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Aberrant: 2011 - Working in the Sun

Evan-Happy Scientist

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The ATV was baking in the late morning Algerian sun. Somewhere out ahead of him were the Libyan border … and the project he had been sent out to make final judgment on. Dr. Evan ‘Caduceus’ Sigmar nodded to the driver and they took off once more. The GPS was guiding them to the Botanical Research site #17, which was supposed to be wave upon wave of gently rolling Sahal Grass. Instead it was what it had been two years before … before anyone had come out here; a rolling sea of sand and rocks and unforgiving heat.

The Utopian research camp was at the bottom of a series of ridges. Evan was looking at it as he rubbed his hands over the stalk of some of this dead miracle grass. Even here close to the camp they couldn’t keep the stuff alive and that caused him to shake his head.

Down there, they knew he was coming. He had been in communications with them for almost a week and today had been a regular series of updates on his location, what he should be seeing, and what had been done. Evan was doing everything to see that both of the led doctors on this project got a fair hearing … before he recommended their project be canned.

The doctors – Fabio Ellanti of Italy and Myrdha Svanna of India, came outside as his jeep approached. Evan’s driver looked bored with the proceedings and cut up the radio slightly so as to keep out of any conversation. Evan exited the jeep with the dead strand of grass. This caused Dr. Ellanti to explode.

“It is the damn soil,” he exclaimed. “We need more time to figure out a new way to fix the soil so it will have the minimum nutrients we need, but we can do this!”

“We have to go with the soil we have now, Dr. Ellanti,” Evan came back. “To turn over the amount of soil you’re describing for what is supposed to be a peripheral effort is way beyond the budget specifications for this project.”

Dr. Svanna remained quiet. Her ambitions were to seed her native Thar Desert back home and her participation here in Project Genesis was only a stepping stone to that end. It wasn’t as secret she kept too closely either.

Evan took a few more shots from Ellanti before finally putting his foot down, and ending the conversation.

“I will make my recommendation for closure, doctors, but I will also forward your personal request to Assistant Director Balmer for Ecological Sciences to give this project further review.”

It wasn’t like he would actually get to see the famous Dr. Balmer, but if there was a name that could stop Ellanti cold, this bosses was it.

Which was all why it was so odd for Caduceus to be done here in Addis Ababa two weeks later making a personal report to Antaeus; this wasn’t really his department – Evan was in Biological Sciences, and this was Ecological; and he was hardly a leading botanist, or ecologist. Evan couldn’t help feeling awed and out of place. A receptionist had pointed him to an outside micro-ecosystem that they kept here and he wandered in alone. After a few minutes, a voice called from beyond some tall ferns.

“Why didn’t the grass work, Dr. Sigmar,” the voice said.

“They tried for too much, Doctor Bal-“

“Call me Antaeus,” Antaeus interrupted.

“Antaeus … Antaeus. The soil has been too used up for too many millennia without the benefit of secondary enrichment.”

Evan cleared his throat.

“That was my assessment, anyway.”

“Mine too,” Antaeus shot back and then stepped through the ferns (without damaging them?) and onto the path with Evan.

“The plant needs more trials and more variety in its environments. We should not be rushing it.”

“Time is not something we have in great abundance, sir.”

Antaeus looked at Evan. No, it was more accurate he looked straight through him than at him.”

One uncomfortable moment followed the first.

“The timeline that’s been set for Project Genesis doesn’t allow for the greater testing period. We just don’t have the resources.”

Antaeus’ eye focused back on Evan and they weren’t friendly.

“Resources … time,” he muttered, followed up by, “Thank you for your honesty, Dr. Sigmar, or is it Caduceus?”

“Dr. Sigmar,” he replied trying to lighten the atmosphere. “I’m only Caduceus when I am healing someone.”

Antaeus nodded to that and turned back to one of the orchids nearby. Evan knew he was dismissed.

On the way back, he was still giddy. Most novas wanted to meet Pax, or Alejandra, but for those scientifically gifted, Evan knew this would probably bank up there with one of his best days ever.

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