The First Law of Thermodynamics by Jules Mills

Part One - When the temperature rises thermocouples develop an electromotive force

"You did what?!" Dana pushed her lunch tray down the rollers of the Yale cafeteria. She was staring at the back of Grace's head, admiring the silky blonde strands that had grown quite long over the past year and a half, so long that it hung three quarters of the way down the shorter woman's back. Dana had found that she loved to tangle her fingers in it, and resisted the urge to do so at the moment.

"I told her we would be happy to watch Nate for them. It's the least we can do for our friends, Dana. They never had a honeymoon--"

"And that's my fault? I wasn't even around when they got married and I sure as hell didn't get anyone pregnant."

"No, its not your fault...geez. They've been working so hard on the's the least we can do."

"Who's we? You got a mouse in your pocket?"

They both stopped in front of the desserts. Grace reached up and snagged a piece of Boston creme pie and then took an apple off the shelf and placed it on Dana's tray. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," she sang with a smile.

Dana took the McIntosh into her hand, stared at it a moment, and placed it back on the shelf. "Well that would defeat ninety-five percent of my extracurricular goals." She helped herself to a large piece of chocolate cake with sprinkles on top. "I had plans for this weekend."

Grace turned and looked at Dana in shock. "Really? What kind of plans?"

"Well, you are going to be away the rest of the week, so I thought when you came home we could, it has to do with you and me and a gallon of ice cream. "

Grace stared at her lover for a moment, a cool image flitting around her cerebral cortex.

Dana wiggled her eyebrows. "Cassandra suggested I do the things I enjoy more often," the nano tech commented and watched the blush climb up Grace's cheeks. "And Friendly's always has peppermint-stick out around this time of year."

"I'll make a deal with you," the doctor said, continuing to hold up the line. "You, me and Nate this, me and the peppermint-stick next weekend."

"No. Cassandra says I have to put my foot down and stop letting people decide things for me."

Grace sighed and pushed her tray forward. This whole Cassandra thing had become a power tool for Dana, and, frankly, the vibrations irritated Grace so much sometimes she wanted to start with the pills again. "Fine."

How come I don't think this is over? Dana asked herself. They rolled up to the beverage center. Grace helped herself to a bottle of water and a cup of ginseng tea. Dana also grabbed two bottles of water and a large Mountain Dew.

Grace pushed past the register. "She's got the bill today," the doctor said to Hali, the register attendent.

"Okay, Dr. Wilson. Have a good day."

Dana grumbled and reached into her front pocket for her money while she slid her tray forward. She watched Grace weave her way to the back of the room to find a seat.

"Hi, Dana," the young student said. Dana had found out through light conversation that Hali was a scholarship/work-study student of dance and hopefully physics. Sometimes when Dana came down to the cafeteria in the afternoon for coffee or to take a mental break she would help Hali with her mechanical physics homework. Dana enjoyed the girl's enthusiasm for science and the questioning, skeptical approach, never accepting an idea until it had been proven to her. Dana felt like the teacher instead of the perpetual student of life, and it made her feel good in the purest of ways.

She handed Hali a five and a ten and received a nickle back. "She always makes me pay when she's really hungry," she mumbled.

Hali laughed. "By the way, I got an eighty-five on the test."

Dana gave the young woman a brilliant smile. It was quite a feat considering the student had barely scraped by with seventies on the last two tests. "Good job, Hali. You should be proud."

"I am. And thank you for all of the help."

"Anytime," the nano tech offered and walked toward Grace a slight spring in her step. That was satisfaction.

She weaved her way to the corner of the cafeteria where Grace was already seated, talking to Minnie and Sylvia. A new organic tech, whom Sylvia was training was also seated at the table, picking at her tunafish salad.

Dana sat down in the open chair next to Grace. Grace looked at her and smiled, a nefarious smile. Uh-oh. "So what are you three talking about?" Dana asked...stepping in it.

"I was just telling Grace about these champagne-glass-shaped jacuzzis they have in the brochure." She looked at Grace and began to giggle with the blonde.

And then Grace became serious. "Minnie, I meant to tell has something to tell you, I mean."

All four women at the table looked at the nano tech. Be tough, she told herself, you can do this. "What does Nate like to eat for dinner?"

Minnie smiled, as did Grace. "Yellow foods. He's Jack's son. Macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, Cheetos...and sometimes pizza. That's the only thing of color I've been able to get him to eat besides chocolate cake."

"Okay," Dana replied feebly, giving Grace the faintest leer of irritation, and turning to Lola who was still picking at her tuna. Dana really did not want to talk to anyone at the moment, but the poor woman looked miserable.

She picked up her sandwich and ignored Grace's triumphant smile. The three women resumed their discussion about packing and all of the outdoor and indoor activities that Jack and Minnie could partake in. It was obvious that Grace had at some point had done the Poconos, but Dana was too miffed to even inquire about it.

"Lola, I think you are ready to do some work with real-material processing today."

The young woman looked up startled. " think I'm ready for the manipulator?" a nervous voice asked. Dana looked up from her grilled cheese, surprised to see it was the young woman sitting next to her who was questioning her. The voice was soft and insecure, nothing like the body would have indicated. She was more blonde than Grace, a little bit taller, and somewhat buff, and her eyes were large, chocolate-brown...cookies.

"Dont you think so?" Dana asked.

The girl looked positively scared.

"We can postpone a couple of days, but your training scores were right on, and I think you are ready now."

The girl smiled at her, gaining confidence.

"Sylvia will spend the afternoon with you, overseeing your work," Dana said absently. Dana returned to the business of eating and was nibbling her ham-and-cheese when Minnie, Sylvia and Lola excused themselves to return to work.

Dana could see Lola chattering excitedly to Sylvia as they rounded the corner out of the cafeteria.

Grace was amazed at how Dana could instill such confidence in her people with a sincere observation, not flattery or fraudulent praise. She was about to tell her how proud she was of her when Dana held up her hand for her to be quiet.

"Don't you say a word," Dana said as she began to eat the frosting of her cake. "You were setting me out to fry with Minnie." Grace let her hand wander under the table to the soft, worn denim of Dana's thigh. She slid her hand up the thigh to Dana's hip and squeezed. "And don't promise me anything you cannot fulfill," she said without acknowledging her with her blue eyes. Grace chuckled and removed her hand.

"You are such a baby." She dug into her pie.

Dana refused to look at Grace as they road back to the laboratory in the elevator. Grace thought her friend's brooding was cute, and the reason was even cuter: Dana was pouting because she wanted her ice cream. When the elevator doors opened the nano tech was down the hall before Grace even stepped off the elevator.

Grace spent the afternoon tracking down acronyms for her latest grant application, which was the reason she was going to Washington in the morning, while Dana supervised the latest generation's simulations.

Over the past year they had tried ten different ways of trying to kill the tumor cells. They started with attacking the cellular membranes with laser basts and recently finished with chopping up the malignant cell with mechanical arms. They had finally come to a point where they were satisfied by the method of destroying the cancer. However, they did not have a way to safely extract the dead, diseased bodies without spreading the tumors or causing larger cell death by clogging arteries or organs with the dead cells as they filtered throughout the body. Dana was discussing the low rate of success of the latest removal method with Rachel when Lola came bounding down the hall, still dressed in yellow protective gear and booties.

"Ms. Papdap!" she screamed.

Doc jumped out of her chair, her hackles raised at the sheer sound of alarm and the mispronunciation.

"It's Sylvia...she collapsed in the lab, and I don't know the code to the door."

January 1999 by Jules Mills