On Dosing the Water Supply with a High Powered Mind Control Mutagen

An essay by Dr. Zora Next, as delivered to the Press by Brandon Miller
Art by Luke Spooner


Dear My Concerned Public:

I want to take this opportunity to clear up the misconceptions about the events of April 20, 2013, at the Carson City water reservoir. My former assistant, Gregory, has been telling his side of the story to every National News Agency, as well as to several nasty authoritarian groups. They are now hunting me down as though I were a rabid dog. As if they could actually catch me. I can’t wait to see the look on Gregory’s face when he finally comes to his senses, and comes crawling back to me.

Anyway, his story is a mostly accurate account of that night’s events. His perspective, however, which is riding across the broadcast waves, is a bit skewed. I just don’t want any of you to get the wrong idea. First, and perhaps most inaccurate, is his general description of me. I believe he has been throwing about the term, “Psychopathic Lunatic.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I am merely a convicted, passionate, ambitious, beautiful, dreamer. Since the mad scientist community has been using such scandalous remarks against me for years, using such terms for my personage strikes a heavy blow to a very sensitive place. Really, it’s all so unfair, but I am very forgiving. I take Gregory’s betrayal to be a loss of heart, a result of the lingering sickness that exists as a terrible plague in our world. The very one hindering human advancement.

Truth be told, I feel sorry for him. This sickness is the cause of so much suffering. I have done my best to help abate the symptoms, but the disease is strong. It is very hard to cure on my lonesome because so many have it. The sickness is the state of mind that leaves people with such fear in their hearts. Fear of change. Fear of the leaping advances in technology. Fear of the coming triumph of Science. The sickness takes many forms, but it is behind both Gregory’s betrayal and the man hunt the C.I.A. is currently undertaking. You know the one–looking for little old me.

On Dosing the Water Supply with a High Powered Mind Control Mutagen

Needless to say, the landing of the helicopter on the waterfront wasn’t as graceful as the take-off from the military base from which we acquired it.

 


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2013 collection.


Doctor Zora Next does not hold an actual PhD of any sort as any attempt to conform to scholastic standards would be a waste of her time. The reason for this being that she is simply smarter then everyone else and as such the normal rules do not apply to her. She spends her time taking science to places that previously belonged only to the domain of gods and roaming about America avoiding the police.


Brandon Miller is a young American fiction writer who has had a wide variety of jobs and experiences. He finds purpose and joy in his life in two places, the interesting people he has known, and whatever he is writing about at the time. He hopes to have a future somewhere in a creative art form.


Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.

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Dr. Derosa’s Resurrection: Part V

As a helpful reminder, those wishing to read the gripping conclusion to “Dr. Derosa’s Resurrection” can find it in our Summer 2013 collection!


Click here for Part IV!


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Summer 2013 Now Available!

Not only do we now have Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013 available, but included in it is the thrilling conclusion to our serial, Dr. Derosa’s Resurrection by R.G. Summers. (See what we did there?) It’s available on Amazon and  Smashwords now, and will be available in other locations soon! And, if you want to show your love in a non-financial way, you can write a review or twelve on Goodreads!

Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013

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My Gran the Time Traveler

An essay by Engel Keyes, as provided by Adam Sear
Art by Katie Nyborg


My Gran is a time-traveler. Not by choice or force, even. It was purely accidental. My parents didn’t believe me when I told them. It was only when a portal opened during a summer barbeque and my Gran came through in Tudor dress, riding a large machine, that they believed. Salad and sausages splattered against their faces as they fainted.

Gran used to work in a University as a lab assistant to the researchers. When I was little, say five or six, she would sit me on her knee and tell me all about the wonderful stuff they were discovering. She’d try and use short words, but inevitably thirteen syllable ones would creep in. Eventually she’d shake me off and I’d run away to mimic the wonderful experiments, mud substituting for radioactive chemicals and water for noxious acid. Sometimes I’d taste the potions I’d make, hoping to be imbued with powers of flight; being stranded in hospital with both my legs in plaster ended that thought.

My parents would, after every accident, speak to Gran and dissuade her from telling me about the lab adventures. Eventually she stopped the lab stories and started into another area. She began with the dinosaurs, describing the mighty beasts, right down to their smell. She’d look into the distance, tousle my hair, and say: “That was a good one that, my boy.”

As I grew older, I stopped fitting on her knee. Instead I’d sit opposite, in one of her rocking chairs, moving back and forth as she told tales of the wars past and future. Sometimes she’d cry, sometimes she’d laugh.

It was in the summer of 2013 that she emerged from the portal. I’d been discussing my degree with my family, beer was flowing, and the barbeque crackling. Uncle Manuel was jumping on the trampoline with my cousins when the portal opened. The Time Machine trundled through, crushing the grass underneath its brass construction. Sitting in the control chair was Gran, a Tudor dress cascading over the Machine, a set of rubber goggles covering her eyes.

My Gran the Time Traveler

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013 collection.


Engel Keyes has dedicated his life to making his Gran proud, and is avoiding Monday morning work by going on a perpetual time-travel adventure. He is thinking about writing an anthology of his time-travel adventures.


Adam Sear is a BA English student at the University of Hull, UK. As an English student, he spends much of his time reading or drinking. He spends many of his weekends travelling around the UK, going to debate competitions. He blogs occasionally at www.supplementalthoughts.wordpress.com and can be found as @Extra_Thoughts on Twitter.


Katie Nyborg’s art, plus information regarding hiring her, can be found at http://katiedoesartthings.tumblr.com/

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Dr. Derosa’s Resurrection: Part IV

By R.G. Summers
Art by Dawn Vogel


Click here for Part III.


On the day that I was to break my father out of prison, I woke up to the sound of sirens in the streets below. I stumbled out of bed, rubbing my eyes and walking to the window to see what all the commotion was about. I snapped out of my groggy state when I saw what was happening in the street below.

There was no traffic in the road–the street had been completely taken over by a swarm of marching people.

I ran and got my laptop, but pulled a chair up close to the massive windows so that I could watch what was happening outside. The Trongodian news sources were streaming footage of the protest, and even the American news sites were reporting on it. A Trongodian flag had been set on fire and was being paraded down the street, its purple and red colors blazing. I could hear the people in a unified chant, but I couldn’t tell what they were yelling.

The government authorities had arrived though, ready to break up this demonstration. Armed with dark batons and riot shields, the national police surged into the sea of protesters.  It was like watching little black ants invade another colony from thirty-one stories up.

At first the crowd of enraged civilians fought back, pushing the police and fighting to keep marching forward. Their chanting drowned out the sound of law enforcement agents on megaphones, and the march became confrontational.

I rubbed my eyes and moved away from the window. Of all the weeks to fly into Trongodia, I had to pick the week that civil unrest hit its breaking point. It didn’t matter. I’d be gone by this time tomorrow … hopefully.

Mr. Charlie had crafted an intricate plan for how we would break in to Conterragoa Prison. Like so many government institutions in this country, it was far removed from any populated area and embedded in the hardly habitable jungle. We would wait until evening to infiltrate it, when the guard shifts were changing. Until then, though, I had nothing to do but worry and watch the protests from the comfort of my hotel suite.

The streets were cleared and the protesters arrested by the time I had to leave. The national police handcuffed and carted people off en masse. Ambulances had arrived to transport civilians who had been seriously injured during the march. Large numbers of police officers were stationed outside though, and no one ventured down the streets. When it was time for me to meet with Jojing and Rykye, I had the hotel call me a car. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be harassed by the police if I attempted to simply walk down the street after this morning.

Dressed in sleek, black, athletic wear, I admired myself before I left the room. I wondered if my mother would be proud of me, or as vaguely horrified as I was. What little petty thievery and vandalism I had committed in America had never been caught, and I had no criminal record. I felt as though I should have warmed up to this better. Maybe I should have perpetrated a few felonies just to adapt to the feeling of committing high-stakes crime.

I made sure I had everything I needed–primarily my cell phones and the briefcase Mr. Charlie had given me at our last meeting. Everything else I left in the hotel room, knowing I would never see it again. From the prison, my father and I would be escorted directly to a private airfield and flown back to Seattle. Once I had my father, I would need to get out of this country as fast as physically possible.

I finished backing up my laptop’s contents to a USB drive–I had some unfinished schoolwork on it–and then dumped a glass of water onto it. There was a weird sort of gratification to destroying technology. I watched as it quickly short-circuited and shut down, and then I smashed it to pieces. I didn’t think the Trongodians would track me to this hotel when they began looking for my escaped father, but I couldn’t afford to leave anything behind that identified me. I didn’t mind leaving the government with the impression that my mother was responsible for all of this; she was in enough trouble with them already.

My short hair bobbed with my head as I marched down thirty-one flights of stairs where a car and driver were waiting for me in the parking garage. I had him take me to our rendezvous point on the outskirts of the city, where I would meet my partners for the first time.

Rykye and Jojing were already there by the time my car pulled up to the gravel parking lot of an abandoned chemical manufactory. I stepped out of the car with the distinguished, sly grace that I thought my mother would have done everything with. I recognized the men from their pictures. Rykye was leaned up against the side of the jeep, and Jojing was sitting, hunched over, on its hood. While Jojing twitchily shuffled a deck of battered playing cards in his hands, Rykye remained stoically still. They watched me with an unemotional curiosity as I approached.

They looked somewhat different in person than they had in the photos Mr. Charlie had showed me. Rykye was a good fifteen years older than me, and his face was uniformly and thinly wrinkled. I couldn’t tell if he had gone bald or just shaved his head. He was a big man and built like a truck. I had the feeling he could have carried both me and Jojing if he had a mind too.

Jojing was a skeletal man, and his crewcut hair stood on end. When he was not hunched over, he slouched. His posture was always poor and defensive, even as he approached me to shake my hand. “Derosa,” he called. “Good to meet you. I’m Liam Jojing.” His thin hand gave mine a firm shake. Up close, I noticed the wide array of scars he had on his neck and face. The ancient burn wounds hinted at years of reckless experimentation with fire and explosives. He could not have been more than a few years older than me.

“A pleasure,” I responded. “And Jon Rykye, yes?”

I held out my hand, but Rykye did not bother to uncross his arms to take my hand. “Yep,” he responded stolidly. “If you’re ready to go, hop in.” He pushed off of the jeep and pounded its side before opening the door and climbing into the driver’s seat. “It’s a long way to Conterragoa.”

I chucked my briefcase into the back of the jeep and got in. Jojing had already slunk into the passenger’s seat. The noisy engine of the military-grade vehicle thundered as Rykye turned the key in the ignition. Gravel flew underneath the tires as we pulled out of the gritty parking lot and headed down the rural highway to the Conterragoa province and federal prison.

“I was expecting you to be older,” Rykye announced aggressively. “Charlezu tells us you’ve got a colorful history in this business.”

If Mr. Charlie had told them anything about my mother’s exploits, they probably already knew more about her qualifications than I did.

“I’m older than I look,” I told him slyly.

He glanced at me in the rearview mirror as he drove. “Charlezu told us that you would be.”

Jojing remained focused on his ratty deck of cards while Rykye and I talked.

“I’ll have you know,” Rykye added, “that Jojing and I have been at this game for a while too. We’re professionals.”

He sounded angry with me, but I didn’t know what I could have said to upset him. I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with these men. “Oh, I know that. I’ve never known Mr. Charlezu to work with anyone but the best.”

“Which is exactly why Jojing and I wondering what you’re doing here.” Rykye’s combative voice matched his aggressive driving as we barreled down the country highway. “I don’t know who you are, Derosa, but I don’t like you. I’ve been working as a hired gun for almost twenty years, and I’ve never once heard your name. I don’t like that. Charlezu didn’t tell us jack about what you’ve actually done, or where you’ve been. What’s more, I don’t like the idea of breaking a guy out with his wife in tow. We’ve got a real nice plan for how we’re going to do this, and I don’t want you to screw it up. You’re just going to follow our lead and let us do the heavy work, you got that?”

I had to suppress a smile. They were treating me like a juvenile child, someone who had no experience breaking into high security federal buildings. It was perfect. I had been deathly afraid they would have the same confidence as had Mr. Charlie–or Charlezu, as he was obviously called these days.

“Understandable,” I answered. “It’s been a long time since I pulled a stunt like this, and I defer to your judgment.”

He gave me an angry, skeptical look through the rearview mirror again, but mellowed out after that. I don’t think he had been expecting such a submissive response. “Good,” he replied, uneasily. Rykye’s full attention went back to the road. Jojing finally gave me the briefest of glances once it was obvious the conversation was over, but that was the last time either of them looked at me for the duration of the drive.

#

It was a long way to the jungle, and longer still to Conterragoa Prison. The road was bumpy and poorly maintained, and we drove through small creeks that crossed the highway on multiple occasions. Dead animals rotted on the side of the road, and one deceased water buffalo was being picked at by a cluster of large, black birds. The trees grew thicker and taller as we descended deeper into the heart of the jungle. The leafy canopy above closed us in and gave me a feeling of claustrophobia. Vines dangled languidly and ferns shot up out of the ground far taller than any I’d ever seen in Washington. There was a definite chill to the weather, but though the air was not muggy, it did seem strangely heavy and thick.

As we approached the prison, Rykye slowed the jeep and navigated down a service road that led around the perimeter of the prison. He took the jeep off-road, and buried us in the thick of the brush. The three of us got out of the jeep and began prepping. It was only a quarter to six, so the graveyard staff would be arriving shortly, bussed in from the nearest town. Jojing assembled his explosives in a metal mechanics box, Rykye changed into the prison guard’s uniform that Mr. Charlie had procured, and I got the trick handcuffs out of my briefcase. I had practiced with them for days, ever since Mr. Charlie had given them to me and finalized our plans. The past few days had been a blur of anxiety and anxiousness, and I was almost relieved that today had finally arrived. I now knew how to unlock my trick handcuffs in two seconds with the hidden trigger, and felt as ready as I would ever be. Rykye was going to escort me into the jailing facility, right to the doorstep of my father’s cell on the west wing’s third floor, all under the guise of needing to lock me up in that vicinity.

The three of us crept closer to the front gate, but remained obscured in the brush. We watched as the rusty old industrial bus barreled up to the front gate, carrying the night shift workers. When Rykye whispered, “Go!” the three of us ran like devils to catch up to it. As expected, it paused at the front gate while it checked in with the on duty guard staff. We stayed on its right side in order to avoid being spotted by those in the guard booth on the left.

The razor wire gate shut behind us, and we kept close to the concrete-brick walls. In the dim twilight, we made our way slowly and cautiously to a grounds-keeping shed. We had all memorized the map Mr. Charlie had given us, and knew exactly the route we had to take in order to get from the shed to the prison’s west wing. We waited in peaceful apprehension, waiting for six-twenty. Jojing checked his watch, every minute almost on the minute. I took my pack of Marlboros out of my pocket and pulled out a cigarette. I had it in my mouth, but before I could fish my lighter out of my pants, Jojing had one in my face.

“Need a light?” he asked, a flame in his eyes and in his fingers.

The minutes passed slowly and the cigarettes quickly. By the time six-twenty arrived, I was itching to go, and no longer dreading the moment of action. I wanted to start the break-in because I wanted to be done with it. I had developed an odd sort of emotional detachment from the situation. I barely thought about my father and his freedom; my concern was only with doing what was before me and not getting myself apprehended.

At six-twenty by our synchronized watches, I flicked away the last of my cigarette and put myself in the trick handcuffs. Rykye grabbed hold of my arm and began marching me toward the front door of the prison building. Jojing hung back and stalked after us like a shadow, all according to plan.

Conterragoa Prison itself was a dismal place. Stony and dark, it was an old building that had not seen any remodeling in decades. The concrete blocks were cracked and weather-worn, but the prison remained just as solid and strong, just as effective of a cage. Rykye flung the metal door open and marched in with authority. I did my best to look like a disgruntled arrested person.

The guard at the front desk got to his feet immediately and looked as though he was about to reach for his gun. Rykye gave him a friendly wave, but the deskman looked leery of him. “James Borchock,” Rykye introduced himself with the same fake name that was printed on his uniform. “I work dayshift. I was called to pick up this little lady. She resisted arrest during the protest in Xaqarii this morning. I’m going to hand her off to the assistant warden and get out of here before it gets any later.”

The front deskman nodded. “Ah. Alright.” He turned his key in an electric console on the desk, automatically unlocking the metal gate door that would lead us to the prison corridors.

Rykye opened the door with his free hand, but before he dragged me through, paused to ask, “Hey, could you check the computer system and see if I’m still on duty? Vorchock. I’m not sure if they’ve got me working a double shift over this or not.”

“Oh, sure,” the front deskman replied. He turned around and bent down over the outdated computer console. Rykye and I both turned our attention to the grimy window that Jojing was watching us from. Rykye nodded, giving him the signal to sneak in. Jojing quickly and silently entered, dropping himself in front of the desk where the guard would not see him.

Suddenly suspicious of us, the front deskman replied, “You’re not in the database. I can’t find a shift schedule for Vorchock.

Borchock,” Rykye responded. He then gave the deskman the correct spelling.

“Oh, let me check again.”

While the guard was distracted at the computer console a second time, Jojing darted through the door Rykye was still holding open. Carrying his tool box of explosives, our partner slipped out of sight and hurried ahead of us.

“Nope,” the front deskman replied, “Your shift ended half an hour ago, Borchock.”

“Thanks,” Rykye replied, finally slipping through the door and bringing us into the prison proper. The metal gate door slammed shut behind us and we moved quickly, but calmly, through the prison. We passed by three different guards on our way to the west wing, but all without incident. They hardly noticed us, they were in such a rush. The entire staff was panicked, and it was obvious why.

Once we were within the corridors of cells, we could hear the horrible and monstrous shouting of the inmates. The whole prison was a roaring mess of death-threats and profanities. We kept our distance from the cells; prisoners with tattered clothing and unshaved faces reached out, violently shaking their iron cell doors and spitting at us.

“Oh my God,” I whispered to Rykye. “Is it always like this?”

“No,” he answered, “but prison riots have become much more common in the past year. The government’s been overcrowding them, filling them with political prisoners they don’t have the resources to deal with.”

The whole complex smelled like death and filth. I breathed through my mouth to avoid the stench, but it was as omnipresent as the hateful cries of the prisoners. Three stories of imprisoned individuals–everyone from murderers to protesters–were howling at the institution that had locked them within this awful pit.

I suppressed the urge to cry as I suddenly realize that this was where my father had been for the past six years. Wrapped up in an urban and American world of wealth and opportunity, I had forgotten the horrors of Trongodian society I had been too young to comprehend. A deep and impassioned rage against my native country came to fruition inside of me. We passed by tiny cells full of broken cots and unwashed human beings, but I could think of no crime that deserved such a punishment, least of all my father’s white-collar offense.

Dr. Derosa’s Resurrection: Part IV

I suppressed the urge to cry as I suddenly realize that this was where my father had been for the past six years.

Rykye and I climbed up a dimly lit stairwell to the third story of the west wing, and found that the enraged screaming was more unified here. Many of them looked like ordinary civilians who had been locked up only recently. I recognized the cadence of the chants from the protest earlier this morning, but now I could hear the words of their Trongodian rhyme:

Freedom does not stop, liberty marches on, progress will not freeze for you.

The walkie-talkie on Rykye’s belt suddenly buzzed, and he answered it in a flash. Over the chanting, I could hardly hear Jojing.

“I found the doctor, cell 503. I’m working on getting him out, where are you guys?”

“On our way. We’re in the west wing, passing cell 560.”

Rykye clipped the walkie-talkie back onto his uniform’s belt, right as we came into earshot of another uniformed official. This was not another harried guard though, as we quickly gathered. “You! What are you doing?” The short man approached us swiftly and I realized from his uniform that he must have been an authority among authorities. “We’ve got a crisis on our hands! What are you doing away from your station? Who is this?”

The official came to a flustered and irritable stop in front of us, and looked at Rykye’s uniform. With outraged confusion he declared, “Are you new here?”

“I usually work the day shift,” Rykye answered, towering over the short man.

“I work the dayshift too, you twit. I’m the department head of this wing, and I don’t recognize you, Borchock.” Sizing him up further, the department head then asked, “I need to see your identification card.” I winced. Mr. Charlie had only provided us with the uniform.

“Of course.” Rykye calmly answered, presenting the official with a strong right hook that promptly knocked him out. The department head was unconscious before he hit the floor.

I sprung open my handcuffs and quickly yanked the key ring off of his belt. I ran to catch up with Rykye, knowing that we both wanted to be far away from the west wing department head before anybody found him lying there. We fled from a wave of cheers that had erupted from the imprisoned individuals. They seemed to derive both solace and satisfaction from watching Rykye punch him out.

As soon as we rounded the bend in the prison corridor, we saw Jojing hunched over a cell door’s lock. My heart lifted and wedged itself into my throat as I realized how physically close I was to my father. I began sprinting to put my high school track records to shame. I passed Rykye and was almost to Jojing when he quickly backed away from the cell door. Jojing caught sight of me as he did so, and yelled, “STAY BACK!”

I came to a dead stop, and threw my hands up in front of my face as I heard the boom and saw the blast. Startled, but fine, I dashed to the smoking cell door as soon as the explosion was over. Forcing the broken cell door open, I stepped over disintegrated metal. I coughed from the fumes of the powerful, but controlled, blast and waited for them to clear so that I could see.

Without thinking, I called out, “Dad?”

The figure in the far corner remained recoiled against the wall, defensively waiting for the explosion and smoke to clear. He was huddled in on his starved and slender self, but looked up when he heard me. His face had become gaunt and his hair had grown out, unkempt and wild. Underneath his beard though, I saw his lips form a smile of hopeful disbelief, and I saw that the sunken eyes of this strange man were still the eyes of my father.

Confused and overwhelmed by the trauma of imprisonment and the shock of sudden freedom, he stared at me as though I was an angel. “Melinda?” he breathlessly croaked. I made my way to him in stilted, hurried motions. He scrambled to his feet and again exclaimed, “Melinda!” He flung himself onto me, wrapping his arms around me and planting a kiss on my lips.

With reflexive disgust, I shoved him off of me. He stumbled backwards and fell against the wall. I gasped as I watched him slump down. “Oh my God! I’m sorry Dad. It’s me! Lindy! Little Lindy!” I spoke quietly, to keep Jojing from overhearing just outside of the cell. I reached my hand out and out and pulled my father to his feet.

“Lindy?” he asked, even more baffled by the reality of being confronted by his twelve-year-old daughter, six years on.

“Come on, Dad, we’ve got to go.”

As incoherent as he was, my father very quickly processed that detail. I held onto him as he hobbled out of the cell. Jojing was not watching us. He was staring up at the ceiling. “Jojing!” I called.

“Did you hear that?” he asked. “They’re trying to put the prison on lockdown.”

“Where’s Rykye?”

“He’s still in uniform, so he’s going to head out through the main gate. He left this for you.” Jojing passed me one of the handguns, and I took it as if I had any idea how to use it. “I don’t want to alarm you, Derosa, but we’ve got to get out of here in the next eight minutes. He gestured to the mechanics box, and I saw that larger bomb within it was nine minutes and counting.

“You started the countdown!?” I cried.

“I didn’t have a choice,” he replied. “There wasn’t going to be time to rig it once we were in the prison yard.”

“We’ve got to go!” I exclaimed. Jojing needed no further encouragement. He swept the mechanics box into his arms and took off running. My father followed after him, but something called my attention away from the pressing urgency of my own situation.

“Help us!”

“Let us out!”

“Help! Help!”

“Come on, over here!”

I had arrived with the sole intention of saving my father, but I was surrounded by entrapped citizens who were far less guilty. Not that anyone deserved to be confined within this trap of inhumanity.

I made eye contact with one young man in a bright yellow t-shirt, and imagined that he had been one of the protesters I’d seen carted away from the security of my hotel room this morning.

I threw him the department head’s key ring and screamed with revolutionary joy, “Tell ’em Lindy sent you!”

The prisoners cheered as I started sprinting to catch up with Jojing and my father. As I ran, I wondered what the ramifications of that gesture would be. Their cheers fell out of earshot right as they were turning into yet another united chant, “Lindy sent us! Lindy sent us! Lindy sent us!”

Given Dad’s condition and the unwieldy mechanics box Jojing was carrying, I managed to catch up to them quickly. In all the hysteria, I found my mind too cluttered and frenzied to remember the layout of the prison. My memory of the building’s map vanished now under this intense pressure. Every corridor looked the same to me. I was surrounded by belligerent, threatening prisoners. Their passion was overflowing their cells, and I doubted that any force would be able to contain these people any longer. They were howling, and I could not process my own thoughts over the violently stimulating environment.

Jojing continued to race forward like a limber greyhound. He clutched his tool box protectively and held it fast against his body. I followed him, trusting that his confident strides were leading us in the right direction. As skittish has he had seemed with his constant card shuffling in the jeep, Jojing was proving remarkably level-headed in the moment of action. I did not like having to depend on someone else to lead me out of this insanity, but I did need someone to follow, and I hoped that Jojing would get us safely out. The seriousness of the situation seemed to clear Jojing’s head, and he led us to the far west exit of Conterragoa. We barreled down the stairwell, through the ground-level door, and out into the black prison yard.

Our feet slammed against the asphalt of the prison yard. It was paved over to prevent tunneling attempts, and also to allow delivery trucks to park outside of the Conterragoa kitchen. At this hour, there were no trucks or workers present, only stacks of wooden pallets and industrial dolly carts beside the building.

Emergency sirens were clearer and louder once we had escaped the riotous noise within the prison. They blared threateningly, and summoned the entire prison faculty to deal with our breakout and the uprising within. While we had not planned for a prison riot when we designed our breakout, we had known that there would be no way for us to walk right back out the main entrance after exploding Dad out of his cell. There was no way other way out of the prison yard though. The concrete bricks were piled exactly thirty feet high and surrounded the entire perimeter of the prison. While I had seen no solution to this problem when we were initially designing our plan, the answer had been obvious to the explosive mind of Liam Jojing.

I supported my father as he fell against the wall, out of breath and in danger of passing out. Jojing opened up his mechanics box and looked at the bomb. Its red digital display was counting down the minutes and seconds, frighteningly steadily. We had less than two minutes.

Jojing looked to the distant, impenetrable wall at the end of the prison yard and back at the display before he affirmed what I was realizing. “We don’t have time to plant the bomb and retreat safely.”

“We can leave it here and head for the main entrance,” my father suggested, his mental facilities coming back to him in this moment of necessity. “It’ll serve as a distraction and give us a chance to get out of the main entrance.”

“They’ll still have a guard there, and we won’t be able to open the gate,” Jojing replied, his whole wiry body shaking with his head.

“Can we disable it in that time?” my father asked. “It’s a circuit timer, yes?”

“We can’t get the circuit out in time,” Jojing replied. “We’ll have to leave it and–”

In the time it had taken them to have that conversation, the solution had already occurred to me. Knowing I didn’t have time to explain it, I simply grabbed the bomb from out of the mechanics box at Jojing’s feet and raced it over to one of the four-wheeled dollies next to the building. Setting it down with due cautiousness, I began pushing the cart with all my running force towards the wall.

I had the bomb tipped up so that I could keep an eye on the timer. Seconds would make a difference. I wished that I had inquired about the bomb’s blast radius, but the time for that was past. I would have to depend on my best estimation and good luck. I ran faster than I knew I could, all while pushing the massive cart and building up its inertia.

I wondered–as people are inclined to wonder when they have a live time bomb on their hands–what would happen if I died. What would it be like for Dad to find out that the twelve-year-old daughter he’d last seen six years ago was not only not a part of his life, but not part of the world? How would Uncle Bruce deal with knowing that six years of boarding school and a few weekends here and there had been blown to smithereens? I figured it would be easiest for Mom. Her tiny not-even-toddling baby would only be a small part of what she had lost in the past seventeen years. I would leave her life the same way she had left mine–as a loving stranger her life was owed to.

The red seconds slipped away, one shifting digit at a time. My eyes flicked back and forth, trying to gauge the distance to 0:00 and the time until that brick wall. If I erred on the side of caution, the bomb might not reach the wall, and it would be all for naught. All of it. The three of us would be trapped behind the walls of Conterragoa now, and for years to come. If I did not let go of the cart in time, all that I had to fear was my own sudden and explosive death for the sake of my father’s freedom and my mother’s reanimation.

When my caution and cowardice and determination and best estimations all converged, I thrust the cart out of my hands. It continued on, wheels squeaking in horror as it plunged toward the massive prison wall. I turned around and sprinted with every last ounce of energy I had left in me. I mentally counted down those last twenty seconds, unwilling and unable to glance back and gauge the distance between myself and the bomb.

My mental countdown was off, and my heart stopped with the shocking boom that resonated as Jojing’s device detonated. I screamed impulsively, hoping that–if nothing else–a fraction of my fear would escape me in the noise. I fell to my knees and ducked down, covering my neck and head as school earthquake drills had long ago taught me to do.

The first thing I noticed was that I was not engulfed in a blazing fireball. The next thing I noticed was that there were no shards of superheated shrapnel propelled into my flesh. There was a searing, uniform pain, and I realized I was being burned. I hunkered down against the asphalt and buried my face against my chest. It was painful, but not intense, and over quickly. I got to my feet slowly afterwards, feeling as though I had just received a six-hour sunburn in the course of ten seconds.

As I rose, I saw Dad and Jojing racing towards me. It hurt to turn my head, but I willed myself to look behind me and see the gorgeous, gaping hole that I had blown in the concrete wall. My feet, well insulated from the blast by my shoes, felt fine as I started running again. The prison sirens were still blaring, and guards would certainly come running any minute. The three of us stumbled over the decimated asphalt and crumbly rubble of the wall, emerging on the other side with a rush of relief that was amplified when we saw Rykye.

He had already made it back to the jeep, and was heading right for us along the service road. We piled into the vehicle, all three of us scrambling into the back. Holding onto each other and the sides of the jeep, we braced ourselves and caught our breath as Rykye put it into gear and sped away.

Hurtling back onto the main road in front of the prison, we were gone before the facility could form a coherent response to our escape. Even if they had the resources to pursue us, they certainly were not prepared to. With every roll of our all-terrain tires, my turbulent mind jostled in my head. The adrenaline was still thick in my veins, but it had stagnated and mellowed. All that was left was to indulge the fear and panic that had been building in me since the start of this daring misadventure. Apprehension and relief waded their way out of me in one weepy, conglomerated mess.

For the first time in six years, I clung to my daddy.

Rykye drove us to our last rendezvous point, where Mr. Charlie was waiting for us with the helicopter. We pulled off of the road at the jungle’s edge and buried the jeep in the brush where it would not be seen from the road for the time being. As the four of us walked toward the helicopter, broken and burned, Mr. Charlie stepped out of the co-pilot’s seat to greet us.

“Success!” he declared, seeing that we were all accounted for and on our feet. “Dr. Derosa, how good to see you.”

My father squinted at him for a moment before his sunken eyes lit up in recognition. “Mr. Charlie!”

Smiling guiltily, prideful Mr. Charlie asked, “Who else?”

“I should have known.” My father approached Mr. Charlie and shook his hand gratefully. “Thank you.”

“You’ve been dead to the world for six years … how does it feel to be resurrected from that, Dr. Derosa?”

“It feels like freedom.”
We piled wearily into the helicopter, and answered Mr. Charlie’s superficial questions about the operation as he and our pilot started the machine up. “It will only be half an hour before we’re at the airfield, and then we’ll put you two on a private flight out of the country,” he told us. “A doctor and three-course inflight meal will be ready for you at takeoff.”

The noise of the helicopter blades slicing through the air made conversation nearly impossible. I was happy though, sandwiched between my father and Jojing, holding onto my dad’s arm and feeling him ruffle my hair affectionately. Midway through our flight, Dad quietly asked me, “How on Earth did this happen, Lindy?”

I wormed out of his hold so that I could speak back into his ear. “I’ll explain everything once we’re on the plane.”

“Where are we going?”

With tremendous, subdued joy, I informed him, “Back to Seattle. We’ve still got to get Mom.”

“Lindy, you … you know about your mother? How?”

He spoke the words shamefully, and I saw that he was sorry to have ever kept the secret from me, to have ever lied about my mother’s death. I understood the decision though, and I appreciated the many hard choices he had faced while he attempted to raise me and revive her. “It’s okay, Dad. Uncle Bruce told me.”

A strange, perplexed look took hold of my father, and my smile slipped away as he uttered a single word.

“Who?”


The gripping conclusion is included in Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013.


R.G. Summers writes primarily science-fiction, but has published stories and poetry of all natures. Summers lives in Seattle, more or less, and has great hopes for the future, including being able to pay the rent by writing, and someday owning a crock-pot. She’s also training to be a circus performer, just in case this whole “writing” thing doesn’t work out. You can find her little corner of the internet at https://sites.google.com/site/herpuckishness/


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 http://historythatneverwas.com/

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Quality Control

An essay by Ellis Dowd, as provided by JC Hemphill
Photo provided by Eleanor Leonne Bennett


Until yesterday, I worked in quality control at the Farmer’s Son peanut butter factory. You know, that big, shiny one over in Level Creek. The iceberg of peanut butter factories, the owners called it. Built to sink the Titanics of the industry. Jif and Skippy, beware!

Pipe dreams come in all shapes and sizes, don’t they?

Anywho, as far as factory jobs go, QC is as cush as they come. I spent years on the assembly line working toward that position. Starting at the beginning of the process, I spent six months pouring fifty-pound bags of nuts and salt into the roaster–a monster of a machine we lovingly dubbed Mr. Peanut, a term the owners considered blasphemy. Remembering their petulant outcries when they discovered someone (who isn’t me, I’d never do such a thing, wink-wink) had drawn an image of the monocled peanut in Sharpie on one side of the stainless steel vat still gives me the chuckles.

From there I moved to the conveyor belt, where I held the mind-numbing duty of picking out burned peanuts from good ones as they zipped on to the masher.

If you’ve never contemplated suicide, try spending an eight-hour shift doing that. To pass the time, I made a game of counting how many bad peanuts I could let slip by without being called out by one of the current QC guys. My record was two hundred and eleven.

Eventually, I shimmied on down to jar filler. Only slightly less suicide-inducing than sorting peanuts, I used a pneumatic gun to pump creamed butter into plastic jars. I sometimes wondered what it was like at the factory where they made the jars. Talk about dull, I told myself. Looking back, I think I used the image of those poor bastards as a way to make my own work bearable.

Funny thing is … it worked.

For a time.

Then, after six robotic years on the line, I was called up to the show: QC.

I was happier than a Rottweiler with a T-Rex’s shinbone.

Quality Control

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013 collection.


Ellis Dowd is not a scientist. His mama pulled him out of school at the age of fifteen because she ‘don’t like the lies the gov’ment be stuffin his head wit’. But Dowd is most certainly mad; this much is proven by the pandemic of Peanut Plague sweeping the American south. If you or anyone you know has information on his whereabouts, please contact your local sheriff’s department immediately.


Writing consumes. The reader is consumed by a world of imagination; the writer is consumed by an obsession for expressing those imaginings. As both an avid reader and writer, JC Hemphill can be difficult to find. The words, you see, have consumed him. And if you or anyone you know goes looking for him, beware. Words have teeth and they just might consume you, too.

Some of his work has appeared in Buzzy MagStupefying Stories, and Nameless Magazine, with upcoming work in Space and Time, Tales to Terrify, and S.T. Joshi’s Weird Fiction Review. Free reads and more can be found at www.JCHemphill.com.

Again, if you seek the man himself … beware.


Eleanor Leonne Bennett is an internationally award winning photographer and visual artist. She is the CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of The Year 2013 and has also won first places with National Geographic,The World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography and The National Trust to name but a few. Eleanor’s photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, The British Journal of Psychiatry, Life Force Magazine, British Vogue and as the cover of books and magazines extensively throughout the world. Her art is globally exhibited, having shown work in New York, Paris, London, Rome, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Copenhagen, Washington, Canada, Spain, Japan and Australia amongst many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010. In 2012 her work received coverage on ABC Television.

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Dr. Derosa’s Resurrection: Part III

By R.G. Summers
Art by Dawn Vogel


Click here for Part II.


After my phone call with Mr. Charlie, I went directly to the salon down the street. He had told me that he would send a plane immediately and that I only needed to be at the RentonMunicipalAirport by ten-thirty that night. I took pictures of my mother to the salon so that the hairstylist would know exactly how to cut my hair. It was more eerie than melancholy to watch her hack off my hair. The stylist did a fantastic job though, and gave me the same bob cut that my mother had sported for most of her life. I stopped by Banana Republic as well, and ran up a hundred dollars’ worth of apparel purchases that were more mature than my exclusively denim-and-cotton wardrobe.

After packing a suitcase, I taxied to the airport. It was a tiny airport, just south of Seattle. It was not an international airport, which made me instantly suspicious of the legality of this flight. I waited patiently, witnessing small, private planes land and take off in the night. Just before ten-forty-five, a series of lights appeared in the brooding, dark sky. I watched as a modest jet landed on the runway.

An Asian man in a sharp uniform emerged from the cabin of the plane once it had come to a complete stop. Airport officials approached him, undoubtedly curious about the foreign plane landing in their regional airfield. Only once he had finished speaking amiably with them did I venture outside to meet the Trongodian gentleman.

“Mrs. Derosa?” he asked.

I smiled, relieved to know he was not acquainted with me. The fewer of my mother’s associates I actually interacted with, the less likely I was to screw up this high-stakes game of charades.

“Yes, and you are?” I asked in Trongodian.

“Your pilot … Mr. Charlie sent me. We’ll be ready for takeoff as soon as the plane is refueled. You’re welcome to board now.”

He offered his hand to help me onto the steps that led into the cabin, but I froze. Staring at the jet, I suddenly realized, I am about to get on this plane.

Seventeen years of aerophobia erupted inside of me, and I suppressed the violent urge to throw up. My mother had died on an airplane. I hadn’t been on one since Uncle Bruce brought me to America, but now I was expected to sit still on a flight across the vast Pacific Ocean.

“Is something wrong, Mrs. Derosa?”

Petrified, I forced my voice out. “The last time I was on a plane, it crashed.”

“Oh,” my pilot responded. “Well, I can assure you that we’ve got good weather and a solid jet to escort you today. I just flew here from Trongodia without mishap–I’m sure we can fly back just as safely.”

I nodded stiffly, but clutched my purse and luggage with a death grip. “Yes. I suppose so.”

How ridiculous this was! Thousands of planes took off and landed every day, why should I be afraid? I was about to commit all manners of crimes as part of an international identity fraud scheme, and yet the only thing I was really afraid of was the jet right in front of me.

My terror only increased as I marched boldly up into the aircraft’s cabin. It had a beautiful interior, and I plopped down in one of a few leather seats uneasily. In the luxurious beige seat, I crossed my arms over myself and waited for my mind to grow tired of being afraid. While the plane refueled, I came to grips with the situation. By the time my pilot returned to his place in the cockpit, I was braced for a nerve-wracking eleven hours. I pulled a pack of cigarettes out of my purse and started smoking as soon as the plane began wheeling about the runway. Nobody told me to stop. It was a private plane.

I slept fitfully through most of the flight, and only had a minor heart attack as the plane touched ground in the Trongodian capital, Xaqarii.

It was eight in the morning by the time we landed, and I felt a little unready for the day after an uneasy night’s sleep on the jet. I disembarked into the muggy and smoggy air of a totally different country. The Pacific coast of America far behind, I was now in the middle of a temperate landmass. Wispy white clouds hovered overhead, and the air was heavy with the industrial smell of the capital.

I had no idea where to go from there, so it was lucky that Mr. Charlie had already sent someone. As soon as I entered the airport terminal, I caught sight of a chauffeur holding a sign with the Trongodian characters for my name on it. She was a plump woman dressed all in black, and very somberly explained that she was going to drive me to my hotel. I followed her through the crowded and noisy airport, worried that I might get lost in this massive transportation hub. People were all shouting over each other and at me. Old men wanted to shine my shoes, shysters wanted to change my currency for me, and various people tried to thrust political and religious brochures into my hands. It would have been worse outside with all the cabbies and bicycle coaches vying for my business, but my chauffeur made it quite clear I was provided for.

My apprehensions and hopes built upon themselves as I was driven to downtown Xaqarri in the back of a limo. Who was Mr. Charlie that he could send private jets and limos on a moment’s notice? So far, nothing I’d seen suggested that any of this was connected to the Trongodian government.

The metropolitan skyscrapers and overcrowded pedestrian markets clashed with each other, but I watched them both from the tinted window of my limo. I had no memory of this urban heart of Trongodia; I had been raised in the city suburbs away from the poverty and wealth, the high class and low society of the city. Beggars and businessmen went about their days, making it clear how well adapted they were to their places within the societal structure.

It was lucky that Uncle Bruce had been able to get me out of Trongodia following my father’s arrest. The country was in a bitter and ugly stage of industrialization, compounded by a powerful element of corruption within the government. Income disparity and organized crime had been feeding each other for the past ten years. It was part of the reason my father had actually been able to smuggle technology out of Trongodia–the infrastructure had adapted to support and expect a certain amount of embezzlement and fraud.

Dr. Derosa’s Resurrection: Part III

I don’t know why the suite surprised me; by now it was obvious that Mr. Charlie did everything with princely extravagance. Regardless, the high ceilings, velvety curtains, and towering view of the city took my breath away.

Since I had left though, the environment had only decayed further. I hoped for a bright, post-industrial future for my home country, but at the moment the political and economic situation was very bleak.

My chauffeur drove past the savage warehouses and cold manufactories, delivering me to the doorstep of a brilliant hotel. Before I got out of the limo, the plump chauffer handed me an envelope and explained it was a message from Mr. Charlie. A bellman helped me with my suitcase, and my driver drove away without another word.

I don’t know why the suite surprised me; by now it was obvious that Mr. Charlie did everything with princely extravagance. Regardless, the high ceilings, velvety curtains, and towering view of the city took my breath away.

Only once I was securely in my room did I stop to open the letter from Mr. Charlie. Reading through the handwritten characters, I quickly gathered that he wanted me to meet him at three o’clock in his office at the Poichi Technologies headquarters building. In the meantime, I made use of the ensuite Jacuzzi and reviewed all the letters from Mr. Charlie to my mother. They weren’t very telling, but they did provide a few details I would be able to sprinkle into our conversation. I also went out and bought a prepaid smart phone to use while I was in country. The last thing I needed right now was exorbitant international phone bills getting delivered to Uncle Bruce.

I made it to Poichi Technologies a few minutes early. I tried to suppress my nervousness as I met with Mr. Charlie’s secretary. She had handed me a massive, unwieldy pen and asked me to sign in, and afterwards ushered me his office to wait for him. By three o’clock, I was already sitting in Mr. Charlie’s office, waiting for him to arrive.

The office was painted a faint, golden-yellow color and several old black and white photographs were framed on the walls. Mr. Charlie’s desktop was immaculately tidy and perfectly organized. It made me uncomfortable to be left alone in this environment. I felt powerless. Who was Mr. Charlie that he didn’t worry about leaving a spy in his office? I worked on the assumption that there was a camera somewhere in the room, and refrained from poking around. I might have admired the old photographs, but I was busy building up my courage.

After a few painfully long minutes, Mr. Charlie made his entrance. He was light on his feet and moved quickly. The door closed instantly, but quietly, behind him. His dark blue suit had an expensive sheen to it and his gaunt face was rounded out by its middle-aged sagging.

We looked at each other as if we were each seeing a ghost.

“What’s the matter,” he finally asked, starting our Trongodian conversation, “don’t you recognize me?”

I was already blowing it! I tried to think of a response. “You’ve aged.”

“You haven’t,” he observed.

“It’s good to see you again,” I told him.

“Is it?” he asked skeptically.

I panicked. How had my mother’s relationship with this man left off? “It’s good just to see anyone,” I replied.

“After all these years, I would imagine so.” Mr. Charlie came closer, and I stood up to shake his extended hand. “Of course, it probably felt more like a good night’s sleep to you.”

“There was nothing good about it.”

He was staring at me, sizing me up. I tried not to take it personally. “God, Melinda, if anything you look younger.

“Seventeen years in a cryogenic case does wonders for you.”

Mr. Charlie laughed, and it was then that I realized that I did not like this man. There was something about his smile that suggested he was happiest at others’ expense. He was too focused, sterile without being cold.

“I suppose so.” Moving over toward a small bar, he offered “Can I get you a drink, Melinda?”

“No thank you, but do you mind if I smoke?”

“Go ahead,” he offered. “You might as well, while we wait.”

I fished my nearly-empty pack of cigarettes out of my purse and asked, “What are we waiting for, Mr. Charlie?”

“For a response from my friend at the Department of Identification. I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, but it took me a minute to send off the prints after my secretary fingerprinted you.”

Fingerprints? That unwieldy pen she had handed to me! It was the just the setup she needed when she asked me to sign in. Mr. Charlie only dropped that line to watch my reaction, so I tried to remain cool. “You’ve held on to my finger prints after all this time?” I asked casually.

“No,” he replied, “but the Department of Identification, a few years after your accident, put the Citizen’s Protection Act into law, requiring all Trongodians to be fingerprinted for government records. They have a massive database now … I’m sure you’re finding out just how far technology has come in the past twenty years.”

“No kidding,” I answered, lighting my cigarette and taking a drag. “They’ve made leaps and bounds with cryogenics.”

Mr. Charlie laughed again, but sat down at his computer. I remained standing, and walked over to the photographs on the golden-yellow wall. I had only vague memories of the Citizen’s Protection Act and being fingerprinted as an eleven-year-old. I had not accounted for it when I planned this identity fraud.

I focused on a photo of a Trongodian protest march from the fifties while Mr. Charlie clicked at his computer. “Aha,” he said, before muttering the contents of his email, “Charlezu … I checked the prints against the database … no photo identification available … but the prints belong to …” he paused, and finished breathlessly, “Melinda Derosa.”

I smiled at him with a victorious confidence. Lindy Derosa was legally identical to Melinda Derosa on paper. “I think I will have a drink,” I announced. “Mind if I help myself to a vodka and tonic?” I poked around the miniature bar, not entirely sure what I was looking for. I never drank, but I’d found out from one of her letters that vodka and tonic had been my mother’s favorite drink.

Mr. Charlie limply fell back against his chair and stared at me, bug-eyed and amazed. “My God, it really is you.”

“Who else would it be, Charlezu?” I asked impatiently.

“Is it just me, or are you more irritable, my dear?”

“I just spent seventeen years in a glorified freezer. You’ll pardon me if I’m a little less than chipper.”

“Ah, but yes!” Mr. Charlie agreed, leaping up and clapping his hands. “Tell me, Melinda, tell me how on earth did you ever get out? How could you possibly when your husband is …”

“In prison,” I bitterly cut him off.

“Yes …” he sighed. “But we’ll discuss that in a moment … who in the world revived you?”

I had known this would be the first question from all of my mother’s associates. I had spent some time trying to figure out a plausible story, before I realized that I already had one in my lap.

“Do you remember the American, Richard Bhurman?” I asked him.

“Yes, yes, vaguely,” he answered. “He worked with Dr. Derosa, didn’t he? I met him briefly … but no one’s seen or heard from him in years, not since …”

“Who do you think took over the project once my Howard was arrested?” It felt weird to talk about my dad using his first name.

Mr. Charlie was duly surprised by this turn of events, but apparently found it plausible. “That’s fantastic. I can hardly believe it.”

“Well you best believe it, because it happened, I’m here, and I think you understand why.”

“Oh, I understand why you’re here,” Mr. Charlie said powerfully. He rose from his seat, finally recovering from his shock and proceeding with the conversation. I handed him the vodka as he reached for it. I stood by and watched him, very carefully, as he poured vodka and tonic into two highball glasses. He spoke, as if to the alcohol. “You’ve come to me because you need help, and there’s no one else you can go to for it.”

I didn’t like his confidence. I didn’t like how he handed me my drink as if he held me in palm of his hand. “You really think you’re my only option?” I scoffed and took a tender sip of my drink, not knowing whether or not he was my only option.

He laughed. “What is that American word … moxie. It would take a lot of moxie to attempt to enlist any of your old contacts. I have to hand it to you, Melinda, when you burn your bridges, you incinerate them.”

A whirl of profanities rushed through my head. I had all her old letters and addresses, but what had my mother done in the days and weeks leading up to her plane crash … and who had she done it too? In a political environment as corrupt as Trongodia, it was easy to make enemies, even if you weren’t actively involved in espionage. I chose to remain silent, hoping Mr. Charlie would give me more information. I followed him as he stepped back to the desk, and we sat down on either side of it.

“I am terribly sorry about what happened to you, Melinda. When you told me you needed to get out of the country, I put you on the first plane I could get booked under a false name. We had no idea there was a leak within our organization.”

Seventeen years of mystery began unfolding as Mr. Charlie unintentionally explained my mother’s flight from Trongodia to me as if it was something I had personally experienced.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, Melinda, but it was your contact, Karen Lee. She was working for the police, as an undercover agent.”

I was losing the thread of the story. So Karen was working for the police. What did that matter to someone who had been spying for the national government?

He continued, “That’s how the Department of Intelligence found out that you were working for us, too. She reported your treason. It was all Karen.”

It did not confront Mr. Charlie that my face was slathered in unadulterated shock. While he assumed I was coming to terms with being betrayed by Karen–whoever that was–I personally had to come to terms with who my mother was.

Mr. Charlie was not in any way connected to the government. At the very least, he professionally smuggled people into and out of Trongodia … and my mother had worked with him. She was not the beautiful, heroic spy I had always imagined her as, but a double agent actively working with the corruption of her country rather than trying to fight it. She was a villain. My mother, the treasonous criminal. Had Dad known this? Had Uncle Bruce? Why had I never been told?

“I never would have expected our own intelligence department to sabotage the plane … I thought at worst they’d lock down the airport in an attempt to apprehend you. I suppose it was a sign of things to come. Things have gotten much, much worse in your absence, Melinda. The press is monitored more than ever, and no one gets a public trial anymore.”

I was hardly listening to him though. My heart and mind had stopped with the idea that my mother had been a treasonous criminal. I finished my vodka and tonic, hoping it would calm my nerves like it always did for people in the movies. I didn’t have faith in alcohol though. I lit up another cigarette and drew in deep breaths of my trusted nicotine. “This is a lot to process, Charlie,” I said simply. The quiver in my voice shook like my fingers, though, giving me away. It was impossible to process.

“I would imagine so.” He set his drink on a coaster on his desk and folded his hands over his stomach. “Needless to say, reform and correctional facilities are not a priority in our country. The prisons are in a deplorable state. I called up a contact yesterday–I’m glad I can at least tell you your husband is still alive. That’s not true of everyone who entered the prisons five years ago. If you can get him out of there, it will be nothing short of a resurrection.”

I hadn’t even stopped to consider that my father might already be dead. I was glad that the possibility had not entered my mind before I could be assured otherwise. I didn’t know what to do though. I had been banking on the fact that my mother had friends in high places within the Trongodian government. Thank God I hadn’t called anyone else before Mr. Charlie! I would have been arrested on arrival, and that would have been a hard conversation to have with Uncle Bruce, let alone the Trongodian Department of Intelligence.

Mr. Charlie sighed. I had no idea where this conversation was going to go, so I listened intently as he explained, “It was horrible, when I realized that I’d put you on a doomed flight, when I realized it was Karen who turned you in … she’s dead now, by the way.”

The way he said it, I couldn’t tell whether or not he was implying that our people had killed her or not.

“I owed you a terrible debt, which I tried to repay by helping your husband smuggle the triconadapters out of the country …”

“And look how well that worked out,” I cynically replied.

“Yes … well,” he stammered and sighed. “I don’t relish the idea of what you’re going to ask me to do. Things have been quiet for me lately at Poichi Technologies. With all the technological advancements, security is tighter than ever, and–you know me–I don’t like to get involved in risky projects, no matter what the payoff.”

“I understand that,” I answered, raising my voice as if I actually had other expectations. In all reality, I had no idea what to expect anymore. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt, I added, “I need help though.”

“And I can help you,” he said. “I can and I will, Melinda. I’ll help you break Dr. Derosa out.”

From the moment he said that, the conversation became very surreal. I could only keep up with the insanity of it for so long before I reached my breaking point. I simply could not believe that any of this was actually happening. I could usurp my mother’s identity, I could accept that she’d been a double agent working for a group of organized criminals, but there was something fundamentally over-the-top about the idea that this man was going to help me break my father out of a federal prison.

“There’s just one favor I’d like to ask in return,” Mr. Charlie ominously added. I raised my eyebrows, not wanting to agree to anything preemptively. “You remember the Scarlet Barrel Project, of course.”

I faked a sly smile. I had no idea what that was code for. “How could I forget?”

“Surprisingly, there have been some developments in that region of the world that could use our attention. We never rightfully finished the project, but I know that you could close the case on that whole affair if you spent a month down there. I wouldn’t ask anything of you until you and Dr. Derosa were both safely out of country, but once you are, I’m sure I could count on your assistance with that project, yes?”

It was obvious I didn’t have any other option. Mr. Charlie’s voice told me that his assistance breaking my father out depended on my willingness to return the favor. Without the slightest idea of what I was agreeing to, I told him, “You can count on me. Once I have Howard back, I can help you with this last project. I’m throwing in the towel after that though. This business has wreaked enough havoc on my life.”

Mr. Charlie grinned, almost as if he had expected me to refuse the proposition. I did worry about what I had just agreed to, but I presumed that my mother would be able to handle it once she was unfrozen. She’d escaped the responsibility of getting me through my terrible twos, my screaming sixes, my flippant fifteens, and every challenge along the way. She could bail me out for this one thing. Besides, she’d been a treasonous double agent. It was kind of like karma, or something.

While I came up with poor ethical rationalizations for my agreement, Mr. Charlie pulled a file out of a locked drawer in his desk. I scooted closer to his desk as he spread out all the papers and photos before me.

There were maps. Maps of the Trongodian jungle and maps of prison architecture. He presented me with time tables for prison guard shifts, photos of the guard uniforms, and photos of some of “our people.”

“There’s two boys I think you could use,” Mr. Charlie told me, “You don’t know them, but they do good work and they’re both …” he looked at me, a glint of envy in his slender eyes, “young.”

“This,” he continued, gesturing to one, “is Jon Rykye. He’s bright, and good with a gun. He’ll be able to hold his own if things get ugly beforehand. I don’t suppose you have your usual arsenal with you, so I’ll be sure to arrange for extra weapons. I trust your sharp shooting didn’t atrophy during your suspended animation …”

I’d never fired a gun–I’d never held a gun–in my life. I looked at the picture of Rykye, and felt confident knowing that this burly, bald man would be beside me.

Mr. Charlie pushed a different picture in front of me. I picked up the photograph and studied the slouching, smoking man. He was so tall and so wiry, he looked like a stick figure. “Liam Jojing is a pyrotechnics expert.”

My eyes jerked back up to Mr. Charlie, and he explained, “This is not going to be a stealth operation.”

In the following hour, Mr. Charlie and I went over a wide variety of details and cobbled together a plausible plan based on the information he had obtained from his contacts. Not without apprehension, I gave him the go-ahead to contact Rykye and Jojing so that they could sign onto this harebrained scheme. The meeting remained surreal, while I was in that pale golden office with Mr. Charlie. My small, pragmatic voice of reason screamed bloody murder in the back of my head as I formed a plan to break my father out of the Conterragoa Prison in rural Trongodia.

We were finished with our discussion before five that evening, and dusk was just starting to settle over the urban Xaqarri skyline. Mr. Charlie and I made plans to meet again on Thursday, and I left him with the number for my prepaid mobile phone. He was shuffling all of the incriminating papers back into his file as I stood up to leave the office. I already had my hand on the doorknob when he asked, “Oh … Melinda, I meant to ask … in your last letter, you’d mentioned you were … pregnant?”

I smiled sadly. He wanted to talk to me about me. “I miscarried,” I lied. “It was the start of my bad luck.”

“Ah,” he responded. “I’m sorry to hear it. Perhaps it was for the best though, considering the way things turned out.”

“After I get Howard back … there will be time for a family then.”

Mr. Charlie waggled a finger at me, reminding me of a crucial detail, “And after you finish what we started with Scarlet Barrel.”

#

The walk to the hotel at twilight was a different experience than it had been at three in the afternoon. An industrial glow emanated out of the shoe manufactory down the road, and smoke pumped out into the purpling sky. I felt guilty in my expensive Banana Republic suit dress, walking by beggars and other refuges of the city. I carried myself confidently though, and tried to ignore them the way the locals did. The sidewalks were crowded as everyone shuffled impersonally along, on their way home. There were districts in Xaqarii that I would not have wanted to walk in at this hour, but I knew that this was a good area. The buildings were bright and new, the streets were clean, and most of the passersby were dressed as professionally as I was.

Given how peaceful the area seemed, it alarmed me how many police officers I saw. I had passed just as many earlier, but it had not troubled me then. Having talked to Mr. Charlie about the political climate of Trongodia, it put me on edge. I had gotten comfortable in America and felt at ease in Seattle. Now, I wasn’t even sure which civil liberties I might have.

With waiting on a street corner for a traffic light to change, I noticed a scowling police officer patrolling the block. He was heading in my general direction leisurely, but when he glanced at me and saw me staring, he gave me a cold, dark glare. I quickly averted my eyes, not wanting to draw attention to myself. I noticed that the other pedestrians tried to avoid eye contact with the police. When I looked back though, I saw that he was now heading right for me. I watched the traffic light desperately, waiting for it to change so that I could cross the street and lose myself in the crowd on the other side of the street. It flashed green and I took off briskly, clutching my purse to my body and trying to put as many people between the officer and me as possible.

I didn’t look over my shoulder again until I was certain I had lost him. I relaxed a little bit once I saw that he had not pursued me, but for the rest of the walk, I kept my eyes on the ground in front of me.

I felt better once I was shut away in the privacy and security of my luxurious hotel suite. I slipped out of my grown-up costume and changed into a pair of familiar pajamas. It was very exhausting to be my mother all day, especially when I didn’t know who she was. It felt good to feel like myself again. I ordered room service and had some of the finest Asian cuisine I’d had in years.

The view from my wall-length windows only became more beautiful as the night progressed. The uneven skyscrapers all reached up to the sky at different heights, glowing with little boxes of yellow light. Between the clouds and smog and ambient light, there wasn’t a star in sight. It was impressive, really, that people could build a city bright enough to choke out the stars.

As I marveled at the city, I heard my phone ringing–my actual phone, not the disposable Trongodian one I’d bought earlier. I had forgotten to turn it off. I dug it out of my purse and saw that it was Uncle Bruce.

Bruce hardly ever called me. We emailed regularly, but it was a rare occasion when he actually used his phone to contact me. Weighing my options, I decided that it would be easier to deal with the eventual phone bill than ignore Uncle Bruce now. After that strange phone call I’d overheard from the closet yesterday, I was curious to know how he was doing too.

With a press of a button, I made a decision I could not take back. “Hi, Uncle Bruce!” I answered.

“Hi, Lindy,” he replied, his voice sounding even deeper over the phone. “How are you doing?”

“I’m doing good,” I responded. “What’s up?”

“I just wanted to give you a buzz and check in with you. My time’s been all turned around from traveling, but it occurred to me that I should probably call you and make sure you got back to school alright.”

“Yes, Uncle Bruce, I managed to figure out how to taxi back to school.”

“Of course, I just wanted to call. That’s what Uncles are for.”

“I was a little late getting out of the condo,” I falsely confessed. “It was kind of a crazy morning, and I was late to first period physics, but it was totally okay. Mathews didn’t even mark me tardy.”

“Pays off to be a good student, eh kiddo?”

“Definitely,” I agreed.

“So what are you up to right now?”

“Oh, you know,” I responded, eyeing the cityscape of Trongodia’s capital, “just hanging out in my dorm, homework and stuff … how’s Egypt?”

I remembered what I’d heard of his last phone call almost verbatim. He didn’t have any idea that I’d been in the condo when he returned from Egypt yesterday. It was all so strange, and I didn’t have any qualms about asking him a loaded question.

“Busy, as always. It looks like I might have to drive out to Alexandria tomorrow to make an offer on some titanium sheeting. Out here, you really have a chance to haggle over prices if you’re willing to meet the supplier in person.”

My heart sank as he explained all of this. I knew he was in New York, but I didn’t want to believe that he was lying to me. I had never known Uncle Bruce to lie to me, and this first dishonesty caused me to question whether or not he had pulled the wool over my eyes on other matters as well.

We didn’t have much to say once we had both finished lying about what continents we were on. I burned with dozens of questions, but I couldn’t give myself away by asking anything about Mr. Charlie, Rick Bhurman, or mom’s treason. Instead, I told him I loved him, and hung up after he had said the same.

That night, I snuggled down into my massive king-sized bed with my laptop to catch up on the Trongodian news using the hotel’s wifi. I was so overstimulated by everything that had happened and everything that was sure to happen in the next few days–I didn’t think I would be able to sleep. I started reading the Xaqarii Daily online though, and was only halfway through the headline story about protests in the manufacturing district before I passed out. Sleeping soundly on my fluffy, sprawling bed, I didn’t even wake up when Mr. Charlie texted me. Instead, his text was waiting for me in the morning. As soon as I woke up, I found out that by Saturday morning I would either have my father out of prison, or be in there with him.


R.G. Summers writes primarily science-fiction, but has published stories and poetry of all natures. Summers lives in Seattle, more or less, and has great hopes for the future, including being able to pay the rent by writing, and someday owning a crock-pot. She’s also training to be a circus performer, just in case this whole “writing” thing doesn’t work out. You can find her little corner of the internet at https://sites.google.com/site/herpuckishness/


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 http://historythatneverwas.com/

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That Man Behind the Curtain: August 2013

And now, we delve into the secret cockles of our dark hearts.

Continue reading

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Diary of a Turnip Girl

An essay by Ellyn Patterson, as provided by Finale Doshi-Velez
Art by Leigh Legler


As the science of genetic engineering nears maturity, our understanding of the psychological repercussions of commonplace genetic modifications remains woefully understudied. Below I share an excerpt from a diary of a client who visited me 15 years after conception with the simple yet impossible question: Why? The pages below are shared with the consent of the parents and child and with the approval of the internal review board of General Gene Centers, Incorporated. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.

–        Ellyn Patterson

Pediatric Genetic Counselor at GGC

#

My mom caught me sneaking a bottle of lavender body lotion into the shopping basket and put it back on the shelf. “We spent ten thousand dollars on your gene grafts,” she said. “You’ve already got healthy skin.”

“You crossed me with a bunch of turnips.” Teens with glossy hair and perfect teeth smiled at me from the racks of fashion magazines. I blew at a few strands of my own wiry frizz. Stupid turnip hair. “Radhika’s mom always buys her the silky pear shampoo.”

“We’ve gone through this already,” my mom said. “Your body makes its own vitamins, you don’t need fancy shampoo.”

“Does that mean I can have ice cream for dinner?”

“No.”

What was the point then? Last week, on my seventh birthday, my dad had told me about all the gifts they had given me. Healthy skin. Strong bones. Sharp eyes. It was Sleeping Beauty, the fairy gene-mother edition. What about a beautiful voice? A talent for dance? Bottles of insect repellent cascaded off the shelf as I reached for another lotion, and my mom gave me a warning finger. Forget the talent for dance. I’d have settled for not being a klutz.

Diary of a Turnip Girl


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Summer 2013 collection.


Ellyn Patterson is a Pediatric Genetic Counselor at General Gene Centers, Incorporated. GGC Inc. believes that perfection is a choice.


Finale Doshi-Velez is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. She believes that happiness is a choice.


Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.

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Dr. Derosa’s Resurrection: Part II

By R.G. Summers
Photo by Dawn Vogel


Click here for Part I.


Finding out that my mother had been cryogenically frozen for the past seventeen years put a damper on the whole weekend. Uncle Bruce repeatedly offered to take me out–go see the new Star Trek movie, have dinner at the Space Needle, hike DiscoveryPark, etcetera–but I wasn’t in the mood to spend time with anyone, even him. Bruce respected this, and we spent the weekend ordering a lot of Chinese food and pizza to compensate for our mutual lack of cooking skills. Bruce cloistered himself away in his office to make work phone calls, and I shut myself up in my bedroom to listen to angsty indie rock that failed to provide an appropriate soundtrack for my current situation.

It was almost as if my mother was still alive, but not quite. It was a soap opera twist gone horribly wrong. I had spent my whole life without a mother. It was only when Dad was apprehended by the Trongodian government police that I realized how much was missing from my life. By the time I turned thirteen, I was acutely aware of how badly my life sucked.

You get used to life sucking though. You adapt. You move past teenage depression and antisocial behavior and go on with your life. I had found a nice little rut where I went to boarding school, buried myself in science projects, and ate mango frozen yogurt with gummy bears on the weekend. As painful as it had been to adapt to that, it was just as jarring and alarming to think that maybe there was something more, something I had given up hoping for.

I paused my music and stopped Bright Eyes in the middle of a chorus. It was a pleasant, grey Sunday outside, but I took a moment to curl up on the bed, clutching a pillow to myself defensively. This wasn’t exactly my room–it was only the spare bedroom of Uncle Bruce’s condo, decorated with a few girlish themes he’d mistakenly thought I’d enjoy. I lived at school, and hadn’t had a home since my father had been taken away. This was an accepted fact of life.

But it didn’t have to be.

While Bruce finished his phone calls, I listened to his deep voice through the walls. I couldn’t hear much of what he was saying, but from his demonstrative tone, it was very important. I stared at the ceiling and puzzled over what time it would be in Cairo if it were four p.m. here. It couldn’t have been a very good hour for his business partners.

I couldn’t believe how much time Bruce devoted to business, even while at home. Whenever he got a call, he immediately shut himself off in his office to be alone with his work. There was no pattern or schedule to calls, but it surprised me that so little of his conversation was conducted in actual Arabic. I tried to make small talk with him, trying to show a polite interest in his work, but he always answered my questions as vaguely and quickly as possible. He acted as though his work was very boring, which only made me suspect it was actually very interesting.

When I got bored of trying to overhear him through the walls, I left the spare bedroom and went to the kitchen. Raiding the pantry, I found jarred tomato sauce and spaghetti. While Bruce finished with his work call, I industriously overcooked pasta and splattered the microwave with tomato paste. Bruce emerged from his office right as I was finishing, and he seemed inordinately grateful for my little burst of culinary initiative.

“Turning into a regular chef, eh, Lindy?” he asked, ruffling my hair.

“Just trying to prevent us from starving,” I answered. “That seemed like a long call. Who were you on the phone with?”

“Just a business partner.”

“What’s going on?”

He looked at me strangely, as if I was asking him a cryptic question rather than just making small talk. “Nothing’s going on.”

“You weren’t just negotiating titanium prices or inquiring about their galvanizing process or something?”

“Oh, well of course. It was just the usual business. Nothing interesting.” It always raised my suspicions when people told me something wasn’t interesting. It was as if he was actively trying to turn me off from the subject. Before I could press the issue, he escaped it entirely by asking me about my schoolwork. I had to admit that I hadn’t put much effort into my homework this weekend. We sat down to dinner, and the conversation drifted, taking sharp turns as we each brought up one subject after another that the other did not want to talk about. Finally, we found a subject that neither one of us wanted to talk about.

“Why is she frozen?” I asked. I had cultivated a dozen different questions this weekend that I wanted to ask Bruce about my mother, but all the hows and whats paled in contrast to that one why.

Bruce sighed and put an increasing amount of attention on his food. He focused intently on his over cooked spaghetti, allowing him to avoid eye contact with me. Explaining it as if it were an accepted tragedy, Uncle Bruce spoke passionlessly. “Your father thought that if he could cryogenically freeze her, that there would be a way to bring her out of the freeze and revive her entirely,” Uncle Bruce explained. “Her plane went down in a rural area outside of Tacoma before it could reach Seattle. There was no way to get her back to Trongodia in her condition, so Howard flew out here and began working in the States. When the doctors said nothing could be done for her and recommended cutting off her life support, he refused to accept that Melinda was really gone. He took matters into his own hands, and transported her to his private lab.”

I shook my head, disbelievingly. “What was his plan? To keep her frozen until medical technology advanced?”

“He intended to resurrect her himself, Lindy,” Uncle Bruce answered sadly. “After twelve years of fruitless attempts, he became convinced that the only way to revive her would be to use the triconadapters he had helped develop for the Trongodians.”

“How was he planning on using them to help Mom?”

“I don’t know, Lindy,” Uncle Bruce sounded exasperated, but I finally prompted him to look me in the eyes. “Your father tried, on multiple occasions, to enlist my help with this project, but it was a hopeless enterprise. Your mother was gone. Howard just couldn’t let go. More than a decade of research did nothing to help bring her back.”

“But that was before he had developed and procured the triconadapters,” I interjected. I had researched the science behind the triconadapters long ago in an attempt to understand why they had been so important to my father. The devices emitted ultraviolet waves on three different frequencies in order to reduce crystallization in biological systems. The problem with cryogenically freezing people was that there was no viable way to recover them afterwards. The triconadapters had made international news once they were developed by my father’s research team in Trongodia. When he stole them and the blueprints used to make them, he had robbed the world of the scientific advancements his genius had produced. “What happened with Mom after he got the triconadapters?”

“Your father was arrested before he could implement a solution involving the triconadapters, but, Lindy, those devices never yielded a successful human trial. Even if Howard hadn’t been arrested, that doesn’t mean he would have been able to revive your mother with them.”

“Dad wouldn’t have taken them if he didn’t think he needed them,” I defended. “Dad could have made them work. Dad invented them. They were his devices.”

“They were the Republic of Trongodia’s devices.” Uncle Bruce’s voice was stern as he reminded me of that. “And your father wasn’t entirely … well, after so long and no positive results … Howard wasn’t very … coherent.”

“What are you saying, Uncle Bruce?”

“It’s just that he was getting desperate. His ability to pragmatically and logically solve problems disintegrated when he became obsessed with solving a problem that had no solution.”

“But all problems have solutions,” I objected. “There’s a mathematical explanation for everything, there’s a technological solution for every scientific problem …”

“Lindy,” Bruce interrupted. “No.” My face fell flat and I stopped trying to defend the idea. I was not used to Uncle Bruce outright denying me. “I’ll grant that it might have been possible when Howard was still working on the project. He was a brilliant scientist, but if he couldn’t find a means to revive her, there’s no one who will be able to now that he’s in a Trongodian prison. He’s not coming back, and we need to decide what to do with Melinda.”

“You mean my mother,” I said. “And what do you mean ‘what to do with her?'”

The conversation became even more painful as Uncle Bruce attempted to delicately explain exactly what he meant by that. He repeatedly told me that there was no need to make a decision right away, and stressed that nothing had to happen right now, but his perception of the situation horrified me. Bruce seemed to want to bury everything. I nodded along inexpressively, screaming inside, as he went over the issue from a practical standpoint. He kept repeating that word. Practical. Because there was no practical reason to keep my mother cryogenically frozen in a secret industrial basement on the south end of town. He wanted to pull the plug on her. Uncle Bruce never said it, but that was his solution.

I couldn’t stand the thought of it, but I didn’t know how to structure an argument against it. Did I really think that there was any hope of reviving her with stolen Trongodian technology?

Of course I did. I had grown up in a household where anything was possible, in a world where physics and chemistry gave us everything we needed to find answers and solve problems. If my father had believed it was possible, I knew that it was. I couldn’t be asked to abandon that. Along with everything in the laboratory, I had inherited my father’s hope. After dinner, cuddled down in the spare room, I realized what I had to do. It was hard to sleep that night.

Bruce left early Monday morning, long before my alarm even went off at six a.m. He left me ample money for cab fare, and a pleasant note explaining that he’d had to catch an early flight back to Cairo. With the condo to myself, I promptly began scouring the place for the keys to my father’s laboratory.

I assumed that they would be somewhere in Bruce’s office, but quickly discovered that he kept his office door locked. I was the only other person ever here, and I was shocked and slightly hurt by this lack of trust. Fortunately, I never went anywhere without a few paper clips in my purse. Locks within residential or academic buildings were never that hard to crack, and it didn’t take me more than ten minutes to break into Bruce’s office.

I tied my hair back and began very carefully poking around his workroom. The keys were not well hidden, and I recognized them as soon as I found them in the top drawer of his desk. I tried not to disturb his paperwork or any of the blueprints for his elaborate manufacturing projects. If I hadn’t had so much else on my mind, I might have taken a moment to study them and figure out what sort of projects Uncle Bruce was contracted for in Egypt.

In all reality, I didn’t know what Uncle Bruce did. His job title was always changing since he was an independent agent, but generally he helped determine raw goods requirements for manufacturers and then negotiate industrial sales deals. I suppose it was the sort of thing my father might have done if he’d been a little less ambitious and a little more law-abiding.

I packed a bag with a few clean clothes, grabbed a toothbrush, and made a call to my school. Deepening my voice and affecting a masculine tone, I passed myself off as Bruce Derosa with a terrible cold. He was every bit as sick as his niece was, and the both of us were going to stay home this week. It was bronchial. Definitely bronchial. I convinced the secretary; it wasn’t my first time impersonating Bruce for my own agenda.

I caught a taxi outside of the condo and had the driver take me down to south Seattle. We arrived just as the sun was starting to rise. I paid the cab driver and pocketed the rest of the money Bruce had left me.

Finding the shipping container was the hard part. It had been dark and rainy when we showed up Friday night, and I hadn’t had the sense to pay attention to where we were going at the time. I had a clear mental picture of the red and rusty container though. After some wandering, I recognized it on sight.

I was paranoid that someone from the ports would notice me, or someone somehow would be following me. Once I was in, however, my apprehension vanished. Sinking down through the darkness into my father’s laboratory, I felt right at home.

I threw the light switches up and watched the lights spring on, row by row. I took in a deep breath and smiled. It still smelled like lab equipment and concrete. It was abandoned, it was sterile, and it was mine now.

I shrugged off my backpack onto my father’s cot, pulled out my spiral ring notebook, and set to work.

At first, I just copied everything off of the whiteboard, line for line, trying to understand the equations and biochemical logic of my father’s mad scribblings. Dusty volumes of reference materials were stacked at the foot of the lab table. There were textbooks, academic journals, the occasional doctoral thesis–all out of date and thicker than over-malted milkshakes. I began pulling apart his desk, separating the blueprints for the existing cryogenic chamber from the incomplete plans for reviving the subject. I read through it all though. Every scrap of paper that had my father’s chicken-scratch handwriting on it captivated me. I took notes of my own in my notebook, jotting down every question I had about the materials I was coming across.

I didn’t break for lunch until I felt the fatigue of hunger making me lightheaded. At that point, I made myself at home, opening a can of my father’s chili and eating it straight from the can, crosslegged on his cot. Taped up on the wall was a picture of my family–all three of us–in front of a massive bamboo plant outside of our old house.

I took out my ponytail and rubbed my head; it already ached from trying to fathom all the information I’d encountered. While I ate my chili, I poked around the vicinity of the cot. There was a table beside the little bed, and it was even more cluttered and disorganized than his desk. Newspaper clippings, all about my mother or the Trongodian Department of Intelligence, were spread out alongside articles of old jewelry. My father’s favorite flat cap was collecting dust, so I picked it up, blew it off, and put it on. Underneath it there was a package of photos.

It had been a long time since I had stumbled across photos from a film camera, but a smile leapt across my face as soon as I realized that was what they were. In a hurry, I pulled them out, shuffling through them so quickly I hardly had time to process them the first time through. I found photos of some long-ago Christmas, and a New Year’s celebration where I was diaper-clad and covered in confetti. For the first time in years, I saw pictures of my now deceased grandparents. How fantastic it must have been for Grandma and Grandpa Derosa to have us in America for the holidays! I had no memory of this first–and last–Christmas before my mom died.

I looked for Uncle Bruce, but he wasn’t in any of the Christmas pictures. The only photo of him was one at a grey Seattle beach with my father. He was almost twenty years younger, his flaming red hair whipping around in the wind as he towered beside my father.

My father: the scruffy little man who had always been a giant in my eyes. His buggy eyes stared at the camera and his smile seemed forced. I preferred the candid Christmas pictures where it was obvious how genuinely happy he was.

I dropped one of the photos as I went to shuffle them back into their drugstore package. When I picked it up, I noticed the journal on the floor beside the cot. In a heart-stopping hurry, I picked it up and immediately began paging through my father’s diary.

I briefly considered the ethical conundrum before me, but I was too hungry with curiosity to set his private writings aside.

I began reading entries from August 2007, a month before he was taken. My high spirits sunk as I began deciphering his handwriting and decoding the desperation subtly embedded in his journal. I read through and watched his mind as he slowly came to the decision to steal the triconadapters.

His attitude remained hopeful throughout though. He was so positive, so certain that once he had the technology he had helped develop for the Trongodians he would be able to revive my mother. It was hard to read his handwriting, and his entries were confusing. I didn’t recognize any of the names. Rick Bhurman was mentioned constantly, but I didn’t know who that was any more than I knew who “Mr. Charlie” might have been.

However, the content of the diary was as much equations and theories as anything, and suddenly I had the most accurate, condensed version of his work already in my hands. Forget the wayward scribbles on the whiteboards–this was the end result. My father’s handwriting became clearer as he penned the key formulas and essential facts, making it painfully clear how close he had been to having the answer.

I pushed the journal away as I began crying, not having the heart to continue reading as he began describing Mom and how, if nothing else, his baby girl deserved to have a mother.

My tears turned to outright weeping, wishing I could tell the man who wrote those words that it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t need a mother, and I didn’t need him to risk his freedom in an attempt to resurrect a mother for me. I needed him. I had always needed him, and now he was locked away across the Pacific Ocean.

It wasn’t just that. Going over the finalized version of his notes, I realized how radically beyond me the math was. He referenced concepts I was totally unfamiliar with, and had written out his expressions using Greek letters I’d never seen before in the context of equations. The terminology was so specialized, it was obvious that I would not be able to comprehend this–let alone build on this–without a graduate degree in biology.

I collapsed on the cot and clutched a dusty, limp pillow close to me. Even still, I felt infinitely more at home here in my father’s laboratory than I had in the spare bedroom of Uncle Bruce’s condo.

I pulled myself together and finished eating my chili, making an immense effort not to think about anything at all. Once I’d had a cigarette and built my emotional stamina back up, I started thinking logically again.

The math was beyond me. What were my options then? There was no guarantee I would ever be able to finish my father’s work, even if I did spend years studying cryogenics. I couldn’t enlist anyone else’s help, not when there was stolen military technology involved. The reality of it was that no one but my father could salvage this project and save my mother. I breathed deeply and stood up so that I could pace the laboratory. Crossing my arms and rehashing the facts, I knew I could not afford to dig myself into a dark mood. The school administration wouldn’t expect me back until next week, and Bruce would be in Egypt for at least a few more days. I had time to come up with a plan.

I approached my mother’s cryogenic case and wondered what kind of plan I could possibly dream up. I approached the glowing chrome of the cryogenic freezer, and saw my reflection.

Pensively, I pulled my hair back and tried to imitate my mother’s bob cut. I watched my reflection and knew that I looked just as she had at my age.

Three cardboard boxes were stacked up in the corner near to the freezer. I had spent all morning dealing with the theoretical, I was now dying to know what physical technology my father had left behind. On a whim, I rummaged through them.

Expecting to find vast quantities of tangled wires and old computer hardware, I was duly surprised to discover that the first box was packed with women’s clothes. As I sifted through eighties sweater dresses and modish blouses, I recognized the cardigan Mom had been wearing in most of our Christmas photos. I threw it on in an attempt to bundle myself up in moth-eaten security. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but my mother must have been only marginally bigger than I was.

Throwing open the second box, I found her summer wardrobe, and in the third box was a collection of jackets and coats. Everything smelled stale and like rotting cotton, but I shuffled through it for want of anything better to do.

At that point, I was not expecting to find anything besides old clothing. In the bottom of that final cardboard box however, I found a manila envelope that my father had labeled very simply, Melinda.

Intrigued, I sat down on the floor and pulled out the miscellaneous documents within. I brushed my hair out of my face and excitedly jittered in my mother’s cardigan sweater as I handled her personal documents.

Birth certificate, social security card, driver’s license, passport–all of her Trongodian identification information was sealed in this manila envelope as simply as she was sealed in her cryogenic case. I found her little black address book, her health insurance information, and an application for dual citizenship that was only partially filled out. There were letters too, all written in Trongodian.

My heart began racing. There were not words for how desperately I wanted to revive this woman. My father had known it was possible, and he had come so close to the dream of reuniting us as a family. There was no way I could walk away from this, but the ever present question haunted my hopes: what could I possibly do? No matter what I found or thought or discovered, my father was in a foreign prison and I was still just an eighteen-year-old Trongodian-born American.

But what if I wasn’t?

What if I was a nearly forty-year-old Trongodian spy? What if, instead of a boarding school student, I was one of the most well-connected intelligence agents of Trongodia to still be missing in action?

I began paging through my mother’s address book, looking at all the names and addresses within. Cholendo Gortu. Karen Lee. Rick Bhurman. I read the ones written in characters as easily as I read the Romanized alphabet. I could make calls. I could get answers.

I dashed back to my father’s journal, and began cross-referencing everything in his diary with everything in my mother’s address book and personal letters. I kept waiting for something to jump out at me, some obvious detail that would explain why it was utterly irrational to think that I could impersonate my mother for the purpose of arguing for my father’s freedom. My mother was deeply embedded in the Trongodian Department of Intelligence; I didn’t doubt that she would know who to talk to about pardoning my father.

Dr. Derosa’s Resurrection: Part II

I began paging through my mother’s address book, looking at all the names and addresses within. Cholendo Gortu. Karen Lee. Rick Bhurman. I read the ones written in characters as easily as I read the Romanized alphabet. I could make calls. I could get answers.

Going through my father’s journals, it became apparent that only a few people knew my mother had been cryogenically frozen, but everyone suspected it. Surely people had put the pieces together when the cryogenicist husband of a comatose spy was arrested for his personal research.

I was making myself lightheaded just thinking about the magnitude of the adventure I was setting myself up for. It was impossible, and yet I knew it was within my power.

I gathered my mother’s papers back into the manila envelope, and stuffed it into my backpack. I took my father’s journal and our family photos as well, my fingertips electrified with excitement as I tucked them away. Having discovered this boon, I itched to know what else might be hidden away down here.

I began tearing apart the laboratory, seeking more stimulation for my already over-excited mind. I dug through desk drawers and unpacked old computer boxes. I mostly found the electrical supplies and technology I had originally been expecting, but tucked away in various places I stumbled onto the equivalent of fifteen hundred U.S. dollars in Trongodian currency. I carefully packed the money away in the manila envelope with all of my mother’s identification.

After gathering all these artifacts from my father’s laboratory, I took a moment to gather my wits before I killed the lights and headed back up to ground level in the shipping container’s secret elevator.

It was a beautifully cloudy afternoon, and I decided to walk back to Bruce’s condo on the other side of town in the hope that the exercise would clear my mind and calm my nerves. I scuffed my sneakers against the asphalt and made my way home along the downtown waterfront. I clutched the straps of my backpack; it had never contained such a valuable load. I would have to email my teachers for schoolwork. Especially Ms. Ripley, before she took the initiative to send another email to Bruce about my poor academic performance in English class.

I had spent most of my hooky days in the city, but today was radically different. I had no interest in stopping by SeattleCenter or mucking around Pike Place Market. I usually didn’t do so much walking, either. It took me nearly two hours to get back to Uncle Bruce’s condo in the Magnolia neighborhood, but the trek helped burn off my excess energy.

I dwindled the evening away eating bagged popcorn and mac n’ cheese while at my computer. After spending my day in a shipping container, I was happy to be back in range of a wi-fi network. I googled everyone in my mother’s address book and took notes. I assumed that after nearly twenty years, most of the contact information was out of date. I was able to find emails, photos, and phone numbers for most of her old contacts, but not all of them.

My mother’s little black book was meticulously kept with full details for each entry, except for one. One whole page in her book’s C section was dedicated to a single phone number labeled in affectionate cursive, Charlie. It was a Trongodian number, but that was all I knew. There had been a few, short personal letters from him, but I wondered if my mother’s Charlie could be the same “travel agent” my father referred to as Mr. Charlie within his journal.

As strange as this was, it couldn’t compete with the mystery of Richard Bhurman. I vaguely remembered my father speaking about best friend in America, but his journal seemed to suggest that they had worked together since graduate school. There were more letters from him than anyone else, and they were so friendly, so familiar, that I wondered how I had never met him.

I opened the bedroom window and lit up a cigarette as I fruitlessly searched for him online. Nothing came up. There were no news articles, no associations he belonged to, no companies that boasted about employing him. I couldn’t so much as get an image of him or find a personal account on any of the usual social network sites. I kept digging, and eventually found scraps of information. A few academic journals referenced Bhurman’s work, which I tracked back to a PDF of his doctoral thesis. He had studied electrical engineering and apparently earned his Ph.D. after writing extensively about wiring medical equipment for prolonged and continued use. I read the paper’s abstract, but his research would tell me nothing about who he was.

There were some news articles and academic records, but they were all as out of date as my father’s records. In fact, Richard Bhurman seemed to have vanished off of the face of the Earth at the same moment that my father was incarcerated.

I burned the hours away puzzling over how I could piece my mother together using all these people I had never met. The thrill of the day took its toll on me though, and I fell asleep in Uncle Bruce’s spare bedroom quickly that night. Still in my clothes, I snuggled down under the covers to dream of mysterious strangers and relationships frozen in time.

#

I knew that I would, inevitably, run into trouble given the bent I was on. I just didn’t expect trouble to find me so quickly.

The following morning I went down the street to the bank and had a conversation with one of the bankers about removing Bruce from my account. Now that I was eighteen, I was legally able to have a checking account in my name and my name alone. I didn’t know how I would explain this to Bruce when he got the notification that he’d been barred from access to my finances, but anything would be preferable to allowing him to track where and what I was spending.

I took my time walking back to the condo. I had only just sat down on the guest room desk when I heard someone at the door. It was not an intruder, and I knew it had to be Bruce.

I immediately closed the spare bedroom door to buy myself time. What was he doing back so early? Who flies to Egypt for a day?

In a quiet rush, I packed up all of my clothes and notes, throwing them in the closet. I booted down the computer and then tucked myself into the closet as well. I didn’t know if Bruce would come into the spare room or not; I wasn’t going to take any chances.

The closet was virtually empty, and it wasn’t an uncomfortable hiding place. I could see only a little through the slats of the wooden doors, but I settled down on a stack of folded blankets. There was nothing to do but wait and anxiously pray that even if Bruce did come into the bedroom he wouldn’t have any reason to open the closet.

It was only a few minutes before he did open up the door to the spare room. My heart was in my throat, but I kept quiet and watched him motionlessly through the closet doors. Bruce came in and shut the window. He paused briefly and sniffed the air, undoubtedly detecting the residual stink from the cigarette I’d had last night. I held my breath as he then saw the scattered mess of blankets and sheets I’d left on the bed. Bruce sighed, and began to strip the bed.

I realized that, crouched in the closet, I was sitting on top of the change of sheets. My mind, still in a state of panic, stopped worrying about whether or not he would find me and began trying to fabricate a diplomatic excuse for why I had decided to play hooky these past two days.

Bruce piled the bedding into his arms and carried it out to the laundry basket in the hallway. I thought about coming out of the closet and confronting him with some semblance of honesty, but I didn’t work up the guts to step out before he came back. As soon as he was back in sight, though, his phone began buzzing urgently. He answered it in a hurry, standing in the spare bedroom and making me privy to half the conversation.

“Hello, yes … no I haven’t heard, I just got in … really? I thought they were dropping the investigation … Interpol, really? … No, this is serious … do they know who the supplier is? … I’ll make arrangements to be on the next flight. I’ll be in New York by midnight. Send me whatever information you have and I’ll review it on the plane.”

Bruce hung up and groaned. He did not seem panicked by the fact that Interpol was getting involved in one of his affairs, but rather irritated that he would have to get back on another plane. He paced out of the room, completely forgetting about changing the sheets in the guest room. My heart rate eased back down, amazed at this stroke of luck and baffled by what few details I had.

Uncle Bruce shuffled around the condo for a few minutes, but left soon after, dragging his suitcase and slamming the door behind him. I crept out of the closet and peeked out the window to watch as Uncle Bruce’s Lexus pulled out of the building’s parking garage a few minutes later. He was gone, and I breathed easy.

As inexplicable as Bruce’s phone call had been, I didn’t want to question a blessing. Whatever was happening had taken him back out of the condo for another twenty-four hours at least, meaning that I had free reign of the place for a while longer. This was important, because I needed to know I would be able to make some phone calls in private.

In my journal, I carefully listed out all of my mother’s contacts in the order that I would call them. There were a few who I couldn’t find updated contact information for online, and I decided that it would be best to try them first and make sure they were the dead-ends I expected them to be. It didn’t surprise me that I couldn’t get through to any of them, but it did disappoint me that Rick Bhurman’s number was no longer in service.

The last of these old entries I tried was Charlie. To my amazement, the phone started ringing and was answered. A woman spoke to me in Trongodian with a heavy, native accent that I comprehended perfectly. “Poichi Technologies, industry and development sector, how may I direct your call?”

“Hello,” I responded, employing my Trongodian with ease. “I’m calling for Charlie.”

“Do you have a surname for that associate?”

Embarrassed, I tried to keep my voice cool and relaxed. “I don’t think you understand–I’m calling for Mr. Charlie.”

I bit my lip and held my breath, wondering if that name would mean anything to her.

“Oh. Oh,” she answered. “Mr. Charlezu, you mean, why yes … but he no longer works in this department … is he expecting a call from you?”

“Tell him it’s Melinda.”

She didn’t question me. “I’ll forward your call to him in the transportation department–please hold.”

I took a seat on the bed and waited to be connected to Charlezu. The Trongodian woman had disappeared, but it was a nerve-wracking few seconds as I waited for Charlezu to pick up.

“Hello?”

“Charlezu,” I greeted him, “is that you?”

“May I ask who is calling?”

“It’s Melinda, Charlezu. Melinda Derosa.”

He paused briefly. “Melinda Derosa is dead. Who are you?”

“Dead?” I laughed the word. “That has been the rumor hasn’t it?”

“I don’t know why you’re calling but …”

“I’m calling because I just woke up and I wanted to talk to you, Mr. Charlie.”

His irritated voice went dead. I left the silence alone, waiting for him to respond. “My God, it is you.”

“It’s been a long time, Charlezu.”

“Impossibly. An impossibly long time. The rumors were true … but how did you …? Never mind. Where are you, Melinda?

“I’m in Seattle.”

“What are you …? Nevermind. We can’t talk about this now. I know why you’re calling, but I really can’t have this conversation over the company phone line, you understand?”

“Of course,” I answered, not understanding at all. I started to ask what number I could reach him at, but he cut me off before I could utter a word.

“I’ll send a jet right away. Once you’re back in Trongodia tomorrow, we can talk about everything.”


Click here for Part III.


R.G. Summers writes primarily science-fiction, but has published stories and poetry of all natures. Summers lives in Seattle, more or less, and has great hopes for the future, including being able to pay the rent by writing, and someday owning a crock-pot. She’s also training to be a circus performer, just in case this whole “writing” thing doesn’t work out. You can find her little corner of the internet at https://sites.google.com/site/herpuckishness/


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 http://historythatneverwas.com/

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