Here’s another story that went into my thesis. I originally made it for a science fiction writing class, and was inspired at the time, thematically at least, by Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It’s a great film, and I heartily recommend it. Let’s hope they do that sequel
Strangely, this is partially the result of an old episode of Vision of Escaflowne. There was an arc where they fought “intensified luck soldiers”, and from that, my mind went on a tangent about military applications of weaponized luck. This story is the result.
It’s very silly.
Anything that can go wrong, will.
~ Murphy’s Law
~ Mad Scientist’s addendum
When the Murphy Bomb went off, nothing happened right away. Though Dr. Gemein had mostly been expecting it, he was slightly disappointed. He’d kind of hoped for an instant, dramatic result. Still, the effects weren’t long in coming. Through the satellite view, he and his military sponsors began to spot little telltale signs: here, a little girl’s ice-cream cone fell on the ground, there a bicycle hit a bump and dumped its passenger face-first into a pile a dog had just dropped, much to the dog-walker’s horror. A traffic light blinked wrong for a few seconds and five cars collided, blocking an intersection. A man’s pants caught on a nail, coming off as his belt buckle inexplicably tore from the leather and the waist-button failed, revealing he was wearing women’s underwear. Then it took off from there. One of the drivers drew a gun. The cyclist started yelling at the dog-walker, who in response ordered her dogs to attack him. A car swerving to avoid the lunatic with a gun hit a telephone pole, adding more mayhem as rubber-neckers ran from sparking power lines. By the time police arrived, several people were already dead, the cross-dresser had been taken away by a gang of bikers, the cyclist now lay in a pile of dog apples and it turned out mommy wouldn’t buy the little girl another because the ice-cream man was currently yelling and waving around a baseball bat. The first cars began to spontaneously combust as freak accidents occurred between their gas tank and engine.
Dr. Gemein gestured at the screen as he turned towards his sponsors. Many were trying to be stoic and poker-faced, but he could tell when someone was amused. It helped that some were smiling. “And that’s only a small charge from a container the size of a large coke bottle. Imagine if it had been bigger, or if we’d sent more. Imagine if it had been set off near a gas station, or power plant. It wouldn’t be a few cars going off… it’d be their entire facility.”
He turned towards them with a smug smile. “And the best part is, they can’t trace it back to us. What are they going to do, blame us for their bad luck?”
William Gemein had always been fascinated by luck. He didn’t have a lot of it, but he’d taken a keen interest in people who did–– both the good and the bad variety. He watched people who always seemed to come out on top not due to their innate talents, abilities, resources or hard work but rather because they were in the right place at the right time to not get hit by a bus, or to have obstacles in their way get hit by a bus– literal and otherwise. He watched people who got hit by the bus– literal and otherwise– not because of lack of talent, ability, resources or hard work, but because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or stopped working just a second too early to spot the bus about to hit them. He watched all these things and thought– rather than ‘why not me’ or ‘thank goodness that wasn’t me’– but instead, “why them?”
Why are some people more prone to luck– of either sort– than others?
Some people, faced with this question, turn to statistics. Others turn to gambling, religion, role-playing games, fiction, sports, drinking, super-villainy, and in extreme cases, get over it and move on with their lives, resigned with some tings being beyond explanation.
Willy turned to science.
He started with biochemistry, reasoning that, if the body could produce chemicals that made people angry, happy, horny and sexy, maybe there was something that made it lucky– or not. He was called the usual things– crazy, unhinged, mad, delusional, heretical, insane and, for some reason, misappropriator of funds.
The hue and cry increased when he actually did find a chemical secretion in the hypothalamus that seemed to control luck. People with very good luck had a lot of the substance, called Sorsine, while those with bad luck had almost none. The words “charlatan”, “con-artist” and “disgraced” got added to the list of name-calling.
It was very tempting to put on a colorful costume, blow a shit-load of money on special effects gear and hired help, and go around committing crimes calling himself “Luck Master” or something.
But since he lived in the real world, he had only one choice.
He took this wonderful discovery, this breakthrough that could benefit mankind in innumerable ways, and, in the tradition of such notables as Einstein, Nobel, and Oppenheimer, went about to systematically and painstakingly convert it into a way to kill, maim, harm, murder and make life miserable for as many humans as possible. After all, that’s where the big money was, and it was a lucky man indeed who grew up to be paid doing the thing he loved.
It wasn’t hard. Governments already supported such ventures as ‘remote viewing’ and research into psychic powers. His research into luck– in which he is the world expert in the field, since he was the only one on the field– had much more scientifically verifiable research and paperwork than those things. In the tradition of seniority, however, he still got a smaller budget to work with.
Originally, the idea seemed to have been to create ‘luck injections’ which could be given to soldiers– or possibly politicians during election time– to increase their chances of survival despite having sucky gear– and, in the case of the politicians, enough skeletons in the closet to build a palace of bones.
Dr. Gemein smiled, nodded in all the right places as this was explained by the nice people footing his bills, and went off on his own merry way with the research.
In time, working with a handful of assistants who doubted his sanity but followed him devotedly because he was the one signing their paychecks, in an underground bunker that used to be a nuclear attack shelter with equipment that wasn’t properly grounded and caused nasty shocks when the air was cold and dry (which was most of the time), they managed to expand the research beyond Sorsine. Among other things, they discovered that certain geometric shapes, minerals under the influence of gravity, and certain colorations of felines act as Sorsine inhibitors, reducing the amount of Sorsine in the body and lowering luck. The ambulatory organs of the leporidae family of mammals, certain mutations of the genus trifolium, sodium chloride being propelled over articulatio humeri, triple audio resonances in secondary xylem, and lowest-denomination financial units being dropped into certain kinds of water reservoirs create the opposite effect.
It was a breakthrough when they realized that the presence or absence of Sorsine was not the cause of luck– not directly anyway. Through an epiphany derived through the ingestion of several hundred milliliters of alcohol, a Wile E Coyote marathon and a looming deadline to inspire panic, they discovered that Sorsine is used to concentrate and store unusual wave/particle energies that they, rather unimaginatively, named Sors units and, a bit more imaginatively, Xolotl units, which were connected to fortune and misfortune, respectively. It was decided not to call them “luck units” in case people got the wrong idea. Or worse, the right idea.
From there, it was only a matter of time before they managed to start storing the energy. They began with symmetrical pieces of 180 degree curved, vertically oriented iron to start with, storing Sors units, and went on from there.
Then, because there’s no way you can make a weapon out of something that makes good things happen to people, they worked on how to take it away. Storing Xolotl units was trickier, but they managed.
The Murphy Bomb was the result.
After the Murphy Bomb demonstration, Gemein’s project became top priority. Since it would be highly impractical– not to mention practically suicidal– to gather Xolotl units on site at the lab from the workers there, a nation-wide program of energy collection was begun. Hippodromes, sporting events, casino’s, senior citizen’s bingo, accident prone stretches of road, and college entrance exams, as well as other venues identified by the programs research, became regular ‘milking’ venues. Gemein later learned that the National Statistics Office recorded marginally lowered accident statistics (apparently no amount of bad luck removed from an area will keep a drunk driver from getting into an accident). His grandmother, in a letter that arrived on his birthday, told him of several riots– well, loud multi-party swearing intensive arguments really, but at their age it was rioting– when people kept calling out ‘Bingo’ simultaneously. The newspapers reported several casinos being closed down due to bankruptcy, while several were fined for rigging their machines.
Measures had to be taken to keep the Xololt isolated from anything they didn’t want to have a catastrophic case of bad luck– which, given all the flammable, corrosive and explosive things there were in the research area, was pretty much everything. Anyone sent to Xolotl storage had to be injected with Sors-charged Sorsine to negate or at least moderate the effects. They still had a lot of cases of banged shins and things dropped on toes, but fortunately nothing fatal. Still, they rotated the shift often, so that no one got more bad luck then necessary. Gemein kept a record of these accidents with the air of a man being allowed to do his own thing and getting paid for it. It was still about luck, after all, despite all the weapon’s research. The nature of the work also had its effect on the members of his research team, who’d begun accumulating their own little collections of good luck charms, all scientifically verified as functional. It’s very hard to accuse someone of being superstitious when they have scientific backing.
Elsewhere, Gemein’s sponsors were busy putting their investment to use. They had to be: there seemed to be a lot more screw-ups, disasters, instances of catastrophic negligence and general chaos being reported in the newspapers every time Gemein found the time to read. Governments unfriendly to their country were finding themselves plagued with strangely Rude-Goldberg-ian accidents which damaged major metropolitan areas and produced tension and restlessness with no clear cause, ranging from riots similar to the result of the first Murphy Bomb to catastrophic failure of important infrastructure. Dams had given way or jammed, oil refineries had caught fire, power lines had fallen in the midst of freak windstorms. The only thing that hadn’t happened yet had been an accident at a nuclear power plant.
Gemein had sent his team a memo about this.
Soon afterwards, he and his team fabricated a report that a combination of radiation, lead, water and various construction materials coincidentally found in nuclear power plants grounded Xolotl, rendering it inert and therefore useless. It was, of course, pure male bovine excrement, but the higher ups seemed to buy it, which was pretty lucky. It might have had something to do with the fact that Gemein had been carrying practically a quarter of their Sorsine reserves inside him when he’d made the report.
Amoral, borderline super-villainous and uncaring he– and, to some extent, his team– may be, Will Gemein did not want to risk nuclear holocaust. Mama Gemein raised no dummies.
Shortly, and with no need to inject themselves with the fruits of their own research– except to score with members of the opposite sex since, being pimply nerds, they obviously needed every bit of help they could get– they managed to get their funding increased several times, with a proportionate increase in their salaries, as well as better and more equipment and facilities.
When the transfer commenced, the crew of movers were ordered at practically gunpoint– that is, the weird person in a white lab coat and safety goggles on his head told, them while soldiers with guns stood beside him to lend moral weight to his words– to wear the vest with the horseshoe, lucky rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover in a test tube, and the Feng Shui mirror sewn on at all times, and to begin each shift by picking up a penny and a pin from the floor.
All it takes, however, is one little thing.
Like, say, a forklift numbered 13-4. Or a slightly hammered mover. Maybe the lab team was so focused on lucky charms they forget to close lids properly…
In some nondescript government office, with thick but rock-hard carpet tiles, a window that looked out onto another window at an opposite wing, several generic filing cabinets, and a few kitschy personal items of the kind that appear in the offices of people that hold important but aesthetically unpleasant and unappreciated jobs (like government desk jobs or pediatrics), a government official read a stack of boring paperwork about a rather unfortunate accident in one of their paranormal research facilities.
It had apparently began when one of the people who’d been there to help move the project to a new facility who had arrived drunk and while driving their forklift had accidentally collided with another forklift. An improperly secured container of some unlisted substance– since there had only been enough wreckage to ascertain that something had happened– had spilled. No one had noticed, however, since the two drivers had gotten into an argument about whose fault it was. A fistfight had followed. The MPs had been called in when their co-workers couldn’t keep them apart and some had started betting on who would win. Someone’s firearm had apparently accidentally discharged, causing the other MP’s, already jumpy, to instinctively fire on him. In the crossfire, something had ignited and begun to burn. This had activated the fire suppression system, and due to the age of the facility, this had been a water-based sprinkler system. The water had soaked several stacks of paperwork still loose and due to be boxed and transported later that day. The water had also mixed with a large pile of salt that had spilled when the jar they’d been keeping it around for research and procedural purposes overturned. Spilling salt was very bad luck.
The salt had dissolved into the water, raising its acidity and thus its conductivity. The now-conductive water was getting the smooth cement floor very wet, causing people to slip and fall. This caused more guns to accidentally go off as they fell, causing several injuries and killing another MP who’d rushed into the room to find out what all the noise and gunshots was about as an unlucky shot sent a bullet right between his eyes. Another tore through the leg of the hammered mover, causing him to fall against one of the collided forklifts. His frantic groping as he tried to keep himself from falling accidentally caused the machine to go in reverse, backing over a couple of fallen people and crashing against a protruding socket box affixed to the wall with thirty year old screws and paint as old. The box fell off the wall and onto the soaking wet floor as the forklift rebounded, its broken casing revealing bare wiring inside. In the ensuing electrocution, something exploded violently.
Quite unfortunately, Dr Gemein and his team had been upstairs, holding a small party in celebration. The floor had collapsed out from under them, killing the entire team from a combination of the explosive pressure wave, sudden electrocution as the sprinklers in their room cut in, and crushing gravity as the floor above theirs had collapsed on top of them. The short circuit in the system that the water had caused had also shorted out their computers in the next room, making their research notes irretrievable.
Rubberstamping the report and filing it in the appropriate box for someone else to deal with, the government official went to read the next report. Dr. Ravelo’s research into thaumaturgically fueled muscle enhancing athletic equipment seemed to be coming along nicely…