Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How I Became a Mad Scientist--Part 2

Read Part 1 Here.

At the bottom of the stairs, thin lines of light outlined a sagging wooden door.  I knocked.  “Come in, George. I’ve been waiting for you.”  Well, that was a creepy greeting. On the other hand, Frank’s voice was definitely squeakier than mine. Maybe he was still little and scrawny. If he tried anything crazy in his drug-induced haze, I could overpower him and call for help.  Or at least, that’s what I told myself.

I reached for the doorknob but found only a hole stuffed with rags.  I put my palm flat against the door and pushed.  The sudden brightness of the room beyond the door stabbed at my eyes.  I shaded them with my hand and took a step backwards, towards the stairs.

My eyes adjusted to the light. Frank was still a red-headed, freckled kid with bright blue eyes. Even though it’d been five years since I’d seen him last, he was still about two inches shorter than me.  He still wore glasses with square, plastic frames, and he still dressed in jeans, a periodic table t-shirt, and a stained lab coat.   It was like no time had passed since the day of the neon green suit. I grinned. He certainly didn’t look like a depressed pothead. He looked like my cousin Frank - full of fun and full of mischief.

“So,” I said, trying to sound casual, “your parents decided to move back to Tell City?”  

Frank pulled up the leg of his jeans. A strange device made a ring around his right ankle. “It’s part of my probation.  We had to move, and I have to spend a year being normal.”

“Probation? Are you selling drugs or something?”  I’m not very subtle.  Besides, I had to know. If Frank had a drug problem, I wasn’t going to hang around with him.

Frank laughed. “Yeah, right. Like I’d want to mess up this fantastic brain?  No, I got caught hacking. And breaking into a national laboratory.  And stealing Uranium.  But I needed it, and there was no other way to get it!”

I looked around the room. The walls were covered with blueprints and schematics. Bits of wire and metal lay in carefully organized piles on the floor.  I sat down on the bed. It seemed to be the only thing that wasn’t a work in progress.  “They put you on probation?  Shouldn’t they have given you some “Incredible hacking for a 12-year-old” award?”

Frank sighed. I thought he was going to cry, he looked so miserable. “No, they were pretty steamed. I don’t know why- now they know where their security holes are!  Anyway, they put me on probation. No internet, no electronics stores, no science or inventing for a year, or I go to juvie.”

I frowned. “Juvie? That really stinks, Frank. Though I’ve heard the food isn’t bad.  Does this mean you’ll be in my class at the Junior High?”

He shook his head. “Nope. They’re too afraid I’d find some way to get online or get access to a lab.  They said I have to be home-schooled. With real books and paper.”

I thought for a moment. I knew a few home-schoolers. They weren’t bad kids, but the local crowd tended to do the whole “Dinosaurs died in the flood and plate tectonics is a lie” thing.  A science-minded kid like Frank wouldn’t last one minute in that crowd.  I stuck out my hand. “Well, Frank, you’ve got one friend, at least. I can teach you how to have fun even when you’re on probation.”

Frank shook my hand and grinned. “Thanks, George. I knew I could count on you.  We can paint the town neon green!”

Of course, we couldn’t. Frank’s probation extended to chemistry experiments. And it would be a little while before we found the loophole.

Next Part.

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