What Rocket Scientists Want

Part 3

by Verve
10/2/01

It's not much, but it's getting interesting....

"Rusty!" Dr. Slate batted above her head, leaping at the robot boy who floated just out of reach. "You get down from there this minute!" Her biting tone was met with an innocent giggle.

"C'mon, Dr. Slate! Youíre no good at this game!" He let the ball fly into the air and arc gracefully into the garbage can across the room. "Whoo hoo! Point 5 bazillion for Rusty. The crowd goes wild!" Erika laughed as Rusty twisted and tried to emulate some strange victory dance.

"Thatís it, Iím done." Slate sank down into her chair with a smile. Rusty hovered back to the ground, landing with a small metallic chink in front of her.

"Aww, Doc, pleeease." He opened his mouth pleadingly as he whined. She didnít like the way that he shortened her name to the one syllabic phrase that Dwayne often used. "Just one more round."

"No, I said we would play Ďtil 5 bazillion." She grinned at him, adjusting her glasses. "No more."

"Oh, I didnít really have 5 bazillion points, it only seemed like it." He walked over and fished the basketball out of the garbage can dejectedly. "I was just joking."

Erika laughed. "I know; so was I." She sat up in her chair, observing that her posture was inadequate, and grabbed her lab coat, slipping it on before anyone came in and noticed she was out of her usual attire. "I am exhausted, though. Some of us arenít powered by nucleo-protonic packs."

"Yeah, I guess so." Rusty smiled up at Erika lovingly. "Youíre older than me too. Like, how Dr. Poindexter was really slow, because he was old. Right?"

She tried not to noticeably shrink at Rustyís innocent comment. "Not exactly, Rusty. Iím not as old as Dr. Poindexter is. Actually, Iím really not what humans would technically define as Ďoldí. That is a word used mostly to define people over the age of...."

But Rusty cut her off before she could finish her explanation. "Doctor Slate, how can humans have clocks inside of them?" He set down the ball and floated up to sit on the lab desk next to her.

"Well, I," she stammered, "itís often been hypothesized that all things run on a sort of seasonal system, much like a clock, called Ďcircadian rhythms. However, itís nothing as precise as your internal timing systems." She shifted her glasses up on her nose. "What brings on that question, Rusty?"

He didnít respond to her question but went on in his own little pattern of thought. "No, thatís not it. I guess itís only you, then." His brows scrunched forward thoughtfully.

"Only me what, Rusty?" Why did something she had constructed still seem to confuse her at every turn?

"Well, the ladies in the little smelly room...."

"The coffee room?"

"Yeah, that one." He brushed the comment aside. "They said that you have a biological clock, and they say itís ticking." He paused. "But I donít hear anything." He looked up at her with two very worried eyes. "Dr. Slate, are you broken?"

Erika had to sit down.

She didnít know whether to be embarrassed or angry, so she went for both at once. Gossip seemed so trivial, especially when it was about her. She was a career woman, which got no respect (she didnít expect it to), but what they had said was harsh. What they had said struck a chord as well, one she didnít like to think about.

***

Mack and Garth stood with their mouths hanging open. Dwayne stared at Jo, who was writhing in her chair. When she spoke she was a quiet little girl, who was very unsure and very frightened of what was going on.

"God, this is too freaky. Tell me this a joke, Dwayne." He canít read my thoughts, he just canít. Heíd know everything then, everything about me. Her eyes went very wide suddenly. "Dwayne, how long have you been able to hear what Iím thinking?" Please donít say you can hear me thinking about Garth all the time, please donít say you can....

"Jo, stop right there!" Dwayne stood up out of his chair as quickly as he could and pressed his hands to his ears. "Just stop, for the love of Mike!" Jo turned bright red, and looked ready to cry. The entire room hung with a strange sort of tension that had never been there before.

"Whoa...." Garth responded for the first time in minutes. "What did you say, I mean, think, Jo? You know it takes a lot to get him upset enough to use Big Guy rhetoric."

She shifted into a fuchsia shade and then glared at Garth. "Nothing!" She stood up out of her chair violently. "Why donít you mind your own damned business! This is my head, for godís sake!" She flew on winged feet to the hangar door, her words muffled by her hands over her face. "My thoughts!"

Garth looked like a truck had hit him.

"Was it something I said?" He turned to see the other two men in the hangar with equally shocked faces. Mack shrugged.

Dwayneís eyes were locked on the invisible trail Jo had left, talking more to himself than the rest of the group. "No, but Iíve got a feeling this is more about what she hasnít said." Suddenly, he took off after her.

"Well, Iíll be damned if I know what this is all about at all." Mack scratched his head thoughtfully, readjusting his hat and sitting back down to look at schematics on the table. "All right, which one of you hotshots spilled this?" He pointed an indignant finger at a circular puddle of saliva.

"Mack, this is big. It isnít every day a guy can suddenly hear a womanís thoughts." Garth leaned over the table, staring down Mack -- who simply laughed.

"As far as Iím concerned, Dwayneís got a curse on his head the size of the Big Guy," He blotted at the water with the cuff of his sleeve. "And itís got bad juju written all over it."

TO BE CONTINUED

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