Monday, February 12, 2007

New Beginning 214

"Um, what was in Beaker 3E again?"

It was the last thing he'd ever hoped to hear in his lab. The last thing any scientist wanted to hear anywhere, really. And Dr. Bart Baker hoped with all his heart that his assistant hadn't done anything remotely close to what his imagination conjured.

"Gale, tell me you didn't do anything . . . taxing."

"I didn't do anything taxing."

Bart sighed, wondering why he didn't feel relieved. He methodically finished measuring the hydrochloric acid. No sense screwing up two experiments. When finished, he turned to study the expression on his current graduate assistant's face. The worried frown there failed to reassure him. "All right. What did you do?"

The girl's pretty face paled further. "Nothing, Dr. Baker." She gulped, her blue eyes too wide. "I just sorta . . . lost it."

He blinked very slowly. "Gale . . . " He didn't know why he paused; he just couldn't seem to think of anything else to say.

He walked over to the window of the lab. The view over the city always helped clear his mind.

“Dr. Baker, I . . . ” Gale’s voice started to crack. Bart closed his eyes, praying she wasn’t going to cry. “I remember I had it in the kitchen this morning--”

Bart’s eyes flicked open. “You took it home?” Unbelievable. “That was a highly concentrated sample. Months of effort. And you took it home? On the subway?”

“I was behind in my notes. Anyway, I had it this morning. It was on the kitchen counter, right next to . . . my husband’s travel mug . . . uh oh.”

Something caught Bart’s eye, over by the Rocklyn Center. No: in the Rocklyn Center. A huge, pale monolith -- like something from Kubrick’s 2001--was rising over the city, casting shadows across the neighboring buildings; an enormous, pale obelisk; a massive . . .

“Gale, does your husband, by any chance, work near the Rocklyn Center?”

“He works for Rocklyn Aggregates, why?”

Bart smiled and let out his breath. There was more work to do, but it looked like the new ED drug would soon have Viagra's market share drooping.

Opening: Gutterball.....Continuation: ril


GutterBall said...


Dave Fragments said...

I'm not sure many people would understand just how adorably funny this opening is. I am certain that the author just barely survived chemistry class in high school. And before the author gets angry with me, 99 out of 100 people would never figure out the awful lab techniques described.

However for writing, it works to suggest that the assistant did something very wrong. AND, I'm very interested in finding out what. A opening that works without a gimmick! YAY!
I'm not fond of starting paragraph 2 with "It was the last thing..." but however, the opening works. It's the car wreck we all don't want to look at but stare at anyway.

I once had two guys who worked for me search for three days to find a sample for a re-analysis. It was important to verify the numbers. Losing a sample is a big deal.

Of course, causing the glassware to explode is also a mistake. That was my forte - self-breaking glass. Things went bang and boom and shatter without human contact. That was when we were forcing rocket fuel into coal to remove fools gold.

They didn't call me Thumbs for nothing.
PS - I still have my limbs, digits and both eyes.

Xenith said...

>The last thing any scientist wanted to hear anywhere, really.

I thought these might rate a bit higher on the "last thing a scientist would want to hear" list:

No, not that one!

Once I got past thinking about that, the writing seems a bit distant. Dare I say it, more telling than showing. For example: WHAT has his imagining conjured up?

Anonymous said...

I found this opening engaging.

Really, my only comments are nits:

I don't really get the "taxing" thing. I suppose it means mentally taxing, but I had to stop and hover over it for a while, trying to parse what initially hit me as a non sequitur.

Why "Gale" and not "Gail"?

I don't believe he "wonders" why he's not relieved; perhaps "noticing he didn't feel relieved" may be closer to the truth.

Is magic important in this later? I ask because of the use of "conjured" early on. It's not a word I would normally expect to see there, especially in the context of a scientist's lab.

All in all, I'm curious what comes next and so far like both characters and the writing.

E.S. Tesla said...

Really like this opening.

As for Gale vs. Gail... I don't care at all.

E.S. Tesla said...

Oh, I once, in chem class, decided to heat a sample just to speed things up a little. The liquid decided to jump from it's puny container and head for my crotch.

Dodged that one, I thought.

No problem.

An hour later, I was no longer wearing pants.

Thankfully I was wearing underwear.

I can totally related to chem fuck ups.

Anonymous said...

I liked this opening and would read on. The two bits that tripped me up - I wanted to know what his imagination was conjuring up - explosion? human genome experiment gone wrong? (I say this, by the way, having no idea if such a thing is even possible, being chemically challenged, as it were). The other bit I didn't understand - why did he ask, "I hope you didn't do anything taxing"...why taxing? That just didn't fit within the context of lab experiments or what little I know of made me think she'd lifted a beaker that was too heavy for her or something of that kind and what would be the big deal about that? Unless you dropped it, I guess. I'm rambling. Anyway, I liked it and I would read on. It had a nice flow and a good conflict setup.

The continuation was funny too.


PJD said...

...I wanted to know what his imagination was conjuring up...

A few people have said this. I think that teaser is one of the things that has everyone wanting to read more. Don't put in any more detail there. Save it for later. (Just make sure you tell us at some point.)

Anonymous said...

I would definitely read on.
Especially like some of the phrases like:
"her blue eyes too wide".

Also love the visual provided by the continuation.


Gone said...

I loved the beginning! The ending was funny, but I couldn't help but wonder what Gale did wrong.

McKoala said...

That was one awesome continuation.

I did think that the lab technique sounded awfully sloppy, but if it's OK with the chemists among us, I'll go with the flow. I kind of liked the use of 'taxing'. It made a change from 'bad...wrong...silly' etc, but implied all of those.

GutterBall said...

Heh, amusing range of commentary.

This was supposed to be one of a collection of short stories by a writing group on "top ten things you never want to hear at work". Unfortunately, I'm the only one who actually wrote a story. Oi. Some of the other suggestions were hilarious and would have made great shorts.

Dave, bless your heart, but I was actually decent at chemistry. My partner messed around with some H2SO4, but I was the model of decorum and didn't melt so much as a pipette, despite my love of explosives. Unfortunately, as you can tell, it's been a long time since I last donned the safety glasses.

And "taxing" is just one of Dr. Baker's little quirks. He has a different manner of speech that drives most of his grad students crazy. Oh, well.

Anonymous said...

"No sense screwing up two experiments."

I laughted so hard, I'm pretty sure I burst something. I know you didn't mean it the way I'm reading it, but still...

Oh, by the way... How's that alien porn book coming along?

GutterBall said...

How's that alien porn book coming along?

Wasn't that ZOMBIE alien porn? I vaguely remember something squidging.

Anonymous said...

Zombie porn? Okay, but I'm more interested in the gellyfish.

A guy in my condition can't be too picky.

GutterBall said...