Dunk

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


Edited and proof-read version.



Note: Bug's movie quotes are in red.



Try to guess the movies they are from.

Chapter 1 (v.2) - Weird Science

Submitted: April 24, 2019

Reads: 216

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Submitted: April 24, 2019

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Act 1 Science

Chapter One

Weird Science

Standing at the front of his science class Brian surveyed his classmates’ faces. His presentation on fast-twitch versus slow-twitch muscle fiber was wrapping up and he could see that most of the class had tuned out long ago. Brian suspected they had lost interest several projects ago as students took their turns presenting on everything from what causes solar flares to how junk food can be good for you.  Some kids scrolled through their notepads. One girl was texting, and Brian noticed a few students talking in the back of the room; wide smiles on their snickering faces. Only the teacher, Ms. Othan, was concentrating on him, oblivious to the fact that most of the other kids weren’t. Her thin head bobbed up and down as she smiled, seemingly agreeing with everything Brian said. The small, round- rimmed glasses perched on her nose never budged as she nodded her head in constant approval. Brian only cared whether one person was paying attention; Doris Prytle. He caught her blue eyes looking up at him a few times, but for most of his talk she simply stared at her paper scribbling notes here and there. He couldn’t imagine what she was writing. Her only interest in muscle fibers seemed to be the ones attached to Kirk Harden, star quarterback here at Greenville High. Brian thought Kirk had more muscles than anyone needed but whatever was in those muscles, fast twitch or slow, they allowed Kirk to throw a football better than anyone ever had at Greenville. Every time Brian saw Doris she was wrapped around that amazing arm of Kirk’s. Brian couldn’t figure Doris out. She was exceptionally smart, yet super popular. The popular part was easy, considering Doris’ huge blue eyes, long blonde hair, and a body a cheerleader couldn’t match. But Doris was no cheerleader. Brian had watched her from his dismal seat in the trumpet section at home football games. Even when Kirk was playing the game of his life, Doris never seemed to manage more than a polite clap here and there. Brian wondered if she even cared who won or lost. One thing Brian did know; when Kirk and Doris walked down the hall at school, cheerleaders, as well as lesser students, moved aside.

“Everyone has both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers in their bodies, mostly balanced in a 50/50 ratio,” Brian concluded. “However, some people have significantly more of one type than the other. That is why some athletes are world class. Top athletes may contain as much as 80% of one fiber type over the other. If science can find a way to develop the other 20% of the fibers so an athlete has 100% of one type, then we may see a day when athletes can bench 800 pounds or high jumps 12 feet or runs a 50-mile marathon. Fast twitch are for short bursts of explosive power but tire easily, while slow twitch have endurance and fatigue slower. Right now, we can work our muscles out, but they are still limited in their potential based on a person’s genetics. If we could alter those genetics, the possibilities could be unlimited. Until then, however, we need both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers to do all the things we do while moving. Just think of slow twitch as a long-distance runner and fast twitch as a boxer. If you can’t fight it, you can always run away from it.”  Ms. Othan’s bird face broke into a loud cackle as she started toward the front of the class. “That was wonderful Brian; so informative. Now, does anyone have any questions for Brian?” Brain had hoped his joke at the end of his presentation would wake the class up, but they didn’t notice that anymore then they noticed any of the rest of it.

Stanley Tolling raised his hand and the class groaned. “Of course, STAN-ley has a question” came a voice from the back of the room. That’s how kids said Stanley’s name, a heavy emphasis on the “Stan” trailing off into the “ley.” Stanley was the resident brain at Greenville and self-proclaimed know-it-all; constantly looking for ways to show Brian up. Stanley loved playing the role of Brian’s adversary. As far back as Brian could remember, back when he first discovered he was good at science, Stanley was always there doing him one better. In fact, as recently as last year’s science fair, when after spending months in trials and testing what he thought was a sure winner, Stanley took home the top prize after Brian’s project self-destructed.  Brian thought back to how he was sure his Tornado Tester was going to change the world.  The Tornado Tester created actual living, breathing tornados but in a safe, scaled down version. Even with all of today’s technology, scientists still don’t quite understand what makes tornados form, so to Brian the possibilities were unlimited. Devastating tornados, and the weather patterns that create them, could be studied, and that information could be used to track when real tornado weather patterns were forming. The tricky part was keeping the tornado contained during the tests, but Brian had figured out a way.

 The heart of the Tornado Tester was the Barometric Barriers, four weather controlling devices that looked like parking meters with sparkling gold tops and lights that turned from green to yellow to red as the tornados formed. The Barometric Barriers were placed in four corners to form a “box,” and within that box was where all the hot stuff cooked.  How they worked was ingeniously simple. Cool downdrafts and warm updrafts were carefully brought together by Brian using a laptop to control the Barometric Barriers. An overhead water system provided the water vapor and within seconds Brian could cause a funnel cloud to appear. The combinations of cool and warm air could be brought together in limitless patterns and essentially every type of tornado, gustnado, dust devil, fire whirl and steam devil ever seen or yet to be seen could be created. Brian had already created numerous tornados in his basement, but the space was tight, and he could never get the Barometric Barriers more than a few feet apart. He didn’t dare test them in his backyard. That would risk being seen and the next thing you know it would be on YouTube and everyone would be stealing his idea. No, the science fair was going to be Brian’s first chance to test his invention in a large room with lots of space to really turn his tornados loose. Little did he realize how true that would turn out to be.

Brian thought back to that Saturday afternoon of the science fair. The day was sunny and warm and perfect for a school event. Brian arrived before dawn to set his project up in secret, carefully covering it with tarps that he secured to folding chairs with sandbags on them to give them weight. He also placed Do Not Touch signs around the entire perimeter of his project, stopping just short of using black and yellow caution tape to further keep out intruders. No one would have any idea what his demonstration would be on, much less Stanley, who seemed to always be around when something went wrong with Brian’s experiments, and go wrong something always did.

“Wow must be something big.

Brian turned around. “Oh, hi Bug. Don’t-Touch-Anything!”

Bug pulled her hands back, held them up.“You see, all of my most secret inventions are cooking and simmering in here. Old Slugworth would give his false teeth to get inside for just 5 minutes, so don’t touch a thing" she replied.

Brian gave Bug an annoyed look. “Listen Bug” …he started, trailing off knowing how futile it was. Brian called her Bug because she not only bugged him, but she had an annoying habit of quoting movie lines in response to, well, almost anything.

“Seriously Brian what’s with the tarps and all the signs what’s your project anyway some crazy scheme to control the weather?” Bug’s face broke into a wide smile and her brown eyes sparkled mischievously.

Brian looked at her, startled. “Yes, as a matter of fact it is.”

“Wow, slow down their Heat Miser are you crazy?”

“No, but I plan to win the science fair this year and I don’t need anything to go wrong.”

“An accident. An accident. Do you realize it’s snowing in my room g….?”

“Not funny Bug” Brian said, cutting her off.

“Well, why all the secrecy it’s your idea who’s gonna steal it?”

“You know exactly who don’t be lame”

“Um, not sure he has to steal your ideas since he seems to beat you all the time regardless. How did you get in here so early anyway?”

“Fuzz let me in.” Brian confessed.

“Ah yes, behind every great scientist is the custodian cleaning up after them” Bug said sarcastically.

"Still, I can’t have any distractions and Stanley is definitely a project distraction, and so are you” Brian continued as he adjusted the tarp covering his project. “So now what are YOU doing here so early are you finally entering a project in the fair? Thought you were against scientific competition.”

“Thought I’d win it this year with my project on a flying suit that makes me super strong” Bug answered.

“Iron man? I’m disappointed” Brian said.

“Iron Man. That’s kind of catchy. It’s got a nice ring to it. I mean it’s not technically accurate. The suit’s a gold titanium alloy, but it’s kind of provocative, the imagery anyway.”

Brian ignored Bug’s Iron Man movie quote.

“Actually” Bug continued, “I’m working at the snack bar for the fair and, believe it or not, we have to start getting ready for lunch at 7:00 am for some reason.”

“Snack bar” Brian shook his head. “I’ve heard and seen some of your scientific ideas Bug you’d be doing everyone a favor sharing them with the world.”

“You’re right. I do have an idea for a new sandwich, avocado and Goat Cheese and Boston lettuce and honey ketchup and I do plan to unveil it at the fair, at lunch today. Come try one.”

“Honey ketchup?” Brian gave her a disgusted look.

“If you are what you eat then I only what to eat the good stuff.”

“I’ve eaten plenty of your creations Bug, but I might have to pass on that one.”

“If it’s the honey ketchup that’s worrying you there’s nothing to be scared of trust me.”

“What about your work on a radiation free smoke detector?

“Kids stuff. And doesn’t taste as good. Look, you cook in the lab today, I’m going to cook in the kitchen.”

“What do you call that sandwich of yours? In case I want to order it?” Brian gave her a sarcastic look.

“Honey Tomato Grill” Bug replied proudly.

“Actually, has a ring to it.”

“Hey Brian, seriously, Google ‘top ten women scientists’ sometime” Bug suggested switching topics.

“I think I am aware of the top female scientists throughout history.”

“Ok well, what do you notice about them?”

“They were brilliant minds.”

“Brian, not one of them was born after 1945.”

“So?”

 “Your destiny lies along a different path then mine” Bug said, sweeping her arm in front of Brian.

 “I have no doubt that someday you will change the world with your discoveries, Brian, but as for me.”

“Haven’t you heard Bug? Today’s women can be and do anything they want. Sounds like a cop out to me. You need to put your time into what is useful if you are going to contribute to the greater good.”

 “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

Brian had been setting his project up in the gym before it was officially “open”, and it was still dimly lit with only walking lights. But suddenly the gym lit up as the main lights clicked on one row at a time. 7:00 am.

“Gotta go” Bug said hopping down off the table.

She spun around and added “good luck” then headed to the snack bar.

Brian didn’t believe in luck good or bad, but regardless, bad luck was what showed up. This year was sure to be different, he thought. Satisfied that he only had the pre-test adjustments to set before he demonstrated his Tornado Tester later that morning, Brian decided to take a walk around and see what he was up against. He checked the tarps covering his project and took a quick look around. Stanley was nowhere to be seen. Perfect, he thought. Stepping onto the main walkway in front of his display, Brian was shocked to see a student had set up an oversized solar system right next to his own project. It was built to scale and contained Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, but also the minor planets Pluto, Ceres, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake.

Brian saw his friend Scott working on the set up. “Scott, man this is cool” he said, getting Scott’s attention while he gazed up at the display.  “I feel like I’m in a planetarium or better still, far out in the countryside, in a wide-open field under a clear summer sky with every known visible star spinning above me. But this is even better. I’m standing under the solar system.”

 “Thanks man, think it has a chance to win?” Scott said.

“Sure!” Brian said enthusiastically, forgetting for a minute that he was competing against him. “You even have the minor planets represented.”

“Yup, and all 78 of Jupiter’s moons, including the 4 Galilean moons, Saturn’s rings, made of actual dirt and dust fibers, and Saturn’s 63 moons, and check this out.”

Scott took a quick look around, then pushed a button on his project’s control panel. Suddenly, a purple-green kaleidoscopic ring lit up between Mars and Jupiter.
“Is that the main asteroid belt?” Brian asked, mesmerized.

“Yup.” Suddenly Scott noticed his display attracting some attention, so he quickly shut it down. “Don’t wanna give too much away, but everything in my display will be to scale and actual color.”

Brian suddenly noticed he couldn’t see any wires, cables, or support system of any type holding up any of the planets of Scott’s display.

“I’ve created a way to suspend everything magnetically using just that thin magnetic pole running up the middle of the display” Scott said, anticipating Brian’s question. “I mean, displays of the solar system are and have been comically represented in every science fair since the very first science fair. If I had to use wires and black-out sheets and papier-mache, I wouldn’t have done this.”

“It’s shrouded in darkness despite the bright gym lights, so it looks like a night sky.” Brian continued.

“I used Ray Tracing like they use in car commercials. That and Scanline Rendering to make the planets and planetoids really pop. But, to create the dark, night sky I had to invent a thin, transparent, zinc oxide film to block out the gym lights. Again, it was crucial to avoid it looking childish.”

“Well, you just raised the bar, Scott” Brian said. “It’s got the details of a hologram but the depth and texture of a solid object. It’s brilliant.”

“Hey, that’s exactly what I was going for Brian. And between you and me, you were the only one to make that connection, everyone else I showed this to missed that.”

Brian thought a masking device would be perfect for hiding the water source on his Tornado Tester. One thing he had noticed about his project, feeding water to it from overhead took away from the aesthetics of his project and took some of the focus off the tornado. Hopefully, the “wow” factor of just seeing a tornado form before their eyes would help the judges overlook the cheesiness of the design.

If the first display was any sign of the competition, Brian thought to himself, it was going to be a tough battle. And he hadn’t even seen Stanley’s project yet. Brian walked to the other side of his display. Again, he was shocked that he hadn’t noticed what was going up only a few feet away from him. It was an irrigation system. Brian glanced down at the sign in front of the display. Kristen Cole.

“Kristen?” Brian said, craning past the tubes, funnels and pipes stacked up at the front of the display.

“Hey Brian” Kristen said as she popped out from behind a black 55-gallon rain barrel.

“Irrigation system?” he asked.

“Intelligent irrigation system” she replied, emphasizing the word ‘intelligent.” “Not only can it measure all the current conditions to plan on water availability, but it can use atmospheric conditions and predictive telematics to plan future drought or surplus water conditions. And, my system can draw water right out of the air, albeit in small amounts.”

“But where is the water in the air coming from?”

“I have to put it there. That’s what these barrels are for. Fuzz almost had a fit when he saw me bringing them in.”

“I know, he saw me laying my catch liner out on the floor and when he found out what I was planning on doing he almost had a heart attack.”

“What are you planning on doing?”

“You’ll see, Kristen, soon enough.”

“Fair. Well, good luck.”

“Good luck, Kristen” Brian said as he continued his walk around the gym. The level of projects seemed to be on a world class scale this year. He passed by science projects on image-based search engines, cancer-eating microbes, controlling asthma with air quality, mind control prosthetics, managing the power of household devices, and reducing carbon emissions with acid base neutralization.  Stanley’s project, in booth number 10, was on nuclear detection devices. Of course, Brian thought. Worldwide implications. Brian also noticed Stanley didn’t cover or hide his projects, ever. He dared you to try to understand the science enough to steal his ideas. He assumed most people, including Brian, couldn’t steal his projects simply because they couldn’t understand how to.

Suddenly an announcer’s voice brought the official opening of the fair. Judging would begin in 10 minutes at booth number 1. Brian was booth number 18 out of 22 booths. He was glad to be going close to last as he was convinced the closer to last you went, the better chance you had to win. Brian was worried, though, that Scott and his amazing solar system would be going after him, in booth 19, but at least Stanley would be out of the way.

The judges began making their rounds moving from table to table, booth to booth, display to display, each student demonstrating the practical implications of their projects. Brian took the time to add the final calculations to his Tornado Tester. He punched crucial data into his laptop. The moisture content of the gym air, the barometric pressure, wind (zero) and flow rate of the water supply were carefully fed to the TT (Tornado Tester) Software. He hit the power test switch and the small engines running the four Barometric Barriers hummed to life, the lights on them all flashing off and on green. Brian typed in a few more commands to check the flow rate of his water pump. Everything, he thought, was perfect.

The judges were finally on the last row and Brian nervously waited for them, and the accompanying crowd, to get to him. The judges were the same this year as the last 3 years. Mrs. Othan, the science teacher, Mr. Bennett, the calculus teacher, and the school principle, Mr. Brown, each carrying a tablet for recording the student’s scores. The projects would be scored on originality, presentation, functionality, and global implications. Simply put, can you make your project work, and can it help improve people’s lives?

Brian watched as the judges and crowd approached Kristen’s booth. He listened as she confidently explained her project, it’s global implications for a world projected to one day have a water shortage, and then demonstrated how her intelligent irrigation system really could draw water from the air and collect it for use, the blue and black rain barrels collecting several inches of water in each of them. When her demonstration was complete, the crowd politely applauded while the judges entered their scores. Now it was Brian’s turn. The crowd shifted to the front of Brian’s booth number 19. The judges stood up front, Mrs. Othan smiling broadly and proudly. “Hello Brian” she said.

“Mrs. Othan. Mr. Bennett, Mr. Brown” Brian greeted them.

“You may begin when you are ready, Brian” Mrs. Othan continued.

Brian nodded then addressed the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen…judges…I’d like to introduce you to the Tornado Tester” Brian started as he pulled the release cord, dropping the tarps down and to the side, and revealing his project.

The crowd began to murmur at the mention of the word tornado, and Brian took that as a good sign.

“There are more than 1200 tornados a year in the United States and they kill more than 100 people a year” Brian said in as dramatic a voice as he could muster, then paused for affect. “Tornados cause over 400 million dollars in damage each year as well” he continued. “250 mile per hour winds, grapefruit size hail, flooding downpours. And, even with all of today’s technology for weather prediction, forecasters predict the forming of a tornado only 13 minutes before they happen. 13 minutes.” Brian again paused for affect. “What if we could create a real tornado, but in a greatly reduced, safer size, to study, and increase our knowledge of not only how a tornado forms, but when will it form and why? Imagine increasing the time when a meteorologist knows a tornado is going to form from only 13 minutes to 13 hours?”  Brian typed more commands into his laptop. Again, the engines in his Barometric Barriers hummed to life and the lights all flashed green. Brian pushed “enter” and a breeze began, building in speed, the flashing lights on each Barrier now flashing yellow. A mist began coming from the overhead water source and the winds began increasing dramatically. As the wind increased, so did the sound of the forming tornado with the noise growing in proportion to the increasing tornadic whirl.  Brian typed some adjustments into his laptop, the lights started flashing red, and suddenly a funnel cloud appeared right in the middle of the box. The crowd oooooo’d and stepped back, and Brian smiled at their natural reaction to a tornado suddenly appearing in front of them. Brian increased the water mist slightly, and suddenly a fully formed funnel cloud was spinning right before everyone’s eyes.  “This is not a hologram. This is not a computer image. This is a real tornado formed from water vapor and barometric pressure” he yelled to the crowd as the funnel cloud moved inside the box, completely simulating the actual movements of a storm. Suddenly, a miniature cloud burst appeared right over the tornado and Brian was pleased to see his catch basin was easily containing the small amount of water raining down. As the demonstration continued, more and more people gathered in front of booth 19, crowding in to try to catch a glimpse of the amazing sight. Most of the other students had abandoned their own projects and joined the spectators as well, unable to ignore the incredible scientific discovery unveiling before them.

Suddenly, the tornado rapidly moved to Brian’s left, heading for booth 18. Brian adjusted the controls to move the twister back toward the center of the display, but the whirlwind ignored the typed commands and continued heading toward booth 18. Looking ahead at the path the tornado was taking, Brian realized, to his horror, that it was being drawn by the barrels of water collected from Kristen’s irrigation system demonstration. Forgetting the judges, the crowd, and the place, Brian rapidly typed commands into his laptop, but nothing he did averted the tornado from its chosen course.  Brian hit the “end” button and power instantly stopped flowing to the Barometric Barriers, but it was too late, the tornado was moving completely on its own now, driven by the body heat of the crowd and the increased water supply from the rain barrels. Crossing into booth 18, the tornado drew more and more water from the barrels, growing bigger with every drop it consumed. Brian was suddenly aware that people all around him were yelling and screaming and many were scrambling and falling back, heading for a safer spot, some heading for the exits. The tornado was now at least 3 feet tall and the winds it was generating started knocking over fixtures, signs, displays, and even some people, anyone or anything that was unlucky enough to be in its path. As the last drop of barrel water was sucked up into the funnel cloud, the untamable twister turned 180 degrees, crossed back through Brian’s booth, and headed for booth 20 and Scott’s solar system. Once there, it moved to the middle of Scott’s display and, rising, struck the Milky Way dead center, sending every planet, planetoid, asteroid, and moon shooting straight out from the center, instantly proving the Big Bang theory. The tornado kept moving, knocking over display after display with its whipping winds, and then drenching the toppled pieces with the school’s first ever indoor rain storm.

Finally, Fuzz came running into the gym and, seeing the now more than 4-foot-tall tornado tearing the place apart, ran right past Brian, the judges and the crowd straight to the fan control for the heater/ac unit. Fuzz pushed the setting to exhaust and high, then hit the ‘on’ button. As the exhaust fan groaned to life and gained speed the tornado, missing the crucial heat from the now thinned out crowd it needed to continue living, was quickly sucked up through the exhaust vent, exiting on the outside of the building as harmless vapor. Brian turned around. Most of the people attending the fair had scrambled out the exits during the mayhem, those that remained were soaked from head to toe, hair tangled and tossed, looking as if they had just been through a tornado, which they just had. Brian caught sight of Stanley. His hands were still covering his ears as he looked at Brian shaking his head.

The sound of laughing students startled Brian back to reality. “Sorry, Stanley, what was your question again?” he said trying to cover up for his day dreaming.

“Aren’t there some studies that suggest training can cause muscles to switch fiber types?” Stanley asked smugly, crossing his arms and leaning back in his chair, a confident grin on his face. A short crop of black hair stood on Stanley’s long, lean head. Thick, black framed glasses and a high-pitched voice reminded Brian of one of the characters from Revenge of the Nerds.

“That’s true,” responded Brian, trying not to fall into Stanley’s trap. “But traditional training cannot perform the kind of dramatic muscle changes someone would need to move beyond present limitations. Only a genetic alteration can accomplish that. If genetics and athletic training ever really sync up, then we may see a day when athletes can run faster than a horse or jump as high as a building. Of course, we are a long way from that, and we still have so many limitations.” Brain knew all about limitations. At 5’10” he wasn’t short, but weighing only 150 pounds, with little athletic ability, Brian Ferco was often the last name called when sides were picked for…well…. anything. Brian did not look the nerd that Stanley did; but he was just as much one.

“Good luck with that,” chimed Stanley. “Genetic changes are rare and most that do occur happen naturally. Genetic science is still considered a new field and only genetic therapy has been tried on humans. Besides, changing one body part in favor of a new genetic makeup of muscles would put tremendous stress and strain on the surrounding and attaching muscles. Might be too painful on the rest of the body.”

 “Could you genetically engineer Stanley’s mouth from fast twitch to slow twitch?” asked a student.  “Maybe then he wouldn’t talk so much.” The class all laughed but Stanley didn’t flinch. He considered most of the other students inferior to him, so he certainly wouldn’t respond to their jokes. Suddenly the bell rang, and students sprang from their seats and headed towards the doors.


 


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