|Science: it's a girl thing.|
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Story: love among the test tubes
Yes, it's another Serena and Alice story. Heavy, non-consensual and utterly absurd throughout. If any of those three things bother you, go and be bothered somewhere else.
“And apparently in chemistry the situation is even worse!” Serena concluded. “Only 23 percent! It’s just ridiculous!”
Her friend Alice nodded silently. The low proportions of women taking science subjects at university had been much in the newspapers, of course, but to a dedicated scientist like Serena – who also had strong views on the question of sexual equality (she was opposed to it) – it was unbearable.
“What do you think the reason is?” Alice asked.
“Well, it’s the fault of men, obviously.” Serena replied, calming down a bit.
“Obviously.” echoed Alice.
The two friends saw eye-to-eye on most things, but about men they were in particularly firm agreement. For Serena’s birthday, Alice had bought her a t-shirt reading “Man-hating lesbian and proud of it”, and sometimes the two went out wearing identical messages. But they weren’t that sort of separatist dykes who wanted to live in an all-female world. No, both Alice and Serena thought that men were all right, in their proper place. And principally, that proper place was as unwilling test subjects for Serena’s scientific experiments. Science, and especially the scholarly exploration of male degradation, humiliation and torture was Serena’s passion*. Alice’s passion was Serena, so she was a little less interested, but she did find it sexy when her lover made them do such funny things. Especially when they screamed, or begged. Or bits came off.
“It’s the male teachers in schools” Serena complained. “They make it much too boring! It’s all blackboards and formulae, and carefully measuring the volume of the precipitate.”
“I used to hate science at school” Alice agreed. “I had this horrible teacher, Mr Greystoke, who just used to drone on and on – we never understood a thing and I think he just didn’t care. I just thought science was boring.”
She caught sight of her friend’s shocked expression.
“Well, I don’t think that now, of course! You make science fun. I love it when you do your experiments. I wish school science could be like that.”
Serena’s face suddenly lit up, in the way it always did when she had had a brilliant idea. The slave males standing patiently against the wall recognised the expression, knew its consequences and flinched in fear.
“What is it?” Alice asked with interest. “Have you thought of a new experiment?”
Serena shook her head slowly, smiling.
“No.” she said. “No, just maybe the beginnings of an idea. Never mind – I’ll think a bit more and tell you about it when it’s ready.”
Alice tried to hide her disappointment, but as usual her friend could tell.
Serna leaned forward, smiling broadly.
“Tell you what” she remarked. “Is that crap science teacher of yours still at the school?”
“No” Alice replied, shaking her head. “He retired last year. I don’t know where he is now.”
Two months later, Alice was back in her friend’s living room, sipping a gin and tonic and admiring the view, as a young man writhed in agony on the wall in front of her.
The man she’d chosen to play-act her hated science teacher had been old and rather frail, so the ladies had had to go very easy on him. Even so, he had lasted no more than six days, before the kindly fates granted him that blessed release from his agonies for which he had been begging since his first day in captivity. So now, Serena was repeating exactly the same course of treatment, multiplied up, on a young, fitter man (who had once delivered a pizza to their door, 30 seconds later than had been promised, and had been regretting it ever since). This was real science, Alice thought happily – every whiplash perfectly calibrated, and recorded for the edification of future generations. She was so proud to have a proper scientist as her lover.
“Never mind him” Serena commanded, sweeping into the room. “Look what I’ve got.”
She held up a memory stick.
“Oooh!” squealed Alice in excitement. “Did you get the soul-catcher to work?”
This had been on Serena’s ‘to do’ list for ages. Record men’s experiences in perfect detail onto a computer storage device (the technology for recording the more complex sensations and thoughts of the superior sex would not be ready for decades, but computers were finally becoming powerful enough to be as complex as simple life forms like worms, cockroaches and men).
The benefits that such a technology could bring the world were almost infinite. Imagine if you could record a man being tortured to death, over the course of two days for example. Sure, he’s suffered for two days but then what? If you could record the experience - every burn, every shrieking nerve, every cut and bruise and finally fatal injury – then you could replay it, over and over again, inflicting multiples of the same agony on a subject who would survive the experience, only to face it from the very start all over again. Imagine explaining to a slave on the torture table, that not only were you about to do this and then afterwards, when the screaming had abated, you would do that – but that his experience would be recorded and he could scream again for this and shriek in terror at the prospect of that – all at the touch of a replay button.
The soulcatcher, Alice thought, would surely win her lover the Nobel Prize that had always cruelly been denied her (by men she thought, viciously).
“Errr…no” Serena said. “No, I’m still having trouble with that. No, this is a video.”
“Oh” Alice replied, rather deflated. “Good video?”
“It’s a wonderful video!” Serena replied excitedly. “An educational video.”
“Oh” Alice said again. “Educational. How nice.”
“Science education!” Serena said, exasperated. “You remember – we talked about it? About how it’s all so boring and dry. Well now it’s not. I’ve made this!”
“Oh” Alice said, and realised she really ought to say something a bit more intelligent (although to be honest, her friend loved her precisely because she was a little dim by female standards. So does the author, as without Alice’s constant questions, how would anything be explained?).
“So you’ve recorded some of your experiments – to show them what fun it can be?” and she nodded at the man writhing on the wall, who seemed to be about to lose his battle to hold himself up with his arms, with consequences that he knew full well would be horrifically painful.
“No, no” Serena said in irritation. “That’s too advanced. They wouldn’t be able to connect it to what they learn about. No – I’ve recorded a teaching video demonstrating ordinary school science experiments. But my way. Do you want to see?”
“OK” said Alice, doubtfully, and her friend loaded the software onto a laptop, which projected onto a big flat screen TV on the far side of the room, suspended from four tightly-bound slaves.
“What do you want first?” Serena asked happily – pointing at the menu. “Chemistry?”
“S’pose so” Alice replied, moodily. “Mr mind-if-I-bore-you-to-tears Greystoke, eat your heart out.”
“Right then” Serena said, with a smile, as if she had secrets even deeper than usual. “Chemistry it is. Here we go”
And she selected chemistry on the menu, and the video started.
The first scene was a close-up of a naked young man rather uncomfortably squashed up behind a glass screen. But as the camera pulled back, Alice gasped as she realised that the glass was curved, and was in fact the side of an enormous test-tube. The man was curled up in the bottom of it, and did not look too happy about it.
“So” Serena said, in a rather formal voice. “Here we have a material, and we are about to test some of its properties through experiment.”
“Material?” Alice asked, perfectly in character even at this exciting bit of the story, when the author has to type fast.
“The boy” Serena replied absently. “We’re going to investigate its properties.”
“OK” Alice smiled. “So how do we do that?”
“Oh, lots of ways!” her friend laughed. “Let’s start with some chemical reagents. She pressed a button.”
Serena herself now appeared on the screen, wearing a lab coat with safety goggles and carrying a clipboard.
“Acid reagents oxidise materials, and we can learn useful things about the properties of the material on which they act, by analysing the resulting gases” she said, in a sing-song voice, speaking rather woodenly to camera.
She pulled her goggles over her eyes, picked up a bucket marked “HNO3” and carefully climbed a ladder standing next to the giant test tube. While she did this a voice-over prattled on about the properties of acids, while information also scrolled confusingly across the bottom of the screen. The boy, it seemed, knew some basic science, because he was scrabbling frantically at the side of the test tube while this was going on, despairingly clawing at the smooth, high sides.
“and add the reagent to the material under study.” The voiceover concluded, and Serena carefully tipped the bucket of acid into the giant tube.
The two ladies watched in silence.
“Well.” Alice remarked, when all was quiet again and the test tube seemed only to contain a featureless sludge. “That was very educational.”
“Really?” her friend asked eagerly, her face aglow. “What did you learn.”
“Oh” Alice replied (for what was now the fourth time).
“Well, you know. Acid, boys. All that.” She gestured at the screen. “They, erm, well they melt. And it’s such fun as they do it! Oh and they burn at first. Burn and melt. Funny.”
Serena pursed her lips. “Yes. Well there was a bit more than that. But I suppose it’s a start. Now, after this there’s a ten minute section in which we analyse the gases that were emitted when we reacted the acid with the boy and – “
She caught sight of her friend’s face, which had assumed a look of panic.
“ – but we’ll skip that bit for now, and go on to another experiment.” she concluded, weakly, and called the chemistry sub-menu back.
Over the next fifteen minutes, Alice learned all about the chemical properties of young men and how to investigate them.
· How they reacted with alkalis
· What happened if they were subjected to heat
· The effects of removing oxygen, or of adding chlorine
· Practical tips, such as how to grind them in a mortar and pestle, and the effects of keeping them under oil.
“Goodness” she said at the end of it all. “I never knew chemistry could be so very interesting. And I always thought they were made of slugs and snails and puppy-dog tails.”
“Yes, that’s just a myth” Serena replied absently, pointing at the latest sticky mess displayed on the screen. “Complex hydrocarbons mostly.”
“But if you fed them only on slugs and snails – “ Alice began, and Serena – desperate to avoid what she thought might be a demonstration of appalling scientific ignorance by her friend - quickly switched to the physics lesson.
Alice found this even more interesting. There were a lot of different kinds of physics, it seemed, and all of it could be demonstrated by experiments with boys.
Some of the sections introduced more than one physical principle at a time. For example, one long segment dealt both with the effects of increasing weight, in a gravitational field, and also the tensile strength of various bits of a boy’s body. Ultimately, gravity always won, and the segment concluded with a delightful little speculation on how much more weight you would need to attach to a boy’s delicate bits to overcome their tensile strength, on the moon.
“In space no one can hear you scream!” Alice giggled, but her friend, deep in thought, just replied absently “Yes, that’s a downside of conducting experiments off-planet, of course.”
Then there was a segment on electricity, with a particular focus on how well it was conducted across boys’ bodies, or bits of boys’ bodies. Alice was actually already fairly familiar with most of this, but it was good to see it done in such a well-structured way, with steadily increasing voltages compared across different distances at which the electrodes were set, complex instruments measuring the current flow that could only be determined approximately from the intensity of the screams.
Then there were more physical experiments: what happens when a boy is accelerated to 70mph and then encounters a fixed object, different heights to which men could be propelled from the baskets of catapults, and an experiment to demonstrate that a heavy pendulum attached to a man’s testicles and set swinging would gradually trace out a circle over 24 hours (time-lapse photography was used here of course, as the boredom of watching the whole thing would be unbearable).
“And that’s how we know the world turns!” Serena said, triumphantly.
“All from a set of well-tugged balls” Alice breathed in wonder. Her friend relaxed, as she could see that her educational materials were truly starting to engage someone she would readily admit to herself was rather a challenging first audience.
Alice’s favourite experiment was actually a classic. Two men, one old and fat, one young and thin, stood on top of a tower, with Serena standing behind them, while the voiceover droned on about Galileo. What happened next amazed her.
“But surely the fat one should have hit the ground first!” she protested. “I mean, he’s heavier.”
“That’s a common misconception” Serena smiled. “But look – you can disprove it yourself by simple experiment” and she nodded at the screen.
“I’ll have to try it”, Alice remarked, thoughtfully. “Maybe we could use the multi-storey car park…Of course, we’d have to make sure somehow that both were pushed off at exactly the same time… and we’d have to decide whether it’s the first bit hitting or when the whole body has gone splat that counts as hitting the ground, so maybe…”
Serena basked in satisfaction. Her friend had not only understood gravity, but she’d learnt the much more important lesson – the scientific method.
“You see “ she murmured lovingly. “It’s not just about learning stuff. It’s about finding out. Never take anything on trust.”
“But I trust that” Alice said, nodding at the screen. “And I trust you” she added, looking adoringly at her friend.
“And that’s wonderful” Serena replied, giving her a little squeeze. “But you see – everything I did there is reproducible, some of them with just ordinary household objects, so anyone can do the experiment at home, or in the classroom.”
“In mixed schools, they’ve even got the boys to try it out on!” Alice agreed.
“And the teachers” Serena said slyly – and pointed to the screen.
Alice looked and gasped with the shock of recognition. There on screen, suspended by his wrists and twisting ineffectually, was her old science teacher, Mr Greystoke. His eyes looked pleadingly into the camera.
“Ooooh” she breathed. “You found him. Clever, clever you. Is this going to be chemistry or physics?”
“Neither”, her friend laughed. “This is part of the biology course. See?”
And when she pressed the button, a door opened above Mr Greystoke’s head, and almost immediately, little dark shapes appeared, their antennae twitching as they sensed the food source ahead of them. Slowly, like a dribble of treacle, a dark tongue of scuttling figures seemed to reach slowly down to Alice’s old teacher, who was screaming hysterically.
“It can take up to 24 hours for them to strip the body completely” Serena remarked. “Shall we watch it on time lapse?”
“Well…” her friend replied slowly. “I’m not in any hurry. And I’m really interested in following this experiment carefully. Shall we just…leave it on… in the background?”
“In the background? While we do what?” smiled Serena back, gazing happily in to her eyes.
“Oh come here, you scientific genius you” Alice chuckled. “I’m teaching this biology lesson.”
And as their lips met in a loving embrace, Alice glanced at the screen on the wall. They’d just reached his eyes, she noticed, and feeling a surge of excitement she urgently reached out for the warmth and joy of her lover’s touch.