore disqualified too. You're not the only one who this is important to. I'm sure Sam feels the same way so if you decide to quit now then you're the one who is going to have to go back to that cabin and tell him. Now will this work or not?"

"Yes sir, I guess I'll manage." Dan said.

Dan left the administrator's office and walked slowly back to his cabin feeling shocked, angry, and bewildered. When he stepped though the door he was hit by an arctic blast that made him take a deep, shocked breath.

"Sam, are you in here?" Dan called but there was no response. He walked upstairs and turned off the air conditioner. Then he flopped back on one of the beds and looked up at the roof. As he lay there he imagined himself on the path with this skinny blond boy.

'He's just a kid.' Dan thought. Next thing he knew he was jarred awake by the front door closing. "Who's there?" Dan called.

"Oh hey Dan it's just me, Sam. I thought I'd go for a walk and do some exploring."

"Oh. You left the air conditioner running."

"I'm sorry, is it too cold?"

"Nah, I shut it off." Dan said as he sat up and saw Sam standing at the top of the stairs about 4 meters away, staring. As soon as he made eye contact Sam smiled a sort of crooked grin and Dan smiled back then pulled down his shirt as it had begun to ride up while he lay on the bed.

"What were you doing at the main cabin?"

"Oh nothing, just checking some rules."


"When was the last time you went camping?" Dan asked.

"My 18th birthday I went with my family but that's the only time I've ever been camping. I found on that trip that I really enjoy it though."

"Really? That's it? Wait, you're 18?"

"Yeah I know I look like I'm younger huh?"


"Well I'm 18, as of a month ago."

"I see." Dan said, his voice showed more of how unimpressed he was overall with Sam then he wanted. Sam's face fell noticeably and Dan suddenly felt like a jerk.

"I'm sure you'll be fine on this trip Sam, besides, you're not alone." Dan wasn't sure if he'd said the right thing but when Sam grinned again and said, "thanks Dan, I'm sure we'll both do great." Dan couldn't help but smile back.

Dan got up and checked all of his equipment then went for dinner with Sam. When they got back it was just before 9:00, Dan lit his camping stove and made a cup of tea. "We have a stove top in here you know." Sam suggested. "I know, I'm just testing my camping stove." Dan said as he pulled out a tea bag. He had almost 100 tea bags with him. The blend was his mother's own homemade tea and was very good, very soothing. Dan's mom packed it to help alleviate her son's homesickness. Unfortunately, as Dan sat and sipped his tea he felt homesick for the first time that day.

Dan leafed though the rules book to take his mind off of his homesickness. In the book he found that not only did it say that he had to have a partner but also that if the computer detected that he and his partner were a kilometre or more apart then they would be disqualified.

Dan's reading was interrupted at 9:30 when he felt like he was being watched. He looked up and saw Sam grinning at him from the bedroom balcony. "I'm just going to go to bed now." Sam said quickly. Dan smiled back, "okay, goodnight." 'That was the fourth time' Dan thought as he turned his back on the balcony. When Sam smiled it was like somehow he was connected to him in some strange way; he couldn't help but smile back and the funny thing was he wasn't even aware that he'd done it until after the fact.

Dan sighed and pulled out his note pad. He'd decided before he left that he would journal his entire adventure, at the very least it might be fun to look back on one day.

'Day one - Friday, July 2/2004.

I arrived with Beau at Stanley park and...'

Dan stopped and frowned. After a moment he scratched out his entry. He sat back and rubbed his temples then sighed. He put the date once more on the paper and tried again.

'They assigned me a traveling partner, his name is Sam. The more I think about it the more I can understand their decision, after all it would be much safer to go with someone than to go alone but this boy they assigned me to...He's so, soft. Pale skin, blond hair, this funny grin that....' Dan caught himself going off topic. He just doesn't look like he's spent a night outdoors in his entire life, or even left the city for that matter. I'm worried he'll ruin this for me. I checked the rulebook and found that if he does decide to quit on the trail then we're both disqualified. I guess if it comes to it I'll carry him then because there is no way I'm going to let anyone ruin this opportunity for me. I can't wait another year and besides I doubt if I'll have another $1,500 by then.' Dan paused to consider his next line while upstairs Sam finished his own journal entry. Sam glanced over at the empty bed next to his, sighed, turned off the light and tried to go to sleep.

Dan put his final thought down on paper, 'they said that the computer picked Sam to be my ideal traveling partner. There were a lot of people there and the computer picked him. What does that say about the computer? And if he is my ideal traveling partner what does that say about me?'

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