Of Space and Bachelor’s Degrees Chapter 97

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XCVII

Richard stared at the petri dish in front of him. Nothing visible was happening, but the cells inside were undergoing changes. He was changing them, in fact. Genetic engineering had methods to replace genes with others. Richard wasn’t using one of those, though. The advantage of doing it himself, with his own abilities, is he didn’t need a sample of other genes to introduce to the system. He could replicate them… or create them. Replicating them was fairly easy, but creating something new was more draining and often resulted in failure. Part of this was because he wanted it to still be Noxian, but it was also hard to combine anything from other species with Noxians.

Once he had a viable sample, nanobots could apply the changes to an actual Noxian, but that was far too big of a step to take without further tests. Instead, anything new would be introduced to larger things- lab grown organs, for example. There could be problems with them integrating with the rest of the body, and not just a few individual types of cells. In fact, this was usually the case. Richard knew it was never going to be easy… but it was disheartening to have so many hopeful changes come to nothing. Of course, even if a solution was come up for a single person, it wouldn’t solve the problem for the Noxians as a whole… and even if they had individualized changes to each, there would be no guarantee that it wouldn’t require constant additions for each individual unless they understood the underlying causes.

—–

Richard finally got in contact with his grandmother. Of course, being her, she didn’t just answer his question through mail, but decided to come in person. That took longer, but Richard hoped that meant she thought she could do something.

Although nothing in the lab was technically secret, there were sensitive pieces of equipment and experiments that couldn’t be interrupted. Thus, Richard had to escort her everywhere on her visit to the lab. Not that this was a problem. It was a nice change of pace from continual research. It was also a nice reminder of what had actually been accomplished. Richard could name off ways that their research had helped people- though most of that was the lab as a whole and not his section just yet. Even so, in the couple years Elena and he had been running their section, they had helped a number of individuals. It was just that there still wasn’t an overarching solution to the Noxian’s problems, so it felt like they weren’t doing anything sometimes.

Although his grandmother mostly just smiled and nodded as he explained various things, he got the feeling that she actually understood more than she let on. After they finished the tour, they moved onto a discussion in a side lounge. “You know why I invited you here. You know about magic, and I know almost nothing. I don’t even know whether or not it might be able to help us. I don’t expect an actual miracle, but if it could help pinpoint the cause or causes… that could go a long way.”

She nodded slowly. “Well, I can’t promise anything. However, I have a few ideas on what I could do. I’m rather limited in what I can actually do now, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeves.”

—–

Over the next several weeks, Richard’s grandmother stayed in the lab, seemingly doing nothing. He knew that wasn’t quite true, because she was watching, listening, and maybe feeling things. He didn’t see any magic being done, but he wouldn’t necessarily know what that looked like anyway. So far, all he’d seen was her determining that he was cursed- and he had confirmed that his curse wouldn’t affect research negatively. Things that broke would have done so anyway- they were just more likely to do so near him, or in a way that could hurt him. In a strangely fortunate way, his curse didn’t extend to bad luck with anything other than his own safety.

She listened to Richard and Elena’s conversations about the research, and sometimes offered interesting insight into things they could try. Sometimes they were new, and sometimes Richard or Elena had already thought of it, but they were always good ideas even if they met a dead end. One day, she asked a question out of the blue. “How long are Noxian lifespans?”

Richard shrugged. “About normal. A century with proper care, give or take.”

“Any changes from recent medical advances?”

“Not really. It’s been remaining steady.”

“I see,” Richard’s grandmother nodded slowly. “That might be it then. The Noxians feel sick. All of them. Or rather, like they are slowly dying of poison.”

“That’s…” Richard tilted his head, “Normal? They have a number of toxins, but their bodies can handle it.”

“Can they?” she raised an eyebrow. “Lifespans aren’t getting shorter… but with medical advances, they aren’t getting any longer either. How far does that go back?”

“Umm, hmm…” Richard stroked his chin, then brought something up on his computer. “Decades at least… let’s see here… looks like… not much change in centuries.” Richard grimaced, then muttered to himself, “Is that it? No… surely someone would have thought of it…” Richard went over to a section with more monitors and started pulling up a number of documents next to each other. “Well, that’s a problem. It is perhaps not related, in which case it would be another cause for concern.” Richard just shook his head.

At this time, Elena came over. “What’s a cause for concern?”

“Look at this.”

“Lifespans… are slightly lengthening. Though, that’s only a year every few decades or even a century. How is that a cause for concern?”

“Because Noxians are stable. Noxians aren’t following the general trend.”

“That’s slightly concerning, but I doubt we’re the only ones.”

“Maybe not,” Richard paused for a moment, “But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking into. I have a feeling that this is related.” Richard looked over at his grandmother, “Though I can’t say I came up with this on my own.”

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