Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #1

Suggested by: Jeffrey Gartshore

The List:
-the wee hours of the morning.  
-the surface of a partially terra-formed asteroid that houses the ultimate learning facility...a school that can develop you to your ultimate potential.  
-a crystal that keeps changing color unpredictably.
The Result:
"Red of Morning"

“On a terraformed asteroid in the belt orbiting the planet Bismuth-15 in the Alexandrian system sits the most elite academic facility known to man. The Galactic Training Academy was founded by the best and brightest minds on Earth, and established in isolation within an asteroid belt, so that the students fortunate enough to be accepted to study therein would have the optimal environment in which to achieve their full potential. Every square inch of the facility was conceived to assess the student’s greatest strength, and equipped with the tools and workspace to harmonize with this strength, maximizing the student’s natural abilities to the highest degree.
“Deep within the naked corridors of the scientific laboratory section, the great Dr. Rong-Ja remained, hard at work in the wee hours of the morning—“

“Umm… Jared?”

“Yipe! Er, I mean—“ The young man with dusty-brown hair nearly jumped out of his stark-white lab coat as he whipped around to confront the husky, dark-haired lad just entering the empty lab. He recovered within seconds, and straightened his starched collar with the air of a master.
“Ah,” he said in the same affected tone he had been using before, “It is my esteemed colleague, Al-Sim! Well met, Dr. Al-Sim!”
Al-Sim rolled his eyes and slapped his forehead. “Oh brother, not this again! For the millionth time, we aren’t doctors; call me Albie, because that’s my name, and yours is Jared—“

The coated young scientist frowned in confusion. “Who is this Jared you speak of? Are we not the greatest minds in the Intergalactic Academy of Science?”
Albie wrinkled his nose. “The what now? Jared…”
“I am sorry, I do not know this Jared; I am the great inventor Rong-Ja, scientist and genius—extraordinaire!”

Albie Simon snorted and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “No, you’re Jared Ong, the nerdy little kid I knew back in Massapequa. This isn’t the Galactic Academy of anything, it’s a trial run for the new kind of colonial environment NASA is testing on an asteroid belt out in the vicinity of Jupiter. For the last time, Jared, it’s space camp!” Albie let out a huge yawn and glanced at the large digital clock flickering away at the back of the room. “Anyway, Jong-Ra—“ He didn’t care less that he had mixed up the name, “What the nebula are you doing in the lab at three in the morning?”

Jared grinned and turned back to the contraption he had rigged on the desk. It was a “closed environment” system, basically a plexiglass box with nozzles and tubes and valves attached to it, by which a scientist could adjust the atmosphere inside the box to his precise specifications.
Resting inside the environment was a dish of some unknown substance, from which Jared had somehow managed to raise a tall, cylindrical crystal of some sort. It pulsed with a pale green light.

“You would care to witness my latest project?” Jared queried proudly. “It’s my own invention.”
Albie tilted an eyebrow, in spite of the fact that the crystal did indeed intrigue him. “Aren’t all your experiments about some new invention or another?”
Jared waved a hand carelessly. “Yes, fine; but this one, my dear Al-Sim—“
This one… Actually works!”
Albie blinked. “It does?” He surveyed the strange crystal skeptically.

“Yep,” Jared babbled proudly about his pet project. “I believe I have finally achieved the perfect balance of chemicals and minerals to allow the stone to actually change color at the detection of even the most invisible forces, such as barometric pressure, and even human emotions.”
“Emotions?” Albie still wasn’t convinced. “Okay, so what do different colors mean?”

“Well, um…” Jared hedged for the first time and cast his gaze around the room. “It works—but I haven’t quite figured out how it works. I mean, I’ve been able to decode at least one of its colors, but—“
“So what does that color mean?” Albie nodded to the box, where the crystal had crossed from a cheery green to a bright orange.
Jared examined the stone closely. “Hmm, the barometric pressure seems to be the same—I can’t remember if orange means your hungry, or at risk of animal attack. Anyway, the color I’ve been able to identify is--”
“How about now?” Albie cried as a streak of purple bloomed across the surface of the crystal, swirling through the orange until it covered the stone.

“Oh!” Jared gasped, “I know this one! Um… Purple means you are—“ he glanced at his friend’s face. “In love? Or, no wait—“ he rescinded his words as Albie gave him a confused look. “I think it means there’s a storm coming.”
Albie shook his head. “Well, you’d better contact the mission commander, because we’re going on a space walk in about—“ he glanced at the clock. “Two and a half hours!”

“I just get the colors mixed up, is all!” Jared protested as the stone faded from purple to deep blue. “I think blue means either you are too warm, or that you have an important message.”
Albie snorted. “I do! The message is: ‘Jared, go back to bed!’”

Jared waved his hand as the stone darkened to an almost-translucent black. “Okay, so, black means the power is going to go out—“
Albie almost scoffed, but the lights flickered and he closed his mouth again. When they stayed on, Jared sighed and turned away from the workstation.
“Well, it’s still a work in progress; but I can tell you that the one consistent color that I’ve been able to use as an effective warning every time is—“

“It’s red.”

Jared blinked and squinted at Albie. “How did you know?”

Albie didn’t look very curious anymore; in fact, he began to get a little worried. “How did I know what?”

“The color that I was just about to say.”

“Oh,” Albie stuffed his hands into the pocket of his standard-issue space camp jumpsuit. “I wasn’t listening to all that. I was just letting you know that the crystal is red.”
“It—“ Jared whirled around.
The crystal glowed with a brilliant scarlet light.

“It’s red,” Jared gulped. He didn’t even know when he had started backing away.
Albie caught a little of his fear and began inching closer, away from the workstation.
“What does red mean?” The query came in a hoarse whisper, as if the slightest sound would set it off—whatever it was.
Jared couldn’t tear his eyes away, but he grabbed Albie by the wrist.