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The Science Convention: A Short Story of an Awkward Friendship
In a distant country there were three scientist in an awkward friendship. Their names were Milo Reeves, Ryder Abberley, and Vaughn Aniston. Milo was the smartest of his two friends. He never really wanted to admit it because he didn’t want to hurt his friends’ feelings, but his actions said it all. Through mathematical equations to testing miracle drugs on rodents, he had the upper hand on it all. Sometimes he would play dumb just so Vaughn and Ryder can have their moments to shine. The only thing Milo didn’t succeed in was the height department which irked him and it made him a grouch most of the time. Even though he had his certain predicament, he was the top notch leader of the team and he would lead them in explorations, experiments, and more.
He always felt like he did most of the work and that he would do just fine on his own, but he would never tell that to Ryder and Vaughn. They were the only two living things he knew that he called friends. He wasn’t a big social butterfly growing up. He never gave a second thought about what friendship meant to him, until a certain event happened that changed his way of thinking forever.
It was seven o’clock in the morning and Milo was leaning back in his leather padded chair at his computer desk. He was always the first person to the lab and he usually dozed off at his desk before the other two showed up. He almost fell asleep as Ryder nearly plowed down the entrance door of the lab, his long arms flailing around with a newspaper.
“Milo! I have an idea!” Ryder said excitedly, rocking on his heels next to Milo’s chair. A huge smile was plastered on his face and it looked as if it was spray painted on.
“Is it one of your old get-rich-quick schemes again?” Milo grumbled with his eyes still closed.
Ryder paused. “No. I quit those a long time ago.”
“Good. Then what is it?” Milo asked, cracking a blue eye open.
“I found an article in the newspaper about a convention for advanced scientists to enter their work,” Ryder said as his dark Indian eyes scanned over the newspaper article again.
“And your point?” Milo sighed, who closed both of his eyes again and looked extremely bored.
Ryder furrowed his eyebrows in irritation. “What do you mean ‘And your point is’? We should enter the convention.”
“No,” Milo said plainly. He leaned forward to turn his computer on and as he waited for it warm up, he glanced at Ryder’s face. Ryder’s mouth was partially open and he looked as if Milo made an explicit comment about his mother.
“And why shouldn’t we join?” Ryder asked after a moment of his angered stare at Milo.
“Because he’s too ‘cool’ to enter into a contest,” said a mellow, British accent from the entrance of the lab. Vaughn walked into the room with a flickering cigarette between his teeth and a smirk on his lip.
Milo turned his chair to Vaughn’s direction and gave him a stubborn frown. “Were you watching us the whole time?”
Vaughn fixed himself a cup of coffee from the ancient coffee machine nearby and replied, “Yeah. I’m sorry, but I find it absolutely amusing watching Ryder trying to persuade you into something like that when we all know you’re too hard headed to even consider.”
Milo rolled his eyes. “You’re so amusing, Vaughn,” he said dryly.
Ryder got on his knees next to Milo. Even when he was on his knees, his eyes were still leveled with Milo’s eyes. “Please, Milo! We never get to show off our work and just imagine the recognition we could get,” Ryder begged.
“Ryder,” Vaughn said before Milo could open his mouth, “Do you know why he doesn’t want to do it? They would give you and me recognition, but not Milo. Wanna know why? Because they’d have to buy an expensive microscope in order to find him and no one wants to waste their money on that.”
Ryder had to hide a smile behind his lab coat sleeve. Milo’s eye lid twitched in annoyance. “Don’t you think it’s a bit too early in the morning to be making short jokes, Mr. Aniston?” he asked with an edge to his voice.
Vaughn chuckled as he rolled up his sleeves to tend to the genetically mutated piranha-pigs that were in a tank in an isolated corner of the lab. This was in case they decided to grow legs out of nowhere and tried going after their expensive computer systems.
“Milo!” Ryder yelled out suddenly and made Milo almost fall out of his chair. “Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please-.”
“FINE! I’ll enter all of us into that stupid convention! I don’t need Vaughn’s intimidating British accent and your rather annoying Indian accent to drive me up the wall, so I minus well sign us up so the both of you can shut up!” Milo exclaimed at Ryder in one breath.
Even though Milo’s eyes showed cold fury, Ryder still jumped for joy and exclaimed, “Yes! Thank the gods! I’m going to go write down ideas for our presentation! It’s going to be freaking amazing!” The towering Indian zoomed out the main lab and into one of the quiet offices built into the building. When Ryder was out of sight, there was a brief silence as Milo typed on his computer and Vaughn fed the piranha-pigs. Finally, Vaughn asked, “Do you really find my accent intimidating?”
“Go jump in the tank with the piranha-pigs.”
“I’ll take that as a yes, then.”
About two weeks later, Milo found himself in a large domed arena with about one hundred other scientists showing off their latest inventions and creations. He, Ryder, and Vaughn had a mutated species sitting on their own personal stage. They had the piranha-pigs in a large tank sitting on a table that they had to stand by. Milo was quite surprised to see how many people came to see the convention. He was even more surprised to see how many people came to gawk and admire their creation. People took photos and came up to the tank to get a closer look at the rare specimens.
“Well, it’s not everyday you get to see a pig with gnarly teeth and fins floating around in a tank,” Vaughn said, lighting a cigarette after Milo asked him why people were so interested in their work.
“I told you that people would like our stuff,” Ryder said in an I-told-you-so attitude.
Milo started to feel tired due to nervous lack of sleep that morning, so he left the arena to walk next door to a convenient coffee shop. He wasn’t in there for five minutes before a man his age pulled out a chair in front of him and engaged him in converstaion.
“Hey, you made those piranha-pugs right?” the man asked.
“Yeah, but they’re called piranha-pigs, actually. I’m sorry, who are you?” Milo asked nervously. He always felt funny about strangers coming up to him and starting random conversations. You never know if the person is in their right mind or not.
“The name is Franco Splice,” the man said, holding out his hand and Milo hesitantly shook it. “You made those creatures didn’t you?” Franco asked.
“Did those other two guys help?”
Milo felt a tense feeling settling in on his insides. “Sort of. Is this suppose to be going somewhere?”
“Look,” Franco said, “I’ve seen situations like this before where the head honcho of the group has to carry the others’ weight. Trust me. It doesn’t end well. That’s where I step in.”
“Mr. Splice,” Milo said, who was cringing because of how the word came hissing out of his mouth. “I’m perfectly fine in my position.”
“You didn’t let me finish,” Franco continued without irrritation. “I run a large lab downtown where all the best scientists work for me. Most of them are in this scientific convention, actually. I pick these geniuses up from dealing with amateurs underneath them. With me, they are highly successful.”
Milo let out an irritated sigh, “Mr. Splice,” he cringed, “I’m not trying to be rude, but you don’t know anything about me and I don’t know anything about you. You shouldn’t try persuading me. Trust me, only rarely will someone succeed at that.” Unless you irritate the crap out me, then you might persuade me, he thought and he instantly thought of Ryder.
Franco gave a dramatic sigh, “Fine. Do what you want. You can waste your valuable time and your valuable ideas with people beneath you, or you can come work for me and receive the best benefits. It’s okay if you want to work with two moochers, but if you change your mind,” he handed Milo a business card, “here’s my card. Call soon. You can make a lot of dough with us rather than have the government pay you barely anything. I’ll give you a few days to think.”
Milo looked at the card with an empty feeling in his stomach. “Um, thanks.”
“We’ll be waiting for you, Mr. Reeves,” Franco said as he stood up from the table.
Milo looked up. “How do you know my name?”
Franco pointed at Milo’s breast pocket. He looked down and noticed a nametag that he had gotten when he entered the arena that morning. Way to go smart one, he thought embarrassingly.
Franco gave a nod and headed out the shop. Milo was about to throw the card away, but sudden thoughts stopped him. Was Franco right? Was he truly wasting his time with Vaughn and Ryder? Milo shook the terrible thoughts out of his mind. Stop it, idiot, he thought, They are your only friends. You can’t do that to them. He tried to knock the thoughts out of his head but they still lingered there.
Even as he received a large plaque at the convention that read “First Place for Creative Mutation” with Vaughn and Ryder, he couldn’t get the idea out of his head. In the crowd, right behind the news reporters, Milo could see Franco staring at him dead in the eye. Milo could only stare back in discomfort.
The next morning, Milo was surprised to see that someone was at the laboratory before him. He cautiously stepped through the unlocked door and to his relief, it was just Vaughn. He was sitting in Milo’s wheeled desk chair and his long legs were propped up on his desk.
“Oh, it’s just you,” Milo sighed in relief. “Usually, I’m here first so I thought a burglar or somebody-.”
“Can I ask you something?” Vaughn asked suddenly.
Milo raised an eyebrow at the sudden interruption. “Sure,” he said. “Fire away.”
“Who was that guy that you were talking to at the the coffee shop yesterday?” Vaughn asked as calmly as if he was asking about the weather.
Milo froze where he stood and asked coldly, “Were you following me?”
“No,” Vaughn said, who was still calm. “I wasn’t allowed to smoke inside so I went outside and I saw you talking to a man at the coffee shop next door.”
Sweat formed on Milo’s eyebrow. “Him?” he asked, trying to seem uninterested, “He was nobody.”
“He gave you what looked like a card,” Vaughn said solemnly.
Milo had his back to Vaughn as he turned on his computer. “Just forget about it, Vaughn. It’s nothing,” Milo said.
“He was trying to hire you, wasn’t he?” Vaughn asked, his voice a bit changed.
Milo just groaned. “Let it go, Vaughn.”
“And you’re thinking about taking the job,” Vaughn concluded.
Milo sighed, “Maybe.”
“So you’re just going to leave me and Ryder hanging?” Vaughn’s voice now tense.
“You should’ve seen it coming,” Milo mumbled, not knowing that Vaughn could still hear him.
“How so, Milo?” Vaughn now stood up with his arms crossed.
Milo let out a troubled breath and turned to his friend. “Well, I am the…….Um, how should I put this?”
Vaughn had a stare that Milo had never seen. It was actually serious and non sarcastic.
“Go on,” Vaughn said.
“I am the most intelligent one out of the three, no offense,” Milo said slowly, “so it would only make sense that he would want me to join his-.”
Vaughn busted out in laughter. “Most intelligent? Says who?”
Milo felt sick at this point. “Well, there’s Ryder-.”
“Ryder? Yeah. The same guy who completely misses the wet floor signs and busts his butt every time I mop the floor. I even tell him ahead of time that I mop the floor and he still nearly loses a leg,” Vaughn said and his voice sounded a bit angered.
Milo grew impatient, “Vaughn, you know it’s true.”
“So, since you’re so much smarter, you’re going to leave your only two friends- that will actually put up with your constant mood swings - and go work with a bunch of boring lab droids that will kick you out on the street the first time you question their IQ levels. Is that the future plans of someone that is so intelligent?” Vaughn said, his head cocked to the side with a look of disbelief on his face.
Milo was silent. He had no idea how to respond to that.
Vaughn laughed, “Exactly my point.”
Milo turned red. “You think you’re so clever,” he said under his breath.
“At this stuff, yes. You can’t just leave your friends, Milo. That applies to everyone too, so I’m not just singling you out. You’ll crash and burn without the people who are actually willing to support you. Because of Ryder and me, you’re a tad bit nicer then you were before we met you. Am I correct or am I correct?” Vaughn said as he leaned back in Milo’s chair, apparently impressed with himself.
Milo thought about it for a moment. Vaughn was actually right for once. He couldn’t just walk out and expect Franco Splice’s whole company to be as welcoming as Vaughn and Ryder had been for the past several years. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he was wrong and Vaughn was right.
“You’re correct,” Milo finally said uncomfortably.
“Duh. United we stand. Divided we fall,” Vaughn said.
Milo glanced at him questioningly, “What?”
Vaughn gave him a look of surprsise. “You’ve never heard of that? I guess it’s two points for Vaughn today and zero for Milo.”
“Just tell me what it means,” Milo said impatiently.
“It means if you stick with your friends, you have a better chance of surviving the issue. If you leave your friends, you suffer.”
Milo actually admired Vaughn for a moment. “That’s kind of deep for you, Vaughn.”
Vaughn tilted his head back and thought for a moment. “I think I read it off the back of a box of Fruit Loops.”
The admiration for Vaughn vanished in those two seconds. “Thanks for killing the mood,” Milo said but Vaughn had drifted into his own little world at this point.
Ryder glided into the room with a spring in his step. “Hey, guys! In the newspaper, I read that there’s going to be another convention in three weeks!” he said joyfully.
Vaughn snapped out of his daydream and he glanced at Milo who gave him a nervous look. The last thing they wanted was to run into Franco Splice again.
“Um, Ryder,” Vaughn said, “Maybe next time.”
Ryder rolled his eyes and groaned, “Fine. We won’t enter this one coming up, but we’re definitely going to enter after that!”
As Ryder rambled on and on about the convention, Milo whispered to Vaughn, “While he’s not paying attention, do me a favor.”
“What do you want me to do?” Vaughn asked.
“Cancel all newspaper subscriptions for Ryder’s house and the lab,” Milo said as he and Vaughn watched Ryder ramble and draw out his ideas to his little heart’s content..
Vaughn smirked, “Right on it, chief.”