By Nojh Livic
“We’re under another terrorist alert,” Doctor Alahird announced as he entered the lab, pushing a cart that contained two new specimens. Protocol required everybody to stay in their assigned locations until the specimens had been secured in observation tanks. They were housed individually in transparent tubes about the size of a bucket. One was active, squirming around inside the confines of its cage.
Doctor Allerton snorted and rolled her eyes. “When are we not under a terrorist alert?” She stood behind the glowing red lines which delineated lab areas of the five doctors that shared the large examination space. She bounced slightly on her toes, obviously impatient to get at the arrivals.
The lab was fully equipped with the latests and sometimes better than latest equipment. Roger, the only pre-med university student out of five dozen to pass the security checks to even interview for the intern position at the lab, had been caught in the supply area when the protocol lights above the entrance blinked from green to red. He looked annoyed.
“Doctor! I was about to deliver a very sensitive set of slides to Doctor Erinheart. Aren’t you supposed to announce yourself before you switch the protocol lights?” he asked, not managing to hide his annoyance. He knew he wouldn’t have passed the interview if there had been any other competent choice.
“Why the new alert? Was it because of lab three?” Doctor Crocker asked without looking up from the screen she was examining. One hand was typing away notes while the other brushed the touch screen, adjusting her viewpoint and variables of the last remaining sample of the prior day’s specimen.
The last doctor of the lab, Erinheart, seemed to awaken from a trance where he was sitting, in a lawn chair, in his own lab section. The chemist of the group, he was surrounded by a complicated contraption of his own design made from jars, tubing, test tubes, burners, and other more esoteric lab equipment. Roger suspected that the doctor used some part of the rig it to self medicate on a daily basis. The others knew he did. “Huh? What happened to lab three?”
“Sterilized. Protocol was broken. Initial indications suggest it was accidental but-” Doctor Alahird shrugged as he pushed the delivery cart into the observation tank receptacle. If he heard Roger’s complaint he ignored it and began keying his identification code and the cargo into the screen next to the machine. The machine extended an arm and picked up one of the specimen tubes, drawing it into itself, where the specimen would be tested for foreign containment before released into the first main observation tank that was shared by all areas in the middle of the lab. The tank had transparent casing to allow everybody to see inside and could comfortable house a few children, or one large adult if they hunched slightly. For the cat sized specimen, the tank was huge. As it was ejected into the space, it scuttled around the entire cage, leaping at the walls a few times.
“Why would there be a terrorist alert if it was just an accident,” Allerton finished for the head scientist. She walked back to her table, then again back to the red line, seemingly trying to will the observation tank to finish processing the second specimen faster.
“Poor souls,” Doctor Erinheart muttered, standing up to stretch and look around. “Anybody else hungry?”
“See that’s exactly what I am talking about!” Roger complained, “What if I had been over a line when you walked in? We all could have been sterilized!” AS was becoming typical nobody responded to the young man. He crossed his arms and tried not to glare at each of them and failing.
“You certainly picked a lively one today.” Crocker said, she still hadn’t raised her eyes from her view screen but she didn’t need to. She had hacked her terminal to connect to any of the cameras in the entire lab and even a few that weren’t. She had only shared this secret with one other lab partner, Doctor Allerton. Both had shared a particular amusing time with the cameras in certain male reserved areas of the facility.
“We’re under protocol, Doctor Erinheart. No food for another… ten seconds,” Alahird reminded the older man. Erinheart, who had taken more than a few steps towards a red line, looked down and stared at it, as if he had just seen it, or the color red, for the first time.
“Finally!” Allerton skipped over the line as it stopped glowing. The second specimen had been delivered into the same observation tank. It was not as enthusiastic as the first one. In fact it didn’t even appear to be alive, remaining where it had been deposited.
“Dibs on the dead one!” Crocker called out, waving a hand behind her in a vague direction towards the observation taken, again without looking away from the screen. “It’s got some variation in the coloration under its third left digit.”
“Have you been peeking again, Doctor?” Alahird asked as he pushed the now empty cart to the supply area. He didn’t bother stowing it. That was Roger’s job. Despite the young man’s constant complaints, he was diligent about his duties. The only thing that had kept him from getting fired so far. Roger nodded to the unspoken command and began the sterilization process for the cart, still grumbling slightly under his breath.
“I wonder what they eat. You know, besides us,” Doctor Erinheart said, walking up behind Ellerton, who was typing away at the main console attached to the observation tank, already programming in a set of tests. “Perhaps we should try introducing a live animal into the tank, after your tests Sarah or at least a sandwich. Who else wants sandwiches?” Only Crocker raised her hand.
“That is not apart of today’s testing regime.” Alahird said, rubbing at his stubble covered chin. “But a little observational science never heart anybody. Let see if we can squeeze it in after Doctor Allerton’s test. Also Crocker, you need to share. You can have the digit but you had almost all of the last specimen. I’d like to take a stab at its tail today.” He began typing in a request for the observation taken to isolate the second specimen into the auto-surgery chamber.
There was a buzz at the intercom near the exit to the lab. Roger perked up, looking at the door. The cart was now stowed so he made his way towards the door, as everybody else was ignoring the buzzing. “At least someone around here knows how to follow-” he was saying as he reached to press the button that would give him a view of who was outside the door.
“No don-” Crocker started to yell, looking away from the view screen towards Roger for the first time in an hour.
“Maybe its sand-” Erinheart was saying to Allerton, who had just pressed execute on her test of the active specimen. Inside the observation tank’s floor began to reconstruct itself.
Neither Allerton nor Alahird spoke before the reinforced security door was blown in-wards, followed by smoke, fire, and alarms.
Roger was dead instantly. Erinheart managed to pull Allerton out of the path of the flying metal slab which embedded itself in the observation tank but he slipped during the maneuver and hit his head hard on the edge of a table. He received a bullet to the head several seconds later. Allerton recovered almost immediately but was shot twice in the gut and once in the head as soon as she caught sight of the intruders, her quickly bloody form slumping against the controls of the observation tank. Alahird was struck by the overpressure of the explosion, burning half his face and blinding him. He didn’t feel the knife that severed his spinal cord at the base of the neck. Crocker survived the longest by diving behind a table, then scrambled into a cabinet. The intruders found her a minute later trying to call out on a cell phone uselessly. She received several bullets for her trouble.
The first specimen was bagged in under three minutes and the team was exiting the lab in under four. Alarms continued to blare but no assistance came to assess the damage for at least another hour. Fire suppression systems kept the small fires from the explosion from spreading.
Thirty minutes after the disaster, specimen two slowly crawled out of the malfunction surgery chamber into the main observation taken. Thirty three minuets later, it had located a hole in the observation taken wall where the slab had hit it, and escaped. Forty minuets later, it exited the lab. Ten minutes before a clean up crew and security would arrive, the specimen hid itself in the airspace between floors. Two minutes before the facility was ordered fully sterilized, it managed to find a way into the duffel bag of a on-site responder. Two hours later, the level one bio-hazard, which had already destroyed two worlds and countless lives, was lost in the greater metropolitan area.
As it turned out, it preferred French fries to sandwiches.
So last few stories have kinda downers. Hopefully the next one will be a comedy.