Merope The science teacher raps his desk with a cane, several times. "Some quiet please, class! We have a new student today, so everyone be extra nice to Antares and try not to set her on fire. Antares, you can group with, um..... Polaris, over at the back there. Alright, the experiment is on the board! Groups of four, you have an hour to collect a passable dataset. Go!"
Merope sidles up to Polaris. "Alright if I group with you?"
Polaris nods mutely, "Are you good at lab?"
Merope "um.. I'm ok I guess. I usually like, take down the numbers while the guys do the actual burning stuff."
Antares looks thoughtful for a second at Polaris, then says, "I'm not sure." She kicks out a lab stool for Merope to take.
Merope "So um," Merope reads off the board, "Measuring the breakdown rate of starch with an amaylase enzyme as a function of temperature."
Algol hurries in late...again. Ducking at the old guy's glare he mumbles "sorry" and hurries into the lab.
Polaris contemplates Antares seriously for a moment, and says while mindlessly waving a wood cutting tool in her direction, "I heard you are good at science. And sports."
Merope "We need a fourth person... oh, hey, Algol's here for once." She points.
Algol hurries up. "Hi, sorry."
Antares "Sometimes I lose interest," Antares explains to Polaris. "Sports is easy--it's just poetry in motion. But I have trouble understanding what this enzyme stuff is for."
Antares "Hi, I'm Antares," she says to Algol with a smile.
Polaris blinks and stares sort of blankly while she decides to actually help in the work or sculpt more
Algol "Hi. Algol." He smiles back hesitantly.
Merope "Oh yeah, hi Antares. I'm um, Merope." She waves.
Polaris finally decides to pocket her carving tool into her small (but very full) bag and pokes at a test tube with a pensive face
Merope "So, you transferred here, yeah? That must have sucked, leaving your friends and all." She grabs a tripod while she's talking, and a bunsen burner.
Polaris "If she had any."
Antares Not wanting to do a bad job her first day, she stares at the board with a look of solemn concentration, then starts helping with the preparations. At Merope's question, she frowns for a second, then nods. "It's all right. Fresh starts are good."
Polaris holds a test tube up to the light and peers though it
Merope "Amylase and starch are available at the front! Please don't take gallons of them, this is biology, not laundry!" calls out the teacher from the front desk.
Antares shoots a look at Polaris, trying to figure out if that was a jab.
Polaris seems totally somewhere else
Merope "Yeah, fresh starts... cool." Merope seems to have run out of conversation.
Polaris taps the test tube on the side of the desk, once, twice, and it shatters on the third try. "Not very resilient."
Merope The teacher walks by and sighs theatrically. "Get the dustpan, Polaris, and I'll thank you not to test the structural integrity of my glassware."
Polaris "There are composites that are both clear and much more durable."
Polaris nods and goes off to get the required cleaning tools
Antares has her head tilted, contemplating the broken glass and forgetting the experiment. Before Polaris returns, she reaches out and starts pushing the slivers around with her finger, making some kind of pattern.
Merope "Um, you probably shouldn't like, poke that. Glass, you know. Um, sharp?"
Antares She cuts her finger on one of the pieces but doesn't seem to notice, humming under her breath as a spiraling shape grows out of the arrangement.
Polaris returns and studies the pattern silently
Merope watches them, slightly creeped out, and turns to Algol instead. "So, uh, do you have any idea what you're doing?" she says, as breezily as she can manage.
Polaris sets down the dustpan and says to Antares ambiently, "That looks like my clasp scuplture, the pattern I used."
Algol "So, you guys really want to do this or just write down the answers?" Algol pulls a battered lab manual and file folder out of his bag when the teacher has passed. "I mean, we all know how the rate of glycoside linkage hydrolyzation increases with heat. This is just a waste of time."
Antares lifts her hand and blinks at the blood, concentration broken by finishing or Polaris' return. She shoots a look sideways at Merope's careful ignoring and reddens a bit, then looks back to Polaris. She looks like she wants to say something, but drags her attention back to the lab.
Merope "Uh, um, wow. Ok, that's a yes then." She pauses. "Um, I guess we should still like, try the experiment. I mean, if it goes all wrong we can copy up your book answers at the end, right?"
Antares Sweeping the glass into the dustpan, she says, "Sounds good."
Merope is looking at Algol hopefully.
Polaris finishes the cleanup, and as she does so says rather loudly, "Merope, so I heard you had a wild fling with my cousin Furud."
Merope looks daggers at Polaris, and blushes. "You're his cousin?"
Polaris nods and stares back questioningly
Merope "Well, if you're his cousin you can ask him about it."
Algol "Be careful to draw the starch sample from the middle of the container. Damaged starch granules absorb more water than intact granules and they sink and fl...uh, nevermind."
Polaris "I already did, but being a rather um, morally loose character, I thought I might get really answers from you."
Merope draws a table into her notebook with a ruler and a bad temper.
Antares looks like she's trying to remember something. "Furud? The same one who dared me to walk the church roof blindfolded when I was a kid?"
Merope "I don't want to talk about this, Polaris."
Polaris ignores her protest, drawing her sculpting tool and nearly complete phallic work. "Its not like you actually went on a crime-spree in town and then made sweet love under the starlight."
Merope "Ohmigod, Polaris, shut up, I mean it."
Merope spins around to Antares. "And I thought you just got here, how can you know Furud?"
Antares "I lived around here when I was a kid," she says quietly, trying not to wind up Merope further. "I just moved back."
Merope "Oh." She pauses for a bit, and then, slightly more calmly, and eager to change the subject: "So, um, why'd you leave?"
Polaris finishes her scuplture, apparently unaffected by the feelings she aroused in Merope
Polaris tucks away the work, "Of course, then again maybe you did."
Algol looks back and forth between the girls, hoping to learn good stuff. To hell with the experiment!
Merope pointedly ignores Polaris.
Antares "Uh, sort of a private school thing. My dad thought it would be good for me." The uncomfortable-with-this-subject burden seems to have shifted from Merope to Antares.
Merope "Really? I couldn't go to a private school. Too, um, weird."
Algol "Wow. Did you go to The Academy -- that weird place out in the hills?"
Antares shoots a suspicious look at Algol, then nods. "For a while, yeah."
Antares Then she grins at Merope. "Weird compared to what? Everyone around here knows each other--coming back, it's like having to learn a new language."
Algol "Whoa. I heard they do stuff like teach you to walk. Did you do that?"
Polaris passes Algol a wrapped sculpture silently
Antares "I can walk just fine," Antares says, looking at Algol curiously. "Run, even."
Algol looks down at it, curiously, then slides it into his bag and smiles a thanks back to Polaris.
Polaris "I heard that school teaches the occult."
Algol "Does the girl with two heads still go there?"
Merope "Wait, two heads?!"
Algol "Yeah, there was a thing in the paper about her a few years ago. They both work and everything!"
Antares looks down at her lab notebook for a minute, staring at a half-finished elaborate scrollwork doodle. She keeps her mouth shut, hoping the others will focus on Algol's weirdness.
Merope "I mean, surely that would be two girls with one body? Like Siamese twins?"
Algol "Yeah, whatever."
Polaris "I bet a lot of boys wish they had that problem, dual heads."
Algol blinks, trying to get it.
Merope "Ignore her, she's... random."
Polaris "Random? Like the flavor of the week? I hear Ras Alhague is in this week."
Merope rolls her eyes at Polaris.
Algol With a minute of button pushing and a brief pause to wait for the teacher to pass in his circuit around the lab, Algol displays a video on his iPhone. "Check this out..." http:/www.youtube.comwatch?v=S Sy 9 W3g Ihn Q?
Antares "Who's that?" says Antares, grabbing the change of subject.
Merope "I can see why they skipped you two grades, Polaris, they must have gotten sick of you going on all the time."
Algol "Do you know her...them?"
Polaris shrugs at Merope
Antares glances quickly at Algol's phone and shakes her head. "I don't think so." She seems increasingly nervous about the subject.
Merope "Antares, Ras is a guy who just transferred here yesterday. One of those funny coincidences, I guess, you both showing up so close together."
Antares "No such thing as coincidence," Antares says decisively.
Merope "Yeah? Furud used to say that."
Polaris "There isn't."
Merope looks steadily at Antares for a few moments. "wait, wait... Antares? I heard that name before..."
Merope "I've lived around here all my life... weren't you.."
Merope Her eyes go wide.
Polaris moves her hand up as if to smack Merope, but thinks better of it
Antares Antares' eyebrows go up in silent question.
Merope "Ohmigod, you were! You were the Trudeau Bridge girl!"
Merope "Man, no wonder you got taken out of school for a few years..."
Merope "God, that's so terrible." Merope puts her hands over her mouth.
Polaris still talks rather ambiently, twiddling her tool, "I question your ability to comprehend terrible, as opposed to: somewhat odd."
Merope "It was you, wasn't it? I can remember when I saw the headlines in the paper. Only survivor..."
Algol looks at the new girl with more interest. "Cool! I didn't know you were still around."
Algol "You're not even disfigured."
Algol "...I mean, you look good."
Algol "...I mean..." Algol gets back to work on the lab report.
Merope "Yeah, amazing. I mean, considering... my mom never let me look at the pictures, it was years before I saw.."
Polaris moves closer to Antares, "Watch out for those two. I think they are peculiar."
Antares stares at Merope for a second, her hands clenched in white-knuckled fists. "It was an accident," she says flatly. She pushes back from the lab table, tucks her stool in with a neat tap of her foot, and leaves the room without even glancing at the teacher.
Algol "Huh, I have all the clippings. One of the workers on the helicopter that pulled her out of the canyon apparently snapped some illicit shots too..."
Polaris taps her tool on the table, "I like her."
Algol "Uh. I wonder what...I guess she's having a hard time adjusting."
Merope "Wouldn't you? God... Trudeau Bridge. And you know they always said afterwards, that she was the only one..."
Algol "Well, we're running out of time." Algol glances pointedly at the clock above the whiteboard.
Merope "Oh, crap, yeah. Algol, you still got those results from the book? We can just take a few off some of the numbers and add a few to soem of the others, make them look more, um, plausibly crappy."
Algol presents his ready-to-go lab report to be coppied by his lab-mates.
Polaris "I better not get detention again."
Merope makes a show of fiddling with the apparatus and pretending to take down readings.
Polaris blatantly copies
Algol Remember to mention the secondary effects of bacterial alpha-amylase recrystallization in the extra-credit practical section of the exam."
Merope "Um, sure, Algol. How do you KNOW all this stuff?"
Algol "I watch TV."
Merope "Uh-huh." She looks at him quizzically. "Well, it saved our asses this time, so thanks. I should probably copy the results into Antares' book, too..."
Merope "FIVE MINUTES!" comes the call from the front of the room.
Merope gets to urgent scribbling.
Algol shrugs at Merope and passes in his report, thanking Mr. Bieswahx for the class.
Polaris adds in, "I got a lot of whittling done too."