The Lab Assistant
The lab assistant sat hunched over the workbench, the magnifying lenses in his goggles flicked down as he tweaked the wires of the complicated circuit board he was working on. His father would be down soon and would want to know his progress. He double checked, then triple, then quadruple checked every connection and finally took a deep cleansing breath in and let it out slow.
The assistant then pushed his goggles over the worn cloth he habitually kept tied about his brow to keep the sweat out of his eyes when he did close up work. He pushed away from the workstation and approached the shining robotic structure that dominated the centre of the underground lab. With deft fingers he removed a panel from the seemingly seamless construction and slotted the circuit board in place. With intense concentration he selected the correct connection points and wired the board in carefully with a handheld soldering iron tucked into his utility belt. He was just slipping the curved panel back into place when he heard the security locks slide open behind him.
“Progress?” Asked a familiar querulous voice.
“I just finished wiring in the last circuit board father.”
“Very good,” the bi-spectacled man stood alongside his taller assistant and nodded approvingly.
“I just need to run a couple diagnostic checks and it should be ready for you to take on a test run tonight.”
“Excellent GP, excellent. You followed my schematics exactly I trust?”
The assistant known as GP suddenly faltered. “Well, ninety-two percent of it.”
“Ninety-two percent? What happened to the other seven then?”
“Er, well,” GP rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “When I was working through the manufacturing process I noticed a few um, errors and I-”
“Errors? I don’t make errors GP,” his father glared up.
“I meant oversights-”
“Improvements!” GP blurted out desperately. “I tweaked it so it would run more efficiently for you father. I wanted to surprise you.”
Baxter Stockman regarded the youth dubiously, it wasn’t the first time GP had tinkered with the final design of his many inventions. It was if he was being undermined and that was something he truly hated.
“How many times have I told you to inform me immediately on any design changes you make to the projects I give you GP? I hate it when you take liberties like this.”
“I-I promise it won’t happen again father,” the boy stammered nervously, taking a step back.
“It had better not,” Stockman hissed. “Otherwise you’ll force me to pull out the Shocker again.”
The youth’s red brown eyes widened in alarm and he waved his fingerless gloved hands in front of him. “NO! Um, no, I-I learnt my lesson father. You-you won’t have to do that.”
“Make sure that I don’t GP. Get back to your room. I’ll run the diagnostics myself.”
GP bowed his head shamefully. “Y-yes father,” he turned on his heel and did what he was told.
Baxter watched his assistant leave with a disapproving sneer. This was becoming a problem. The older the youth got the more ‘inventive’ he became. He knew GP wasn’t improving his work to outshine him, it was just his nature. He did it automatically and most of the time without thinking. He had to admit as much as it infuriated him, his unusual assistant had perfected many of his inventions, amongst other things. GP was the reason he had become as successful as he was. Without him he shuddered to think where he would be at that moment in time. Regarded as a crackpot inventor and laughed at by society was more than a likely scenario.
Stockman suppressed a shiver as he called up the activation programme on his lab computer. As long as he had his secret weapon, as long as he had his GP nobody could touch him and that was how he intended it to stay. ‘To think,’ he thought with a slick smile, ‘I would of dissected him right after I found him until he started talking.’
His long term experiment, his ‘Guinea Pig’ that he allowed to call him father, (the child did seem to possess strong emotional attachments); had no idea what he had done for him. As long as his assistant lived in ignorance under lock and key, things were not about to change. For that he was glad. He hated change.
Tomorrow night he would take revenge on those who had once ridiculed him. This night though? He was going to have some fun!
At the far side of the airy lab, listening to his father tap away at the computer in the background, GP paused outside a heavy metal door and pressed his three fingered hand against the security scanner set up beside it. After an affirming beep he looked up and held still for the camera above the door. Finally a deadbolt locking mechanism released and the door slid open. With a deep sigh and short glance over his shoulder, the lab assistant entered his room. Once inside the weighty barrier instantly re-locked. It could only be deactivated from the outside. Only his father could let him out and considering what had just transpired he doubted he would get out until late tomorrow morning.
With a sigh GP pulled his goggles down about his neck and carefully untied the purple fabric from about his brow. Crossing his reasonably sized room, he approached the sink in the far corner. Reaching for a bar of soap he began to scrub the material carefully. He had possessed the cloth since before he could remember, the same went for the goggles and he always took the very best care of them.
GP couldn’t really remember where he had come from. There was a dim, very faded memory of being alone in a cold wet place, lost in the dark and then? He was here. His father had found him and he had remained here in his lab, safe and secure. The only life he had ever known. Was he grateful? Of course he was. His father had given him practically everything he would ever need. There was only two things he ever really pined for. One to venture topside to see the world he dwelled beneath and two, more importantly, to have companionship. He was terribly curious and to put it quite simply lonely.
When he was a lot younger he constantly vied for his father’s attention, showing him gadgets and gizmos he had made just to get some praise and to be told that he had done a good job. But his father was busy, he was always busy and in response to this he got his son a pet, a white lab rat from one of the biology departments in his building. It seemed to do the trick, for a little while at least. GP seemed to be comforted by their presence for some strange reason. He had no idea why.
GP’s latest companion watched his friend from inside his tank with bright ruby eyes and began pawing at the glass. Hearing the scrabbling GP looked across to his work bench. He gave a gentle smile and hung the cloth on a rail by the sink. “I’m coming Darwin.” He lifted the lid off the tank and Darwin instantly launched himself up and on to GP’s arm where he swiftly climbed the youth’s shoulder.
“Missed me that much huh?” The boy chuckled as Darwin’s whiskers tickled the side of his face. He reached into a pot by the tank and passed a treat to the plump rat who grabbed at it eagerly and began to gnaw on it.
“Oh, I knew it,” GP grinned at Darwin. “It’s cupboard love! You only like me for the food I give you!” He giggled.
Darwin appeared to pause and scrutinise GP for moment, snuffling his whiskered nose under the lab assistant’s chin. More than anyone GP knew it couldn’t be affection, his logical mind told him that but his inner child wanted him to believe just that. He dearly loved Darwin, as he had his predecessors. First there had been Curie named after Marie Curie of course and the second, another female he had called Herschel after a Caroline Herschel a British astronomer from the 1700s. Darwin was the first male rat he had owned, named after who else but Charles Darwin.
A few moments later the rodent resumed nibbling his biscuit and GP slipped into the chair at his workbench sadly reflecting at how short a lifespan his ratty companions had had. Only three to four years at the most and it broke his heart every time. Surely his father understood that he couldn’t keep giving his adopted son pet rats to replace the need for genuine contact with a fellow being of equal intellect?
GP sighed. His father knew but it wasn’t about to happen. His current ‘condition’ made sure of that. He was the only one of his kind, a creature with human mannerisms and attributes. If any normal person other than his father saw him they would undeniably freak out and shriek in terror. A five foot eight humanoid talking turtle? Yes, undoubtedly that would be the reaction he would receive. That was why he wasn’t allowed above ground, that was why his father kept him safe under lock and key down here in his secret lab. This was his life and it wasn’t about to change.
So GP worked diligently hoping to gain his father’s approval and hoping, just hoping that one day he would change his mind.
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