Monday, February 15, 2010

Great Hites season 2 Episode 7

A sleeping Baby in your lab

Stories By:
Philip (Norval Joe) Carroll
Ashley Redden
And Jeff Hite

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The Doctor is in
By Norval Joe

He tried to rub at his head, to clear his mind, to remember his own name. It wouldn't come to him. His name nor his hand. It seemed useless, waving around in space in front of his eyes, like he was waving away pesky mosquitos.

"I must have fallen," he thought, his body unresponsive to his attempts to get up.

Nothing really hurt. He hadn't hit his head then, but he had a strange sensation in his stomach. Not a pain, more like a burning feeling. "Maybe I'm just hungry," he concluded.

He relaxed and allowed his head to roll to the side, the coolness of the alternating black and white linoleum floor tiles felt nice against his cheek.

The four legged metal stool stood high above him like the iron skeleton of a sky scraper under construction. The sound of water boiling came to him from atop the work table above.

"Water boiling," he pondered. He giggled at the funny sound of the gurgling liquid, boiling in the,

"Boiling in the what?" he asked himself.

His thoughts were fragmented. Why couldn't he control his mind? He was so frustrated, he wanted to cry.

"Cry? I'm a noted doctor of physical science and I want to cry?" The thought came and went so rapidly he almost didn't have time to grasp it's import. And then it was lost to him.

"The experiment," the thought brought him back to the sound of the boiling flask on the counter above. He giggled again at the rapid 'pop, pop, pop' the small gas bubbles made as they escaped the thick, viscous liquid.

He tried to roll to his side, but the blankets around him impeded his movement, and they were wet. He tried to move them with his uncooperative hands. One random hand motion hooked up an edge of the fabric and he saw that it was not a blanket, but his white linen lab coat. The sudden exposure of air to his damp skin made it clear to him the wetness he felt, while initially warm, was now cooling and uncomfortable.

"The experiment," he gasped, concerned that he hight have burned himself with the boiling liquid, "I must have spilled it on myself, but I feel no pain." he marvelled briefly.

He had endured much this day and was tired. He had fallen, spilled his experiment on himself. He was cold, wet, and hungry. It was more than he could take. He burst into tears and sobbed at the top of his lungs.

In the passage outside, a lab assistant was alarmed by a strange noise coming from within the laboratory, and rushed to investigate. The sound faded as he approached the door.

Not wanting to intrude or interfere on the obsessively secretive chemist, he knocked and spoke through the closed door. "Dr. Langerhans, did you call?"

He waited on a reply from the doctor. When there was none. The assistant eased the door open and stepped through.

"Dr. Langerhans, are you ok?" he asked tentatively.

The assistant scanned the room. All appeared to be in order. Books, jars, test tubes and various apparatus lined the shelves and cluttered the tables. In the center of the room, a flask sat bubbling above a burner, the deep red liquid gave off a shimmering smoke as the water evaporated away from the thick liquid.

On the floor, amid the folds of the Doctor's starched white lab coat, lay a sleeping baby.

By Ashley Redden

Miriam strained to listen to the voices coming from beyond the door. She understood words here and there, but mostly the loud talking was just noise. She hugged her pillow closer to her chest, her small frame shuddering. Miriam was very afraid.
She had been sitting with her mother and father at their small table for evening meal. She liked evening meal the most. Her mother and father would sit and listen to the things she learned that day as if their world depended upon it. She knew that they mostly were just humoring her, but she loved them all the more for it anyway.
They were sitting down, the small loaf of coarse bread broken and just passed around between the three. Miriam had been allowed to have a double piece, she so loved her mother’s bread. The bread was no sooner returned to her mother’s braided basket than three men and a strange hunched woman burst into the house.
They immediately began speaking with her father, saying that Miriam would have to go with them. Miriam’s mother took her quickly, but quietly, and led her to the next room, her bedroom. Her mother told her to stay put, smiled and gently closed the door. Her mother was like that, no matter what the situation, she was as gentle as falling snow. Fire could be falling from the sky and her mother would still be solid as a rock, hysterics were never part of Miriam’s mother’s world. Miriam strived every day to be just like her, calm and serene in every situation, good and bad.
Miriam wished she could be so calm and collected right now. But the words she was able to pick out from the conversation beyond the door were troubling. She was pretty sure that the men and the strange woman had come to take her with them, but she didn’t want to go and worst of all, she had no idea why they wanted to take her. She pulled the pillow tighter and shuddered some more.
As if on cue, the voices beyond the closed bedroom door stopped and the quiet crying of her mother could just be heard. The door opened and her father silently slipped into the room followed by the bent old woman.
Her father looked beaten, not as with a fist or stick or anything physical like that, but worn down, depleted. He looked at Miriam, but only in her general direction. He would not look into her eyes. Miriam thought that he looked like an empty husk. As if what ever had just happened on the other side of that door had sucked the life and vigor out of her father and what stood before her was what was left. One part of Miriam wanted to run to him, to hug him and tell him everything was going to be alright. Another part of her wanted to go over and bite the old lady and bite her good.
Her father said, “Miriam, you have to go…” His voice broke for a moment. He wet his lips and continued quietly, “Miriam, you have to go with this woman.”
Miriam said her voice shaking almost as much as her small shoulders, “But why papa. I don’t want to go. I want to stay with you and mama.” She could hear her small voice breaking, but she wouldn’t allow them to see her cry. Some voice deep within in her told her to be strong, only strength mattered.
She asked her father, “Why? Why do I have to go?”
Miriam’s father looked away, a study of misery.
The old woman peered at Miriam as if sizing up a choice bit of meat and croaked, “You have to come with me to be trained. You are magic folk. You must come, you cannot stay. This is not the proper place for magic folk.” The old woman gestured with a crooked hand around the small room, her eyes never leaving Miriam’s.
The old woman croaked out, “Now come along, no dawdling, “ and held out the same crooked hand she had waved about in the air only moments before. Miriam noticed that the other hand sat cupped upon the ball of a long stick that the old woman leaned on. She absently wondered if the hand would unfurl once the stick was removed or just stay as curled and knarled up as it was now.
The change in thought shocked Miriam, but she had always been one to pay attention to detail no matter what the goings on. She was pretty sure that this was another talent to attribute to her mother.
Miriam looked again at her father and listened to her mother quietly crying in the other room, probably still sitting at the small table just beyond the doorway her hand perhaps resting on or near the basket of the coarse bread Miriam so loved. Her father still would not look at her. The voice deep in her soul cried out ever louder, ‘be strong, show them no weakness. They prey on weakness. Now is the time to fight. Cry later or not at all, but do not be afraid. Be strong.’
Quietly, Miriam put the pillow down onto the bed just behind her and stood. She looked one final time at her father, and then fixed the crone with a glare. The thin smile that played upon the crone’s face faltered, she was not used to being looked in the eye by one so small and vulnerable.
A tiny warm flame flickered to life deep inside Miriam’s belly. A seed of anger, small now, but if properly nurtured the smallest of seeds can in time grow into the largest of harvests. She stoked the tiny flame, loving it, silently appreciating the warmth. Miriam found that she no longer felt as afraid. She straightened her small shoulders and willed her face to become a mask to hide her true feelings.
After taking a deep breath, Miriam said, “I’m ready.”
She marched past her father and the somewhat startled old woman and through the door. As Miriam passed her mother, she glanced back only to see her mother’s face turned toward the fire place, still quietly sobbing.
This, the woman that whispered daily that far and away her most cherished memory was that of holding a baby Miriam in her lap. As the babe dozed for hours on end, her mother would quietly sing soft lullabies. Her mother had always been so full of love and adoration for Miriam, never a cross word. Was it all a lie?
Miriam turned from her mother for a final time, not sure if her heart was breaking from betrayal or anger. In the end it didn’t matter, her small tender heart was utterly shattered nonetheless.
Standing before the three men, two hulking brutes the other a tall rail thin skeleton of a man, Miriam quietly committed the three faces to memory.
The skeleton smiled indulgently and said with a practiced sneer, “My, what an exquisite little lady.”
She had no idea how she would do it, but she made the vow on that very spot at that very moment. These three men, plus the crone behind her would, one day, die by her hand.
Miriam lowered her head and walked straight out the front door, mechanically, as if moving against a strong headwind, gritting her small teeth and willing her feet to keep moving. Though her eyes were very very wide and she was very very afraid, Miriam did not let it show. Her face remained a carefully controlled mask of calm. Miriam managed not to cry at all, but only just barely.
Once she exited the front door, the going got easier as if some inner barrier had been breached. As she walked out of her parent’s house and life forever, she did not look back. Her tiny heart was broken asunder.
Her heart would never heal, not from a hurt like this. But it would scab over, perhaps grow cold and wither, but never heal. As Miriam left her parents house, a large portion of her humanity died at the very threshold, quietly without acknowledgement or fanfare. She silently mourned the cruel gentleness of its passing.

Miriam was eight years old when she was taken from her parent’s house. People had always marveled at her pristine complexion, skin as soft and luxurious as if milk could be made into skin. Miriam had often caught her parents sharing a look, but they were all smiles when they’re eyes were upon her.
She had been singled out because of her ability to heal. Several times she had fallen and skinned her knee or some other little injury that children so often endure. Others had noticed how her injuries healed almost overnight. Instead of having an itchy scab after a particularly nasty fall, her knee would be as unblemished in the morning as before the accident. After this happened several times, people began to take notice.
Only people with magic could heal themselves so. The magic community was its own entity, not welcome amongst the common folk and vise versa. It was as if two separate peoples occupied the same towns, cities fields and roads, living in and around each other, but disconnected, each barely tolerating the other.
Miriam had been taken to a small village which consisted almost completely of women. This village was called the training village, but Miriam soon discerned that this was nothing but a holding area for females of the magical community until married off to some sorcerer.
It seemed, she soon found out, that the social stratification continued from the non-magic to gender. The women of the magical community were looked upon as inferior by the ruling classes. The topmost was the Council on Magic, all men and all despicable, powerful sorcerers in the extreme.
Miriam worked hard in her years at the training village, learning everything that they were willing to teach her and much that they would not. Certain magics were not allowed to be performed by women. Miriam began teaching herself how to perform this taboo sorcery, but she was only moderately successful.
She could feel the power, stirring restlessly deep down within. But she could not take the next step, that leap from making small objects move, dust devils or conjuring a cool flame in the palm of her hand. These things she could do with ease, but more complicated magics seemed beyond her ability.
But she kept trying. She never forgot her vow that cold evening at her parent’s house. She would keep fighting until the end, come what may. But she had decided over the years to go with the flow rather than cause trouble. She would cause trouble enough when she had the tools at her disposal to turn this crazy bigoted magical community on its flaccid ear. But until that time, she would work and learn and hopefully, grow more and more powerful.
Every day she would sit and calm herself, become a stone allowing any emotion to seep from her person and work on the magic and every day she would be frustrated. Ironically, she had the one thing at the training village that she absolutely did not want, popularity.
With the flawless complexion, she was the envy of all of the young girls who were also her fellow students and, though none of them realized it as such, captives. Miriam allowed the attention and even befriended any and all going so far as to call most of them sister. But all the while she silently hated her so called sisters to the girl, dimples and all. She had begun to think of them as curls without brains.
Behind her calm pretty mask, Miriam seethed and hated each and every other girl in the training village. They were all beneath her, all unworthy of any other true emotion from her. Just by being, her fellow students had earned her ire. Sheep. They’re all just stupid sheep.
Three days after Miriam’s seventeenth birthday, the old crone sent for her. The crone’s chosen name was the seer; no one knew what her given name was. But to Miriam, she was and would always be the crone.
The names of sorcerers and sorceresses could be used against them if know, so most chose another name when they had become powerful enough to warrant rivalries. Most were sorcerers, but there were a scant few sorceresses roaming the world. The sorceresses in the core lands either were not known, very powerful or quite dead. Women of power were rarely tolerated in this male driven magical society unless the sorceress in question was very powerful or could provide some service that a sorcerer might require.
Miriam had no idea what sort of arrangement could be worked out, but she kept her ears and eyes open, she was a veritable walking sponge soaking up knowledge whenever and wherever she could.
As she entered the crone’s small sparse home, she noticed for the first time a clear crystal ball that sat within a frame of a carved dragon; a claw tip, the extended tongue of the beast and the tip of the dragon’s tail were the only points touching the clear ball. Miriam stared.
The crone caught her stare and laughed the sound dry and dusky, like old grain swept across the floor.
The crone said, “That is a crystal ball. It is used to view things from very far away and sometimes…from very near.”
Miriam looked at the crone and asked, “How does it work?”
The crone cackled again, “always the thirst for knowledge eh? Well you have to concentrate, focus is the key. But that’s not what you need to be worrying about pretty one. I’ve been watching you practice and attempt the prohibited magics.”
Miriam blinked and the words flew out of her mouth before her mind had caught up, “But you do them, so how can they be prohibited?”
The crone rose attempting to stand erect, but she was too bowed for that. The crone spat,” That’s because I have power you little fool. But don’t worry; you won’t live long enough to know what you are missing. Today’s your last day upon this land.”
Miriam screamed with rage. It had been building for years and years, this black rage, but she kept it always in check, under strict control. Deep down, she knew on a subconscious level that once released, the genie could not be put back into the bottle.
She reached for her power then, not methodically or with calm conscious logical thought, but with the fire of the wild anger that she had kept brewing stoked and simmered since the day she was taken from her parent’s house, her house.
She reached for the power and felt it respond, as if reuniting with an old friend. Miriam flung the magical force at the crone. She screamed from her lungs and within her head that the crone’s insides would explode. Miriam felt a great unseen wind of energy leave her and slam into the crone.
The crone’s eyes bulged, and then blood, dark and malevolent much like the wretch that was it’s source spring, gushed from the crone’s eyes nose ears and mouth.
The crone croaked for one final time, actually sounding more like a toad than a human and fell upon the floor a withered sack of clothes, very much dead.
Miriam stood frozen and wondered at what she had just done. She had finally breached the dam. Emotion was the key. The magic responded to her need but emotion was the key. Miriam smiled for the first time since coming to the training village. The smile held no warmth. It was a cold acidic smile of vengeance and Miriam wore it like a glove.
One of the crone’s attendants rushed into the room and stopped, shock written upon her comely face.
The attendant stuttered, “Wh…what…what happened?”
Miriam turned her cold gaze on the attendant and answered snidely, “She died stupid. What does it look like?”
“But, but what happened?”
“How am I supposed to know? I was just talking to her and she fell over dead. Someone must have spelled her.” Miriam added with spite, not only for her vanquished enemy but increasingly for the fool to which she now addressed. “After all she was a very powerful sorceress.”
“Yes,” agreed the attendant her face now solemn. “She was very powerful indeed.”
Miriam snorted, “Indeed.” She walked across the floor and picked up the clear crystal ball, frame and all and headed for the door.
Miranda said, “Goodbye.”
The attendant said, “That belongs to the seer.” She cocked her head and added, “Where do you think you’re going anyway?”
Miriam answered, “She obviously doesn’t need it anymore. And to answer your second question, I’m breaking out of prison.”
The blank look on the attendant said it all. Sheep. Just a bunch of stupid sheep. Miriam strode out through the door and did not look back.

Two years after the abrupt death of the sorceress known only as the seer, a tall skeletal man stood speaking to another man, presumably another sorcerer. Across the busy street, a beautiful young woman watched casually leaning against one of the ubiquitous roof supports that littered the great market grounds.
The beautiful woman stood so focused on the skeletal man’s business that she did not realize that she too was being observed.
She hardened her face and snarled. The skeletal man across the street suddenly doubled over grabbing at his stomach and crying out in pain. The woman’s face relented back from the harsh expression to one of calm mirth. She smiled. The skeletal man allowed several of his attendants to help him over and into a nearby building, an inn. The woman’s smile widened.
She stepped into the street and suddenly stopped short. A nervous man, young, maybe several years older than the beautiful woman’s nineteen years stood directly in front of her. She blinked in surprise and stepped around the man.
He walked beside her and said, “Hello, I’m William, William Connally.”
The young woman smiled back and answered, “I’m Miriam, but please excuse me William; I have very pressing business that I must attend to. It was very nice meeting you.”
William stopped walking; his shoulders slumped, and then blurted out, “You’re beautiful.”
Miriam froze in her tracks and turned full around to face William. A smile of genuine warmth spread across her face. She said, “No, I’m exquisite.” Then turned on her heels and continued on her way.
William stood and watched as she strolled into the inn across the street, the entire length of her body a symphony of motion.
“Exquisite indeed,” he said breathless.
He wasn’t sure if he believed in love at first site or not, but as he continued to stare across the street at the Inn, he couldn’t help but wonder if his galloping heart was going to spring from his chest and sprint after Miriam.

The Baby
By Jeff Hite

There are a great many things that make he work that I do out of the ordinary. Some times when people ask me what it is that I do I don't even know where to start. So whenever possible I try to avoid situations where I might be asked such things. It is not only because I don't know what kinds of answers to give, but also that when I do give an answer people don't really understand the answers I give them.

This is the job that I have dreamed of having since I was a child, so in many ways i am very happy to be able to do it. But it is very lonely work. I am often working late into the night try to compete this thing or that. For a long time my wife was my assistant, and During those years my life was Perfect. But that all changed last year.

In the middle of May we decided that we were ready to have a baby. For me this was almost the happiest day of my life. We had talked about having children before we were married, but for my wife it was always some thing we would do someday. But for me I wanted children the day after we were married. It had always been a bit of a sore spot between us, but since she had always been so wonderful to me I tried not to bug her about it.

So I was telling you about what happened in May. We had gone to a fund raiser, it was something we did all the time, since we are a private lab and we always wee in need of finding. This one was different, because spouses we encouraged to attend. Jenny had also come with me in the past, but that was because she was part of my work, as much a part of it as I was. There were very seldom other husband or wives there, this one was different in that way. But more than spouses came, because both husbands and wives were there, children were as well.

I think it was seeing the babies that made the difference. Harold Master one of our closest rivals in the field, and dearest friend brought his baby over for us to see. She was only a couple of weeks old and still squeaked like the tiniest of babies. Jenny fell in love. I was never to happy.

The hold six hour drive home she was quiet, and I did my best not to worry that she was angry with me. The following morning at breakfast she told me that she was ready.

What came next was what I had not expected. She told me that I would had to find a new lab assistant. I was flabbergasted at first. But they she reminded me of the things I already knew, she and the baby could not be exposed to many of the things that we worked with. So in that way this was both the greatest day in my life and the worst. She was right of course, she usually was. So together we hired her replacement, and one month later she gave me the good news.

Nine months later, give or take five days, twelve hours, thirty two minutes and eight seconds. My joy Bella was born. And for that day forward she was the focus of our lives. I spend over a month of nights working on the spare office to make it safe for the baby, and I believe that I had accomplished that. The walls were Lined with lead to prevent any stray radiation, it had a separate ventilation system, and even had a back up power supply so that if we were to loose power we could get to Bella and know that she would be safe. The whole room was to be a surprise for Jenny.

It took a while but eventually I was able to convince Jenny that she could come back to the lab. I had refocused my work to avoid the things that we did not Want the baby exposed to. It had set me back a few years, so I needed her more than ever, but i believed that I had finally had a break through.

We worked late that Thursday night. There was so much to be done And the local power grid was had not been cooperative. Jenny and I had taken turns going down to the local substation, getting them to get the power back up. If we were to succeed in this that would be one of the first things we would fix.

Ironically with all the time that I had taken to make the lab safe for Bella, I had ignored the danger to us. The last time Jenny had gone down to the substation and even picked up a pizza. This time I had gone, and when the power came on, Jenny had been working to reset the accelerator.

It was not something she should have been doing at the time, but then I should have called to let her know the power was about to be turned back on.

When I found her, or rather what was left of her she was in front of the accelerator just as it had powered up. It was nothing I would ever want to see again. Not even if it were my worst enemy. It was terrible, but what was worse was my daughter in the next room. She was too young to understand any of it of course, but it her mother had not been able to come to her when she she started to cry. I knew that I could not dwell on Jenny and what had happened, that I had to go get Bella and calm her down. I also knew that I would have to continue my work. The fact that the accelerator was able to produce the power necessary to kill Jenny the way that it did meant that we were close, and for Bella's sake I had to try.

Most people don't understand my work as I said, but in the most basic from it is like a looking glass into the past. We mimic the distance that gives us the look into the universes past, by warping space time in a very tight loop, and where that loop comes out, this some where in the past. Many people might call it some kind of a time machine, but it really is not. It is more like a closed circuit t.v. with a tape in it that you can rewind and watch again. You can't effect the past in anyway, only observe, and it is a very power hungry process, so until now I have never been able to go back in time more than a couple of days. I am working on making the process more efficient, but it takes time. Time that I don't really have.

You see I am a single father now, and Bella comes with me to the lab, she is still too young to do more than sit up and play, but I spend her waking hours with her. I will not take even a few moments away from her. I am her only parent after all, but In the evening when she is asleep, I continue my work, I will make sure that my daughter gets to know her mother, even if that is only though images of the past. So right now, yes, I will say it, the most beautiful thing in the world is a sleeping baby in my lab.