Author: Randall Andrews
“You all know about the meteorite that fell near here last month,” said Ryan Dunne, recently tenured professor of geology. “I’ve been studying the two recovered fragments and have discovered something remarkable. As you can see.”
With a flourish, Ryan whipped away the sheet covering his sole visual aid, a gray metal plate covered with a complex pattern of grooves etched in tightly packed, perfectly spaced concentric circles.
“Unlike more typical iron-nickel meteorites, this one contains an astonishing variety of rare-earth elements in unusual alloys. It’s magnetic and faintly radioactive, which is why I used this radiation shield during testing.”
Ryan turned his attention to Mindy Kim, the ASL interpreter of the university’s chemistry department head, Dr. Dane Allister, and the only non-professor in the group. Catching the look of awe on the young woman’s face, Ryan realized the words had been her own. He glanced back at the etched metal sheet, considering it anew.
“I suppose it is,” he agreed, offering her a nod. A mistake.
Allister exploded into a frenzy of sign language, his hands slashing through the air like he was shadow boxing as his young interpreter cowered.
When it was over, an awkward silence filled the room as Ryan struggled to find his place again.
“When I exposed the first fragment to a low-level dose of microwaves, it triggered a snap alignment of its molecular structure. Its magnetic strength spiked exponentially, and it became superconducting.
“Room temperature superconductivity has incredible potential applications, but there’s a twist—the effect didn’t last. An hour later, the molecular alignment within the stone collapsed, and now the process can’t be repeated. Worse, those unique alloys were just formed as the meteorite passed through our atmosphere, and their half-life is extremely short. Weeks.
“I just made the discovery of a lifetime, and all I have to show for it is this radiation shield grooved up by a potent magnetic field. There has to be a way to take better advantage of the second fragment while there’s time. Questions?”
“What will you do with that metal sheet?”
Ryan thought he’d anticipated the likely questions, but not this. Allister’s assistant clearly didn’t grasp the situation. The lead sheet wasn’t important except as a clue to the real mystery—the meteorite—which he was about to explain when Allister’s hands flew into motion again, carving the air inches from the young woman’s face.
“Speak my words,” she whispered, her voice trembling. “You’re a former art major who never finished your degree, and nobody cares what you think.”
Ryan’s stomach twisted. For Allister to force the girl to relay his comment wasn’t just rude—it was cruel.
An hour later, the group dispersed unsatisfied but in agreement that the right course of action was sure to be discovered—given a bit of time.
Ryan hoped so. A bit of time was all he had.
(Two months later, on the other side of campus)
“Two months ago, I arranged a meeting with some of the university’s top scientists,” Ryan said, addressing the crowd. “We were discussing a discovery I’d made involving a rare meteorite. One other person attended that meeting, someone who was there to serve merely as an interpreter. Her presence proved serendipitous.”
At Ryan’s signal, art students began pulling away the sheets covering the twenty-three plates of various metals that ringed the room, all wondrously etched by the second fragment’s briefly intensified magnetic field.
“And now it’s my pleasure to introduce Mindy Kim, the brainchild of this unique exhibition of naturalistic art, which we have lovingly dubbed Serendipity.”
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