14,019 / 50,000
Probably my strongest section, for me. I've introduced characters! =)
He stared at the device he had spent the better part of his adult life trying to design, build, and perfect. The last part of that was proving to be the most difficult, but not the most time consuming. This design was far from what he envisioned, but it was an early prototype yet. There was time enough to refine the look of it, and make it more suitable to his grand vision, and not this reject from a junkyard that stood before him. Or there would have been enough time, if the appropriations committee wasn't breathing down his neck.
The doctor brushed his hand through his greying hair, his age, or more likely the stress of the job, finally showing. He had managed to escape baldness, but the salt and pepper look his once-raven hair was taking on had only increased since the start of the year.
McKenzie had first thought of his device when he was a child. He had once been an avid comicbook reader, and while he eventually learned that most radiation was quite harmful to humans, back then he thought that somehow, there must be some way of controlling it, of making his own 'Incredible Hulk'.
What he also learned was that radiation was also capable of tampering with cells, and causing mutations, although up to that point in time, they had all been bad. He had figured it was only a matter of time, and with the right means, that there could be good benefits from radiation - aside from chemotherapy treatments, which often had side affects that could be bad in their own way.
He was not alone in his research. Growing up, he had found a kindred spirit in another young man in his neighbourhood named David Kelly, someone who shared his belief in his exceptional, far out theories. The two travelled side by side down the path of discovery, even going to the same college, and staying as roommates throughout the experience, and beyond.
They both spearheaded Project: Lightbringer, even before it had that name. When the government expressed interest in furthering their outlandish research, they leapt at the chance, as many other companies would not go anywhere near their project, for fear of the backlash and danger.
However, during the early stages of the project, tragedy struck. When the very first emitter came online, there was an unexpected power surge, and that very early test rig, looking even more primitive than even the one that was sitting in front of Alphonse that day, exploded, and killed his childhood friend.
Once the radiation had been cleaned, and they recovered the body from the wreckage, it was barely identifiable, but Doctor McKenzie recognised a pendant he had given his friend back when they graduated college, a long since tarnished silver wolf's head. That was when Alphonse first noticed his greying hair.
Since that day, he had thought of David quite often, especially when he was sitting here alone, with their mutual creation, their child, their only child, as neither had found the time outside of their obsessive work to start families of their own, barely even able to make more friends than each other.
He tugged at the collar of his dark blue, silk dress shirt, no tie having come near his neck in some time. All the pieces seemed to be in their proper places, he couldn't see what good fiddling with the exposed wires and soder points would do at this point. As far as he could tell, the design was flawless. To work out that one fatal flaw, if it was indeed one, may take an entire rethink of the design, maybe altering the power sources, the conduits, and refinement centers within the large cowlings that housed the more delicate components.
All he could see rebuilding the machine doing would be to make it more efficient, and Alphonse was certain that efficiency wasn't the key, not yet. Too many results that showed the validity of his work had come to pass. With no time to spare, that option was out, anyways.
He walked over to a small metal table that had been set up towards the back of the device, where sat a small, black laptop. Several wires connected the laptop directly into the emitter beside it, and another snaked its way over to the wall, where it would eventually connect with the main servers for the facility, allowing Doctor McKenzie to work from this seperate terminal, rather than have to go down to another main computer. He could access his notes, and all the processing power available in the labs, while also inputing any new instructions direcly into the emitter.
Grabbing the mouse, which he had connected to the laptop, despite its having a trackpad, since he had never managed to get the hang of the things, and much preferred the more tactile sensation of having a mouse gripped firmly in his hands. He clicked into the emitter's operating system files, something David had completely written from scratch. Alphonse had never been one for software, but could navigate around already existing code, and make it his own. Very little of the original OS still existed, but there remained some fingerprints here and there amongst the code.
He scrolled through the code, looking for ways to clean it up, and found a few spots where new expressions, refinements in the math, could be made, and typed them in. Warily, he also entered in some entirely new code he had been working on. Alphonse knew his skill with code was only slightly above average, but he knew enough, especially with regards to his pet project.
The new code would work with the existing machinery, but was designed to alter the sequence of events that would take place to create and refine the energy, trying an almost entirely new configuration. He wasn't sure just what would be done to the energy, but at this stage, he was out of ideas that would work on their existing setup, and had decided, after much thought, to try this different take on the problem.
The simulations he had run on the code when he had devised it first a week ago, showed that the energy emitted would be fundamentally the same, but the output was increased, as well as it was coming out in shorter wavelengths, impacting the targets with more energy, in a shorter span of time.
He hoped that a quick burst of the process would cause less damage on the subjects, and have a less likely chance of doing permanent damage. While he was nowhere near certain of his ideas at this point, he figured that someone was going to sit in tha chair come sunrise, and the way they had been testing was an almost assured death. At least with this, there was some chance with it being an almost entirely new process.
Sitting beside the laptop was a mug of tea, that was giving off steam that was barely visible, and the doctor picked it up and had a sip, while the laptop and machine ran the latest simulation debugger with the all new code. Miraculously, no bugs cropped up in the system, and the code was recompiled for final use, and ran another simulation to be sude that the final product worked as expected, at least in a computerised environment.
While the extended simulation ran, Alphonse walked over towards the multilayered lexan glass that was nearly ten feet thick, and the emitter's firing mechanism had been fed through a small hole in the center, and sealed up. This created a very safe wall between the emitter's main systems, and the test camber, as well as acting as viewing portal to keep an easy view upon the test subjects next door, and also maintained the quarantine zone within the room.
Through the multiple feet of safety glass, Alphonse could see his most promising research assistant, Brendan Conrad. He was in the adjoining room and looking over the facilities, to be certain that everything was prepared for tomorrow's test. When Alphonse looked through, he was checking the emitter's main dispersal point, and checking for any damage to the systems at that end, as some of the most important, final tweaks to the energy were performed at that point, just before it blasted into the subjects.
Brendan had been picked up for the project straight out of college. Outside of those labs, Doctor McKenzie still published papers on other research he found time for, as well as a few books on genetics, and had given several presentations at colleges around the country.
At one of those presentations, a young student with shaggy brown hair, and sharp features, came up to the doctor, and intrudoced himself as a longtime fan of the doctor's, and he and Brendan had a long discussion after the presentation, and Alphonse found the first person who shared his views so closely since David's passing.
They kept in touch, and once Brendan had finished his work the following year, Alphonse let him in on what he was working on, and brought him in as a research assistant. He knew more about the lab's work than anyone else, besides Alphonse himself, and even then, Brendan could be nudging ahead of even his mentor.
Across the glass, Brendan hadn't changed much since that first meeting. His hair was still shaggy, if a little shorter, and thinner. He was in need of a shave, but that was a near-constant state of being. No matter when he shaved, it shortly looked like he needed to again.
He had removed his lab coat as well, but it was much closer than Alphonse's. The doctor could see the white coat drapped over the manacle-enhanced arm of the chair. Underneath was a long-sleeved shirt with a few buttons in front, his usual style. His jeans were blue and baggy, pooled over his black shoes. His ecclectic fashion statement suited his state of mind. Brendan was able to bounce from one topic to the next effortlessly, on a wide variety of subjects, from quantum physics, to pop culture.
Brendan saw his mentor through the safety glass, standing against the his baby. He shot a quick wave through to Alphonse, and resumed his work with a smile.
The doctor rapped against the safety glass with the back of his hand, and caught Brendan's attention before he got too deep into his work. With a jerk of his had towards the hallway linking the two chambers, Alphonse communicated far more effectively than using the intercom system that he wanted to talk with his coworker and friend.
Out in the hallway, painted a very light, almost white shade of blue on the top half, and a much darker blue along the bottom half, each seperated by a wooden molding that also worked as a hand rail.
Alphonse leaned against the wall between him and the emitter, and Brendan leaned against the opposite wall, and crossed his arms. The bags under their eyes easily showed to each other that it had been far too many hours since either of them had slept.
"So," said Brendan, in a half-whisper like he usually spoke in. "Got any idea what you're going to do for work tomorrow? Been to the unemployment office, yet?"
"Always with the jokes, young man." He grinned. Brendan always had the ability to make him do that, even under these stressful conditions, and as he said, being so near to unemployment. Alphonse shook his head, and crossed his own arms, making a mirror image, albeit an older, less in shape mirror image of Brendan. "No, if we are shut down, then I'm sure I can continue with my research in other venues, and my books. That is how I met you, after all."