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The chambermaids cleaned and disinfected the tank with lye again, and Spencer took a moment to collect himself before squeezing the magnifying monocle back into his right eye.  He had gone over the machine a dozen times, but he would go over it a dozen-and-one if that’s what it took.  Every little brass bolt was properly tightened, and every hose was sealed exactly as it needed to be, connected to a variety of vials and beakers.  The electrical coils were fully charged from the previous night’s thunderstorm, and all of his thermometers and barometers assured him that the steam pump was properly simulating the temperature and pressure of a human womb… and yet, somehow the tank could not sustain life.  He tried not to think too much about the failed attempts, nor the tiny, cold bodies that he had sent off to the morgue over the past months.  A scientist had to focus on the present, and the task at hand.

A bell chimed, and he raised his head to watch his butler escort a young lady into the room.  He tensed for a moment before he realized that this one wasn’t pregnant.  Looking closer, it also occurred to him that she was not from around here.  Her clothes were too vibrant, damask and silks and lace in all the colors of a floral garden.  

“Master Aberforth, may I present the Lady Ayida, of Baldwin,” the old servant announced in his usual dry tone.  “She has come to provide input on your research.”

Spencer bowed low, extending a hand to kiss the lady’s knuckle, but she brushed right past him to examine the machine itself.  She carried no tools, and wore corrective glasses rather than magnifying ones, and yet she had the audacity to smirk and scoff as though looking at a child’s work.  Never before had he imagined that his hard work would be so casually belittled by a woman, let alone a foreigner.

“Too cold,” she said in an off-handed, casual tone.  “No wonder why you keep failing.”

“I—I beg your pardon!” He stammered.  He was just preparing to reprimand her candor and inform her of the intensive research that had been done on the subject when she turned on him with fire in her eyes.  Instead, all he could manage was a fumbling question: “Who do you think you are?”

“I am a woman,” she replied, eyebrow raised.  “Which makes me far more qualified than you to comment on this matter.  I’m also from a society that has already handled this problem, ages ago.”

He softened immediately, though he couldn’t banish the skepticism entirely from his mind.  “Go on, then?”

“Machines and saline solution won’t do it.  Regardless of how many beakers full of fancy chemicals you attach to it, or how powerful of a steam engine you have.”  She pointed to the coils that lead up to the weather vane and nodded.  “That’s closer to the right track: drawing power from nature.”

He followed her finger and narrowed his eyes, as this began to sound vaguely familiar.

“We use a fusion of various herbs, freshly collected and hand-ground.  Some are given to the mother to chew, and others are burned to dress her in smokes.  Four of my sisters gather and anoint her body with oils, and adorn her stomach with ancient sigils drawn in special inks.  All of this is done by moonlight, and accompanied by a chant.  But the important part is the energy work—“

He could take no more.  “Oh for goodness sake, woman.  What nonsense are you talking?  Magic?  You come to my door with magic, of all things?”

She stopped, and once again her eyebrow arched, somewhere between amusement and a blatant challenge.  “Yes.  I am talking about magic.  And I dare say that if you were to listen and experiment with it, you might learn some things.”

“Nonsense!” He repeated, his face going red.  “I am a scientist and I won’t listen to this poppycock any longer.  Get out.  Now.”

“Have you tried?”  She asked, her words as sharp as a well-honed blade.

“I deal in science.  Come back when you have some of that.”

She paused, as though to say something further, and finally just shook her head.  “Damn fool,” she murmured, and let herself out.

Spencer waited a moment for his blood to cool, and returned his monocle to his eye.  Turning back to the tank, he took his seat and resumed his work:  ensuring for the dozen-and-first time that the bolts were all tight, and checking for the dozen-and-first time that the temperature and pressure properly matched that of a human womb.
Flash-Fic-Month July 6, 2016
Challenge:  Jules Vernes meets HG Wells

Bullet; Purple  Element 1. Verne-acular: 
Root some aspect of your story in an area of real scientific research.

 Bullet; Purple  Element 2. Might-as-Wells: 
Add something fantastic to your story, and use the addition to say something about today's society in the process.

 Bullet; Purple Element 3. Party Like it's Yesteryear: 
Colour your setting with a bit of that old 1800's flair. You don't have to base your story in Victorian times, or even set it on this planet, but let's try and keep the aesthetics of your world somewhere between post-Industrial to 2nd World War in style. 


The subject of an artificial womb for premature babies is an actual area of scientific research, and one that's very dear to me.  The mystical lady that comes in and shits all over the scientific community is my fantastical social commentary, and I think that the whole thing got the oldschool style down.

Lately, I've been very irritated by the nature of the scientific community.  I constantly see things written off as pseudo-science or nonsense simply because we cannot currently explain it, when once upon a time we couldn't explain germs or the movements of the planets.  I often wonder where we would be if scientists decided to properly research astrology or palmistry instead of writing it off as gypsy nonsense.  

Anyway, this is also the first one I've written this month that I actually enjoyed.  Also, 777 words, so you know it's gotta be a good thing.  Anyway, VIVA!


EDIT:  Realized that I totally changed his name to Simon for the last paragraph.  Came back and fixed that up. 
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Daily Deviation

Given 2016-07-08
FFM 06 - Progress in Action by distortified takes a Flash Fiction Month prompt and creates something truly outstanding.  We have science and we have mystery wrapped up in a short story that is bound to give you chills. ( Suggested by overdebated and Featured by brennennn )
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Edited Jul 29, 2016   Writer
I really like what you've done with this one, particularly with the loop connecting the ending back to the beginning. And I like your social commentary, there: Simon's flat dismissal of something that hasn't actually been investigated makes him a failure as a scientist, really, and yet this attitude is definitely prevalent in the scientific community today.
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:iconilyilaice:
ilyilaice Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2016
This is exceptional. Congratulations on the DD. :la:
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:iconkirihearts:
KiriHearts Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2016
Oooo, this is fantastic. Congrats on the DD!
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:iconnamelessshe:
NamelessShe Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2016
Congrats on the DD! This is excellent!
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:iconsteve-c2:
Steve-C2 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2016
Well, that was unexpected.

Nicely done. :)
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:iconlindartz:
LindArtz Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on your much deserved DD!
Congrats on DD By Marphilhearts by LindArtz
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:iconpiratelotus-stock:
PirateLotus-Stock Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2016
Nice work :D
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:iconpenguintranquilizer:
PenguinTranquilizer Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Congrats on the DD! :la:
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:iconlintu47:
Lintu47 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Congrats on the DD! :DALove: by Ikue
Have a nice day! :love: by CookiemagiK
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:iconc-a-harland:
C-A-Harland Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2016  Student Writer
Great read, and an excellent take on the prompt.
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:iconvigour-mortis:
vigour-mortis Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
This was a great read.
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:iconcatleo9894:
CatLeo9894 Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
For science! I enjoyed this :D
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:iconoilsoaked:
oilsoaked Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
SCIENCE.
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:iconjoe-wright:
joe-wright Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2016   General Artist
Eesh, the detail about the tiny cold babies really set the tone for me there
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