DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for IDF 2008 and posted to ff.net with the same title.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To howlingturtle[at]hotmail.com
What is Genius?
Zoe was worried. Mandatory participation in the school science fair wasn't what was bothering her. She had a great experiment already in progress. No, what was getting to her now was waiting for the results of her IQ test. Taking that test was also something that was mandatory for the residents of Eureka, and Zoe was not at all confident about the outcome of hers.
Her father had said he got 111, not bad, but not genius either.
And genius is pretty much mandatory in this town.
Not to put her dad down but she really, really wants to have a higher score than him.
That's what evolution is supposed to be about right, each generation a little smarter than the one before? Not only does she want to be smarter than her father, she wants to be smarter than that chick who keeps trying to sabotage her experiment okay, no. That's just silly. She doesn't want to just be smarter than that girl, that would be really dumb. No, she wants to be a genius.
She has to be a genius to fit in here. This town is a place full of the smartest people in the country which is kind of dumb now that she comes to think about it. It's like putting all your eggs in one basket, what are you going to do if the basket gets crushed? But that's a tangent. A person has to be a genius to fit in here, unless that person is Jack Carter, but there's only one of him so everyone else has to be freaking brilliant.
Zoe's already at a disadvantage. Firstly, because her father is the town's sheriff and has a completely average intellect. Nobody really expects any better from her. Secondly, she came to this town a delinquent; no one believes she can be anything other than average. Even her dad thinks her IQ is going to be average but that's more due to his ignorance of what the scores mean than any negative thoughts about his daughter. Thirdly, she was like woefully behind in course work when she got here. Public school in California is not like school here in Eureka; all the kids in Eureka are geniuses, the kids in Los Angeles, California not so much.
But thinking about this all the time is starting to stress her out. She needs to vent, and there's only one person in this town who would even pretend to listen.
Her friendship with the deputy had grown in leaps and bounds since her arrival in Eureka as a runaway. Jo was in a unique position in this town, she was pretty much in an age group of her own and she was in a position of authority, making friends was not easy for her. She needed people who weren't intimidated by her, and those were hard to come by in such a small town. Zoe wasn't afraid of her, or her position. To Zoe, Jo was just a beautiful woman well, not just, but yes beautiful a beautiful, smart woman who could get her into no end of trouble with her father if she'd a mind to. But Zoe knew Jo wouldn't get her into trouble on purpose. Jo and the sheriff don't do a whole lot of personal conversation.
So, since Jo was pretty much the only person she felt comfortable talking with, it was to Jo that Zoe went to discuss what was currently preying on her mind.
"Hey Jo, whaddya know?" Was Zoe's greeting.
"Cute." Was Jo's flat reply, though she did look at Zoe curiously. "What's up?"
"Oh you know, helping dad solve mysteries, studying, and totally freaking out about that IQ test I took a few days ago." She only sounded a little hysterical at the end.
"The test?" Jo's eyebrow slowly crawled up her forehead, "Why are you worried about that? It's no big deal."
Zoe knew Jo was trying for reassuring, but didn't quite make it. "For confirmed geniuses maybe, but for average little me it's a huge deal!"
Jo stood up and stood in front of Zoe, "I'm sure you did fine, Zoe. You've got nothing to freak out over."
"Pffft. Easy for you to say."
Jo smiled, "Yes, it is easy for me to say because I have complete confidence in your intelligence. And so should you."
Zoe gave Jo a shocked look.
Jo rolled her eyes and responded to the look, "Yes, really. You're smart Zoe. You know that. So chill out. You've got nothing to worry about."
"But Jo, what if I'm not a genius?" Zoe asked it so quietly that Jo almost didn't hear it.
Zoe was startled when she was pulled into an awkward hug, "I'm telling you, right now, that you are. Even if your genius doesn't conform to Eureka's idea of what it should be. You're smart, you're creative, and you've got ninety eight percent of this town trumped in social skills. You have nothing to fear, Zoe. I promise."
Zoe absorbed those words and sank into Jo's arms a little, allowing herself to feel comforted by the embrace. "Thanks Jo. I needed to hear that."
"No problem," Jo said as she released the younger woman, "Now, help me make sure all these gadgets are in working order. There's a science fair coming up and I want to be prepared."
Zoe laughed as she took a seat beside the deputy. Just being around the older woman helped settle Zoe's nerves. Zoe didn't know what it was about Jo, maybe her confidence, maybe her up-front attitude maybe it was just that she and Zoe were a lot alike, but Zoe trusted Jo's faith in her. If Jo believed she was a genius, than she must be a genius. That's just how it had to be.
"Um, Jo, isn't this a little overkill?"
"Hey, we're facing a science fair here. A Eurekan science fair. You never know when you might need one of those."
"Jo! If you use that in the school you'll turn it into a crater!"
"Just so long as it keeps you teenagers and your experiments in line." Jo stood firm, taking the seemingly innocuous weapon out of Zoe's hands and putting it in the 'ready' pile.
"How in line do we need to be?! My experiment's on flies! It's not like it'll destroy anything." Zoe's eyes were wide at the large array of weaponry Jo thought necessary.
"Not yours, maybe. But there are a couple hundred other students who are playing with weapons, and radiation, and robotics any of those get out of hand and we're all in trouble."
Zoe surveyed Jo's ever-growing pile of weaponry and had to ask, "Jo, where are you going to put all of this?"
"I'm going to carry it."
Zoe nodded, "Uh huh, how?"
"What do you mean how? I'm going to put them in harnesses and cart it around. How else?"
"Jo! There's got to be two hundred pounds of of stuff there! You can't possibly carry that much!"
Jo looked at her ever-growing pile of weaponry and sighed, defeated. Then she started to sort what she had ready into two different piles.
"What are you doing?"
"Well, since somebody had to rain on my parade, I'm deciding which I'll take and which I'll leave This sucks. I hate to leave anything out. I mean you never know when you'll need a compact rail-gun to take down somebody's mutated hamster or out of control robot."
Zoe almost laughed at the dejected look on Jo's face. Almost she didn't quite dare to not with all of Jo's favorite toys on the table, anyway. "Yeah, I'm sure that's tough, Jo. Since we're not preparing for battle anymore I think I'm gonna head out."
Jo looked at Zoe critically for a moment, as if deciding if she was willing to release her hostage, then nodded apparently satisfied, "Alright. See you at the fair tomorrow."
"Kay! Thanks Jo!" And Zoe was out the door in a flash.
The Next Day Science FairD-Day (Jo's term)
Something went wrong. Naturally. A prank war-experiment sabotage had gotten out of hand. They'd nearly crushed the town. But that wasn't their fault, that was the overambitious underachieving mother's fault, not theirs. She's the one who hadn't understood what the heck she was doing when she'd pirated her daughter's work.
Zoe had been a little startled to learn that Jo's seeming paranoia was well founded common sense in a town like Eureka. Science fairs sure weren't this exciting back in L.A. that's for sure. Zoe almost missed the normalcy of a simple baking soda volcano almost.
She was sitting outside the school, on a raised planter box, after being declared a scholarship recipient from Global Dynamics when Nathan Stark approached her and pulled out an envelope. "Thought you might like to see this a little early." He said, then handed her the letter and walked off.
Zoe opened the letter and found her IQ results inside. 157 Holy cow! 157! That's genius! She's a genius. She didn't believe it, but there's the score right there on paper in ink. It's true. Wow Wow. Huh. It doesn't change anything. It doesn't change who she is. She's still just Zoe but now she's a Zoe that knows she's a genius. It's right there in the numbers. Awesome.
Then she sees her dad and any plan she may have had of lording it over him flies out the window. He's a great guy, and a great father, even if he does get a little unreasonable every now and again. He catches her eye and comes over as she slips her results back into the envelope.
"What's that?" He asks as he sits next to her.
"My IQ test results."
His face lights up and he asks excitedly "So what'd ya get?!"
She lies, "112."
"That's great! You did your dad one better!"
Zoe smiles hugely at him and replies, "Yeah, pretty great."
He pats her shoulder and gets up to walk away, "I'll see you at home, sweetie."
"Sure dad. See ya."
When he's gone Jo appears out of nowhere and drops her SWAT helmet onto Zoe's head. "So what'd you really get?" How Jo knew that Zoe had lied she would never discover.
Jo gave Zoe one of the brightest smiles she'd ever seen from the deputy. It dazzled her and made her heart race a little. "I told you you're a genius." Jo slung her arm around Zoe's shoulders and pulled her in for a side-hug.
Zoe laughs and leans into the brunette, "Yes, you did. Thanks Jo."
"Eh, no problem." Jo squeezes the blonde one more time before standing up and taking the teen's hand to pull her up too. "Now, come on. You're gonna help me clean this up."
"What? But Jo, it wasn't my fault!"
"No, but you did sabotage another student's experiment." Jo waggled her right index finger at Zoe as she led her through the doors of the auditorium.
"Only after you encouraged me to!" Zoe retorted with a little stomp of her foot thinking 'Jo's holding my hand' and blushing hotly. Then thinking 'I'll bet she got me in trouble on purpose just so she'd have help cleaning up whatever mess we managed to make clever.'
"Still, you did the crime. Now for you to do your time. Community service baby. Let's get a move on."
"But Jooooooo!" Her whine was ineffective.
Jo just leered at Zoe and said teasingly, "Everybody already knows you did it. What kind of law enforcement officer would I be if I let you off the hook for that?"
"The best kind! The kind I'll bake cookies for! The kind I'll bring coffee to every morning. That kind!" Zoe's bribes were as effective as the whine had been.
Jo just let go of Zoe's hand and pushed the small of her back gently, propelling the girl further into the mess that was Eureka High's auditorium. "Not gonna happen sweet pea. We've got debris to sort through. Let's get started."
Zoe gave up her hopes for escaping, she knew Jo would catch her anyway probably in a net of some kind. She knew Jo was packing at least one net launcher She sighed and began sifting through the stuff, piling it into the wheelbarrows. At least she was still wearing Jo's SWAT helmet, a privilege to be sure.
Jo was a few feet away when Zoe shouted to her "See if I ever let you taste my amazing Snickerdoodles!"
Jo laughed. The kid's got spirit.
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