Prompt: Nothing changes or nothing had changed (open-ended).
The air is cold as I step out of my car, the chill of winter finding all the holes in my attire. I pull my coat tighter, shouldering my bag and jogging to the stairwell. The elevator moseys its way to the top of the parking garage, dinging as it arrives. I step in and press the button for the basement, checking my watch as I travel down. Plenty early.
I turn off my phone as I walk through the basement, tucking it into my backpack and fishing out my lab keys. I wave to the camera as I unlock the door, jogging down the stairs and into the control room.
“Hey, Jeff. How’s it running today?”
Jeff smiles, leaning back from the computer. “Good, good. Nothing crazy. You good to take over?”
I set my bag on the open lab chair, pulling out a thermos of coffee and my laptop. Jeff packs up as I get settled, waving goodbye as he disappears down the lab corridor. Alone, the sounds of the lab surround me, clanks and whirs from the accelerator and its many pumps keeping the room from eery silence. Friends who have toured never feel at ease down here, 30ft below ground in a sealed lab full of strange noises and potential radiation leaks. I find it oddly soothing to be so locked away from the world.
I read through Jeff’s notes for the day, checking the accelerator readout before heading up a level to the sample room. I check the next batch of samples, neatly packed and ready to be loaded into their holder. It’s a quick 15 minutes to prepare the sample ring, jotting down positions, numbers, and notes for the lab techs before sealing it in plastic and heading back to the control room. I set the sample box aside, checking the clock. 4:30pm. Should be another couple hours before it’s time to swap out the samples.
The first hour passes without incident as I work on my latest homework assignment, going through three notebook pages of calculus before I figure out the correct solution. I copy it onto a fresh page, always mindful to write clearly for the grader. It’s nearing 5:45pm when Alex arrives, setting his bag down and pulling out his laptop.
“Hey, Alex. You’re in late today.”
“Had an exam from 3-5. Then home to change and get my homework backpack.”
“Sounds like fun. How’d the exam go?”
He shakes his head mournfully, sitting down next to me and scanning the accelerator’s readout.
“I think I messed up the last problem.”
“How many problems were there?”
I pat his shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll be fine after the curve.”