My Facebook page hit 100 likes over the weekend, so without further ado, here is Chapter 1 of my first novel, Capacitance! Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions…I love feedback, and I have especially been trying to work with my first chapter lately. I hope you all enjoy, and thanks for the support on my Facebook page! 🙂
Mara hated Mondays. University Science students were given the freedom to make their own lab schedules—except on Mondays, when attendance at the seminar lectures conducted by renowned Science professors was mandatory. Mara always felt a twinge of annoyance when she passed the Seminar Hall doors and sacrificed an entire day that she could have spent ensconced in her private laboratory four floors beneath the ground, cozily gathering and analyzing data in sweet solitude. However, this Monday was different; as Mara entered the Seminar Hall that morning, she felt a searing blaze of anxiety instead of the usual flicker of annoyance—she needed to be in her lab today. Currently, she was conducting tests that—if her hypotheses were correct—could yield troubling results, to say the least. She walked down the rows of the amphitheater where the lectures were held, bemoaning the fact that she was not in her lab monitoring, observing, waiting. Instead, she was wedged into a sleek but slender metal ergonomic seat with a small attached writing desk, obliged to sit through the days’ lecture series. All around her, other Science students joked amongst themselves, compared notes or recounted their misadventures of the just-past weekend, but Mara isolated herself in the front corner of the amphitheater and impatiently tapped her pen while studiously avoiding eye contact with anyone.
Finally, the students quieted down as a tiny woman emerged from a door behind the desk at the bottom of the room; she was short and wiry thin—the true definition of a waif, she would have been easily passed over by the eye were it not for her flamboyant attire. She wore six inch electric yellow spike stilettos (still barely bringing her over the height of five feet tall), cobalt wide leg slacks and a kaftan dyed with a swirl of garish colors. A puckish face with bright red-framed glasses and a shock of short, silver hair topped off the ensemble. This colorful person was Professor Beliz, the first of today’s seminar presenters. She raised one rainbow-manicured hand and all talking ceased. Mara unsheathed her pen upon Beliz’s first words, “Today I am so delighted to make to you all a very important announcement!
“As University students of Science, you know that you comprise only a fourth of this institute of research and learning,” Beliz continued, “Together, the colleges of Science, Design, Politics and Technology produce our nation’s next innovators and leaders. Here high on our hill in the college of Science, we are physically isolated from these fascinating colleagues in the other colleges. However, we are mentally isolated from them as well. It is easy to get lost in a project or experiment and forget about the world as a whole. Unfortunately, this can lead to unintentional closed mindedness. Closed mindedness indicates the staunching of creativity, and once you’ve lost creativity, well, nothing of genius comes of that…” Beliz paused dramatically then carried on, “This is why the University Board of Directors has decided to implement a change; we want to create an infusion of new ideas and patterns of thought. We will do this by getting students from all the disciplines to collaborate together on projects! Tomorrow, your normal independent lab activities will be suspended. All students will be required to convene on the Campus Green tomorrow at 9 AM sharp for further instructions. Now we will resume the normal schedule of seminar lectures, breaking for an hour’s lunch at noon as usual.”
With a jingle of jeweled bangles and the click-clack of her deadly florescent heels, Beliz exited the door through which she had arrived. The seminar hall had already begun to buzz with whispers as Beliz got to the core of her announcement, but no sooner had her hot pink lipsticked lips uttered their last syllable than the hall erupted in students’ unrestrained voices speaking their excitement and concern. They had a right to be concerned; University Science students had to complete six years of general education and six years of specific discipline schooling before coming to the University. Each student’s whole childhood led up to securing a spot in the University, and for students of Science, entrance into the University meant leaving a life of learning from books and carefully supervised labs to actual, practical application. In order to gain entry to the University College of Science, prospective students had to have a project plan—a prospectus for an ambitious line of research and development they planned to carry out during their time as a Science student. At the end of four years at the University, Science students were expected to be at presentation point with their projects. The success of the project at the end of four years determined the student’s success and his or her subsequent career, thus, every moment spent working on the project was crucial.
Mara sat fuming at her narrow, cramped desk as she processed the news. Her project was in the area of genetic engineering—a precise and complex science—and Mara believed it would fully take all of four years to bring her specific research to fruition. A group project could significantly slow her work down. Her hands shook with rage as she penciled in the 9:00 meeting into her small, emerald green leather agenda book. Mournfully, she crossed off her scrawled lab task notes she had made for herself. The anxiety which had been present all morning spiked to new levels. All of the delays to her lab time gnawed at the back of her mind; if her suspicions were correct, time was of the essence in her project.
Taking a deep breath, Mara settled as comfortably she could into the narrow metal desk chair, resigning herself at least to this wasted day. Mondays spent in seminar, were after all, part of the plan. To console herself, she swallowed her usual scruples, brought out her cell phone and scrolled through her mobile lab results under cover of the tiny writing desk. The speaker—Beliz had been replaced with a wizened but venerable faculty member—droned on, but Mara hardly heard him. She could see from the mobile lab files that the tests would be conclusive tomorrow afternoon. Firmly, she resolved to find a way to get to her lab tomorrow—even if it meant putting in an extremely late night. Her mind bristled with anticipation at the thought of the test results actually coming in. She both dreaded and longed for the moment. This could be it, she thought to herself; and a chill trickled down her spine. The gravity of the research she was conducting led to her simultaneous fear and excitement. If she succeeded in her project, the rewards would be immense. Mara had dreamed of success her entire life, and she was motivated by the accolades this project could stand to win for her. However, the danger she would risk if she failed was so immense that she carefully avoided thinking about it, tucking the dark thoughts away behind the formidable shield of her ambition.
Letting her mind flow freely into the intricacies of her lab work, bolstered by covert checks of her lab notes, the day passed with relative ease after the shock of Beliz’s initial announcement. Mara was actually surprised when she saw the students around her filing up and out of the classroom. The lab building was kept locked all day on Mondays, to prevent the temptation for students to skip seminar, so Mara had no choice but to return to her dormitory that evening and work on her lab files there. The tests themselves, which ran on a bank of computers deep underground in her lab, would have to wait until tomorrow—after the group meeting, Mara reminded herself with a sigh. Walking out of the Seminar Hall and into the fall evening air, still balmy yet with a cloying chill in the breeze, Mara turned to make her way to the Science dormitory.
Wryly, she thought to herself that dormitory was a rather unimpressive way to describe the imposingly tall building made graceful by its airy construction of light metal and glass which she now walked towards. Lovingly nicknamed “SciSky,” the dormitory where all the Science students lived was an architectural marvel which soared higher than any other building on campus. The inside of SciSky was just as impressive as the outside; Mara walked through the large glass doors and was greeted by an atrium packed full of amenities such as luxury shopping boutiques (a feature Mara made frequent use of), restaurants, and gyms. All these supported the privileged lifestyle of a University Science student. However, Mara’s treatment was more preferential than most; as she boarded the glass enclosed elevator, she pressed the button labeled “Penthouse.” Reserved for the top student from each of the four grade levels, the penthouse apartments were lavish, highly desirable accommodations on the top floor of SciSky.
The southwestern corner penthouse apartment was where Mara—recruited as top of her first year class—lived. Anxiety about the ensuing lab test results had returned to her by the time she entered her door, and she jammed the heel of her hand against the light switch with unnecessary force. The penthouse lit up with soft ambient lighting showcasing the modern mix of lustrous leathers and glowing natural woods. Mara tossed her malachite green leather tote down on the obsidian countertop and thought briefly about succumbing to a drink. Pushing the errant desire out of her mind, she reached instead for her research files. Documents in hand, she sunk down into her favorite chair, flicked the pins from her precise top knot and shook out her long mane of black hair. Feeling more relaxed, she opened a sheaf of figures and immersed herself in her work, all the while thinking that no one would be hindering her research if they knew the immediacy of the project she was working on—the potential disaster she was trying to prevent.