Down the hall in an astronomy lab, Masters student Richard Walsh innocently switched on his power-hungry vacuum chamber. Carefully, he injected space rubble samples and fine particles akin to galactic dust into his small cubic version of the vast vacuum beyond Earth. Not noticing his stomach growl, he watched his mini-universe swirl and react. It was going perfectly until a strange whine wailed from the engine running it all. Walsh was about to shut it off when it blew. Grit flew into his eyes, making them run and blur as he searched for something to block the acrid smelling smoke. Fans and a chemical shower kicked in as his experiment went haywire. Cursing, he blinked tears out of his eyes then rubbed his lab coat sleeve on the water dripping from his hair. He checked drawers for a replacement part. Shouts of alarm from down the hall brought his search to an abrupt halt. Running into the hall he could hear another, larger, whining noise.
“What in the universe?” he called out-loud.
He burst into the power room. Roed and Sophie were standing staring at a panel looking dazed. Seeing the emergency lights flashing, Walsh pushed through them.
“Get out of the way!” Walsh shouted. He rapidly threw switches. The whining slowed, then died out altogether. Walsh remembered he had to breathe, then on the exhale, asked emphatically, “What are you doing here?”
There was silence while the young pair rubbed their eyes and looked around as if they’d just awoken from a trance. As awareness increased, Roed had the grace to look sheepish. “I had an idea...”
“It was a good idea!” Sophie added as if trying to convince herself. In a rush, she added, “It’s a nano-mechanically active superconductor that gives much more throughput than regular wiring. I double checked the calculations; it should have been totally safe.” Her look of terror at being caught up in this softened Walsh’s tone a bit.
“This is unbelievable,” Walsh said to her. “You’re one of the best students in my second-year lab. What were you thinking just coming here and doing this? How did you get past security?”
“I got us in,” Roed said. “They knew I won the summer Visions Project scholarship.”
Walsh scowled at the teen. “You’re the Marcus Roed Osgaarde the paper made a big deal of?”
“Yep, that’s me,” he said, sounding a little too pleased with himself for the circumstances. “I go by Roed.”
“Well, that nixes my plans to get you thrown out of the school by admin; so what exactly did you do here?”
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