“Jayden Ain’t Right,” that’s what I call Jayden Wainwright, the scientist who’s driving me nuts on our zombie tagging team. You know I’m co-captain of the research team, right? Wainwright is the other co-captain, and he prods all of us into physically dicey situations to capture our prey—ones we don’t need to be in. I try to tell him we need to keep our team members safe. But when I speak up, Wainwright ends up looking like the hotshot Navy Seal while I come off as Milquetoast Mason.
Not only that, Wainwright takes terrible career risks and tries to drag us down with him. Take yesterday for example. There’s a passel of zombies living in the abandoned Acme Coke Plant on the southeast side, and we have decent evidence that this may be a breeding ground. If so, it will be the first zombie breeding colony discovered in the Midwest. (One’s been identified in Savannah, Georgia, but no one knows yet whether its existence is a weird anomaly or whether to expect more.)
Wainwright has invited a television crew to film us entering the premises for the first time. That would be bad enough, but without consulting anyone, he’s scheduled it for next week!
We’re nowhere near ready to go in. Careful documentation and data collection are EVERYTHING in science. Without the necessary work, no matter how cool Jayden’s hairstyle is, we won’t get published. Even in an obscure field of biology like my former specialty, colleagues foam at the mouth to find mistakes in your data set. It’s a point of pride. And that diligence makes the science better, too, because knowing someone is going to pound us if we get it wrong holds us to higher standards.
Competition in science gets worse when big money is involved. Zombie research is hot, so no other researcher is going to let something as huge as the announcement of a breeding colony pass muster unless the team has its facts completely and totally and wholly perfect.
Which we don’t. But try telling that to old Ain’t Right.
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.