The Problem with Protégés

An essay by Dr. Andre Jomes, as provided by Rob Oxley
Art by Dawn Vogel

Caution when Advancing Interns: A Personal Account
Dr. Andre Jomes, MSBS, Director of BCRR, Berry & Serg
Adrian9 Inner Cylinder Housing, Apt. 43-F
Staff and Admin Tag 373-0

You will want the right kind of person to trust with your professional legacy–someone sharp and tactful, fluid, able to conform to whatever dilemmas your particular field may encounter, but also self-sufficient enough to think for themselves. A careful amalgam of independence and loyalty are required to mold a worthy protégé. You’ll need to give them freedom–but not too much. Give the wrong underling the right amount of VFD cable and they may unwittingly jam it into your A5-5 receptacle and fry you with it.

I found this out first hand my second year as Director for Berry & Serg’s LIP bio-engineering program, with a cretin I had considered my finest protégé who’d later be remembered as my greatest blunder.

Dr. Tibbons nearly brought down a decade’s progress with the most obscure device imaginable: a piece of GMO fruit. Hard to believe, but he almost did it. So, as a warning to all who may be considering graduating their finest pupil to the next stage of protégé, I will give you the gist of that day thirty years past. That was so long ago–I’d not yet perfected our reverse-aging serum. Physically I was a graying man then, and more than likely starting to gray a bit mentally even–

I’ll blame those failing synapses for my lack of foresight to Tibbons’ actions.


I passed through the initial security portal, twenty young representatives in tow. Our group advanced through the second portal–followed by a third (which really was unnecessary, security-wise, but had been installed the week before to reinforce the impression of control and safety for this particular tour).

After all of the clearances had been approved and the strength of the facility’s security clearly demonstrated, we arrived at the first viewing area.

I remember anxiety settling over me then–the people standing behind me were proxies for our largest clients and investors. I glanced at my finest intern and protégé behind the crowd, Dr. Hal Tibbons, and the spry young man reassured me with a subtle, enthusiastic nod. Tibbons had that special kind of supportive aura–I instantly felt more confident.

“We are so pleased to bring you all here today,” I began. “It is our pleasure to give you this first look at our latest models, and showcase the exciting progress our firm has made in recent months.”

As practiced, Tibbons pressed the strip on the wall, and the large shield that covered the first exhibit slid silently into the wall.

Inside the room was a massive creature perched on a set of wide beams. At first glance, it would have appeared to be a common simian–but then one noticed the triangular ears and slitted eyes that are traits not natural to primates.

“This is Thomas,” I explained, “and he is one of the first in our latest bio-military line.”

The group was awestruck, and they goggled at the daunting sight of Thomas as I continued. “Thomas is our prototype ‘jagrilla,’ as we call them, nicknamed for the near-equal splice of Peruvian jaguar and eastern lowland gorilla.”

“Is that all? There seems to be … something more,” interrupted a young rep.

He was referring to Thomas’s eyes, of course.

“Well, we did add a bit of pit viper,” I confided with an air of secrecy, “to achieve a certain … temperament.”

The group chuckled, and I finally allowed myself to relax.

The Problem with Protégés

“What’s this now? You mean the applemons?” Tibbons inquired.
Despite Tibbons’ air of confidence, the group exchanged suspicious glances. A general sense of gloom settled over the viewing area.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2014 collection.

Before his arrest and trials for crimes against nature on Earth, Dr. Andre Jomes was a celebrated biocyberneticist. For years he skirted the fringe of the altruistic Fantastic 49, though he was never actually recognized as a member. For the three decades since his banishment, Jomes has been confined to the Adrian9 solar station, but looks forward to being eligible for his Terra Visa in another two. Jomes enjoys watercolors, racketball, and surfing, and lives peacefully with his bestial companion, Thomas.

Rob Oxley recently relocated to a faraway enchanted land of lore and beauty–Montana. When he can escape conventional work, Rob perfects his fish-charming technique (with lots of colorful language and rod-throwing), speaks regularly on the modern medical advantages of cheap Scotches, and writes fiction that matches his unique perception of existence. His story “Party at the Phaedrus 5 Galleria” appears in The Glass Parachute, Villipede Publications’ SF anthology, and his gritty chempunk story “Cyborg Pajamas” can be found in Villipede’s Double Feature.

Dawn Vogel has been published as a short fiction author and an editor of both fiction and non-fiction. Although art is not her strongest suit, she’s happy to contribute occasional art to Mad Scientist Journal. By day, she edits reports for and manages an office of historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business and tries to find time for writing. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. For more of Dawn’s work visit

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