Hey all! I'm Ibsu, and this is my first extended-length piece. This is also my first publically released piece, and worse yet, I still haven't found an editor! After months of agonizing over this introduction, I figured I was making things worse rather than better. Here, then, it is.

Obligitary warning: This story has homoerotic and other contraversial themes. Kiddies, read your Bible like mom and dad say, or you'll burn in Hell like me. Oh, and stop smoking the weed in your room. Your parents will only believe it's incense for so long. For everyone else, this is legal in my jurisdiction. I hope it is in yours. If it isn't, move somewhere it is and read it where you're safe. Finally, this story is copywrited 2004, all rights reserved. With a good blowjob, those reservations loosen up pretty quickly.

The Apprentice's Better Half - Chapter 1

Saturday night.

No club, no bar, no movie lights, and Gilligan's antics would be a luxury on Cubicle Island.

About a month ago, some of the undergraduates thought it would be cute to redecorate the department in tropical themes. Nothing elaborate graced the walls, just a picture of Bermuda; some fake grass attached to poster board; and Hawaiian shirts forcibly borrowed from Professor Shultz, who had no business wearing anything that couldn't hold a pocket protector.

Herbert decorated his own piece of the office with a tile of "Bang Head Here" printouts held to his cubicle wall with orange and green pushpins. He never wanted to be accused of lacking school spirit. He ignored the wall's invitation and tapped his head softly against the desk instead. Herbert had stopped the hard knocks when his fellow graduate students complained of the noise. Fucking Saturday night, and I'm living in a cubicle and I haven't solved a thing all day.

It all started with this little experiment. He was working on quantifying a fluxuation... oh, perhaps it's best just to skip the technical explanation. Everyone else would start making snoring noises when Herbert tried to explain it. The important part is that the experiment would throw sparks in ways no spark should ever fly when Herbert tried to conduct the experiment. At first, Herbert looked for a short circuit but even when he brought an engineer friend to look at it, they couldn't find anything wrong. Allen, the engineer, was even able to run the experiment, but only if Herbert wasn't in the room.

Herbert banged his head on the desk again. All in all, it was a fairly typical Saturday night. Herbert and the rest of the doctoral candidates often talked about going out on the weekend, but every time, they all found excuses. Shelby retreated to her cubicle for another page on the thesis, John found some freed time on a supercomputer next week and needed to make some changes to the simulation. Noone was ever sure what Raine was doing, though there was talk about something in applied physics using a branch of mathmatics that was previously thought useless to mere mortals.

Every time a physicist finds a use for esoteric math, God kills a kitten.

Perhaps Raine might know, thought Herbert as he walked down to the end of the Doctoral Candidate cubicles. Raine sat there, playing Freecell.

"Good to see that the DOD grant has gone to good use."

Raine stiffened, then swiveled to face Herbert, relaxing when he recognized the face. "It's Schultz's baby anyway, and the way he works I'm lucky I get to put my own name first on my thesis."

Herbert and Raine shared a simultaneous sigh. "Yeah, I know the feeling. But Freecell? I'd have imagined you got bored with that game years ago."

"It's really not so bad when you solve the games using only two of the cells. It's a bit like the artificial constraints we put on ourselves by limiting our experiments to Einsteinian or quantum constructs. You get a bunch of unsolved mysteries, but lift them and these simple DOD problems would only take a fraction of the time to solve and then we don't get all of the grant money."

"So the new physics revolution waits?"

Raine laughed. "The world is not ready for my genius."

"Kind of like the world wasn't ready for Charles Manson?"

"Something like that." Raine was hopelessly cute with the innocently evil grin he had. And hopelessly straight, as far as Herbert could tell. That or hopelessly clueless not to notice the advances that Herbert had made. Raine looked like the rebellious child of hippies. He had a natural military look; close cropped hair, clean shaven, and a general's chin accentuated his powerful jaw.

"So do you think this new physics genius could take a stab at why the circuitry in this experiment explodes when I'm in the room, but not when anyone else is in there?"

"I've been meaning to ask you about that. It sounds interesting, but why doesn't Shultz just get someone else to run the experiment? You've been futzing around with that for a week now."

"I'm only part time on DOD money, Raine. This one was a grant I got on my own. My timeline is fine with the grant, but everyone wants to use the resources. So... can you think of any reason that a fairly simple timer circuit would catastrophically fail in a vacuum depending on who was around the vacuum at the time?"

"Perhaps you're magical."

"Yeah, and the invisible pink unicorn blessed me with this?"

"Well, nothing else comes to mind. I assume you're taking all metal off before going into the room, and noone... aw, that shouldn't matter anyway. You know, you could have just done this digitally and after all this fiddling around, it would have been cheaper anyway."

"Bah!" Herbert bristled a bit. "Allen couldn't find a damn thing wrong with my circuit. Why don't you try it?"

"Will I get my name on the paper for it?"

"No, but you'll get to see some pretty fun sparks and an interesting problem."

Raine sighed. "I'm not getting anything done tonight, am I?"

"Look on the bright side. You were going to go out with us all anyway."

Raine grudgingly followed Herbert down the stairs and down a long hallway of rooms surrounded by thick walls of lead. Originally created for a nuclear engineering program in the sixties, the rooms had been mostly decontaminated and left for the physics students. Four doors down, turn left, key useless password that everyone knew, and open the door.

"It's the first switch, then the second, then the third. I'll stand out here."

"And how do I know this wasn't wired to give me a nice shock?"

"I'm serious, man."

"Okay, okay." Raine flipped the first switch. A green bulb lit next to the switch. Raine flipped the second switch, and the fans started whirring in the room. After a minute, a second green light came on. Raine flipped the last switch, and meters started wavering and oscillating.

Satisfied, Raine flipped off the three switches in reverse order and left the room.

"Looks fine to me. Now let's see some of these sparks you promised."

"Your choice to stay inside or wait out here."

"I think I'll wait for the closeup."

Herbert walked into the room, taking a breath to calm himself. Herbert flipped the first switch, then the second, waiting for the green lights to appear next to the switches. "Looks like it's time to flip the switch and waste another fourty cents." Herbert tapped the last switch and blue arcs of electric flew from inside a vacuum, shattering the experiment. Orange arcs flickered between the blue lines of electricity which had stabilized contrary to known laws in any branch of physics. These arcs spiraled around, forming a rotating sphere.

Raine frantically put in the password to the room. An arc flew from the sphere, zapping Raine as he tugged on the door handle. Raine collapsed, his nervous system violently complaining as Raine tried to stand back up.

Herbert stood, mesmorized by this sphere, only broken as he noticed the sphere growing closer. Herbert cautiously backed up, not looking toward the corner toward which he was inching. They both moved slowly to the corner, Herbert's heart racing and the sphere starting to spin faster. Trapped, Herbert resigned himself as the sphere touched him.

That's when Herbert blacked out.

"Mok! Concentrate!"

Mok averted his eyes from the bird and went back to his exercises. Picture the essence. Picture the essence in this position in space. Picture the essence ten feet away. Picture the damn bird chirping above.


"It's no use. I just can't do it. How in the world do you get past that stupid bird chirping?"

"If you haven't learned that in the last three years, you'll never learn by doing anything else than just trying to focus." Ish-Bin-Var looked at the bird, waved at it, and it disappeared.

Mok recentered. Essence of person. Essence of space, essence of the landing cloth ten feet away, essence of the space four feet away from there.

Ish lowered his voice to an artificial hypnotic bass. "Now feel the energy around you, all around you, feel the vines and roots of Life around your body."

Mok continued in his meditative state. He brought his center of focus six inches outside his body, and looked with what he visualized as his other eyes. The magical patterns of the planet's Lifeforce waved around like a forest of vines and trees. He looked for the center of a group of these flowing Lifelines and started calling to it from the focus. The vines started to flow around him and him as he fed of this energy. He took slowly, and felt the familiar growing discomfort of Lifeforce.

He focused away the Lifeforce Source, and hoped this would be enough. The more Lifeforce, the more temporarly discomfort he would feel, making it more difficult to concentrate, and the more pain that would eventually come as a result of shaping the Lifeforce to perform his will. He resumed focus internally, shaping the Lifeforce, combining it with his own. Essence of space, essence of landing cloth. Essence of space.

Not enough Lifeforce. He focused back to the ethereal, and beckoned back the Source. He was ready to partake when he noticed some sort of speck in the Source's Lifeforce coming toward him. Not knowing what it was and not interested in finding out, he started to blow back out the Lifeforce he had already taken. The speck kept traveling toward him. Within the trance, Mok reverted to his training and slowly fed back the Lifeforce, disentangling it from his own.

This brought the speck closer, not further. It reached down the vine and touched his lips. Flecks of orange and blue spiraled as he was shattered from the trance.

That's the first piece! I believe the story get stronger, and I do hope you all journey with these characters as I have over the last few months. Please tell me what you think at sf@consr.us.