September 29, 2010

Story Inspired by Random Comic Panel

I am a big fan of Something Positive, a web comic by R.K. Milholland.  The comic is hilarous, and the couple of times I've met him in person (and played a Bunnies and Burrows game he ran) he's a cool guy with a dark sense of humor.  I follow him on twitter, and occasionally he'll put up a random picture, including this one:

Artwork by (duh) R.K. Milholland

He puts up the picture with the caption "I doubt sincerely anything will be done with this panel."  And me, being the writer that I am, take that up as a challenge.

So below is the short piece I thought up in my head just from the picture above.  Enjoy.

Oh, and for the story below:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

At age 26 DeWitt was still a duckling.  He wasn't ugly.  He wasn't dumb.  He had "bloomed", whatever that term meant.  He was actually, to be honest, a success story.
He had two great parents.  His father had succeeded in being a prominent figure of Public Health policy, raising the bar on extra-planetary imports.  His mother was a a fantastic salesperson who ran a branch of a successful real estate company.  He was the oldest of three sons, all of which went to the best private schools that money could buy.  He'd had decent enough grades, but his soccer career is what made him shine before he went off to college.  He ended up falling in love with economics, and excelled due to his dedication to his studies.  He had finally finished his Masters, getting into an elite program despite all the obstacles.  In between the studies he had settled down with a beautiful older woman, a biologist who was up and coming in academic circles.  He was a success in every way a man could be.
But his papers did not add up.  The Director of Human Resources at the Department of Labor had let DeWitt sit down in his office during the interview, but the pile of reports on the desk was unsettling.  DeWitt had quickly recognized some of them as his own.  He took a seat in the wood chair, something that stood out in a building mostly composed of metal and concrete.  The hum of the florescents put him on edge.  Across from him, the Director picked up a thin piece of official cello-paper, with the seal of the colony.  It was DeWitt's birth certificate.
"Mr. DeWitt, I scheduled this interview before I had taken a close work at all of the paperwork the state has allowed me access to, understand?  And this piece of paper has me concerned.  I don't see why you even applied here."
"Excuse me, Sir?"
"We have standards that I have to uphold, understand?  I have to make sure you can keep up with what we do here, and to be frank, Mr. DeWitt, you can't.  And I just hate it when people waste my time, understand?"
"Sir, I don't what you're refer--"
The Director laid the birth certificate in front of him.  "Read the CP line."
DeWitt picked it up and read the Conception Procedure line.  "Basic."
"Sir, if you're problem is that I was conceived naturally--"
"Precisely the issue.  I'm glad you see it.  If you had been genetically calibrated before you had latched yourself into your mother's womb, this wouldn't be a problem, understand?"
"Sir, with all due respect can we keep my mother's organs out of this discussion?"
"Don't bother with the respect.  You can see I can't hire you."
DeWitt cleared his throat.  "Actually I can't."
"It should be crystal clear!  If you have been modified at conception, when most Titanian's are, you'd be fine.  They would've automatically made sure that your neural networks, or whatever they call them, would be fast enough to process at a regular Titanian speed.  But you're basic conception, so I can't admit you here with you slowing down the teams calculations."
"I'm applying for a job that involves policy making, Sir."
"You still have to calculate formulas to predict the labor situation, understand?"
DeWitt picked up one of the old essays.  "You obviously printed out all my work, you can see I can calculate a simulation like the back of my hand, even make new ones modified to unique situations!"
"Mr. DeWitt, none of your work is exemplary.  None of it.  I can assure you half the people who applied for this job have done work at least at your level, if not better."
"So you're telling me you didn't even read it then.  I've been published in industry journals!"
"Mr. DeWitt, I am sorry you have wasted my time here, but there's nothing I can do for you, understand?"

DeWitt walked from the interview in the dark.  The colony was always dark outside, but the indoor lights had been calibrated to imitate the solar cycle back at Earth.  He followed the neon street signs to his wife's office.  Her building was a grey monolith, next to many other grey monoliths.  There was barely any indication that the building housed test subjects, or viles of microorganisms.  It did hint that there was something sterile inside.
DeWitt was let in by the receptionist to his wife's office.  He looked at the degrees on her wall, the pictures of her graduation, of their wedding and their families.  It was a good life she had.  So was his, in spite of his origins.
She walked in, her goggles and gloves still on.  "I came in as soon as I could.  I want to know how it went."
He responded as softly as he could, but he he couldn't hide all his anger.  "No you don't."
She sank right next to him, on the arm of his chair.  "Oh no, my starlight."  She never liked the words honey, or babe, or darling, so she used starlight.  It was still corny.
"He immediately went to the CP line on my birth certificate.  Explained it like I thought he would.  Kept on saying 'Understand?', as if I spoke some other language."
"You should've responded 'Que?' or something like that."
"Doesn't matter.  If the government won't hire me, I doubt any company will. "
"Don't say that, starlight."  She embraced him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  "It's only been a couple months.  Not time to give up yet."
"You and I both know that in this boom phase I should have a job.  I mean, I studied this stuff.  I know I should have a job now.  Titania is just not going to let me, with this genetic caste system."
"It's not like that."
"It is that!"
She let go of him, and slowly took her seat at the desk.  DeWitt knew he shouldn't have said that.  She was always guilty that she had been calibrated and he hadn't.
"I'm sorry.  Look, earlier today, I figured I wouldn't get the job.  I'll... start looking somewhere else."
She smiled.  "That's the spirit.  I'm sure there are plenty of other jobs for someone with your skills.  Or you could just got straight to a Ph.D."
"I can't, remember?  CP basic."
"Oh.  Well, there has to be another job, even if it's not something you studied the last eight years."
DeWitt started to laugh.  "So you're telling me I wasted eight years?"
She frowned.  "You know I'm trying to encourage you."
"Hey, I was thinking.  I'm wondering if... well, Titania is the only planet that has the genetic qualifications.  If we thought about moving to somewhere else, another colony is bound to hire me.  Maybe Walter's Gate or Man's Progress."
Her face was sad.  "Starlight, my research is only happening here.  This is the only place that's looking at microbiotics at this level, not to add with the right tools.  I can't be anywhere else."
"So what, I'm stuck here with a Masters unemployed the rest of my life?"
"You're not going to be unemployed the rest of your life."
"I'm not taking a job selling fast food to people out the drive thru, so I'm afraid I am."
"You don't have to get like this.  No reason to be this angry."
"Of course you're the reasonable one, part of your breeding, right?"
She stood up.  "If you came her to upset me, you have to leave.  I still have work to do today and I can't--"
"You get to work and I get to stay home after all I went through?"
She rushed out the office.  "I'll see you at home.  You'll have cooled by then I hope."  She slammed the door.
DeWitt just stayed there, looking at all the pictures.  He stared at the happy couple they were on their wedding day.
"Had I known then I was to be your duckling, that I was to follow you single file wherever you went, I would've reconsidered my options, love."

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