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Cloudy with a chance of asteroids….

Jonathan was nervous. Not so much because he was scared of Ralph Henry Woodfield, no, he was just an arrogant jerk that he could handle. It was more about how he could possibly react to what he wanted to talk to him about.
As he walked along the corridor towards Ralph’s office door he tried to act cool. Nobody needed to know how nervous he was. Jonathan had gotten pretty good at that over the years. Always try to look confident even if your anxiety is killing you.
He hated confrontations but he just couldn’t avoid this one. Well, he could but he didn’t want to, he could not let this fall under the table.
He reached the door and hesitated for a second, looked at the folder in his hand. Okay, it’s now or never, he thought. He knocked three times.
“Come in!”, Woodfield sounded annoyed already, how could someone have the audacity to disturb him?
Jonathan opened the door and stepped into the room. It was dark and smelled like too much coffee. It also didn’t look like anyone did a lot of work in here.
Ralph Henry looked up from his computer. “Oh, it’s you. I don’t have time for you and your nonsense, MacLean!”
“You might want to take the time, Ralph.”
“It’s Dr. Woodfield for you!”
“Yeah well, we’ll see about that.”
Jonathan dropped the folder on the desk took a seat in front of the desk.
“Hey, I didn’t ask you to sit down. If it isn’t important I’m going to call security and have you kicked out of the building! I’m very busy!”
“I bet.” He almost laughed at the empty threat.
“What is this?”, Ralph Henry asked impatiently.
“I think you know what this is.”
Angrily the older scientist opened the folder, quickly turned a couple of pages and then got slower. Jonathan could see the color leave his face.
“This… this… no… you must have faked this, it’s what you would do… to harm me.”
“We both know it’s real. You know, some of us worked very hard for our phds, we didn’t just buy them. I sure didn’t.” Jonathan explained while unconsciously playing with his wedding ring. A sign that he was still nervous. When he became aware of it he stopped.
“I just… wanted to save ti-”, Ralph started but he was interrupted.
“I don’t care why you did it. It doesn’t change the fact that you fooled everyone for decades. Did you think nobody would ever find out?”
“I was promised it would stay a secret. How did you even find this?”
“It was an accident. I was looking for something entirely different and then I just stumbled upon it. I couldn’t believe it at first but this is something that you would absolutely do so…”
“So what are you gonna do about it? Did you tell anyone?”, his voice very quiet, almost a whisper now.
“Not yet and to be honest I don’t know what to do about it.” That was the most frustrating part of it all. He really did not know what to do and he didn’t want to put this burden of knowledge on anyone else so he didn’t really talk to anyone else about it. If he told Bob then what? Ralph Henry would get fired for certain. But was that all? He would never be able to work as a physicist again and maybe he didn’t deserve to but why was it Jonathan’s responsibility to destroy the the life that Ralph Henry built? On the other hand, if he let this slide he’d be just as guilty, he felt. He wished he had never found out about this.
“Please don’t tell anyone. My life, my career, my reputation is on the line..:”
“I know. And if I was able to find this then everyone can. Maybe it would be best if you went public with it yourself.”
“I can’t do that.”, apparently the idea of admitting a mistake disgusted him.
“Well you have to do something. I can’t just ignore this.”
The expression on Ralph Henry’s face kept switching between anger, resentment, fear and desperation.
“Okay. So what do you want? Is it money? I can give you money if you forget about the whole thing.”
So we’re trying to bargain now, Jonathan thought.
“No. I don’t care about your money, I’m not corrupt, Ralph. This is low, even for you.”
“It’s Dr.-”, Woodfield stopped himself probably realizing it would make him sound like an idiot now. “What do you suggest?”
“You have the whole weekend to think about it. We’ll talk again on Monday.” Jonathan hoped that Ralph Henry would come up with a solution or maybe even that somehow the issue would disappear over the weekend. You never know, Earth could be hit by an asteroid that wipes us all out on Sunday. He stood up from the chair.
“Why do you even care? What does it matter to you?”, Ralph Henry asked. He sounded beaten.
“Because you’re a cheater and I can’t stand for that. I don’t want to be part of your cover up.”
“I see. Well, I’ll see you on Monday then.”
Jonathan left the room without saying any more. He still wasn’t sure if he was doing the right thing. Maybe he should talk to his therapist later this afternoon.
He sighed and walked back to his lab, not feeling any better than before…

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