An entry into the ‘Nelson’s Mad Lab’ story challenge, due October 31st. Just an outrageous, fun, spur of the moment little Halloween tale.
By K. Corris-Seale
Admiral Harriman Nelson was one of the world’s greatest scientists. While his favorite field of study and discovery was marine biology, there were no limits to his genius and curiosity. He maintained and shared many labs at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, and there were 9 labs aboard his submarine, the Seaview. But although it was not known to anyone, his favorite lab was in his very own basement. Except for a very few large pieces of equipment, he had everything there he needed, and he didn’t have to worry about security, questions, privacy or sharing. He could do what he wanted when he wanted. He even had a little cot down there, he could work all night with just a little snooze here and there. While he was passionate about anything scientific, he considered the other labs were for his work, and tended to think of this lab as being his ‘hobby shop’. It was here that he had a little innocent fun, and some of the greatest discoveries ‘made’ at the Institute had started here, just because he wanted to see if this was possible or if that could be done, or what would happen if - . . . All experiments at NIMR were conducted based on empirical data and adhering to strict policies and procedures, and those on-board Seaview were usually to do with the mission they were on and being paid handsomely for. But here? Here he was free to indulge his own scientific curiosity. No questions asked.
Amid all the little things he had conjured up, he had one fascinating idea he had worked on for years. He knew matter could be changed into energy, and then that energy changed back to matter. Since he knew it was possible, it was only a matter of time before someone, and he hoped it would be him, figured out how to transport matter from one spot to another. And have it resume its normal shape and size with no damage done.
It was a stormy Halloween night, as he sat and went over his research notes again and again. He had attached two electro-magnetic mechanisms to the tops of two intricate devices he had worked on for years, then put each one onto the tops of two glass milk bottles. They were then connected to each other by a small plastic tube from an old aquarium filter. The second one worked exactly in reverse of the first one. In the first bottle he had first put in a small leaf from his philodendron plant. He studied the setup once again, went over his notes again, and when he felt it was ready, he flipped the switch. At the last second, he saw a fly had somehow gotten into the bottle, it must have been underneath the leaf. Well, it was too late now. He would just have to do it all over again. Then the flash of light dissipated and he saw it. Not only was the leaf now laying on the bottom of the second bottle, but the fly was flying around in there too, obviously unharmed! He had only wanted to accomplish it with inorganic matter, but, OMG!, it worked, and on living matter as well! He was so excited, he wanted to tell someone, anyone, but knew he couldn’t. He had to-, . . . wait, what was that? Someone was walking around upstairs, right over his head! Aside from Institute Security, his housekeeper, and his sister Edith, the only other ones to have keys to his front door were Lee and Chip, and at this hour it couldn’t be anyone else. He quickly ran up the stairs, missing a step and falling backwards, hitting his head on the cement floor. He picked himself up and shook his head, he was ok. He took the stairs at a slower pace and closed the basement door behind him.
He quietly walked through the kitchen and down the small hallway, and cautiously peered around the corner into the living room.
“Chip, where could he be at this hour? His car is still here, and the front door was locked. I’m going to call security at the Institute.”
“Not necessary Lee, I’m right here. I was just checking out the hot water heater in the basement, been having some trouble with it. What brings you two fellows here at this hour?”
“Sir, your head is bleeding. What happened? Chip get a wet towel!”
“Oh, it’s nothing Lee, just bumped it on a low hanging pipe. I’m fine. Now, what’s going on?”
“Nothing really, Sir, we were just on our way back from having ribs at Porky’s and on our way to The Lighthouse Bar for a couple of beers and saw your lights on. Thought you might like to join us, Sir. There’s a lot of wild and funny Halloween costumes out this year and the Lighthouse has a competition for the most creative. Not many trick or treaters out though, the storm is too bad.”
He wasn’t sure why, but a few beers sounded really good to him right now. Maybe his own idea of a private celebration over his accomplishment. He could feel another Nobel prize coming on already. Well, as long as he didn’t have to dress up. Although Lee and Chip were dressed in their uniforms. Maybe they were going as Naval Officers.
“Ok, sounds good, give me a minute to change.” With that he went upstairs to his bedroom.
Lee had a degree in electrical engineering, and while hot water heaters weren’t exactly his thing, he thought that while they waited he would go down and see if he could find what was wrong with the hot water heater.
‘Be back in a minute Chip.”
‘I know what you’re going to do. Maybe I can help.” With that, they both headed down to the basement.
They were surprised to see the lab there, but as Lee commented, “Guess his genius never takes a rest. He’s always gotta be working on something!” Then he shrugged and went to find the heater, Chip right behind him.
Nelson came down to an empty living room, then heard the voices downstairs. He knew instantly that they were only trying to help him, neither one was the nosy type. Not sure what to do for a minute, he quickly realized he had nothing to worry about. He could trust his boys, and they wouldn’t understand what he had just done anyway. But he better go down there. If they accidentally touched anything . . .
Sure enough, he found them working on his heater, apparently totally oblivious to his lab. They had to have seen it, they just didn’t care. They probably expected something like that from him.
“Find anything yet?” He knew they wouldn’t, there was nothing wrong with the heater, but he had to play along with his earlier lie.
“Nothing, Sir. It would help to know what the problem was you were having with it?”
He had to think fast. “Well, it could be my imagination, Lee. It just seemed that sometimes the water wasn’t as hot as it should be. It’s probably nothing. I’ll have one of the plumbers from the Institute come over and service it. It’s getting late, we better get going before the bar closes.” He knew how sharp Lee was, gotta get him out of here before he suspects something.
They started to head upstairs, when Lee stopped and stood staring at the lab.
“This is some setup you have here, Sir. What do you usually work on here, if I may ask?” Lee was well aware of the complexity and sophistication of the labs both at the Institute and on Seaview. What could he not accomplish at those labs? He couldn’t explain it, but from the moment the Admiral had first come up from the basement, Lee had the feeling he was hiding something from them. And he knew this was why the Admiral was down here, his heater was fine. What was he covering up?
The Admiral wavered between another lie, and bursting out with the truth. Knowing he could trust them, and being so excited and yes, very pleased with himself, he couldn’t contain himself any longer.
“I don’t work on anything marine related, I work on whatever else crosses my mind, and I have just succeeded in an incredible technological breakthrough that will change mankind forever! Once it is perfected, anyway. Gentlemen, your boss has just teleported organic and non-organic matter from one spot to another, and it wasn’t changed in any way! I still can’t believe it myself, even knowing how long I have been trying to achieve it. You two are witnessing a historical moment! Here, come look!”
Although they both certainly did grasp the magnitude of what he was saying, seeing only the end result wasn’t anything momentous. They had to see the transport from the beginning to actually believe it.
The Admiral seemed to sense this. “Here, I’ll do it again. Just have to switch these caps, and the first one will dematerialize the contents, send it through the tube, and the second one will rematerialize it, exactly in its original pattern. Watch.”
He flipped the switch and they watched as his invention worked exactly as he had described. Both stood there in shock, finally realizing the far-reaching implications a breakthrough like this would have on every facet of life. Chip vaguely remembered feeling amazed like this the very first time someone had faxed a document to him years ago. Instantaneous information, no waiting. Now, it would be instantaneous travel, no waiting. It would take a while, but the first step was always the most important.
“Admiral, this invention is nothing short of a miracle. You need to document and patent this immediately to get credit for it. And try the procedure on as many different items as possible, see what the results and any limitations are on each.” Lee was so proud of his boss, his CO, his friend.
“I have to take it step by step, I know that, Lee. What will be the most important and final step will be successfully transporting a human being with no ill effects. It would put the travel industries out of business! “
“Sir, I believe in you, and the thoroughness of your research and experimentation. When you need a human volunteer, I’m it. “
“I appreciate your faith in me Lee, and as excited as I am right now, if I could find a way to get you into that milk bottle, I might just be fool enough to try it!”
They all burst out laughing, as the Admiral had intended.
“Well, Sir, I know your research is sound, but why are the glass bottles necessary? What has to be contained?”
Nelson was absolutely quiet for almost two minutes, just staring straight ahead, every word of his notes going through his mind. Then he came back to them.
“Now that I think about it Lee, I’m not sure the bottles or any containment field is necessary. Just a safe clean place would work just as well, as long as the mechanisms could be rigged up above a certain designated area and connected properly.” He walked over and took his devices off the bottles, chuckling as he saw the fly quickly fly away. The insect was seemingly unharmed and glad to be free.
Maybe instead of wasting time on inorganic matter, he should just start on lower life forms. He could put out a trap for that annoying little mouse that was always scurrying around when he was working down here. Thinking of the mouse, he happened to glance over to the corner he usually saw him in, and saw the pile of wire clothes hangers from the last time Edith had cleaned her closet out. He walked over and grabbed a pile of them and went over to the end of his workbench where he had his transport experiment set up. He glanced up at the pipes that ran overhead. “Can you tall fellows give me a hand here, please?”
They both walked over as Nelson explained he wanted to rig his teleportation devices to hang from the pipes above, about three feet apart.
While they were doing that, he walked over to his fix-it basement corner, though he wasn’t much of a handyman. He rummaged through some boxes and came up with a 3-foot length of PVC piping about 2 inches wide. While the boys were bending hangers, he attached the PVC pipe to the side of each device, removing the water filter tube, and securing them with pieces of good old-fashioned duct tape. The wiring wasn’t long enough to be hung that high, so he quickly spliced new longer lengths onto it.
Together, they all carefully moved and hung everything from the makeshift wire harnesses, being careful not to tangle the wiring. Well, it looked secure.
Nelson moved a long wooden bench from an old picnic set and put it underneath. This setup would give him more room for larger subjects. Curious that the integrity of the electrical connection had been maintained, Nelson threw the switch. Unaware of what the Admiral was about to test, Lee had noticed the fly sitting on the underside of the first terminal and went to shoo him away, just as the Admiral threw the switch. It was just at this instance that a bolt of lightning hit the house. There was a blinding light, and then they found Lee lying unconscious across the bench. Both Chip and the Admiral thought it was just a good electrical shock. They quickly removed his shirt after seeing smoke coming from a burnt patch of it. He remained unconscious.
“Let’s get him onto the cot. Then we better call Jaime.” Their good doctor was going to love being woke up at this hour, especially when he found out the ridiculous circumstance.
While they waited for the doctor to arrive, Chip kept a close eye on Lee, while Nelson went over his notes. He wouldn’t have thought that small amount of electrical current could render someone Lee’s size unconscious but it had been enough to almost enflame his shirt. Did the lightning bolt have something to do with it? He just had a terrible feeling there was something else going on here, and that it had more to do with his teleportation device than the electrical charge. How the devil was he going to explain this to Jamie?
As he concentrated, he heard a slight buzzing by his ear. That damn fly! He took an unconscious swat at it, missing by a foot. Then he heard it again. Although this time, instead of a buzzing, he heard a high-pitched whine. He could swear it sounded like words! He listened closely. Why, he swore it just said “Help me! Help me!” And in Lee’s voice!
My God, what have I done!
Then the fly flew over to Chip, and tried the same message in his ear. But Chip only tried to swat him away. He flew over and landed on his own head. Chip immediately tried to kill him, the Admiral grabbing his arm just in time. “Chip! No! That fly is Lee! The device transferred his consciousness into the fly!” Chip’s first thought was that Nelson had gone mad, stark raving mad. Then he heard the whining near his ear again, and this time understood the plea, ‘Chip! Help me! Help me!’. He took a step back in shock, unable to accept the evidence right in front of him. This. . . this was impossible, how. . . how could this happen, this can’t be, no . . . no way, he’s just unconscious. He’ll wake up and be fine. Once Jamie gets here, he’ll be fine. He looked at Nelson for agreement, but all he saw written on the Admiral’s face was pure disbelief and horror.
Nelson went over and started talking to the fly. “My God, Lee, I am so sorry son! I swear to you, I will find a way to reverse this. I will work on this night and day for the rest of my life until I do!” It suddenly dawned on him that the life expectancy of a house fly was only about one month. He would have to work fast. First thing he had to do was unplug all his electric bug zappers. And then get rid of his Venus Fly Trap plant.
Chip still wasn’t sure he believed all of this, but if the Admiral did then it had to be. Chip wanted to let Lee know he would do everything he could to help, he was always there to support his friend in times of trouble, but he had no idea what to say or do in this situation, so he reverted to standard naval protocol.
“Uh, any orders, Sir? Anything I can do for you until you are back to yourself again, Captain Fly, I mean, Captain Crane? Sir?”
The fly flew to Chip’s ear and he swore the whine sounded like ‘Take care of Seaview for me!’
Chip and the Admiral just stood there looking at each other and then at the Leefly, now resting again on the very tip of his own nose. Then they saw Lee’s body move, he raised his arms and rubbed his hands together, then did the same thing with his legs and feet. Just like a fly.
Nelson tried to pull himself out of it, he had to find a way to reverse this. But how? There was no plausible way for this to have happened in the first place, it was impossible! He looked over at the transporter. Well, if they put Lee’s body back on the bench under the second mechanism, and told the Leefly to sit on the bench under the first mechanism, maybe it would reverse the process, if the lighting didn’t have anything to do with it. It was the only thing he could think of to try. He explained this to Chip, and they moved Lee’s body to the other end of the bench. The Leefly gladly cooperated on his own, flying over and sitting directly under the first mechanism. Nelson and Chip looked at each other, both saying a silent prayer, and then Nelson threw the switch. There was a flash of blinding light, then they heard a voice calling down, it must be Jaime.
“Hello! Admiral, are you here? Hello?”
“Hello! Admiral, are you here? Hello?”
Hearing Lee’s voice brought him back to consciousness. He slowly sat up, wondering why he was lying on his basement floor, and what the devil this fly was buzzing around him for. “Leefly, is that you?”
Lee heard him and appeared at the top of the basement stairs, immediately realizing what had happened. He was down the stairs in a second, Chip right behind him. They carefully helped him up and got him upstairs. Neither one had even noticed the lab. Sitting him down on a kitchen chair, Lee got ice while Chip called Jaime.
“Lee, my God, are you all right! You’re awake!”
“Admiral, I’m fine, you’re the one who fell down the basement stairs! And of course I’m awake!”
“You-you mean you aren’t a fly anymore?”
“Sir, I think we better get you onto the couch, you must be hurt worse than we thought.”
“Chip! Help me, help me!”
Have a Happy and Fun Halloween! And yes, I did have fun writing this!
(Hope I don’t hear from anyone associated with ’The Fly’ movie for infringement of a copyright!)