I walk into the lab, grab a coat and a pair of goggles and head over to the console where James is working. James is a fantastic lab technician; courteous, fastidious and very skilled. He was my personal lab tech for a while but was mysteriously reassigned. All my assistants get reassigned. Or leave. Or file grievances. It’s not that I don’t play well with others. I just have my own way of doing things and when it’s my research, it really is my way or the highway. Plus my working environment is not to everyone’s taste.
“Hey James.” I smile at the technician, just about succeeding in hiding my rising bile. Moriarty is visible through the viewing window, in the quarantine chamber. He is strapped to a bench and shaking. Currently nothing is happening. I know I should have arrived here sooner though as there are burn marks on his, for want of a better word, skin.
James smiles and turns from the console.
“Hey Reen. Just doing some testing for the new nano tech trials.”
“Run me through the pre lims.”
“Nothing concrete as yet. We want to utilise the same nano tech in the ABP here” he gestures to the shivering humanoid “to craft a self healing armour. His skin heals over time, but how much time and after what damage isn’t clear, so we’re running a few tests against different levels and types of damage and monitoring the results. If they’re encouraging, we’re hoping to get funding to go ahead and build some armour with the nano tech incorporated and test it in the field.”
I nod slowly.
“Wow. Sounds promising. Strange though. No one ran this idea past me. I know I’m new in charge, but I do expect to get sign off on all major testing.”
James knows me too well and is tugging at his shirt cuffs nervously.
“Er, it’s the ABP Reen. No one even knows he’s here, so it’s not usually a problem…”
“No problem James. Don’t you have a skin graft on your back from that burn incident a few years back?”
James’ eyes widen and he twitches his head back in surprise. He has no idea where I am going with this. He swallows and responds
“Er, yes. I allowed myself to be treated with the new experimental cells that accelerate the skin re-growth. But they canned the project because some of the subjects rejected. I was lucky. What’s this got to do…”
“Thanks James, good to know. I’m re-opening the project with a view to testing the resilience of the new skin. I’ll be calling you in for testing of course.”
James’ eyes are bugging out of his head at this point.
“James as part of that project you are bound to participate in any follow up experimentation. I can provide the signed documents if you want. I’m sure any tests you’re put through will only be a fraction as stressful or painful as what we’re doing to the ABP here…”
And that’s when it clicks for James. I don’t care if he thinks I’m angry because he went behind my back.
I don’t care if he thinks I’m going soft. I particularly don’t care if he thinks I have a personal vendetta against him for getting himself reassigned. What’s important is the look on his face and the sweat and the frantic nodding tells me this is one guy who will never take Moriarty without checking with me first.
“Miss Hadley…I’m sorry, of course all testing will be checked through you first. I guess I just hadn’t adjusted to the new chain of command.”
I sigh and purposefully soften my expression.
“James, it’s nothing personal. But I am in charge and I plan to stay that way. If I have to spend all my time looking over my shoulder to check what my staff are doing I will never get anything done. You’re a great lab tech and a good man. Don’t get yourself into trouble eh?”
“Thank you…thank you Miss Hadley.”
He thinks this is our little secret. Of course it is, but for my benefit, not his.
“Don’t worry James. Now get the ABP back to his room, gently please, no point damaging him further for no benefit.”
Out of the corner of my eye I can see Moriarty grinning and I have to bite my cheek to prevent my sympathetic response. Then I remember the burn marks on his skin and suddenly the humour drains away; I think my dark expression alarms James who backs away and frantically starts dismantling the test room.
Copyright Mabh Savage February 2013