Jasper's Science Project
Copyright© 2016 by Cuentista
Coming of Age Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Jasper is a fourteen year-old genius who hooks up with a classmate to work on a high school biology project. He falls in love with her, but she's four years older and he's frustrated that she'll never appreciate the depth of his feelings. Elmer, the man who raised him and his brother gets involved with his biology teacher and sets a lot of interesting adventures into motion.
Just before the school bell rang, MLK High School chemistry and biology teacher Carol Sellers, a woman who appeared to be in her late thirties or early forties, strode purposefully into her classroom on the first day of the new school year, set a well-used canvas tote bag on her desk and took out a textbook and a folder containing a class roster. The chatter among her twenty-six students quieted as they waited for her to begin.
Ms. Sellers had a reputation as a no-nonsense teacher, tough but fair. Appearance-wise, she was tall and willowy, sandy-haired with penetrating green eyes; actually rather attractive in a severe sort of way, if not quite in the stunning category. But while she may not have been Elle or Vogue material, she had a certain sex appeal and she always took pains to look her best. She dressed smartly, used only enough makeup to accent, never to cover, and her hair was never anything but perfectly coiffed. And complementing her physical appearance was the confident air of someone who could hold her own in any social situation. Elegant is probably a good general description.
Before she spoke a word, she took a minute to look over the gathering of students occupying the chairs and worktables in front of her, pointedly making eye contact with each individual. Then she cracked a little smile and began, "Good morning, students. Welcome to biology, the study of life. In this class, you're going to learn - at least I hope you're going to learn about the fundamentals of living organisms on our planet Earth. While many of you will be content to get through this course with a passing grade, a few of you will develop a lifelong fascination with the science of living things and pursue it far beyond what we'll study in this classroom.
"There is some likelihood that one of you may become a physician, one or two will get into some kind of 'green' industry, a couple of you may study nursing or become paramedics. Whatever profession or line of work you choose, science-oriented or not, you're going to benefit in some small way from what you will learn in this class."
She heard a disagreeable grunt escape from the back of the classroom, immediately spotted the perpetrator vainly attempting to look perfectly innocent, and continued, "Okay, I see and hear some dissension from the peanut gallery, but I'll let it pass this one time because some of you are still struggling to pull yourself into adulthood and don't know any better. We'll work on that."
Several students looked around the room trying to spot the guilty party.
Ms. Sellers resumed, "Eyes front, please. Now, it's not my job to push you into a career in the biological sciences, it's my job to present the fundamentals of life and encourage you to learn more in future courses as suits your needs. Inasmuch as most of you are juniors and seniors and have somehow managed to navigate your way through puberty to varying degrees, I don't doubt that some of you already feel you know as much biology as you need to know, right? If that's what you believe, well all I can say is good luck with that."
That earned a few nervous chuckles.
"For those of you who want to get as much out of this course as you can, I'm going to make you an offer. I'd like you to choose a partner and explore some specific area of biology for the entire year and outside the standard curriculum, to write up a paper on your chosen topic and present the final product to me at the end of the school year. If you accomplish what you and I agree upon, it's a guaranteed A for a final grade. If you don't quite meet your goal, but you put forth a decent, credible effort, it's at least a guaranteed B. And yes, you still have to attend class and do the lab work, although students who choose this track will have no assigned homework and they'll not be required to sit for weekly, mid-term or final exams. If you make a contract and fail to live up to the agreement, you must make up the mid-term and final exams to pass the course.
That created a little flurry of whispers and mutters around the classroom, as she expected it would. This was something new.
She nodded with satisfaction at the effect and continued, "Beware! Choosing this option doesn't mean less work, it means more work. It's just that your work will be for the most part unsupervised. For many of you it won't work. For a few of you, it's an opportunity to show what you're made of. If you choose this route and later find it doesn't suit you, that's fine too because you can go back to our standard classroom routine.
"In college they call this a contract grade. We've never done it before in this high school, and I can promise you it took some pretty fancy verbal gymnastics on my part to sell it to the principal. Whether or not it's repeated next year will depend on how this year goes. Of course it goes without saying that none of you are required to participate in this experiment. If you opt for the traditional classroom routine; study, homework, tests, that works fine for me.
"Okay, so here's the deal: If you think you'd like to take a stab at this, some time in the next week you should hook up with a partner, write up a proposal stating what you want to work on and what you hope to show for your efforts. We'll talk about it, and if I approve, we'll sign a contract agreeing to the deal. The rest is up to you. You can come to me for some guidance about resources, you can ask me questions about procedure, that kind of thing, but don't expect me to do the work for you. This program is for those of you who are disciplined enough to work independently.
"Okay, enough about that for now. Turn to chapter one in your textbook and let's get started.
One of Ms. Sellers' students, Jasper Van Buskirk, was indeed a high school senior, but he was still working his way through puberty, and it wasn't because he was a late bloomer. He was one of those fortunate (?) souls born with a very high IQ, and he'd been skipped a grade four times. He'd just turned fourteen and that's how old he would be when he entered college. He and his parents had already been approached by several major universities.
The contract grade proposition Ms. Sellers just offered caught his imagination and conjured up all sorts of interesting possibilities. There was nothing about school he hated more than the day-in and day-out drudgery of chapter-by-chapter homework assignments (he'd already memorized the biology textbook) and weekly examinations to insure he was paying attention and doing the assigned work. The whole process bored him to tears because it presented no challenge, and he only forced himself to wade through it because each class and each examination was a step closer to what he really wanted; independent study and a chance to communicate with great minds. This contract grade proposal was a chance to break loose and do something unique.
Jasper had (has) an eidetic memory that allows him to recall in nearly perfect detail just about any written or graphic material he lays his eyes on for a few seconds; hence, his memorization of the biology text. He could read a five hundred page novel in an hour. While this ability isn't necessarily associated with high intelligence, his being in possession of both of those qualities set him apart from his classmates in so many ways.
Socializing to any significant degree with his classmates rarely happened because he was just too odd, too different. It's like they resented him, once they learned what he was capable of. No, that probably isn't accurate. It's more like they were uncomfortable in his presence, like they didn't quite know what to make of him. He was a kid with a super brain, a bit alien to their way of thinking, and they shared little or nothing in common.
And that's the way it had been since he began reading Little Golden Books to himself before the age of two. By the age of three, he understood that he was in some way different from the other kids. While he wasn't openly snubbed by his classmates, early on he developed the sense that he didn't belong, that he was and would forever be an outsider. With only a few exceptions, his socialization was pretty much restricted to his immediate family (mom, dad, one relatively normal older brother) and his computer. Oh, and of course Elmer, the live-in caretaker who'd practically raised the boys.
Jasper really wanted to do this contract grade thing, but whom could he possibly talk into being his partner? He didn't have a clue about which student to approach since it seemed they went out of their way to avoid him, which in itself was illogical since having him as a partner was pretty much a fast track to a guaranteed A for the course.
It wasn't that he was geeky-looking or anything; he looked pretty much like any other fourteen year-old boy. As he began his senior year, he was five feet, six inches tall, one hundred and ten pounds with auburn hair and gray eyes; actually a pretty good looking kid. But his reputation preceded him and the other students usually found ways to avoid him in every class he attended. He was fourteen and his classmates were seventeen and eighteen; a meaningless gap in later years, but oh so important in the teens.
Jasper's parents, Alma and Peter Van Buskirk emigrated from the Netherlands four years before he was born, and they'd since done very well as brokers of fine art. But their business was so demanding that more often than not, they were on their way to somewhere in the world to negotiate a sale or a purchase for a client. Jasper and his brother, Peter junior (PJ), age seventeen, were almost entirely raised by their live-in caretaker. PJ shared none of his younger brother's special abilities.
There was plenty of money to send Jasper to the best private schools, but that's not how it worked out. Once his exceptional gifts were realized, his mother wanted to send him to a school for the gifted or even have him home-schooled by a private tutor, but his father wouldn't hear of it. He felt that public schools would better prepare his son to live in the real world, and there was probably some truth to that.
Elmer, the man they'd hired to look after PJ and the household was the compromise. At the time he was hired, he was a twenty-eight year old man with an advanced degree in microbiology. A few years after earning his doctorate at the age of twenty-one, he became disillusioned with his teaching position and society in general and dropped out to spent four years as a monk in a monastery. He followed the rigorous life, giving it his best shot, but ultimately decided it wasn't the life he wanted to live and left to pursue a more secular path. He was very well paid for his live-in position with the Van Buskirk family because, quite aside from his academic credentials, he happened to be an excellent cook and he didn't mind the drudgery of day-to-day housekeeping in the least.
Title wise, there really is no term for the male equivalent of a governess. In the old days, he would have been called a tutor and paid a much higher salary than a governess, but Elmer was much more than either of those positions. An appropriate title might have been House Master, but nobody called him anything but Elmer, and that seemed to suffice for all. He loved both boys like they were his own sons, although his preference for Jasper was impossible to disguise. That might have had something to do with the fact that they had so much in common, not the least of which was a prodigious intellect.
The bell rang and the students filed out the door to head to their next class. Jasper was a few steps down the hall thinking he'd approach Ms. Sellers after school to ask if he could work solo on the contract grade project, when someone came up behind him and tugged on his backpack. He turned to see Anna Belle Gardner, a girl from last year's advanced calculus course.
"Oh, hi, Anna Bell."
"Hi, Jasper. Gosh, you've grown some over the summer, haven't you? Look, I was wondering if you'd be interested in being my partner for the contract grade in biology. I'm sure you're first on everybody's list to ask, so I thought I'd get my request in early. I hope I'm not too late."
"Um no, nobody's asked me. In fact, I was just thinking about asking if I could work by myself. I didn't even see you in class or I would have asked you."
"I was two seats behind you. So you're interested? We can be partners?"
Jasper was actually thrilled that she'd asked because she was one of the few students who seemed to be totally comfortable in his presence. In their junior year, they often ate lunch together.
"Sure, I'd like that. Do you have some kind of project in mind?"
She shook her head. "Not really. I thought we could talk about it, maybe at lunch if you'd like."
"Yeah, great? Well I need to get to my physics class, so I guess I'll see you at lunch, okay? And thanks for asking."
"Thank you, Jasper. I'll meet you in the lunchroom right after fourth period."
Anna Belle had recently turned eighteen, almost four years older than Jasper, but they seemed to connect because it was like there was some kind of unspoken bond between them. She may not have been in the same super brain category as Jasper, but she was a straight A student and somewhat of a math and computer whiz. It was expected that she would qualify for a scholarship to any of several top schools, but Cal Tech or MIT was her goal.
All through their junior year, Jasper had an aching crush on her, but of course, there was no purpose in pursuing it since he was so much younger. His voice didn't even start changing until the end of the school year. But over the summer, that process completed itself and his height shot up three inches to where the two of them now stood eye-level to each other. He thought his crush on her had faded over the summer, but one look at her and it was back.
Like Jasper, Anna Belle didn't have much of a social life, but that had nothing to do with her looks or being a nerd. She was actually cute in a lot of ways, but she was no social butterfly; she was no slave to fashion, and she didn't find the self-absorbed "in crowd" particularly appealing. She'd been on a few dates, but she didn't get many second invitations once her escorts discovered she wasn't anything close to an easy lay. She had a career in mind, and she had no intention of screwing that up with a bad rep or an accidental pregnancy. She could wait for the sex; her hormone-driven suitors couldn't. Or wouldn't. She'd recently begun taking contraception pills to regulate her erratic periods, but that still didn't impact her unwillingness to risk her reputation.
She was so pleased when Jasper agreed to be her partner in the biology project. She felt fairly certain that one day she'd be able to brag to her friends that she and Jasper Van Buskirk had been good friends in high school. It was hard to imagine where he'd wind up, but it would probably be as something like a world-class physician like Michael Debakey, or maybe a top physicist like Richard Feynman or Steven Hawking. He was definitely bound for greatness, she was sure of that. She even held out some hope that they'd attend university together.
So what should they be thinking of for a project in biology? Maybe they could tackle something green like species adaptation or the effects of habitat loss; maybe set up a computer model. There was very little Anna Belle couldn't do on a computer.
But that might be too ambitious for a high school biology project. They'd probably do better with something more basic, more in the realm of first-year biology. She should look ahead in the textbook and see what all they'd be covering before the end of the year. On the other hand, Ms. Sellers hadn't put any restrictions on them, not yet at least.
Surely, Jasper would have some ideas.
Anna Belle was waiting for him at the lunchroom door as she promised.
"Hi, Jasper. I don't see a brown bag, so I guess you're going through the line."
"Yeah, I was planning to, but it looks like a choice between cardboard pizza or bone-dry salmon burgers. Neither sounds very appetizing to me, so could I talk you into hitting the Subway across the street? I'll buy."
"You're on! You buy today and I'll get the next one."
Ten minutes later as they settled across from each other in a booth with their sandwiches and drinks, Anna Belle asked, "So have you given any thought to what you want to do for our biology project?"
Jasper sipped his iced tea and shrugged. "Well of course it has to be something over and above what we're covering in the textbook. Everything there is just the bare basics. But then I don't think Ms. Sellers is really interested in us regurgitating stuff right out of the text. I think she wants us to strike out on our own, don't you?"
"That's what I'm hoping. So, any ideas?"
"A couple. I'm thinking that since we're killing off so many different species around the world lately, I though we might look at something like species preservation, ways animals and plants could adapt to changing environments and reproduce more successfully, maybe even evolve more quickly. Something like that."
Anna Belle gave him a questioning look and said, "Well I guess I was thinking along similar lines, but more like, oh I don't know, maybe following and describing the food chain in a coral reef. Maybe do something in the area of what species are likely to be lost by working up a computer projection of the effects of dying coral reefs. I'm pretty good at setting up computer models, you know."
Jasper tried not to look too disappointed, but she could see it in his eyes.
"I guess that idea doesn't get you very excited, does it?"
"Oh, it's not that, Anna Belle. It's just that it seems like the kind of stuff the other kids might be doing. I'd kind of like to do something really special, like maybe look into what kinds of genetic enhancements might be introduced into endangered species to increase their survivability. I was thinking that since our technology is wreaking havoc on the rest of the world's species, maybe we could find a way for that same technology to save them. I know it'd be all speculation, but isn't that what Ms. Sellers wants us to do, use our imaginations?"
She wasn't all that convinced. "You may be right, but I wouldn't even know where to begin with something like genetic enhancement. Would you?"
"Well no, not yet, but that's the challenge, isn't it? We'd have to read up on endangered plants and animals, find out what specifically is endangering them, and then think up something that would help them cope with whatever the threat is. Of course, we can't actually make changes like that, but we could make suggestions and then postulate what the effects would be over the long run, say the next hundred years or so. That's where your computer model would come in."
Anna Belle took a deep breath and blew it out. "Whew! Jesus, Jasper, you do think big, don't you? How would we even begin?"
"Heck, I don't know. I guess we'd have to whittle it down to a list of a few animal or plant species, learn all about their reproduction and survival techniques and decide what they'd need to adapt to a changing world. I like your idea about corals though, because they're already plant and animal symbionts. Anyhow, we don't even know if Ms. Sellers will go along with it. Why don't you come up with a different slant on it and we'll hit her with both of them; let her decide which way we should go."
"Yeah, well I think I'll stick to the coral reef food chain idea. Of course we have two terms to work on it, so that'll give us time to make it pretty spectacular, whichever project we go with."
"Good thing, too, because this will take a lot of research. Shall we talk to her tomorrow?"
"Sure. Why don't you write up your proposal tonight and I'll write up mine. We can give them to her in class tomorrow morning."
Anna Belle and Jasper each worked up their proposal that evening, and the next day before class, they handed them to Ms. Sellers. She quickly read them over and asked them to meet with her after school to discuss them. When they showed up at 3:30 that afternoon, she asked them to close the door and have a seat. They arranged three desks facing each other and got started.
"You know," Ms. Sellers began, "I was hoping you two would find each other. I make a point of learning what I can about my students before classes are underway so that I know better what to expect from them. As nearly as I can tell, you two are the best students in the school, so of course, I'll expect a lot."
Anna Belle and Jasper looked at each other, feeling at once flattered and wary of the compliment.
Ms. Sellers continued, "I've read over both proposals, and I have to say that I'm impressed with your ambition. But either one of them will require an awful lot of work, possibly more than you know. I don't doubt you're up to the task, but I worry it will require too much of your time. What I had in mind was something you could devote two or three hours a week to, not a full-time research project."
Anna Belle spoke up in their defense. "We just wanted to do something important, something that would have some real meaning, not just an academic exercise."
"Absolutely," Ms. Sellers agreed, "and I like your ideas very much. I just don't want you to be getting in over your heads. Jasper, I like your thoughts on genetic enhancement to improve survivability in increasingly hostile environments, but there are several universities that have whole teams devoted to such studies. I'm wondering if you might whittle down your objectives a bit, perhaps tackle one aspect of the species adaptation question and postulate a couple of approaches to enhancement. Does that sound reasonable?"
Jasper considered the idea for a while before answering. "Yeah, well I guess I can see your point. Do you have any suggestions?"
Ms. Sellers looked like she was getting excited. "Actually, I do. What do you know about hybridization?"
"Only what I've read. I know you can do it the long, drawn-out, old fashioned way with generations of crossbreeding and selection, or you can do it the short way by engineering gene implants to get just about anything you want, although some of them would likely prove lethal. Are you asking us to think of ways to genetically engineer some species to make it more adaptable, like creating corals that can tolerate warmer, more acidic oceans?"
"Yes, that's the idea! Maybe think about some specific behavioral changes that could help. If you're into science fiction, here's a chance to express some of your fantasies."
Jasper was hooked. "So you're saying we can think way outside the box on this project?"
"Sure, as long as it's within the realm of possibility. You can let your imaginations run wild as long as you show me some credible science to back up your ideas."
He turned to Anna Belle and asked, "Is that okay with you? Could we work up a model to speed up species evolution to allow it to survive what humanity is doing?"
She laughed, seeing how excited he was getting. "Sure, as long as we're a team. I don't think I'd be willing to tackle anything that big with anyone else."
"Super!" He looked back to Ms. Sellers and announced, "That's our project, then. Should we check in with you from time to time to make sure we're still on track?"
Ms. Sellers stood to end the meeting. "I'm hoping you will, and I'm expecting great things from you two. See you in class tomorrow."
Jasper hesitated, then asked another question. "Um, I have a close friend who has a PhD in microbiology. Would it be okay to ask for his help?"
Ms. Sellers was agreeable. "Absolutely! As long as your friend doesn't take over the project, you should use whatever resources are available to you."
Jasper missed his school bus so Anna Belle gave him a ride home in the new Prius she got for her birthday. As he got out in front of his house, she asked, "So when do you want to get started working on the project?"
"Um, how about Friday afternoon after school. You could come to my house and stay for dinner, if you want."
"Sure. Thanks, Jasper. I'm looking forward to meeting your parents."
"Yeah, well I'm pretty sure they won't be here because they're on a buying trip to Eastern Europe. We've got a guy named Elmer who pretty much does everything, including the cooking. He's really nice, and I'm sure you'll like him. Do you have a favorite food I could ask him to cook?
"Oh gosh no! I couldn't ask him to cook anything special. Just plan for me to drive you home from school on Friday and we'll get started."
As Anna Belle drove away, Jasper was feeling that same intense ache in his heart he'd carried around all the previous year, only now it was even stronger. He wondered if it might be hard to concentrate with her in such close proximity. His brain may have been a new and improved model, but his adolescent sex drive was the good old fashion variety.