Vindicated 1.8

Why?  How?  Clearly someone had planned this out.  Knowledge of the security cameras, ability to change time and date…Joaquin!  That little snake was a computer genius…it had to be him! Before any more damage could be done, she confronted them both.

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“Excuse me, sir?  That image is a fake and I intend to prove it..” Joaquin spun around, fear on his face.

“Julep, do you have any evidence?” Her boss was clearly worried

“Not yet.  What I know is that I was nowhere near that area this morning. Aren’t there cameras outside to show that I had been out all morning digging up resources?  Or that I was with Brennan when the alarms went off? Its impossible that I could be in two places at once.”

Her boss turned to Joaquin. “Joaquin, you sent me this image. Did you see anything that supports her claims?  Is there something wrong with the timestamp?”

Before he could answer, Brennan came to her side.  “I can vouch for Julep.  She was with me when the alarms went off and I spoke with her as she walked into the building. She could not have set that fire and I think we need to take a really good look at Joaquin’s computer.” He turned to Joaquin and asked, “I find it interesting that the fire came from the back of the lab and while we were all outside at the front of the building, you came from the back exit and around.  Even more interesting is that you are the only one that seems to have a little soot on their lab coat.  Well, except for Julep.  She was battling that blaze while we were all outside and could have died.”

Brennan was shaking as he finished speaking and looked her in the eyes. His anger at Joaquin abated instantly and he softly asked, “Are you ok?” She nodded, since that was all she trusted herself to do at that moment. If she opened her mouth to speak, she feared that she would cry.  Brennan, seeming to understand that shock was about to hit her, led her over to a desk that was nearby.  He brought her a glass of water before heading back over to Dr. Knox and Joaquin.  He got very close to Joaquin before he lowered his voice and spoke, “I will find out what you did.”

*       *        *

After doing a quick scan of Joaquin’s computer, the original video, from 2 weeks ago, had been found and Julep’s name was cleared. Police were called to the lab, computers were seized and Joaquin sat in shock, waiting to be taken away. Julep approached him.

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“Joaquin, I don’t know what is in store for you, but you need to know one thing.  You deserve it. The backstabbing, the lying, the fire…everything you’ve done and its finally catching up to you. Was it worth it?” His head fell into his hands and he began to sob.  On the one hand, it was satisfying to see…but Julep couldn’t help but question how he became this way.  Why target her?

She fought the urge to say more and turned her back on him and walk away.  She’d save her questions for later…she was too angry to do it now.

Authors Note: If you are enjoying this, please let me know. Send a comment or message my way.  I’m struggling to keep it going, but I will if I know people are reading :).  

 

Sabotage 1.7

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It was ‘restocking’ day at work and Julep was busy digging up gemstones outside when she got a phone call from Brennan. He had found something in his research that he felt might help her.  Desperately needing a break, she dusted herself off and headed inside.

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Before Brennan could even get the words out of his mouth, fire alarms began sounding all over the building and emergency messages were blared in all indoor areas, “All Personnel. Make your way to the nearest exit.” Julep and Brennan exchanged looks before Julep took off at a run.  With being a science lab, it really could be something major, or dangerous, and she wanted to know what was at risk.

While others ran frantically outside, Julep charged into the building.  If all else, she knew that her freeze ray could help if the fire hadn’t yet gotten out of hand.

Hitting a wall of fire near the back of the lab was NOT in her plans. Before her mind could fully grasp what was happening she grabbed her freeze ray and got to work.

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Once all was under control she took stock of the damage.  She noticed a crystal on the floor in the center, but that the desk in the corner appeared to be ‘ground zero’.  The emergency exit was slightly ajar and a small stone was propping it open.  Hmmm…it is a windy day today…did someone leave it open to fan the flames?

She ran outside to let everyone know that the fire was out.  All of her co-workers were standing outside, unharmed.

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After the Fire & Rescue team had assessed the damage and work was able to resume, Julep headed upstairs to clean away the grime.  Suddenly an image of the guys standing outside slammed to the front of her brain…

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…was that some smoke damage that she was seeing?

Interesting…

Julep got dressed and ran to find her boss.  He was seated at a desk in Lab 2, with Joaquin at his shoulder.  Perfect…this will make things easy. However, when she saw what was on the screen she stopped dead in her tracks.

No. Way.

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Busy Work 1.6

Over the next two weeks, Julep threw herself into her work. She didn’t want to think about the fights and was worried that her love life was starting to interfere with her work.  She had known better to get romantically attached to anyone she worked with.

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More important to Julep right now were the non-romantic relationships.  She discovered that the robot that helped her build inventions was actually pretty funny and she wondered who had written his AI.

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She started having lunch with Brennan. His easy laugh and kindness helped clear the clutter in her mind.  They talked about their frogs and shared vegetarian recipes.  She learned that he’d graduated high school at 13 and college at 19 – with his Doctorate.  He spoke about it without a hint of ego and she felt that his achievements seemed to carry a weight of sadness with them.  Always being ahead of his peers must have been lonely.

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She was grateful to have someone at work that she could bounce ideas off of and ask questions if she got stuck…without judgement.

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Leonard was giving her space, consumed as he was by his work.  Or he was back on the downhill of the roller coaster that was their relationship and tomorrow he’d be trying to flirt with her again?  However, as the days stretched on, she felt that perhaps it was just a natural fizzle. She had clearly wanted more of a relationship than he was ready for.

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It was fine with her.

Really.

Weekends were full of forum trolling – her new favorite pastime.

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Trolling Joaquin and Penny were the most fun she’d had in a long time. Finding Penny’s “movie” that she’d made just out of high school?  Priceless.  She’d hold onto that little nugget for a while.

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Her frogs were doing great, which made her exceptionally happy and her elements collection was growing more every day.  She still had a long way to go so she spent all her free time collecting crystals and metals anywhere she could.

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Her life seemed to have calmed down a bit and, for now, she was grateful.  Her work was important to her and it was time to stop being distracted.

Confrontations 1.5

After the strangeness of last night, Julep just wanted to let it go and have a good day.  She started off by fishing next to her house.  She stood next to a neighbor in companionable silence.  JulepDay5_01

Next for the day was the Flea Market in the City. She had seen a flier at the grocery store and wanted to see if she could find some great deals.  Ivy had told her to be wary and haggle whenever possible as prices tend to be higher for that reason.

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First up was the vendor selling frogs.  Thanks to Julep’s amphibian experience she knew their value and haggled for her new buddy. The vendor wasn’t excited about going down on her prices, but eventually gave in to Julep’s charm.

Next up – lunch.  The Flea Market was set up with some amazing food vendors, but since Julep wasn’t familiar with the food, and some of the sellers didn’t speak English, there wasn’t a clear understanding on whether or not the food was vegetarian.  She ordered something like a dumpling and hoped for the best.

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One bite and she knew that she had chosen badly.  Definitely some sort of meat product. As if that wasn’t bad enough she heard a voice behind her, clearly talking on the phone.

“Ugh, I don’t know.  Some chick he works with…Well, what should I have done, B?…I told him that Sheldon was being Sheldon and he came right home….How good could it have been if he just left?…Have I missed my chance?…” The voice got softer as it moved away.

Dread knotted up her stomach.  She couldn’t even force herself to turn around.  It had to be Penny. So that was what happened.  Did Leonard know?  Why hadn’t he called her?  Maybe Penny was right…maybe she was the only one that was having a good time?

She decided to just go home, but wanted to make another stop at the frogs.  If she could get a good price on another at least she could get them out of the sun.

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What she wasn’t expecting was the jerk that started yelling at her for wearing the same pants as him. Not in the mood for his attitude, she quickly handed it back to him.

*   *   *

Later that night, Leonard texted her and asked if she would meet him in the city.  When she arrived she wondered if he’d known that it was the Romance Festival?  Maybe things were looking up…

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The Love Guru urged them to drink some festival tea.

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Don’t mind if I do.  Anything if it will help. As she helped herself, she completely missed Leonard’s hesitation.

Feeling the vibes, she threw out her best sexy pose.

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So caught up in the moment, she hadn’t realized he was speaking. “…no idea that this was the Romance Festival.  I thought it was GeekCon.  I’m really sorry.”

What? “Oh,” she stammered, “yeah…same here. Crazy…I thought that too. I’m…sorry. I think there was something in that tea that isn’t agreeing with my stomach.  I better go.”

And she ran…

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Finally home.  Can this day be over now please?

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*  *  *

Monday could not have come sooner. She could just dive into her work.  Science…something the understood! But first she wanted to find Leonard and try to smooth things over. The last thing she wanted was to seem like some love-struck teenager. If she was ‘friend zoned’, then she wanted him to know she was a-ok with that.

He found her first. “Julep!  How are you feeling?”

“Oh…I’m ok. It passed. The fact the tea was glowing should have been a clear sign to stay away,” she joked.

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“I wish you hadn’t gotten sick.  I stayed for a little while after you left, but realized that it wasn’t the same without you.  I really, really wish you’d stayed,” he said as he moved closer and his voice dropped huskily.

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Her heart began to race. Was he for real?  Roller-coaster much? Before she could think of a response he took her hand in his, gave it a squeeze, threw her a smile and walked away.

When the shock wore off she realized that Joaquin had been standing there listening, and scowling, the whole time. She stuck her tongue out at him and headed outside to take a look a the rocket they were working on.

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“Hey J, you need some help?”

Julep turned to see Brennan. “Oh no thanks, I’m nearly done.  How was your weekend?”

“Boring,” he said with a smile.  “Yours?”

“Oh, well, it could have been better.  I did get a new frog…named him Oscar.”

“Cool! Maybe he and Jax can have a froggy play date sometime.”

“I’m sure he’d love that,” she giggled.  Leave it to Brennan to reduce the tension in her mind; what would she do without him?

She finished up and headed back inside. Sheldon stopped her. “Ms. Soto, I understand that you are a friend of Leonard.”

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“Oh, uh yes, Dr. Cooper.”

“Good. I really hate to ask this, but he has to run some errands and I need a ride home.  Would you mind?”

Shocked, she answered “Sure.  I don’t know where you live.”

“Well of course I’ll give you directions.” He went back to typing at his computer and she stood there dumbly. “Do you need something?” he asked.

“Nope.  I don’t think so.  I’ll see you at 5.”  As she walked away she heard him remind her to not be a minute later. Wow…it seems that Leonard didn’t exaggerate. She rounded the corner and quickly got to work on a new serum, trying to shake the strangeness of this day from her mind.

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She felt a presence near her and turned to see Joaquin and her boss.  One of them was smug, the other did not seem happy.

“Ms. Soto.  I have been informed that you were behaving inappropriately with another employee. I’d like to remind you that this is a science lab and no place for  romantic overtures.  I’ll ask you to please refrain from public displays of affection while at work.”

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“Dr. Knox. I’m not sure what you heard,” she said as she glared at Joaquin, “but I had a quiet conversation with a co-worker.  There wasn’t anything ‘romantic’ about it.”

Joaquin snorted behind her. “Ms. Soto, you were reported to be holding hands with said co-worker.”

Her face went red, more with anger than embarrassment this time, and she stated “I will make sure that there is no more ‘hand holding’ at work.”

Mr. Knox nodded. Some of his initial bluster appeared to have gone and now he just seemed anxious to leave the conversation.  It was at that moment that Sheldon came to find her for his ride home.  Ugh this day!

*  *  *

Sheldon invited Julep inside when she took him home and curiosity got the better of her. She wanted to see how they lived and she admitted to herself that she wanted to get a look at Penny if she had another chance. For now she sat at Leonard’s kitchen island and told him what happened with Dr. Knox.

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“…it was so embarrassing!”

“I’m really sorry Julep.  I know how Joaquin can be and if I knew he was standing there I would have been more careful.  I didn’t meant to make trouble for you…I was just being playful.”

Oh…so its ‘being playful’ now, is it?

As they were talking she heard the door open and close behind her. She assumed it was Leonard, but heard a now-familiar female voice behind her.  “Oh…I didn’t know you had company Leonard,” she purred.

“Penny. This is Julep…we work together.  Julep, this is Penny, my neighbor.”

Julep turned and gave Penny her friendliest smile and extended her hand. “I’ve heard so much about you.”

Penny took her hand and replied, “Oh?  I’m sorry, I wish I could say the same.  So you work with Leonard?”

Oh…so that’s how its going to be. Not trusting herself to be pleasant she turned to Leonard. “Can I use your restroom?”

He cringed. “Oh…well, normally yes, but this is Sheldon’s restroom time. Penny, can she use yours?”

Oh Geez!

“Sure Leonard! Its just across the hall, Julep. I’ll show you.” Penny led the way to her apartment and waited in the bedroom for Julep to get out.  When Julep emerged, she pounced. “I remember now…he did mention something about having dinner with someone the other night…was that you?”

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“Yeah…that was me. It was also me that was sitting behind you at the Flea Market and heard your phone conversation.  The one where you admitted that you lied to him just so he could come home early. That seems like a crappy thing to do to someone you call your friend.”

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Penny let out a shriek and lunged for Julep’s face.  Julep was able to dodge her, but as she did Penny stumbled into her.  Julep shoved her aside and stormed out of the apartment.

Dazed and annoyed, she made her way home.

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First Date 1.4

Julep had made it through another week of work without incident.  Though, it was close a few times…biting her tongue was becoming more difficult. She was looking forward to a chill weekend and really couldn’t wait to get a chance to work on her new home chemistry lab.  At five minutes to five, Leonard approached her.

“Julep.  Do you have any plans this weekend?”

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“Me? Um…no, not really.”

“There is this incredible new restaurant in town – Ereganto. The menu is scientific, bordering on science fiction, and I wondered if you’d want to check it out with me?”

“Sounds incredible!  I would love to.  Saturday; pick me up at 8?”

“Saturday at 8 is perfect. I’ll need to meet you there though, if that’s ok.

“Sure.  I’ll meet you there.” Strange, she thought.  But oh, what did it matter if they went separately? At least if she hated it she could duck out early this way.

*  *  *

“Hello.  I’m meeting someone here. The name is Hofstadter?”

The Maitre D’ looked at his screen and then glanced up at Julep. “Are you asking me or telling me?”

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Internally, she growled. Externally, she smiled. “Telling. Leonard Hofstadter.”

“Hmmm. Right this way.”

Once they found Leonard and she was seated, she took a moment to look around.  This place was beautiful!  Lots of greenery with a bit of an Asian vibe. Trendy and experimental – sometimes a scary combination.

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“I’m really glad you could come.  Its a beautiful night and I thought you might like to sit outside. I hope that’s ok?”

“Its fantastic.  Thank you for asking me. I can’t wait to see what vegetarian options they have.” As if on cue, the waitress appeared out of nowhere, almost in a puff of smoke.

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Julep was happy to discover that a majority of the dishes were vegetarian and she made a note to come back and sample more later.  The prices were a bit on the high side so she might want to space it out a bit though.

As they waited for dinner to arrive, they talked about his roommates. Sheldon seemed to be a bit of a nut with very particular tastes and laughed about the roommate agreement he’d had to sign.  He mentioned their neighbor, and friend, Penny.  She was an actress, though she’d not appeared in anything Julep had seen.

Dinner arrived.

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Colorful and so delicious! Definitely worth the money later on.

Julep started to wonder what was in that wine because she found herself being a lot more forward than she expected and she playfully blew Leonard a kiss. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to mind.

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Still a little on the shy side, he’d also begun to feel the effects of the wine and Julep wondered if they would be heading home together. Wha…where did that come from?  I’m not that kind of girl.  I better splash some water on my face.

“Excuse me, Leonard. I need to visit the ladies room.”

He smiled at her. “Of course.  I’ll be here when you get back.”

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But…he wasn’t.

Julep went back outside and found their table cleared and Leonard nowhere in sight.  As she stood there, befuddled, her phone buzzed as a text appeared on the screen.

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Julep’s first thought was disappointment but she knew it was for the best. She still wasn’t feeling like herself and wasn’t sure if she could have trusted herself if they were alone.

Still.  It was a really crappy way for him to leave.  In the back of her mind she had to wonder why he couldn’t have waited an extra minute to tell her in person.

 

New Connections 1.3

Her first few days were in the books and Julep was ready for the weekend.  This was going to be a good Friday.

So involved in a new serum she was working on, it was nearly noon before Julep’s eyes fell on an unfamiliar face. Thinking it might be the colleague that had just returned from an arctic expedition, Julep hoped that Joaquin hadn’t yet poisoned him against her.

She made her way over for an introduction as he got up from the microscope.  But how to introduce herself? Do I go friendly and professional or let my personality shine with humor? Oh, he was looking at her…better decide quick. “Do you come here often?” she blurted. I guess we went with humor…way to go, brain. Seriously.

“What?” he asked with shocked amusement.

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Red faced, she answered, “I have no idea why I said that. Can I start over?” She held out her hand and tried to put on her best got-it-together face. “I’m Julep Soto.”

He shook her hand as he asked, “Not doctor?”

“Oh, uh…not yet. That comes next. It was nice to meet you. I’ll let you get back to your work.” She had turned to go when she heard him speak.

“I’m Dr. Hofstadter, by the way.  You must have done something really impressive to be hired here without your doctorate.”

And just like that the red cheeks were back. “Oh I don’t know…”

“What’s your field?”

“Nanotechnology.”

A light bulb seemed to go off over his head. “Wait. THE Julep Soto? Of course…I’m an idiot! Man, we are really glad to have you here.”

Julep heard Joaquin choke on something nearby. “Not everyone,” she said with a smile.

A smile stretched across the doctor’s handsome face. He leaned closer to her. “Joaquin doesn’t count,” he said, conspiratorially. He seemed about to say something more when Simon interrupted.

“Julep. Are you going to take your time on the Inventor today?  If not, I’d be happy to cut in line.”

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A tad put off by his attitude and embarrassed, again, in front of Dr. Hofstadter, she answered. “My apologies. Of course I want the time that I signed up for. I was under the impression that if I signed up for a time that the time would be mine regardless of whether I was on the machine or not.” She tried to remain as saccharine as possible. She didn’t want to cause trouble, but she was not going to be afraid to speak her mind.

She side-stepped him and made her way to the machine, ready to get to work. Not long into her work she spotted something strange…it almost looked like some sort of gateway.  That would definitely require some investigation later.

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For now, she had other things on her mind. She had begun work on a special Sim Ray that may, or may not, have the fantastical ability to turn an annoying co-worker into a pillar of ice.  She couldn’t wait to try it out.

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*  *  *

Complete.  Now to test it out its transformation abilities…

Nice.

Now for the real test.  Her findings had been correct – there WAS a freeze setting and she knew just the person to try it on. She had put up with a week of his snorts, whispers and disapproving glances. When she saw that he was working late she found some more work to do around the office and waited for that golden moment when he decided to leave for the night.

He clocked out.

She followed him out the door.

“Oh JoaQUinnn!” she sang. He turned and she flipped the switch.

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…and laughed so hard she could barely contain herself.

Not wanting to actually kill him, she quickly flipped the lever to ‘thaw’ and got to work.  Though his skin had a blue tinge, he seemed to be ok….I mean….he wasn’t dead…so there’s that.

First Day, Shmirst Day 1.2

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Fresh faced, despite the craziness of the day before, Julep arrived early for her new job.  She wanted to make a good impression and knew that there was a lot riding on this opportunity. Her thesis got her foot in the door and now it was time to dig in and really show them what she was capable of.

Head Up. Deep Breaths.

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First item for the day, time on the analyzer.  She wanted to run a few tests on the plant samples she had gotten from Ivy.  She was curious as to what made them award winners from a scientific perspective.

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While the tests were running she moved to the Invention Constructor.  She had read about this particular model and was seriously impressed that this facility was able to receive one of the first produced.  That truly was a testament to the quality of work they were doing here.

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Most impressively, it was easier to use than the machine she had used in college. She had a Momentum Conserver built in no time!

As she stood admiring her new invention, she heard whispers behind her.  Julep_day2_03

“Honestly Sophia, how are we supposed to take her seriously with that ridiculous hair? I give her a week, nothing more”

Julep turned her head slightly and saw her new co-workers Sophia and Joaquin huddled next to the microscope and rolled her eyes. He wasn’t the first to judge her based on her brightly colored hair.  She had known he would be a problem.  Every time she had made eye contact and smiled he would just turn up his nose or go the opposite direction.  Him, she didn’t care about. Sophia, on the other hand, was her idol and looking bad in front of her was not an option.

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“Excuse me, Dr. Larson?  I’m Julep Soto.  I don’t meant to sound like an airheaded fangirl,” she stated, glancing at Joaquin at the word airhead, “but I’ve read every paper you’ve ever written. Your research article on Molecular Nanotechnology is one of the reasons I’m here today. I used your research as a building block for my thesis that earned me the Pioneer Award. I thanked you in my speech.” Hearing Joaquin’s snort of derision and realizing how childish she must sound, Julep was tempted to look at the ground in embarrassment. Instead she looked into the kind eyes of her idol.

“Julep.  Have you had lunch yet?  I have some dessert I made that you really must try,” Sophia offered. Joaquin’s mouth fell open, clearly surprised by the turn of events.  As Julep turned to follow Sophia to the breakroom she had to fight back her urge to stick her tongue out at him.

Higher ground, Julep. Higher Ground…for now.

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“Oh Dr. Larson, this is divine!”

“Please, call me Sophia – and thank you.  I love to bake and I have so much more at home.  Can I give you some advice?”

Julep quickly swallowed her bite of cake.  “Yes, please!”

“When I started in this career there weren’t many women, certainly not at our level.  I hope I’ve done a reasonable job at paving the way for your generation to excel, but there are still going to be a lot of Joaquin’s in this line of work. Don’t let them get to you.  Dye your hair, get tattoos, wear mini-skirts – just be yourself and get the job done. Eventually, as you are publishing your research and they gather cobwebs in their own judgemental lack of activity, perhaps the world will change and how you look won’t have one bit of importance when it comes to your worth. I, for one, love your hair.  I think I would actually love to see Joaquin’s face if I came in tomorrow with something bright to match – purple perhaps.” Sophia rose out of her chair and took her plate to the trash.  She turned and dealt Julep a shock she wasn’t expecting.  “Julep, did you know I was on the judging panel for the Pioneer Award? I’ve read your work too, Ms. Soto and I am also a fan. You are brilliant.  You are going to do great things and blow the whole scientific community away.” She ended her statement by patting Julep on the shoulder and smiling before heading back down to the lab.

Julep had forgotten that she had cake in her mouth.  She had forgotten how to breathe.

Did she just….brilliant? Holy Crap!

Finally the sounds of the Invention Constructor made its way into her brain and she remembered where she was.  Going back to work seemed a little surreal at this point, but work she must.  She had a special serum she wanted to work on before her shift was over for the day.  She would have to wait and process all this tonight when she was alone and could squeal like a little girl in private.

Feeling confident, and perhaps a bit cocky, Julep made her way to the Chemistry Station and quickly made a mess of things.

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Looking around to make sure her new nemesis Joaquin was nowhere in sight, she gave a sigh of relief. She was also grateful that Sophia seemed to have already left for the day.

She said I was brilliant.

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Damn right.