Thursday, August 18, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 51: Unpaid Intern

The prompt this week was to write a sci-fi story that included the following words: Fire, DNA, corporate, student, and secret. Students sometimes work, or observe, in a particular field, often in an unpaid status, to gain knowledge or experience. I wondered if there were students in other worlds besides ours who did the same thing. I hope you enjoy my story about one such unpaid intern.


The fire destroyed almost every piece of equipment in the laboratory. It was difficult to extinguish, but eventually, the flames all subsided and only ashes remained. Dr. Ronald Schuster, the Laboratory Director, came very close to being overcome with smoke inhalation. I grabbed him and pushed him out of the door and into the street. I could not let him die. He is not only a brilliant scientist and physician; he is also a decent and highly moral human being. There are definitely not enough of either in the world today.

Because I hold Dr. Schuster in such high regard, I felt obligated to accompany him to the meeting with his superior, Mr. David Hargrove, Director of Research Services, at corporate headquarters. I have already attended several meetings with Mr. Hargrove presiding, and I have found him to be an honorable individual; however, his educational and professional background were focused on the commercial value of scientific research. Investing money in the search to find cures for diseases or the attempt to locate life on other planets within the galaxy is deemed noble and critical, as long as there would be profit to be gained. Mercenary as that may seem, I am not so naïve that I do not realize money is what makes the world go round.


“Please come in and have a seat. Ron, I hate that we have to meet under these circumstances, but what happened in your lab could have resulted in even heavier losses. Thank God you were able to get out and that the Fire Department was able to get the fire under control before the entire building exploded. Have you any idea what could have started it?”

“No Dave, I’m sorry, but I have no idea. As you know, I don’t store a lot of chemicals there, and even the ones I do are not dangerous or flammable. Another thing I don’t know is how I managed to get out of there. I remember having a hard time breathing because I was on the other side of the lab away from the door when the room began to fill with smoke. I made my way to the exit and all at once, the room was engulfed in flames. I must have tripped over something because I basically fell out of the lab onto the sidewalk. It was the strangest thing.”

“Are you sure you’re all right? I was told you didn’t even want the paramedics to check you out.”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m just still shaken up. I know restoring everything will take time and be quite costly, but do you have a timeframe in mind for when I’d be able to resume my work?”

“Ron, the Fire Department hasn’t even finished going over everything yet. You certainly are anxious to get back to work. We are planning to set up your lab in another building as soon as possible, but there’s something important I must go over with you. The funding for your current project has been terminated by the Board, and the directive I received from them is that you are to go back to your work with DNA manipulation, or whatever that project was called.”

“Dave, you can’t be serious! You know how important my work is. Why can’t you explain to them how critical it is that I be allowed to continue?”

“Because, Ron, I don’t understand what you’re doing well enough to explain it to anyone. The Board has always been concerned that most of what you’re doing is done in secret. I mean, you won’t allow anyone to watch any of your experiments or read your notes. You want to wait until you achieve a breakthrough, but none of us can figure out what kind of a breakthrough you expect.”

“Dave, my friend, I’ve told you that I believe there are other beings all around us. I don’t mean in outer space either. I’m talking about a kind of inner space. I’m not alone in my theory; others before me have looked into this too. To put it simply, there are worlds within worlds within worlds that exist side by side. We can’t see them, but they’re there – or rather, here. I know this all sounds like a sci-fi movie script proposal, but we are only one possible dimension. There are doorways, or portals, all around us that just need to be opened. I’ve already had minor success opening several in a small way, but without warning, my equipment malfunctions and I can’t go any further.”

“My God, Ron, gateways to other worlds materialize out of thin air?”

“Of course not. Combining various types of equipment that produce sound, light and other factors help to make them accessible. It’s difficult to get too detailed about it, but you’ll have to trust me on this.”

“You know I do trust in your work. I had no idea you were this close. I’ll tell you what. For now, work in the other lab we’re going to set up for you and in the meantime, I’ll work on convincing the Board members to reestablish your funding within the foreseeable future. What we could accomplish if we could establish some type of communication highway between other dimensions and ours is beyond comprehension.”

“The doors are out there, Dave. They only need to be pushed open. Who knows what could be on the other side?”


I am the one who started the fire because I do know what could be on the other side. The dangerous consequences of Dr. Schuster’s type of research would not be immediately felt, but the killers would lie in wait, as killers often do, and strike without warning. The end of all living things would result soon after. The good doctor was not aware of the power he was preparing to unleash, but I knew well its magnitude. Now that I have found out the company, in the near future, might permit the good doctor to continue his research into opening random dimensional portals, I fear greatly for him and his kind.

Back home, I am a student – one of many sent here to observe and learn. In my world, we are all devotees of all branches of science. However, there are many worlds situated alongside this one, and inhabitants of all are not content to remain within their own realm. Some are extremely dangerous and not easily vanquished. Dr. Schuster’s equipment seeks not a particular doorway, but any that makes itself available. He does not know that only those who desire to maim and kill are ready and willing to cross over. I am unable to share this knowledge with him as my physical interaction with these creatures, these humans, is limited. I cannot even be seen clearly since I appear only dimly as the shimmer of heat on their asphalt on blistering summer days.

It was never my responsibility to rescue humankind from potential predators. However, since they ever seem bent on destroying themselves on a daily basis, I cannot help but feel an obligation to assist these often foolish and irresponsible beings. My time here is indeterminate. When I am notified that my assignment in this dimension will soon come to an end, I plan to assess how near my subject is to reaching his goal. If he soon will be in a position to pull the deadly ones through, I shall have to destroy him. Conscience be damned. None of us may shirk the duty that is thrust upon us. This human sector is one of the cores, and its destruction would be the death of us all. I wonder if any who reside here know just how important to the rest of us they are…


  1. An interesting story, and food for thought. When the Large Hadron Collider at CERN was first fired up, there was a catastrophic failure in on of the magnets. They had to shut it all down for months to repair the damage and retest, before finally getting u and running. There was a lot of seemingly unfounded worry by some that this facility would spawn a black hole that would suck our word into it. Maybe there was some truth in it, and aliens had to delay the experiments until they could implement the proper safeguards.

    1. You've brought up a very interesting point, Mike. Who can say what causes some events? Perhaps we are getting too close to intruding on other 'lives', and they are afraid we'll get through to them. Or perhaps the fear is we'll open a door and let something through that will harm us, which would in turn... Maybe the biggest fear is the snowball effect. We should take care and think things through very carefully. There might be more at stake than just us.