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Over-Exposure

19 Apr

OverExposure

Sarah hummed to herself as she waited for her underachieving computer to start up. With her usual, almost ritualistic, cup of earl grey tea at her side, she scanned her agenda, making sure she had done everything she needed for the meeting. She had, although her triple-checking was of little consequence when she was so far away from the lab.

Once the desktop had deigned to load, Sarah had a few more minutes to enjoy her cup of tea before anyone else would be online for the conference call.

Never assume scientists will be on time, she thought. There’s always some kind of experiment that ran late or cells that didn’t grow. I just wish I wasn’t the first one by such a large margin every time.

Shaking those feelings aside, the dark-blonde-haired woman attempted to amuse herself with the internet, and after twenty minutes of cute, captioned cats, finally heard someone else connect.

‘Hi Sarah’, Fabrice said. ‘Have you looked at the data I sent you?’

Not one moment of normal conversation, Sarah thought. She debated stalling with feigned ignorance, but thought better of it.

‘Yeah, I did. The cells look pretty normal.’

‘They do. But maybe if we were to affect them twice a day instead—’

‘—we can do that once I can teach Ana,’ Sarah interrupted before her co-worker could demand even more of her. ‘I’ll do eight in the morning, Ana can do eight in the evening.’

‘Okay. So, euh…’ Fabrice trailed off, probably trying to find something else he wanted to talk about. ‘How is Ana doing?’

You mean, how is she doing in relation to work, right?

‘She’s getting there.’

‘Good.’

To Sarah’s relief, they heard another pair of beeps, and Eric and Ana said hello. It was quarter to eight already. Eric formally started the meeting, as was his prerogative.

‘I’ve sent all of you a first draft of the grant proposal. If you read it through tonight, I’ll finish it tomorrow and submit it to the committee on Wednesday. Judging by the amount of money they have available for this kind of research, we should be able to get enough to fund us for a year. If we can highlight the importance of…’

Sarah was glad that they weren’t using video chat; she wasn’t very good at faking interest. Not that the project itself wasn’t interesting to her – it was the reason she was currently working without pay – but she would rather skim through the grant application than listen to the arduous details of who else was applying, and how far Eric thought their competitors’ research had gone.

Analyzing the Effects of Eukinetic Displacement on Human Cell Lines.

Llewellyn, Sarah1, DuMont, Fabrice1, Castillo, Ana1, Wood, Thomas2, Hartmann, Markus2, and Ward, Eric1.

1Faculty of Life Sciences, University of London, UK.

2Faculty of Physical Sciences, University of London, UK.

28th January 2013

Specific Aims:

-To find a way to accurately measure Eukinetic energy.

-To establish a protocol for manipulation of Eukinetic energy.

-To determine if there are negative effects of displacement via Eukinetic Manipulation on human cell lines over a time period of six months.

Background and Significance:

On the twelfth of January, two thousand thirteen, a strange phenomenon occurred simultaneously across the world. At 23:05:38 GMT, lasting approximately 20 seconds, there were emissions of ultraviolet (UV) light of over 5.5mW/cm2, from unknown sources(1). This was accompanied by a seemingly random displacement of matter, ranging in distance from a few micrometres(2,3) to several kilometres(4-6), and in volume from one cubic nanometre(3) to five cubic metres(4,6). Over 200 human deaths and 3,000 injuries to date have been attributed to this displacement(1), as the persons were instantaneously moved to dangerous locations (including higher altitudes) (4), or only partially transported, leaving the rest of their bodies behind(7-9).

Ultraviolet light emissions from seemingly arbitrary locations have remained, although these have not since caused displacement(10, 11). They emit ultraviolet light at a constant wavelength of 365nm(12). Recent three-dimensional reconstruction of UV signals appears to present a “web” of light emissions, where the signals come from sources which are shaped as thin lines which frequently intersect(13).  We have chosen to call the source of these signals Eukinetic energy, as the UV light resembles the light of Europium-based black lights, and is known to cause the displacement of matter.

Our studies will focus on Three issues which are of urgent importance. Firstly, we will create a protocol to facilitate and standardize the manipulation of Eukinetic energy. Secondly, we will attempt to measure Eukinetic energy directly, rather than indirectly through the presence of UV emissions.  These two aims will allow for controlled Eukinetic manipulation and recording. Thirdly, we will use this protocol to test if displacement of whole cells has harmful side effects, initially over a time period of six months.

‘—What’s your update on the cell lines?’, Eric said, putting a stop to his fruitless speculation for the time being. Sarah’s mind jumped back into focus.

‘There are no differences in phenotype between the control and the displaced cells. But it’s only been two weeks’, Fabrice added quickly, as if fearing the repercussions to his words. ‘As soon as Ana can start helping, we can run some parallel experiments.’

‘We should hold off on doing that until we have a better way to measure the Eukinetic energy’, Eric said. ‘We can only quantify the displacement distance and the change in UV light emission during the displacement, we need a direct measure soon. Sarah, any advances in that area?’

‘So far, Tom has not been able to measure Eukinetic energy in any way other than emissions at 365nm,’ Sarah replied as her turn came up. ‘There’s no significant difference in temperature, electric conductivity, light absorbance or diffraction near the sources, at least not beyond the expected effect of UV radiation. According to mass spectrometry, it doesn’t affect the composition of anything that is exposed to it, either. I went over to talk to him, but I think he’s out of immediate ideas for the time being, so we’re going to brainstorm the next steps tomorrow.’

‘Right, we have to make those measurements our highest priority,’ Eric added, and continued pushing the conversation along. ‘How are the mice doing, Ana?’

‘The mice are ready, but we can’t use them yet. We don’t know how harmful moving them using Eukinetics will be, which might mean a problem with the ethics committee. We also don’t have a good way to measure Eukinetic energy, so they think there’s no point in experimenting yet.’

‘And you’ve emphasized that the most immediate threat to humans might be repeated displacement, and thus testing it on mice is of paramount importance?’

‘Yes. I resubmitted the application yesterday, I hope to hear from them soon.’

‘Alright. Anything else?’

The group collectively said no, and with very short goodbyes, that week’s meeting came to an end.

As soon as the communications ended Sarah grabbed her cup, only to find it empty. She stared at its insides as her mental monologue took over.

The meetings themselves are never that bad, but they always make me feel like I should have achieved more, have more to show. There’s so much pressure for me to get this right, since I’m the only one of us who can see the UV light… 

I just hope I can stick with this for long enough that it becomes less hectic. Once we find another way to measure it, we should be able to spread the tasks a bit more, especially if the government is supportive of this kind of research.

Trying not to slip into a depressed mood, Sarah made herself a quick supper (grilled chicken salad, a favorite), and she was back on her computer within half an hour, a fresh cup of tea in hand.

Joshua logged on to their messaging channel minutes after Sarah had finished reading his emails, as was the daily custom.

Joshua: How was this week’s meeting?

Sarah:   Not very different from last week’s. Fabrice emailed us some images of the cells looking normal; Ana said she was having trouble getting a license for the mouse work. And I mentioned we haven’t found another way to measure Eukinetic energy so far.

Joshua: Very exciting. I take it no one suggested inviting me next week?

Sarah had; but of course, that didn’t count, not when she had no say in the group’s composition.

Sarah:   You know Eric thinks it’s all preliminary. I talked to him about getting you on the grant, but there’s no chance of that. I might be able to get you on any papers we publish, though.

Joshua: I don’t care that much, but it would be nice to hear these things first-hand.

Sarah:   It’s a bit long-winded if you’re not part of the work yourself. And anyway, you’re sending your updates just to me, so they’re missing out too.

Joshua: They’re lucky I let you mention them at all.

Sarah:   Exactly. Speaking of which, this week’s emails are much worse than last week’s…

Joshua: That’s more or less what we thought.

Sarah smiled at his matter-of-fact response. Everything was still technically going according to plan, the plan just happened to be a very long-term one.

Sarah:   I know, but it’s worse seeing it. I know some of the articles and posts are probably fabricated, but not all of them.

Joshua: You mean the one in The Times?

Sarah:   Yes. It’s more or less what happened to me.

Joshua: You should have sold the article to a big newspaper and lived off of that, instead of working for free in the hopes of finding something scientific to publish.

Sarah:   So instead of trying to quantify this new energy and figure out if it’s going to kill us all, I should write something saying ‘Hey, I have no lens in my right eye so I can see this UV-emitting energy, and have figured out how to partially manipulate it although it’s hard to prove!’.

Joshua: Exactly.

Sarah shrugged – not that Joshua could see, but her response being a few seconds late would give her movements away.

Joshua: I’m just making sure Eric doesn’t take advantage of your special Aphakian powers.

Sarah:   Considering all the downsides, it’s a ‘condition’ at best – no need to glorify it just because it might actually come in handy. Anyway, I was the one who came up with the research plan in the first place. I’m just tired from the lack of sleep.

Joshua: See? Exploited.

Sarah:   Sure. Anyway, before we get sidetracked, let’s go back to the list you sent me. Aside from that article, the rest look like wild speculations.

Joshua: Especially the ones talking about imminent judgment. And the ones about alien spiders. The self-proclaimed seers-who-can-see-ley-lines are actually looking reasonable in comparison.

Sarah:   All the more reason to carry out controlled experiments, right?

Joshua: Sure, but uncontrolled experiments are going much faster. The Light Brook forums have a whole section asking people to post their experiences, and their moderators are trying to make sense of it. The more people contribute, the more data there is – about 600 pages so far.

Sarah:   I know; even if it’s not all usable or controlled, they might be able to glean something from it before us, especially if they have access to more people who can see UV light. I know I should hurry up.

Joshua: Sorry. I just wish more people could help you.

Sarah:   Nah, I’m the one who’s sorry, I know you don’t mean it. I’ve been checking to see if anyone else in the department had their cataracts removed, or might be considering a relevant eye operation.

Joshua: How likely is that?

Sarah:   I don’t know… But if you can actually see the energy, even without the perspective of two eyes, it’s bound to be much easier to manipulate it. I’m trying to teach Ana how to do it with a UV Meter, but she doesn’t seem to be improving. It’s like trying to thread a white needle with white thread on a white background. Or it might be more like one of those magic pictures, where once something clicks in your head you can see it clearly, but no one knows when that click will occur. It’ll certainly take longer if the picture is seen through a complicated apparatus.

Joshua: So it’s still possible not everyone can do it.

Sarah:   I’m hoping more and more that it’s not the case, especially since the effects of manipulating Eukinetic lines could be seen as a threat.

Joshua: Are you worried about an X-Men-style scenario? As soon as one of you does something terrible, the government will try to control all of you for the safety of the normal people.

Sarah chuckled to herself. That was more or less what she pictured.

Sarah:   In part. But it’s not like they’ll stop operating on people just because they could potentially abuse their new sight.

Joshua: Just in case, I should hurry up and stare at a UV light for a few days straight. Like you did, although maybe using both eyes. And then raise some money for the operation.

Sarah:   Yes, that is exactly what I did. It’s not like it was a side effect of staring at a transilluminator with protective glasses which had been defective for years. Or poorly shielded epifluorescent microscopes.

While waiting for a response – maybe Joshua was thinking of something witty to say? – Sarah drank some of her tea and had a quick look at the forums Joshua had mentioned. Unlike her, he had enough time to keep up with a lot of the information that was surfacing, and was organized enough to present it to her in weekly bite-sized pieces.

After a few minutes, convinced she couldn’t glean anything from the rambling posts, she tried to contact Joshua, who still wasn’t replying. He wasn’t one to disconnect without a warning, but there was not much Sarah could do about it. She cut and filed her nails, had a second look at the article about ‘seers’ and went to the kitchen to grab a biscuit.

By the time she got back, she had a message containing only a hyperlink. Clicking on it redirected her to an official American government website that seemed to be very heavily trafficked, judging by the slow loading speed. Sarah finished her biscuit before the title loaded: Address by the President of the United States of America.

Sarah:   Hey, why the sudden link?

Sarah waited but nothing else appeared on her screen. Assuming it was somehow related to Eukinetics, she did a quick search, but found nothing that described this impending speech.

Sarah:   It’s not loading. Can you tell me what’s going on?

It wasn’t long before Joshua replied, but through their voice-chat messenger, which they rarely used.

Joshua: On my phone. Turn on voicechat but mute your microphone.

Sarah did as she was told, getting more worried the longer she was left waiting. When the call finally connected she heard some rustling noises, then a woman’s voice.

‘—were you Joshua, it’s already started! Turn the volume up.’

‘Yes, yes, I’m coming,’ he replied, and a loud, distant-sounding voice came from the TV. Sarah recognized it as the President’s.

‘—something important. The events that occurred on the twelfth of January affected thousands of people directly, and we are doing everything in our power to help those afflicted during these troubled times. But these events also brought about a change that is affecting the whole world.

We have been in a constant state of alert. Every day, we are faced with newspaper stories and television interviews that contribute to a growing sense of fear and insecurity. Fraudulent websites are tricking the honest, working people of America, who just want to ensure that their families are safe.

Two weeks ago, I stood in front of you, to reassure you that we have the most qualified scientists in the United States of America investigating this new phenomenon. I now come back to you with more information.

The occurrences of January twelfth have not been repeated. However, we have identified the source of these anomalies. Our top scientists have discovered that there is a new kind of energy present in our world since the events of the twelfth of January. This energy has been confirmed as the cause of those terrible incidents, and has been named Photokinetic energy. Photokinetic energy is accompanied by a small amount of ultraviolet light, which is one of the kinds of light present in the sun’s rays. However, this energy on its own does not make these events happen.

Just as with sunlight, we must make sure not to be exposed more than is necessary. To that end, hospitals across the country will be distributing free sunglasses, prescription sunglasses or special contact lenses. We will also be enabling access to UV- light measuring devices, in order to make sure that our homes, schools and workplaces are kept safe.

We will ensure that we learn everything we can about Photokinetic energy, and use it to better the life of all American citizens.’

Sarah heard the audio stop abruptly.

Version: 1.0

Word count: 2866

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3 Comments

Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Short Stories

 

Tags: , , , , ,

3 responses to “Over-Exposure

  1. alisonmanson1

    May 14, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks for the follow. I love this story and the feel of this website, really good work. I’m looking forward to reading more 🙂

     

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