A/N: To view artwork related to the story, please be sure to visit Wickfield on DeviantART, thank you. :)
An Ego Trip Fanfiction
"I never think of the future - it comes soon enough."
― Albert Einstein
"Ugh, why am I alwayssuch a klutz?"
Even she couldn't help rolling her eyes. She'd only had the phone for two weeks – only sent a couple thousand texts! – before she'd managed to smash it into splinters of plastic and wire. She tried to brush her fingertip over the screen, hoping maybe she could bring some ghost of an image to life, but it just wasn't going to happen. The glass was split into too many fragments. Did you get bad luck from that? Dee Dee couldn't remember.
"He's gonna yell at me. Oh well. I'd yell at me too." She stepped back and studied the bookshelf on the wall. It used to be Hawk's Theorem on Magnetronic Splitting that did the trick, but he was always changing them around. She felt in a Newtonian mood today, so she reached for a thick volume with the scientist's name stamped on the side in big letters. Sure enough, the bookshelf slid aside without protest, the bolted doors unlatching automatically, layer after layer opening up with a groan like the jaws of some strange metallic creature.
Dee Dee couldn't suppress a smile. It had been way too long.
He hadn't done much redecorating since the last time she'd crashed the laboratory. There were the same blue tiled floors, the same towering walls lined with every kind of control panel imaginable (and then some), the same dim lights that made a girl look totally terrible if she happened to catch her reflection in a sheet of polished steel. But there was still something…strange, about the place. It seemed bigger. Like there was more space. It felt kind of empty. She was probably just imagining it.
Dee Dee slid across the floor, and her smile grew wide. She was wearing her work clothes, and her dance shoes allowed her to skate and pirouette perfectly along the smooth tiles. And just like old times, there was Dexter, hunched over one of his desks, busily piling papers into one of those work…suitcase….things. Dee Dee racked her brain. A briefcase! That was what it was called.
"He doesn't even know I'm here," she realized with a grin. His shoulders were hitched up around his ears and he was clearly in deep concentration. Biting her lip so she couldn't let the smallest giggle escape, Dee Dee tiptoed over to the pale, hunched figure, quietly…super quietly...and she reached out to cover his specs with her hands –
"DEE DEE!" Dexter ducked out of her grasp, swinging his elbow into a mug of coffee. It fell clattering against an atomic pulse generator, sending electrical sparks flying into the air before breaking against the floor. Dee Dee dissolved into giggles.
"We have a winner!" she spluttered. Dexter just twitched his lab coat back into place on his shoulders and glared, first at the weak coffee puddling on the floor, and then at her.
"You find humor in this childish display, do you? Typical."
Dee Dee made a big show of sighing dramatically. "Oh, Dexter, don't be so stiff. You think you'd have grown out of that after all those college parties, you know?" She shook him around his shoulders, then grabbed him and squeezed him into a hug, but he only pulled away again with a mighty frown.
"I did not spend my time partying, sister, I spent my time studying, as one is supposed to do in an educational establishment. Besides," he retorted, "what do you know of college? Only what you have seen in movies, I suppose."
Ouch. That one stung a little. "Geez, Dexter. You don't pull your punches."
The red-haired genius shrugged. "Ah, you are right. You did complete two semesters at Huber Community College before dropping out. I should give credit where credit is due."
He turned his back on her, and turned his attention to the documents spread out on his desk. Looking at some numbers printed across the top, he carefully selected one and slipped it into a pocket in his business suitcase. Dee Dee raised herself on tiptoe so she could see over his shoulder. She still wasn't used to…well, his height. Personally, she suspected that he'd developed another gross formula that had allowed him to grow to human proportions, but would make him sprout an extra head at any second. "What are those, anyway?" she asked.
"You cannot be serious." When he realized she wasn't joking, he elaborated, "These are technical diagrams. Blueprints, if you will."
"Blueprints," Dee Dee repeated, staring at the colored papers. "Oh, you mean like Wile E. Coyote?"
Dexter just sighed and braced his palms against the desktop before looking over his shoulder. "I fail to see the connection."
"Wile E. Coyote! You know, Looney Tunes? " Dexter's blank expression reminded her he had almost never watched cartoons as a kid, so she knew she would have to explain. "See, the Coyote would always draw these pictures of these weird machines and stuff, like your blue drawings, and try to outsmart the Road Runner. But when he built them they would always backfire, and – "
"My experiments do not backfire," Dexter snapped. "So there is no comparison."
"I always liked the Road Runner," Dee Dee mused. "He was smart. So, what are the blueprints for?"
This time Dexter just kept working, slowly and deliberately sorting his papers and not doing a good job at making it look like anything but the most boring task in the world. "You still don't have any clue what I am going to be doing at MegaCorp, do you?" he grumbled. "Even though I'm only starting in three days."
Dee Dee planted her hands on her hips. "Sure I do. You are going to be their Research Physicist." She'd worked really hard to remember that, just in case of a test like this one.
"Very good. And do you know what a Research Physicist does?"
"Um….no, I do not." Fortunately Dexter always loved to talk about himself, and Dee Dee knew she was going to need him good and happy if he was going to help her out today. "What does a Research Physicist do?"
Dexter stood up straight and clasped his hands behind his back like he always did when he wanted to look impressive. Dee Dee had a feeling he had been rehearsing for this moment too.
"Well, Dee Dee," he recited, "a Research Physicist such as myself is a most critical member of the corporation. As a MegaCorp employee I will be using the skills I acquired in my doctoral studies, as well as my own personal expertise in mechanics, computer science and general engineering, to develop new technologies for the betterment of the future. And you and I both know," he concluded, "that there will be no future without MegaCorp's involvement."
Dee Dee nodded slowly. If that explanation was supposed to clear things up it didn't exactly work, but she wasn't going to admit that to Dexter. "So…you're going to be inventing stuff for MegaCorp, then," she translated. "But, gosh, they've already invented everything!"
"They certainly have a hand in most modern technological innovations," Dexter nodded with some satisfaction. "Almost everyone in the country has been affected by the corporation's influence. Smart cars, hoverboards, holographic billboards, not to mention the more mundane developments in television sets, personal computers, and – "
"Phones!" Dee Dee volunteered.
"Yes, telephones. MegaCorp has improved them all. However, the corporation has not become the world power it is today by resting on its laurels. It is always searching for the newest and brightest talent to help it progress. And it's newest and certainly brightest talent stands here before you. So leave me alone. You know where to find the exit."
Aw, lookit at him, he's super excited! Dee Dee could see that right away, in the way Dexter squared his shoulders, in the little smile that had crept onto his own face. She had no doubt at all that the corporation would be way better than it had ever been now that Dexter was on board. "These drawings are your inventions then, huh?" She picked one up from the pile and expertly evaded Dexter as he tried to snatch it away. "Teletronic Bubble Transport, prototype A-6," she read aloud. "Hee hee, it looks kinda like a hamster ball!"
"Dee Dee, give me that – "
"And ooh, this one looks like a hearing aid thing! Teletronic…Transference Receptor. Huh. What does it do?"
"It doesn't matter what it does. You would never understand." Dexter grabbed both papers and tucked them deep out of reach in his briefcase.
"Of course I won't understand if you don't tell me."
Dexter eyed her, skeptical. "Suffice it to say that I intend to establish myself as one of the driving forces behind MegaCorp's advancement in the coming years. The inventions you see before you will allow me to implement the science behind my really greatest invention on a grand scale, propelling my name to the ranks of such benefactors as Einstein, Kepler, and Newton. To start, however, I will have to work on the less interesting little projects." He sighed dismally and stabbed at a few simplistic drawings with a purple finger. "Like automobiles and telephones."
Telephones, perfect! Now was her chance. Dee Dee sidled up to her brother, who was still mostly ignoring her. She reached into her dance bag, shoving aside her spare leotard and some old protein bar wrappers, and felt for the corners of her broken smartphone.
"So, Dexter…since you are gonna be working for MegaCorp and all, I bet you would totally be able to help me fix my new phone!" Before he could protest, Dee Dee blurted out the rest. "Obviously they need your help over there, their phones are really expensive but they don't hold up well at all! I mean, you'd think that for a couple hundred bucks you could run it through the washing machine and it would just get a little soggy, but I mean the screen is totally wonky now and I think there's still some soap inside maybe and – "
"Dee Dee!" There it was. The yelling. His face was already as purple as his gloves. "This is…this is insane! You've barely had this phone for a month, why, it's only been two weeks since your birthday!" He whisked the phone out of her hand with so much force she jumped a bit. "I told mother that you were hopeless with technology and now that's three hundred dollars of her money down the drain – literally! I always knew you had no regard at all for my property but I cannot believe you would be so destructive with your own!"
Dee Dee felt her face flare red. It used to be easy to ignore Dexter when he stood not-quite-two-feet-high, but now that he was a good six inches taller than she was his exasperation hit a little harder.
"I know, I know," she said, careful not to meet his eyes, "I'm - "
"Stupid, yes! Amazingly so!"
Dee Dee sighed. "Okay. But can you fix it?"
Dexter adjusted his eyeglasses and looked down his nose, flipping the phone over in his gloved palm. Then with a sniff he tossed it sliding across the desk.
"Completely destroyed. Not worth the effort."
"Oh Dex, come on!"
Dexter's shoulders tensed and she could tell he was still bristling with indignation. "You might as well buy a new phone, you obliterated this one. Just like your last two cars," he added under his breath.
"But I know you can fix - "
"The answer is no, Dee Dee. When are you ever going to learn? Some things just cannot be repaired!" He reached across the table to retrieve the broken phone, but Dee Dee frowned and snatched it from his hand.
"Well what am I supposed to do, then?" she demanded, hurling it to the depths of her bag.
"What any intelligent person would do and buy a new one."
God, he was so clueless! "I can't, Dexter," she pleaded, "I barely have enough for rent this month. Stop laughing, it's not funny!"
"Not funny, perhaps, but entirely predictable." Dexter shut his briefcase, clicking both clasps into place, and shuffled over to his primary workstation, dimly lit by a row of flourescent lights that glowed upon the beakers and coils of tubing arching across the desktop. She'd always wondered how he could see down here, especially since he was nearly blind even with his ultra-thick glasses.
Dee Dee watched him pull open a couple of metal drawers, muttering to himself, before emerging with a rounded device made of white plastic. "This is an experimental phone I made in sixth grade. You may use this one until you can replace yours, it is only collecting dust as it is."
He attempted a really bad pitch but Dee Dee managed to catch the phone anyway. "Sixth grade? But that's almost ten years ago!"
"I was bored one afternoon." Dexter shrugged. "What was I supposed to do, pre-algebra homework? At any rate, you will find it is still highly advanced for an electronic device from 2001."
"Advanced" and "2001" didn't even belong in the same sentence. Was this supposed to be some kind of joke? Dee Dee scrolled through the old-fashioned interface with growing dismay. "But...this doesn't even have the internet! Or a camera! Oh my god, you can't even text with this thing! I might as well use a brick!"
"Then by all means do so, Dee Dee! With any luck you will bonk yourself on the head and put us all out of our misery. Now as usual this has been a lovely visit, your gratitude overwhelming, but perhaps for the final time you will do me quite a favor and GET OUT OF MY LABORATORY!"
Dee Dee blinked at the tiny pixelated screen. Wait a second. Did he just say...
"For the final time? What does that mean?"
Dexter let out a tremendous groan at the absurd question. "It means I am moving to the city tomorrow, where I will have access to research facilities far greater than my own. I have already had my most impressive devices and machinery transferred to MegaCorp storage should I require their usage later. You don't think I'll be coming back here, do you?"
Dee Dee felt like all the air had been knocked out of her lungs, like she'd been thrown across the cockpit in her giant robot. "What? You mean you're never coming back to the lab? Ever?"
"That would be correct. In fact, these papers were the last thing I needed from my laboratory. If you had arrived a few moments later you would have missed your chance to say farewell. Although why you are surprised I cannot comprehend, you knew mother and father had listed the house for sale, and of course the lab goes with it."
No, she hadn't realized! Of all the people in the world, he should know she wasn't that smart!
Hot tears welled in her eyes and she spun around, frantically searching for a glimpse of the familiar sights she knew and loved so well. His little workstation, with all his weirdo chemicals and his aluminum sheeting and nuts and bolts and favorite wrench! His Robo-Dexo 2000 and his Dexo-Transformer! His time machine! All the inventions, all the examples of genius he'd stored up and she'd explored for years and years! And she wouldn't even get to say goodbye!
She had to gasp to find her voice. "You mean you're just gonna leave the lab behind?" she cried. "After all the time we've spent in here together? All the fun we've had? You can't leave, Dexter! I haven't even figured out what half of these buttons do!"
Dexter groaned again and shouldered past her on his way to the door, and for a minute Dee Dee could just stare in disbelief. How could he be so heartless? How could he care less about the lab than she did? It had been his whole life for his whole life!
"But what about Computer?" she argued, grabbing onto his lab coat so hard she wheeled him around and nearly pulled him off balance. "You would never leave - "
Dexter yanked a sleek tablet out of his lab coat pocket, emblazoned with his usual fancy "D" logo, and shoved it close to her face. "I guess you weren't paying attention when I transferred Computer's OS to a mobile version two years ago, were you? The floor unit is merely an empty, obsolete shell." He plucked his sister's hand off his pristine lapel. "This is no time for your usual female hysterics, Dee Dee. Exactly the scene I was trying to avoid. Surely you realize that I cannot remain trapped in my childhood laboratory forever! My genius has long outgrown the confines of its walls. There is a new world of opportunity awaiting me at MegaCorp, and to cling to the past when the future is so bright would be –" he searched for just the right phrase – "the epitome of stupidity."
Dee Dee couldn't stop the tears rolling down her face. So maybe it was stupid. So what? She still felt it! Dexter's laboratory. Shut forever! It didn't make any sense!
"So you're just going to leave it here?" she snapped. "You might as well tear it down. Maybe I'll do it. It doesn't matter if it's destroyed now, does it?"
Dexter rolled his eyes so hard it looked as though it would cause him physical pain. "I am going to leave it in its untouched state as a tribute to my intellect. Perhaps in future, when I have become a world-famous genius, my admirers would like to convert it into a museum. Considering I am a scientist and not a psychic, however, I'm sure I cannot say."
He only ever thought about himself, all the time. Why was she still surprised?
"You weren't even going to tell me, Dexter," she whispered. "You're awful."
"And you are a sentimental fool. But we already knew that, didn't we?" He picked up his black briefcase full of ideas and tested the weight with his arm. Then he consulted the screen of his tablet, bringing up Computer's familiar interface at the sweep of a finger. "I admit, I did not expect to say my goodbyes to the laboratory with you by my side, but I suppose it is strangely appropriate. I could never keep you out before, and now the doors close on both of us. Computer," he spoke into the device, "identify Dexter by voice and retinal scan. Initiate Exit Protocol Omega on my command."
"Initiating Exit Protocol Omega."
Dee Dee half expected an alarm or siren to go off, but there was silence. No, there wasn't. The laboratory was always so quiet when it wasn't exploding, but for the first time Dee Dee realized it wasn't quiet at all. There was always the whir of machinery, the soft little crackles of electricity that brought Dexter's inventions to life humming in the background. At the sound of Computer's voice, those machines began to shut down one by one, far away at first, and then closer until the only sound Dee Dee could hear was her ragged, tearful breathing. He was killing the lab. The lights on the ceiling flickered off until there was only one green neon sign left. "This one I will have to unplug manually," Dexter said, more to himself than to her, and briefcase in hand, he went to go pull the plug out of the wall. The lab went dark.
Maybe I can come back when he isn't here, Dee Dee thought as she followed Dexter out of the laboratory doorway and stumbled into the light of his childhood bedroom. He'd never know. She'd always had a way of getting into the lab, hadn't she? Why did that have to change once Dexter was gone?
"Computer, seal the laboratory."
Dee Dee watched as the bolted doors slid, slammed, and swirled shut before her, and she knew it wouldn't be the same without him.
"Exit Protocol Omega completed."
Dexter waited for the bookshelf to slide into position. Then he turned to his sister. "So it ends, not with a bang but a whimper." He cleared his throat - his voice had cracked - before continuing. "Tears for the past are a waste of time, Dee Dee. The promise of the future beckons – why would you possibly be sad about that?"
She didn't know. But she was, though.