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Don't Sweat the Technique; In which Marcus discovers that he is not the only one probing the One Power using the tools of science
Topic Started: Aug 11 2017, 06:04 PM (1,031 Views)
Marcus DuBois
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Marcus DuBois' foray with Vellas had yielded some fruit, he supposed. EM weapons were a bane and learning to detect their use, let alone guard against it, was hard coming. Still, the connection with Vellas was there now, however faint. There was no love lost between the men.

Then again, Marcus believed he was not capable of love, not anymore, that emotion having been burned away through all the years in the cauldron that was his childhood. He refused to think of his brother Andre in Chicago. Ascendancy had asked him to make contact but that had been futile. Andre was and would forever remain lost in the backwater that was America, clinging to the belief that they were still relevant.

At Marcus' accession to Consul over the Consulate on Channeler Oversight, he had reached out, offered him a place in Moscow as well as a connection to get onto the CCDPD there. Restructuring was going on, though slowly, of that department and already research was being done by hundreds of lawyers and legislators over how the laws would have to be rewritten to cover the Ascendants now that they were out of the closet.

And that was only the half of it. The revelation of the Atharim and the things they hunted added the need for still more laws. Was it legal to kill a creature such as the one that had nearly killed the Ascendancy merely for existing? Did they have rights?

Marcus had his own opinions about things like that, but at least for now, he had enough on his plate.

More than enough. As Consul, it was primarily up to him and his newly formed team to begin set up the Consulate, setting the parameters of oversight, the organizational structure, and so on. The Ascendancy had been clear. Vellas would oversee the military aspect of channeling, taking those whose abilities lay in that direction into training.

The United States had done the same, though intelligence hinted that their program had already begun earlier. That only served to light a fire among the top brass of the CCD. A new arms race had begun, every bit as dangerous as in the previous century.

Marcus hungered for control of that. Part of him did. But rulership could never be based purely on military might. Not any kind that lasted anyway. No, the real path lay in control over all aspects of the empire.

And that was where Marcus' sat, because his Consulate, per the orders of the Ascendancy, would touch the lives of everyone. His Consulate (and he did think of it as his) oversaw channeler registration. All channeler's not in military services were in his purview. They would identify those who a posed real danger to the empire and put them down. (Theo Andalain being the impetus for that.) Whether that involved Vellas' strike team remained to be seen. Marcus would push to have their own autonomy in that regard.

People with talents like Jensen James and even himself would also be identified and nurtured, with the CDD (and his Consulate first) being the recipients of those gifts. While Marcus might have discovered the way to craft metallic parts that used the Force to resist any breakdown, he would never become a factory unto himself. But others could. If he chose to share, that is. More and more, he was considering it. At least the manufacture. It was tiring but not overly so, nor was the method too dificult.

What would that do to manufacturing in the CCD? Machinery and parts that never wore down. Vehicles and weapons that would not break. He could almost see it, see the flow of products and wealth and power.

The cold war was not just going to be fought with channelers. While the US had a probable jump on channelers, conventional weapons would never become obsolete. The registration was already giving an idea of what percentage of the population was Ascendant and while they were many in number, the percentage was quite low- not even in the single digits. No, the need for conventional weapons would not disappear.

And who knew. Given Ascendancy's age and health, it was a simple projection to believe that all of them would live a long time. With long life came a new way of looking at things. Projects that took decades could be planned and carefully husbanded. Knowledge could grow in a mind that was sharp and vibrant, work of decades continually expanded upon.

The Consulate would plug these Ascendants into the CCD to make what was already the world's only superpower more advanced than what could be imagined.

And Marcus would sit at the center of that, overseeing it all. With long life came a long game. Vellas might be head of the military wing of the channelers now, but would that be the case in 50 years? Especially if Marcus continued to apply the same scientific principles that had already helped him.

Brute force was no match for science, technology and ruthless cunning. History taught that lesson clearly. Cortez and Moctezuma. The British and India or among the Aborigines. The game would be very long. Vellas and any others who stood in his way. And then, one day, the Ascendancy. One day.

And so Marcus sat in his room, clouded in what considered justified arrogance, surfing the net, in a rare moment of quiet. Very rare- and too short. There was not enough time to do any real research or study in his own projects. He'd have to find the time, though. Hopefully.

Malik squirmed. Time...he needed time for Malik too. The hunger was beginning to become noticeable. Almaz was out of the question now. And going off hunting would be difficult since his face was becoming more well known. Of course, the trick he'd learned from Oakland might be the answer there. Indeed, it was obvious.

Sated he would hunt soon, Malik quieted. And Marcus read news reports- The nation; World. He skipped Entertainment and went on to Tech, noting where his discovery might be useful. Then Science.

It was there that he stopped. Read the article, clicked the link to the Abstract, and from there went to the full paper. He had to slog through it. His knowledge of physics, while not cursory, was certainly not at this level. Not by a long shot. He reread sections multiple times, trying to understand what had been discovered.

After some time, he thought he had a good idea of the bigger picture. The details, though, simply were beyond his ken, at least at the moment. He had no doubt with enough time and study, he could get it. But it would take too long and he simply didn't have the time right now.

He was well aware that there were people who were experts in things he knew nothing of. That was the way of the universe. He was quite comfortable with that fact. A Sith would not feel diminished by it. As long as they could be trusted to do their work and were loyal, they could be useful.

This Danika Zayed was worth meeting. Because there was something in her work that seemed familiar. The equations she used in to describe the newly discovered dark matter fermion that behaved as Bose-Einstein condensates had a form that seemed related to the eigenvector of the "twistiness" term in his Tau algebra. Not the same. But the structure of the matrix, the.....he searched for the right term....the flavor seemed similar.

It was something he couldn't pass up. He would make the time.

He composed an email to Dr. Zayed, asking her to meet. The signature at the bottom made it clear who was asking. He hoped she didn't take long to answer.

He couldn't help the slight excitement that he felt. He even allowed himself to smile. Not the excitement of the hunt. Not the pleasure he took in manipulating a person.

This was a different excitement, though he couldn't exactly place it.
Edited by Marcus DuBois, Aug 11 2017, 07:12 PM.
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After a long day, Danika propped her feet on a plush ottoman, dropped her email into her lap, and fired up some background music. Two-hundred fourteen emails dotted her view, and her eyes immediately glazed the topics, names, addresses drowning her vision. Even as she scrolled, she mentally prioritized them, filing away most as something to respond to on another time. However, there were too many to simply review each by hand. A click of a command later, and the smart software of her email system reorganized the hundreds of unread emails by apparent priority. She expected the first few would have something to do with her boss, or maybe an emergency situation in the lab, or perhaps notifications on her funding. Instead, it was a .ccd sender that occupied the top spot. A government email address wasn't entirely unheard of, considering science funding within the CCD was a very coveted thing.

Interest piqued, she opened the file and her sleepy eyes grew wider when she viewed its contents. Up popped a name and an official-looking government photo, the kind where the background was filled with images of the Kremlin and flags of the empire. There was some kind of logo on the image, but she didn't recognize it. That meant it was important, indeed.

Marcus DuBois was a Consul. One of the people that ran an entire consulate and lived at the center of a wide circle of power. If Danika had been blown away by meeting Methos, it was truly surreal to receive an email from someone 1 degree of freedom of separation from Ascendancy.

Licking her lips, her eyes blazed over the words. He's read my work. A proud smile slowly blossomed upon that realization. He wants to talk about it?

"Yes, absolutely. Let me know the time and place.
Danika Zayed.

She responded quickly, short and sweet. The other two-hundred thirteen emails went unread for now. Instead, she began to read up on everything she could find concerning Consul DuBois.
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Marcus DuBois
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Marcus steepled his fingers as he stared past the holo-display. Interesting. Very interesting. Emotions warred within him as he was confronted with something he had never thought possible.

They were both from Chicago. Similar in age. Both had attended prestigious universities and gained acceptance into highly competitive programs. And, most important of all, they were perhaps doing research in the very same field, though it was possible she didn't realize it.

But it seemed that for every similarity, a difference existed that seemed almost designed to be its polar opposite. She grew up in an affluent and safe neighborhood while he moved from housing project to group home to housing project; She went to public schools in those neighborhoods, benefiting from property taxes, the largess of parents who were heads of businesses, and alumni donations that made sure there was always enough of everything for the students. They enjoyed field trips to places he wouldn't have imagined and participated in school projects designed to nurture every child's gift. The schools he went to were in gang and drug filled neighborhoods, with metal detectors and bars on the cracked and drafty windows. The teachers were always short staffed and war racked as they tried to corral kids with home lives that were anything but stable, many of whom had already become parents themselves. And sometimes, the teachers became victimizers.

There could not be two more different furnaces in which two people had been forged.

So....did he resent her and her privilege? That was the question and one he didn't shy away from. The words of Darth Palpatine were always close to his heart.

"There is a place within you, my boy, a place as briskly clean as ice on a mountaintop, cool and remote. Find that high place, and look down within yourself; breathe that clean, icy air as you regard your guilt and shame. Do not deny them; observe them. Take your horror in your hands and look at it. Examine it as a phenomenon. Smell it.Taste it. Come to know it as only you can, for it is yours, and it is precious."

He stood on that icy mountain and examined his feelings. He studied his responses. Deep down, in the place he was still in the process of burning away, the place from which had come his strange question to the Ascendancy- "Was it worth it?"- from there he heard an echo of...was that resentment? Perhaps. There was something else that tinged it. Loss. But of what? The deep hidden place was silent.

Or maybe he didn't hear it. Malik's thoughts were always louder. They were proud. Defiant.

"True power can come only to those who embrace the transformation. There can be no compromise. Mercy, compassion, loyalty: all these things will prevent you from claiming what is rightfully yours."

The circumstances into which was born, the life which he lived, had brought about that transformation. He would not resent it. There was no loss. More importantly, it had put him where he was. Even he was astonished how well things had worked out so very quickly. Truly, the Dark Side (he still called it that even though he'd moved beyond those simple terms. The multiverse was a simulation. That was his paradigm now. And it made so much more sense.), truly, the Dark Side was maneuvering things.

Just as it had done now, bringing his attention to Dr. Zayed and her work.

He felt more at peace now. He stood up to get ready. He had messaged her with time and location: his office, 10 am. From everything he had seen in her social media, she was a happy and good-natured person. While that could certainly be an act, in this case, he was inclined to believe it. There didn't appear to be much in her life that might embitter her enough to live a lie.

Meeting at his office would impress her, no doubt. But the man she met would be affable, open and charming. He wanted to know what she was doing, what she found. And whether he could add her to his collection of useful tools.

It was just as well that he had taken the time to meditate. Because he would have to channel that inner innocence that he had encountered just moments ago. Part of it, anyway.

He smiled into the mirror as he did his tie. He was wearing a grey wool suit with a purple silk shirt. The tie was a checked dark mustard yellow, with faint hints of red at certain angles. A splash of color and the appearance of fun without sacrificing dignitas. Gone was his Sigma pin. In its place stood one with the newly commissioned symbol of his Consulate.

He made his way to his office and spoke to his secretary and various aides that needed quick answers. They were competent. The coffee was on his desk before he more than logged into his system. The room was large, a spacious desk to one side next to a curtained window overseeing the inner gardens. Spring was in full bloom and it was lit up with color. A smaller table was flanked with comfortable chairs. The decorations were chosen to be minimalistic. He had leaned toward Taoist art, with its simple charcoal paintings that suggested an ethereal world, almost dreamy. Idealized in its simplicity. Opposites figuring regularly. His shelves contained books. He still liked actual tangible books. There was a permanence to them.

At 9:50 his secretary notified him that Dr. Zayed had arrived. He smiled inwardly. He liked punctuality.

"Send her in," he said as he stood and came around from his desk, buttoning his jacket, cool but friendly smile on his face.
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Danika was let into a pristine office that radiated authority and antiquity. Now, she was not one easily intimidated, having sat on stage and argued her scientific opinion with the world's best, but this was different. Perhaps the whole of the moment was sinking in-exactly where she was and who she was meeting.

Taking a steadying breath, she extended an arm, smiled a bit too widely and stepped closer a bit too rushed. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Consul. Thank you for inviting me here today. How may I help you?"

((Ooc: sorry it's short. Getting back in the swing of things.))
Edited by Danika, Oct 26 2017, 07:52 PM.
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Marcus DuBois
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Marcus cataloged everything about her appearance and demeanor in a moment. She was pretty, far more so than she appeared in pictures. But there was no aloofness or arrogance to her. She didn't appear to realize it, very much the opposite of Spectra. Malik squirmed with pleasure at the memory. Dr. Zayed was far different. Fresh; Interested; Open. He decided on his tack.

Mirroring her mood, he smiled widely, his eyes friendly. 'Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, Dr. Zayed." He did not add that he knew she was probably busy. He wouldn't go overboard in his accommodating. He was Consul, she a researcher. Obsequiousness was not part of the plan. He gestured to one of the chairs in front of his desk and took the one next to it. Much better than sitting across the desk from her. Balance was the key.

He looked at her for a moment, as if studying her, as if deciding how much to tell her. In truth, he already knew what he was going to say. Finally, "I am sure you are wondering why I asked you to come here. Why the Consulate on Channeling in particular would be interested in your work. Perhaps you have already guessed why." Likely, she didn't. She had her work and her equations- those Bose-Einstein condensates in particular. Whether she saw any connection to using the Force- or had even considered it- was unlikely. Still...

"While I cannot pretend to have understood the full ramifications of your work as a whole- or the details behind it- there were a few things that caught my attention. I was hoping you'd be willing to explain things a bit more for me."

He pulled the piece of paper from his desk with his notes- a formality, but necessary. "From what I understand, your work specializes in Dark Matter and Energy. You believe you have discovered the particle that mediates the Dark Energy force. And most intriguing, you believe it may be another fundamental force aside from gravity, electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear forces. Do I understand that correctly?"

It had taken rereading more than a few times, but he was reasonably sure of his recounting. He hungered for knowledge. Knowledge was power. Jensen James had it and he hoped to study out and learn more of what the man did.

Dr. Zayed held a different sort, one the more neatly dovetailed into his own work. He was aware of the Force modified metal ball in his pocket. Another tool. To be used when the time was right.
Edited by Marcus DuBois, Oct 25 2017, 08:58 PM.
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Accustomed to the habits of academia, Danika was taken by surprise when the Consul joined her on the same side of the desk. Her posture was formal: ankles crossed and hands folded across her lap. A semi-permanent smile was plastered across her face. She'd been critized by her peers for being too girly, that the facade would hold her back from long-term success. Females were expected to be as unfemale as possible in academia. But Danika was never one to really care what others thought. To her, if the quality of her science and her ability to discuss it didn't stand for itself, then she wasn't worth promotion anyway. Consul DuBois put her at ease. Her smile came easy, especially when inquired about her own work.
"You've described it perfectly, Consul. In fact, I could have thought I was speaking with a colleague at a conference. Have you done this kind of research before? I'd love to hear about it."
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Marcus DuBois
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Marcus suppressed the brief twinge of pride that surged up. Not that pride was wrong. No emotions were wrong. It was the greatest truth- the truth that truly set people free- to realize that no emotions were wrong. They all were to be enjoyed.

At the right time. And Marcus would not allow himself to be lured by any desire to indulge those feelings. He put on an embarrassed smile. "You flatter me, Dr. Zayed. While I am not ignorant of the field of quantum physics, nor of the required maths, I am not an expert. I confess I had to reread your paper numerous times to truly understand what you were postulating."

And now, this was where they would begin in true. The dance of revealing. He steepled his fingers and studied her with a curious gaze. "This new force you've discovered. From what I gather, it permeates everywhere and yet its action is only with a very narrow distance, very much like the strong nuclear force. And unlike gravity. The strong nuclear force makes atoms possible. Its existence, once discovered, cannot be ignored. This new force, given its similarity....how do you see it manifesting itself to the larger world?"

"It already exists. As far as manifestation of a new force, it's less about how it interacts with the rest of the world and more of how it interacts with all the other Forces. For once we learn that, we can manipulate it."

He nodded. "True enough." He hesitated. This was the difficulty. Theoretical physicists, for all their desire to understand the universe, sometimes did not see the true application of their work. Oppenheimer and Feynman learned the lesson well. A mind filled with theoreticals, never considering what it really meant, in the real world.

In this case, however, he decided he didn't want a dupe. Understanding the true ramifications could lead to better work. This wasn't the Manhatten Project. Not yet, anyway.

He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out the metallic ball. Idly, he played with. It held his attention as he spoke. "Your Bose-Einstein condensate equations were most interesting to me. They seemed familiar. I am curious how you derived them." Before he let her answer, he pulled another sheet, those containing the eignevector, in knot form, of the "twistiness" of his tau algebra. "I ask, because they seem related to this." He handed her the sheet.

"I'm not saying that there aren't applications to the work. I mean, ultimately, all of physics aims to understand the world we live in and make it better...." She curiously watched what he retrieved. First the little silver ball. It looked like a shiny marble. Then the paper. She cocked her head to one side and laid the offering in her lap. The codes of linear algebra were familiar to her, although she didn't necessarily work with them herself very often. They drilled her on them in grad school, though. Her answer was distant, speaking as though as a side-note. She was rather distracted, after all, by the work before her.

"I derived them in the lab. Trial and error, if you can imagine. The constants were the problem in the original work. They were orders of magnitude too large. I discovered the opposite constant that results in a nearly net cancellation of each other. Then the math worked. Did you do this?" She held up the paper, eyes meeting his with a mixture of disbelief and curiosity.

He smiled, self deprecatingly. "I have my hobbies, along other lines." He leaned forward, allowing himself to show the excitement that threaded through him. Why, he wasn't sure. "What struck me was that your Bose-Einstein condensate equations seems to mimic these. Not the same, of course. They seem related, perhaps like languages. But similar enough that I thought we should meet."

He paused, holding her eye, letting her see the portent of what he was about to reveal. "I derived my work from the study of channeling. Specifically, how the..." he was going to say Force, but held back. That was his affectation alone- "...power channelers use can be woven, for lack of a better word."

He waited to see if she understood the implication of what he was saying. Strangely, he felt excited. This was an area no one had ever been permitted to peer in to.

Danika blinked, not grasping at first what he was trying to say. The Consul wrote these equations? He had to have some kind of formal training, but nothing in his biographies described anything like it. Her head dropped back down. She wasn't fresh enough in linear algebra to simply look at the numbers and grasp their full implication. Let alone compare the outcomes of their two bodies of work. But intriguing was not the word to describe her growing excitement.

When he uttered the word channelers, her heart thought it was going to stop. Her jaw dropped. "Are you saying you're--?

Marcus smiled, a real, open mouthed smile and laughed good naturedly, his chest resonating with his chuckles. There was not an ounce of condescension in it. "Being a channeler is kind of a prerequisite for being Consul of the Consulate of Channelers." His smile was friendly and completely guileless.
Edited by Marcus DuBois, Oct 26 2017, 09:02 PM.
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He's a channeler.

Danika watched the news. She saw the headlines. To be a channeler was to be something between a devil and a god, or maybe both. Here was one sitting right in front of her. This powerful, brilliant, handsome man was capable of all the things she read about on the news. A thrill crept up her spine, like she wanted to jump from her seat and cheer 'me too! me too! But she pushed her lips together, keeping the secret close. If anyone found out about her, and what she did in the laboratory, they'd retract her papers and completely erase everything she'd discovered, all because she didn't disclose the fullness of her methodologies. Even if the results were pure, if the methods describing the attainment of those results were incomplete, they would be retracted. Her career would be over. "That makes total sense, now. I'm sorry, Consul, for not thinking about that. So I have enjoyed our conversation. Can I ask what you'd like me to do for you?"
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Marcus DuBois
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A look of alarm passed across her face for less than a second. She seemed to compose herself, to reposition herself. The openness and honesty seemed to be veiled now, cloaked. Strangely, he felt disappointed at that. She had withdrawn behind walls. Why, he could not guess at the moment. There simply wasn't enough data.

But that didn't mean those walls couldn't be breached. He'd glimpsed something interesting. Her professionalism had dropped enough for him to see the pure excitement of discovery. He knew that heady drug. He had his hook.

His laughter subsided and his smile was friendly and disarming. He paused, allowing the question to draw out. What did he want her for, indeed. He wanted everything.

After a moment, he spoke, his voice quiet and comforting. "What do I want? It's quite simple, Dr. Zayed. I want you to work for me. For the Consulate, formally, though privately. For the CCD, for all intents and purposes. What you have discovered and codified is very clearly to me a way to study the power behind channelers. My own work is my own. I will never publish any papers that carry my name. I am content with that. But I've done enough work to know that we are on the same path. And you've done it better, in many respects."

He leaned forward, showing intensity and excitement. "What I offer you, Dr. Zayed, is freedom. You may pursue your studies to your heart's content. You will not have to apply for grants. You will not have to justify your methodology or studies. You will answer to no one but me and, should he take interest, the Ascendancy himself."

He smiled cautiously. "Be assured. You will not be an arm of the government. You will not be required to research what we want you too. The field is in its infancy. For the foreseeable future, nothing will be required of you except that you do all that you wish in your work. But as someone whose work is financed by the CCD- not the Consulate on Channeling explicitly, mind. I would not have your work tainted with application just yet- you will have access to every new tool and scientific array possible. Every advancement and available technology will be yours."

He gauged her reaction. He was giving her everything she could dream of. "More than that, I will make available to you channelers to help in your work. Make no mistake. The tools now available to you are as significant as sight to the blind. Imagine, for a moment, that you are a scientist who has used her tactile, aural and olfactory senses to study the universe. As such, EM radiation has been available to you only as the sense of thermal radiation- heat and cold. Now, imagine you now have the added sense of sight- the visible EM spectrum. How much more could you do? I am willing to provide those individuals to help in your work- to give you yet another entirely new spectrum to study with. What could you do that?"

His pitch was long, but he wanted to overwhelm her. To make it clear that he was offering her the world- and that he would be her benefactor, the one she would owe.

The final bait was held in his finger tips. A thread of air lifted the ball into the air. "Lest you think I exaggerate, Dr. Zayed, observe. He placed a ball of compressed air and then a vacuum a few centimeters diameter larger than the ball itself. Then he engulfed the metallic ball in fire- even through the shield the heat could be felt. "I am currently heating this seemingly simple ball bearing of steel to just over 2000 Kelvins, the melting point of Tungstun. I have woven a shield of air as well as a vacuum around it but you can stilll feel the radiant heat coming of it." He looked at the ball, retaining its shape amid the incredible energies that wreathed it.

Indeed, the heat was nearly painful. He drew the heat from the ball and dispersed it outside the open window. A wind stirred at the sudden low pressure area that formed from the now heated air's expansion, blowing papers and whipping the curtains about. He smiled apologetically. Even as he dropped the metal ball into his hand. "This metal has been...changed using the power channers use- the Dark Force you refer to. It was part of my study. Strangely, the more power- in this case heat- I apply to it, the more resistant it seems to become. As far as I have been able to tell, it does not seem to obey the Second Law of Thermodynamics as we understand it. If I had to explain it, it somehow now taps into that new force you've discovered and resists any force that might damage its integrity. Imagine, for a moment, what something like this could do to engineering and technology. Parts that do not wear out. Nearly frictionless motion."

He sat back, floating the now cool ball out to her. "All this, I offer you. I am not exaggerating when I say that your name, Dr. Zayed, will stand out among the ages. Your work will lay the groundwork for a change in scientific paradigm that only Newton, Einstein and Planck could understand."

He left the ball hovering there for her to take, his gift. "Does that appeal to you?"
Edited by Marcus DuBois, Oct 31 2017, 11:27 PM.
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Danika must not have heard him right. She would work for the Consulate. For him? He would give her a laboratory, funding, equipment, and resources to bypass every single government regulation that bogged down even the most ambitious of projects. It couldn't be real. Her heart skipped a beat. Maybe she was going into a-fib; maybe she was already dead; maybe she was in a coma and this was all a dream. Because that's what it was: a dream come true. Every scientist's dream come true.

She could pursue anything and everything to her heart's content. If that was true, she would need a cot to sleep on in the lab because she'd never leave it. The stock on dry shampoo would skyrocket simply from her massive purchases. She was utterly and completely speechless. Her pupils were disks. Her jaw slack with shock. Channelers in her laboratory. Working together, creating circumstances impossible to replicate in the natural world. She could finally recreate the perfect environment hypothesized to exist inside the core of a black hole. Recreate it and manipulate it. But just in case he thought she was stuck in disbelief, he began to wield a performance.

Awe struck her skin like electricity. A sphere of pure molten fire roared an arm's length from her face. It radiated heat like a fireplace, but simply looking at the colors of the fire contained within, she knew that it had to be hotter than any wood-burning furnace. Even if it was half as hot as he said, 1000 Kelvins was really damn hot.

The dispersed heat and air ruffled her bangs about her eyes. She hesitantly accepted the ball into the palm of her hand, but it was cool to the touch. A miniature sun that she could keep in her pocket.

She curled her fingers around the orb, lips parting into a slow smile. "Consul, I dare to posit that Newton, Einstein, Feynman and Planck could not even fathom what we will do." She bit her lower lip to keep the smile from erupting from her face. "When can I start?"

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