Adventures in Public Science




Once again, we are deeply sorry we cannot retain you as a full time employee. However, we will provide you resources to help you apply your skills to their fullest extent in the civilian marketplace.



He read that last line once again, just as he packed his final possession into his unemployment box. He then took a step back to survey the whole scene once again.

14 years, several pioneering discoveries in the field of anomalous chemistry, 43 individual reports written on various anomalies, all of it was for naught, simply because his department could no longer fund him or his colleagues. He let out a sigh at the thought of it all, perhaps the Authority wasn't immune to the universal hardships of any economically constrained organization. It was of little matter to him, he already called his alma mater college, who were working on opening a faculty position for him. Yet, that melancholy still gripped him ever so tightly. He thought back to his last experiment, he was so very close to discovering chemical bonds in higher dimensions, but that damned announcement happened and his equipment was impounded, which was then reallocated to "the winning department." He sighed once again, it wasn't his place to question the machinations of his superiors, though perhaps he could criticize their budget management skills.

He logged out of his terminal for the final time and headed out, with several other disenfranchised colleagues passing him by, they greeted him as he went.

"Hey Dave, you got a sec?" Suddenly, he was stopped by a familiar voice.

"Hey George. Look I gotta get going, I've got a job lined up at my old college, it's back where I used to live so I'll be travelling for a while."

"Uh, yeah about that…" George paused, looking behind his shoulder to see if there were prying eyes, then began again. "what if I told you that you don't have to leave after all?"

Dave's interest was piqued by this statement. "Oh? Is this the part where you tell me this all some sick department-wide prank?"

George nervously laughed, "I mean I wish but no. Listen I'm getting some other people together at a place where we can continue our work from before we were laid off." He hands Dave a piece of paper. "We're meeting here at eleven AM tomorrow, hope to see you there." He continued on his way.

Dave took one look at the scrawl on the paper and instantly did a double take, it was an address, he recognized the building; it was in a residential area in a city close to the facility. He contemplated this thoroughly, and continued to walk to the door as he did. He got out to the parking lot, and was packing his car when he thought about the paper further, was this another prank? or perhaps it was just a send off party? He started the car and drove by the gate to drop off his clearance identification and his classified documents. As he exited the facility for the final time, he continued to pour over the address, perhaps he was remembering the location wrong, or maybe the area was now an empty lot. Just as he reached home, he decided he would head to the address, if only for the opportunity to catch his colleagues in the act of revealing anomalous knowledge to civilians.

The morning came, and Dave made preparations to make sure he could contact the Authority on a moment's notice, he checked his hotline, made sure it was valid, and then headed off to the location. Much to his shock, it was as he remembered it, right in the middle of downtown, a grey five story tall office building. He saw several colleagues waiting by the entrance.

"Dave, so glad you could come." George greeted him again.

"You are insane, I'm calling this in." Dave reached for his phone.

"WHOA whoa whoa, lets not get ahead of ourselves!" George pleaded, with several others in the group also gesturing for him to relax.

A voice called out in an attempt to quell the situation directly, "Dave, you gotta listen to what he has to say, it sounds reasonable." Sharon, Dave remembered her, she was a Senior Anthropological Researcher, helped discover countless anomalous cultures.

Dave relaxed and put his phone away, if she was convinced, maybe he really should listen.

George addressed the group again, "HO-Kay! Everyone… we're gonna head up to the 4th floor and talk some more there, follow me." He and the 15 or so others that were gathered filed into the building.

Immediately, Dave regretted going along with them, he took one glance at the building directory and anxiety filled his being; dentists, medical clinics, law offices, a day care center. His blood was boiling, he hid his phone in his pocket and secretly opened the Authority hotline.

The group then made their way to the 4th floor, and found themselves in a strange space, it seemed no other tenants were on this floor, and there were no dividing walls or corridors. The whole of the floor was visible, save for some tarps hung up by the occupants. Dave could see seven or so other people sparsely spread out across the floor, sitting over some machinery or at an art easel. Various freestanding lockers and giant work tables were spread throughout the floor as well, signs also indicated that there were sections for art, electronics, metals, and other components.

George then made his plans known to the group, "Alright everyone, welcome to the Engineers Anonymous Hackerspace/Artist Collective. This organization has decided to allow us to continue our work on their floor, in exchange we will pay rent and participate in some of their classes where they teach local kids about the importance of-"


Dave stepped forward to sock him in the jaw before he could continue, "I was wrong, you are fucking insane, you're not gonna stop me this time." He dialed the number as he fled from the group. "Hello, this is Former Researcher Dave Copperfield, I would like to repo-"


Something had struck him in the side of the head, ripping the phone from his grasp and knocking it to the floor. "I wouldn't be too hasty now." A man standing behind him said. "You didn't hear his full proposal." Dave turned to look at what was thrown at him, it was an empty paint can, and then turned further to get a good look at whoever threw it. He was old, bald, yet with a full salt and pepper beard, wearing a checkered shirt and jeans. "Ouch! Jeez, and just who the hell are you?!" Dave shouted. The man stepped forward. "Names Ulysses, I'm the leader of this Collective." "Tch, 'Ulysses' huh? Well sir, just so you know, it's a crime to assault someone, but it is an even more severe crime to teach civilians about anomalous phenomena, so when your memory is wiped, just know you'll be labelled as a POI for the rest of your life." Ulysses was thoroughly confused by this statement. "Anomalous phenomena? Memory wipes? What are you talking about? I thought you were scientists? What are you, ghost hunters?" George sprang into the middle of them, nose still bloody from the sucker punch he received, "HA HEH HOO HOO, WHAT A JOKER THIS GUY IS, I'LL HAVE TO TEACH HIM A LESSON ABOUT PULLING PRANKS ON NEW FRIENDS." George gruffly grabbed Dave by the neck and took him aside.

"You fucking idiot, I told absolutely no one about who we really are, you think I'm that fucking stupid?" Dave pushed off of him "Bullshit, he knows, why would he attack me if he didn't know?" George let out a sigh, then grabbed a tissue from his pockets for his nose. "Lets just say, that Ulysses also harbors several 'non-taxpayers' and 'non-citizens' as well as us." Dave took in the realization, but was unfazed. "Doesn't matter, I'm still not going to let you do experiments in such close proximity to civilians. it just isn't right." "We don't have to worry about that either." George said as he threw his head back to stop the bleeding. "We will only do our experiments on the weekend, that's when the other tenants close." Dave was still determined to find a flaw in this plan. "Even if we carry out our experiments, we'll never get them validated by administration, or practically apply them in the Authority." "That's why we brought on Dennis." George pointed to him within the group. "He's a pencil-pusher, he can create documentation stating that these experiments were carried out in a valid setting with proper approval." "FORGERY?!" Dave shouted. "YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT FORGING DOCUMENTS, TRYING TO FOOL AN ORGANIZATION THAT CAN EXECUTE US FOR TREASON WITHOUT A SECOND THOUGHT?!"

The cat was out of the bag now, the whole floor just heard what he had said, especially Ulysses, who had heard everything. "Now just what in the hell is really going on with yall?" He yelled back, his stance was defensive. A lump developed in Dave's throat, in the end, it was he who was caught in the act of breaking the masquerade to civilians. Now he would have no more worries about faculty meetings, settling into his university office, or teaching new generations chemistry. Just a mind wipe and an authority prison cell until his death for treason. Just then, George sprang into action. He threw himself down onto the floor beneath Ulysses, and began to plead with him. "OK, WE WILL TELL YOU EVERYTHING! But before we do that, I must convey to you that this information is absolutely deadly secretive, but also critically essential for the safety of the world." Ulysses was taken aback, George reached for his hand and held it in his own. "Swear to me that you will never speak of this information to anybody!" Ulysses stared into the man, blood dripping from his nose, eyes watering, his teeth gritted. He knew instantly the severity and sincerity he projected. "Uh…Ok, take it easy, just step into my office and we'll talk, you and him." He pointed to Dave.

The three men stepped aside into a small office space, near the stairwell where they entered. "Ok, now you two better explain yourselves. Firstly, are me or my collective in any sort of immediate danger, or are any of you?" George finally cleaned his nose and composed himself. "No, we were simply laid off by our organization, and we are not being pursued because we have trade secrets or anything." Ulysses let out a sigh, "Hmm, ok then, now what exactly is your former organization?" George and Dave looked to each other motioning for the other to begin, Dave stepped up to give the revelation. "We are former researchers from an organization called The-" Dave paused, and all of a sudden he had an epiphany. "We are from Applied Phlebotinum Technologies, LLC." George gave a concerned look. "Our corporation specialized in highly advanced emerging technologies, it was some real society altering stuff." George eventually caught on to the act. He began, stammering, "Uh-uh-er-Yes! It would have been some society altering stuff, but you see, our corporation was forced to shut down, because of our alternative energy projects, they-" George was grasping at straws. "THE BIG OIL, and all those other fat cats, they couldn't handle the future, so they made an example of us." Dave retook control of the act. "That's right, we were so close to perfecting our free energy generator. But those damnable, er, uh, big oils and natural gas monopolies-"

"Gentleman, Say no more." Ulysses gave a thorough handshake to each of them "You are all welcome to this collective." Dave and George looked to each other once again. "Any person looking to take down those global conglomerates that hold power over all of us is a friend of mine." Dave was secretly ecstatic that the ruse worked. "O-of-Of course, and you see, that's why we came to you. We want to finish our work in secret, away from their prying eyes, and then slowly roll it out to the public so that we may chip away at their power." "Splendid, I'll tell the rest of the collective, perhaps they could chime in with some help." "Er-No!" George blurted, "W-we are untrustworthy, perhaps one of them may be a mole for those corporations which brought about our company's end." "Hmm, good point." Ulysses stroked his beard, "Ok, but you should still teach about your free energy in our classes, how's that sound?" "T-uh-T-Totally, yes we can definitely work something out, teaching future generations about the importance of clean sustainable energy is what we were all about at Phlebotinum Technologies." Ulysses beamed with excitement, George and Dave forced smiles. "I sense great things from you gentleman, great things." The men continued on about the finer details, The Collective agreed to vacate on weekends to allow for the construction of "free energy generators" to take place, and Dave, George, along with a few others agreed to teach the masses about it.

Eventually everything was finalized and they stepped out back to the entrance to make the necessary preparations. "Well folks, I cant wait till you're up and running, we'll clear some space for all your equipment." "Thanks, we will bring it by in a few weeks." George gave Ulysses one last handshake. "I feel so honored to help you in your cause, believe me, you can count on me to keep your secret." George let out his nervous laugh again. "I knew we could, later Ulysses." He bid him goodbye as he reentered the building. Immediately afterward George and Dave slumped to the ground breathing uneasy sighs. George glared towards Dave. "Great, now we're caught between two lies." "Oh spare me, you know I couldn't tell him who we really are." Dave replied. George began to stand back up. "That would have been preferable, actually, you do know free energy is a pseudoscience right?" "Uh, yeah, we'll think of some cover, right?" George scoffed, "Yeah, you'll think of something, we're going to make preparations to move our equipment, you take care of making a presentation about 'our free energy generators' and how they'll 'change the world,' see you in a few weeks." The group then vacated the area, leaving Dave to stand in contemplation.

He stood there, outside the building, in near total exacerbation. Not 24 hours ago, he was destined to teach covalent and ionic bonds to a room full of probably uninterested young adults. Now, he was destined to teach violations of the laws of thermodynamics to perhaps slightly more interested teenagers. Oh, and he couldn't forget the side benefit of conducting secret experiments in close proximity to civilians. The convolution of it all made him laugh, those higher dimensional chemical bonds better be the next biggest revelation since Viderics.

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