Brenna R. Singman
Hugo stroked his chin and adjusted his bottle cap lenses on his beaked nose as he stared at the petri dish. It sat quite unassuming on the lab table beneath the focused lens of a microscope. His companion fidgeted in a chair against the wall, far from any of the fragile lab equipment. Where Hugo was appropriately dressed in a buttoned white lab coat for a day of heavy research and testing, his companion, an elderly man with a curling white beard, wore a velvet crimson robe while ogling everything around him. Pale blue eyes, round as saucers, had been bouncing from one shining object to the next for the last three days.
"Alright, Wizard," Hugo finally said, breaking the silence, "let's give this another whirl. No time to dally."
"Oh wonderful!" The wizard bounded to his feet more spritely than his appearance told. In an instant he was by Hugo's side and drawing a knobby stick of wood from his pocket. Sparks of light emanated as Rorgbet stared at the petri dish. "Alright. Nice and easy this time."
"Yes, please," Hugo said, adjusting his spectacles. "It took far too long to clean the lab last time."
"Yes, yes. Be patient. Magic was already volatile in my world. It's not gotten any easier to control in yours. Also, do call me Rorgbet. Surely we're on friendly terms after three sun cycles together."
Hugo only shrugged and stepped back as Rorgbet lowered his wand to the dish. As the tip of the wood touched the edge of the plastic, a web of pale blue lights appeared. They crackled like lightning, and the viscous fluid inside shivered. Little bubbles formed and rose, popping and cratering the surface. Then a dark spot appeared that was nearly invisible just a moment before. It continued to grow into an ovular, bean-like shape, looking more and more like a tinted cocoon.
Inside of the sprouted darkness were even darker tendrils that pulsed every second, but a film of pale, slick flesh grew over top, quickly followed by a layer of rich blue skin. The budding creature took just seconds to become the size of the dish and then flopped over the edges. Hugo, prepared for such a happening, snatched up the microscope and a few of its metal accessories just in time.
"Easy now, little one," Rorgbet whispered. "Easy now."
The creature was slick with the viscous goo from the petri dish as well as other things that excited Hugo's ever-ticking mind. In a minute it took up half of the lab table. He was about to give a warning to his partner, but before he could speak, the wand's glow eased and then ceased. What was left was not quite what Hugo had anticipated, but magic was still quite foreign to him, even after three sleepless days since meeting Rorgbet. A pygmy blue whale floundered on the tabletop in what appeared to be a self-sustaining bubble. Little waves rippled across its surface like shifting rainbows.
"There you are, little friend," Rorgbet said. He caressed the bubble with wrinkled hands.
"So this is the cure for breast cancer, huh? A pygmy whale...with feet?" Beneath the smooth, pale belly were two small appendages, long, bony, and flat that kicked about. Hugo sized up the little beast. A small pang struck his heart as he thought of his mother whose treatment was too little too late. He coughed as his voice nearly cracked when he tried to continue. "Incredible. With magic and science combined, we'll save millions of lives."
"And these instruments are phenomenal conductors!" Rorgbet marveled over the enforced plastic petri dish that had simply tipped over instead of cracking under the force of the pygmy whale. "The power of magics we'll be able to harness is unbelievable!"
Hugo's pocket buzzed. Rorgbet whipped around and aimed his wand, but Hugo brushed him off and retrieved his cell phone. "Yes?" He yawned through the man's words on the other end of the line until part of it made him gasp and choke on his spit. Hugo ran from the lab, barely hearing the soft patter of Rorgbet's slippered feet following him to his break room. The TV was already on with a breaking news report. A woman in a pink suit and large, coiffed blonde hair was speaking with wide brown eyes while a shaky video played beside her. Someone captured a sterile looking room with beakers, petri dishes, and gleaming equipment. Two men, one in an ostentatious robe, stood by one of the tables, and a moment later they jumped back as something sparked and grew ten times larger in the blink of an eye.
"Oh no..." Hugo groaned.
The TV flashed the breaking news: MAD SCIENTIST FINALLY EXPOSED. NEW DANGERS ON THE HORIZON.
"Doctor," Rorgbet said, brushing some of the fluid from the creature into his beard. A few of the grays became sleek black with youth. "I still don't fully correlate your lettering to the runes in my world, but the boldness of the statement seems a bit dour for that being a captured moving painting of us. Also, I didn't realize you were having us captured."
"I wasn't, Wizard!"
Hugo read from the screen, and Rorgbet's face dropped. "Oh dear," he said. "Our plan to introduce magic slowly seems to have taken a bit of a twist, huh?"
Below them, the floor shook as if a flood of bodies were storming the halls, and Hugo could imagine how many reporters were on the scene of his once hidden laboratory and seeking the stairwell for first proper glimpses of the mad scientist at work. He sighed.
"Wizard, do you know a locking spell or something. This is going to take some time."