Project Lattice - Going Green


aislinn_icon.gif richard_icon.gif seren_icon.gif

Scene Title Project Lattice: Going Green
Synopsis Continued work on green housing requires a green thumb!
Date September 3, 2019

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

"Wow," Seren breathes as they step into the lab of one Aislinn Graves, amazed as ever to see yet another side of Raytech in action. Richard's recommendation to consult with the biologist on Seren's privately-titled Project Lattice had resulted in a suggestion to see if Aislinn happened to be busy right then, and now here they were.

"Baird, get a load of this," they murmur behind them excitedly, one arm extending out to better allow the creature following them to alight on a solid surface. A crow with four jaguar paws clings to their bare forearm, narrowly avoiding sinking claws into the fabric of the rolled-up dress shirt Seren wears, and miraculously not breaking any skin. The creature flares his wings for just a moment to catch his balance, the tips of his wingspan gossamer and lavender compared to the rest of his form, but he looks just as interested as his companion is… and doubly ready to jump on the next interesting thing he sees.

"Ms. Graves, do you have a moment?" Seren calls ahead, attempting to reclaim a professional air.

"Doctor Graves," comes a quick reply from one corner of the room. The source isn't immediately visible; Aislinn Graves' lab is a maze of workspace and plantlife. One counter by the entrance has a series of six potted plants, all seemingly in different stages of growth and marked Specimens A, D, J, K, and O. Another lined with equipment and empty test tubes. Another, an immensely overgrown and well fed plant that bares some sort of unrecognisable bloom.

In the corner sits a wedge shaped desk, a computer screen shining brightly over the form of a woman at work. She holds up a dropper up to the light for a moment, examining it as the contents inside settle. "Your, uh…" Another shake of the dropper, still held up to the light, "friend there is making the room nervous. Please make sure he doesn't chew on anything." Said with a hint of amusement as Aislinn turns back to Seren half way.

She stops as the contents of the dropper change colour, and smiles. She abruptly opens her mouth and lets several drops fall in. There's a brief moment before her face contorts into a sour expression. "Mm, nope," she states with a nod, setting the dropper back down next to a picture of herself and someone that looks just like her. "How can I help you?" she questions as she writes something down, finally looking up at Seren after.

“Doctor,” Richard greets with a warm smile as he walks in behind Seren, hands clasped at the small of his back as he looks around the greenery in the lab, “I hope everything’s going well in here— I know my mother’s very interested in your work.” It being safer and less existentially terrifying than her specialty.

“Mx Evans— “ he finally looked up what the non-binary version of ‘mister’ and ‘miss’ was!— “Is heading up a project that you may be interested in assisting with.”

That said, he leaves them to speak, instead stepping over to peer at the large plant near the door.

"It's wild in here," Seren remarks, because they just can't help themself. "Really, this is all super…" When they fail to find the word, the crowlike Baird clicks his beak several times, understood by no one but his creator. "Right," they enthuse. That was the word. "Primal."

Baird slinks off the side of Seren's arm to land with a thud on the ground beside them, one wing folding to his body while the other takes some time in settling. He's off— on the prowl for whatever in the room catches his eye. Particularly if it moves.

"I'm Seren Evans, I work upstairs as a junior architect with Ms. Valerie. This is my friend, Baird," said with a look down like they expect him to still be there, but off he's already went, sniffing at the very large overgrown plant and wondering at the flower that comes from it. "We've been working together on a project to design cheap homes to hopefully replace the need for FEMA units. Houses that can be, as much as possible, prefabricated and are ready to deploy anywhere."

"And—" because this was the selling point. "The goal is that they be at least-partially self-sustaining." Stepping closer to the desk, Seren spares a look for the mysterious dropper and its mysterious contents, but they try to tell themself to not get distracted by it, only partly succeeding. "I've been researching biomimicry architecture and other feats of bioengineering and came up with a concept I could really… really…"

Here's where the only partly comes into play. "I'm sorry," Seren interrupts themself in a hurry. "We don't need to worry about any— negative reaction from that, do we? Do you have an anti-poisoning kit we should grab just in case?" There's genuine worry there.

Things don't just change color for no good reason. And they usually definitely aren't things you ingest.

Aislinn quirks an eyebrow, looking past Seren to Richard and smirking. "Ah. It's a pleasure t' meet you, Mx. Evans." The dropper is looked at as Seren's concern is voiced, resulting in another chuckle from the agrokinetic. "Well, that depends." She holds it up to the air, as if handing it to someone who isn't there. "How does your physiology react to potent hybrids of foxglove and hemlock?"

Shaking her head, she slides her chair back and rises to her feet. "My ability renders me immune t' most plant based toxins." She offers a small shrug. "Before y'start t'get too concerned, I don't go 'round poisoning myself for the fun of it. I'm… trying to catalyze antitoxins. Pet project of mine." Her eyes drift over to Richard. This is something she's never talked to him about at least.

"So." As Aislinn turns her attention back to Seren, a wisteria vine that had been clinging to the wall behind Aislinn's desk unwinds, lazily bending forward until it can wrap around the dropper and lift it from her fingers, her now free hand moving to shake Seren's. "Self sustaining housing sounds fascinating. I'm all ears."

Richard’s brows go up slightly, head turning just enough to look over towards Aislinn at her words. “Could prove useful,” he admits, “God knows there’re enough toxins and bioweapons going around these days…”

It’s just an aside, though, because he’s letting the others talk for the most part. He’s not a scientist.

"Pleasure to meet you, too," Seren manages to say, still concerned for Aislinn's health. Their worry eases some, but not entirely. Mentions of foxglove and hemlock provoked too much alarm before the explanation was given. They try to work past it with a sigh, their attention catching on the vine that reaches out to snag the dropper.

That catches their breath, and their attention. The handshake pulls them back on track. Seren smiles. "Yes — self-sustaining housing! I was looking into ways to reduce the energy consumption of a structure through its design, but then I sort of hit a wall of 'Well, but the Safe Zone isn't a desert. Maybe we just need to be smarter about energy.' Then I spent a lot of time on solar panel designs, but…" With a shake of their head, Seren says, "Anyway, I was thinking about alternate ideas that didn't fall back on those. Something new."

"Have you ever heard of solarleaf technology? It's kind of like solar panels, but a different approach." Seren's offhand is extended forward along with a folder containing printouts both text and visual of the base idea, as well as their proposal. "Algae grown in a controlled area is used to create biomass which is harvested into biofuel, and the whole process is sustainable because the algae just keeps growing since its housing unit provides for it. In initial experiments involving the tech, the concern was around the algae not being hardy enough to survive temperature peaks and troughs."

Brows lifting with a somewhat knowing smile, "But they didn't have Expression on their side in their initial test run. And I think that if we could nurture the development of a hardier, faster-growing algae that produces more biomass, we could maybe increase the energy output so it rivals what photovoltaic panels output. It's nearly there, and algae would be much more ecologically friendly — and hopefully cheaper — than papering these houses over with solar panels."

Seren folds their arms over their midsection, patiently waiting for Aislinn's assessment or review of the idea. "… Do you think the idea has any merit? 'Raytech-brand' algae? Raytech solarleaf housing?"

Crossing her arms, Aislinn listens patiently as Seren explains their project idea. When they finish explaining she chuckles and shakes her head. "Branded algae? You can really slap a patent an' a brand name on anythin' here, can't ya?" With that out of the way, she takes a more serious countenance. "What you're suggesting is brilliant, I have to admit. And you came to the right place." She taps her chin. "One of my specialties is crossbreeding, hybridization, and splicing of flora. I can certainly try a series of trials, see if we can beef up the type of alga-"

She stops, brow furrowing as she turns and looks around the room. "I didn't ask th'peanut gallery," she remarks not to Seren or to Richard, but rather to the room at large. "It's not gross! It's science!" Eyes widening slightly, she clears her throat and turns back to them. "They have opinions, it seems," she remarks with a wry chuckle. Her gaze turns to Seren. "I suppose I should reintroduce myself properly. Dr. Aislinn Graves, PhD. specialising in botany and biochemistry, scientist, and argokinetic who has to put up with some very mouthy friends." Her eyes narrow, and she turns to look behind her at a potted plant on her desk. "Yes, I mean you."

Letting out a sigh, she turns back to face the others. "So pardon the insanity. I can… talk to them, and sometimes they get very loud." A sheepish smile crosses her face as she nods her head apologetically. "The idea absolutely has merit. But it will take time. I see two routes, depending on what information you can give me. We beef up the algae, or we find a way to splice the necessary properties into something else that can sustain itself as easily." She takes the offered folder and flips it open. "But like I said. It's brilliant."

Of the people in the room, Richard is the only one who doesn’t talk to things that aren’t there, so he’s not going to say anything.

“Don’t look at me,” he notes, “I’m just a hobbyist gardener, you all are the experts here.”

But he is listening, and he probably understands more than he’s letting on.

At hearing their idea has merit — and possibly even more than just merit!! — Seren lights up, posture straightening. They’re hanging onto every word, right until the point that Aislinn appears to talk to herself. Or … to something not visible. They look back toward Baird, brows furrowing at him in a puzzled manner. Baird, that’s not you, is it? they ask in peering at him. The gryphon flares his nostrils as he stops sniffing the unknown flower, looking back to Seren with a baleful eye. Not him.

Then it makes sense.

Intrigued, the edges of their irises ring with a silver shine. “I know a bit about what that’s like,” Seren confides with a small smile.

“But yes— if you’re willing, let’s investigate to see which of the two works better. I can set up some preliminary meetings to share more details, and then we can… we can see where it goes from there.” At this point, Seren’s looking back to Richard, brow lifting in a silent seeking of approval. It’s fine if they monopolize your biologist’s time like this, right? “Does that sound good?”

"Well," Aislinn starts, her smile fading a bit. "Before you get too excited, let's do some expectation management." She moves to sit down at one of the counters in her lab, motioning for the others to join her. "I can do my thing - catalyse changes in specimens we settle on, try and tweak them on a genetic level through splicing and hybridization. But…"

She holds up a finger again. "First, that takes time. It'll take a few attempts before we find what sticks, even with my help." Another finger. "Then they have to grow, and unless y'know someone who can induce growth in plantlife, that'll also take time. I can do a lot t'help them grow faster and stronger, but my ability has limits. Sadly, growth induction isn't somethin' I'm capable of." A third finger. "They have to survive, and then put into use on trials."

All three fingers curl back in. "So I can get us started, but we're looking at months before even basic trials unless we find someone else to help." She smiles, leaning against the counter and reaching for a dangling vine, which in turn reaches over to her. "But it's very doable if you can accept that."

“As I’ve learned over the years, science is something that takes time,” Richard observes with a quiet chuckle as he turns away from the plant near the door, hands spreading slightly, “You’re welcome to look for additional agrokinetics to bring in as consultants if you’d like, Evans, but I’m not in any hurry. The future will still be there waiting for us when we’re done with whatever you just said you wanted to do.”

A twitch of his lips, “And yes, technically we can trademark and patent modified organisms. Which is admittedly a strange quirk of corporate law.”

"Same principle as GMOs. Right?" Seren chimes with a broad smile of their own, completely undeterred by the setting of expectations. They're just excited to be here, to really be giving this thing a shot.

And it sounds like this will really happen, disclaimers about expected timeframes and all. "I completely understand."

Baird crows in delight from where he is, scampering over the ground and sweeping his wings out to propel himself up once he bears Seren, clinging to their back and crawling up their form to rest his head on their shoulder. His human sways only slightly under his perceived weight, still grinning.

"I'm really excited to hear you're on board, Dr. Graves— I really think if we pull this off it'll be a win for the Safe Zone… for tons of people, really." Seren's form stretches up in their enthusiasm for everything, like they might float away they're so giddy!, but their soles never leave the ground despite that upward, unconscious lift. "I know Ms. Cranston is also willing to assist, too, so we're going to have just the best minds possible on this one.

"I can't wait to get started!"

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