The Class Emetology: Too many cooks spoil the broth

"It's not as if I believe them all," said Kevin. He and Tony were walking back to Richter Hall.

Tony hoiked his backpack up on his shoulder. "But I thought you said..."

"No, no, no," cut in Kevin, "I take the view that they might be correct -- but that we can't know for sure without more evidence."

Tony thought about this. "So you're saying the conspiracy theorists might be right?"

"Some of them, yes," said Kevin. "Some of them are just nuts, though. The moon landings couldn't have been faked, for example. Too many potential observers early on in the mission. That rocket had to reach the moon, and given that it did, there's no reason to believe it didn't land. But there are some other things you just have to keep an open mind about."

Tony pushed the elevator call button. "So what's this thing you want me to go to tonight?"

"The Inventors' Fair? Oh, that'll be fun. There are always some good ideas there, but their mechanical skills aren't worth a damn. The reason I go is to laugh at the loosers who'll obviously never get their machines working, but I do pick up the occasional useful tip from the brighter sparks."

Tony rolled his eyes heavenward and sighed. "Well, it'll be better than listening to Brad grouch all evening, which is the only other activity I've got lined up. I'll come."

Brad had not had a good day. For one, the coffee machine near Kingston Lecture Theater 2 had been out of order and he had missed his late-morning coffee. For two, his early afternoon coffee had been weak and milky. Those new recruits in the coffee shop needed a short sharp lesson in caffeinology, in Brad's opinion. For three, he'd been disturbed from his late afternoon coffee by a fire drill. Brad didn't really understand how was he expected to stay sane under these conditions.

To make matters worse, Kevin and Tony had come in chattering nineteen to the dozen about mad scientists and surreptitious listening devices hidden in light bulbs. Their voices set his beak on edge.

The final straw came as Kevin and Tony were about to go out.

"Ready to go, Tony?"

"I'm the one waiting for you, Kevin."

"Okay, I'll call James and see if he's ready." Kevin pushed back from his computer, arched over and backward-rolled across Tony's bed, coming to a halt with his hand on the phone. Then he froze. Brad rose slowly from his desk and looked over it in horror at the spreading brown puddle. Kevin's jacket had caught the rim of Brad's cup and tossed its precious contents to the floor.

"You know, you shouldn't leave your cup that close to the edge of your desk. Uhm... uhhh..."

It's not often that one gets to hear a bird growl quite like that. Their voice boxes simply shouldn't be able to make that kind of noise. But Brad managed it, just then, as a special treat for his friend.

It was shading towards twilight when the door of Richter Hall burst open. Two figures flew out and hurried across the parking lot. A third figure ran out a moment later, just in time to see the first two reach the line of trees at the edge of the street and start zigzagging away across the campus.

The third figure halted and seemed to think a moment. It turned and walked back into the building. For several minutes, the figure could be seen moving about the foyer, studying the notice boards. At the fourth notice board, it seemed to find what it wanted. It stepped back out onto the pavement again, adjusted its baseball cap and stalked away purposefully.

"But what about the magnetic effects?" Kevin went on. "Surely you'll never be able to generate a large enough charge without the electromagnetic fields disturbing the lattice?"

The pig standing in front of Kevin looked mildly stunned for a moment before snapping back to life. "Of course it generates magnetic fields, you moron!" he snapped. "Haven't you been listening? That's the reason for the secondary transformer and the restraining armature here." He tapped a warped fragment of wood which had been nailed crudely onto the structure. "I tell you, I only need to set up some experiments to find the correct power ratio and it'll work, no problem!"

Kevin couldn't stop a smirk crossing his face. "I'll believe it when I see it," he said, and walked off to look for Tony. What he found, though, startled him.

Through a gap in the crowd Kevin saw, unmistakably, at a table ahead of him and apparently being brow-beaten over the merits of a small plastic contraption by a bespectacled penguin in a white lab coat, Brad. Kevin hung back to observe. Brad was holding his hands in front of him, palms towards his assailant. With what seemed a heroic effort, he extricated himself from the conversation, pulled away from the table and stumbled into the crowd.

Kevin drifted along after him. He was curious to see what had brought the jayhawk to a place he had referred to more than once before as "nerd city".

Brad approached a skunk in a black tee-shirt and black jeans. "Um, excuse me? Have you seen a ginger cat around here? About yea high, black leather jacket, smarmy looking? I have some... business to conclude with him." The skunk shook his head.

Brad was about to move on when there was a tap on his shoulder. He swung round and stared straight into the teeth of Kevin's grin.

"You were looking for me?"

"Oh, there you are," said Brad. "I've got a bone to pick with you."

"Sorry about the coffee," said Kevin.

Brad blinked, his face blank. "Oh, no problem, I guess."

Kevin's grin vanished to be replaced by a look of concern. "Huh? No bone-crunching? No pulverising? Are you okay?"

"Ah, I don't know what it is. I just don't feel like killing you any more," Brad sighed. His shoulders fell and he seemed to deflate. He gestured at the geeks around them with their insane machines. "Too many kooks spoil the wrath, I guess."

Pippin // first posted 01-23-2002 10:56 AM PT