14 October 2011

"Erratic Chemistry"

By Curtis C. Chen

The lab door flew open, and Jeff strode in carrying a pizza box. "How much do you love me tonight?"

"If that's a Hawaiian pizza, then I want to suck your dick and have your babies," Val said without looking up from her microscope. "After we eat."

"A bit of a non sequitur, but I appreciate the sentiment." Jeff dropped the box on top of her notepad. "Open it."

Val reached for the box, but froze when she saw the BIOHAZARD label covering the cartoon Italian chef. "What the hell is this?"

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

Val shook her head. "I never understood that proverb. If the Trojans had looked inside the horse, they would have seen the Greek soldiers hiding in there, right? So shouldn't the saying be 'always look a gift horse in the mouth?'"

"Wrong etymology. EQUI DONATI DENTES NON INSPICIUNTUR actually means, if someone is kind enough to give you the gift of an entire horse, don't insult them by checking the animal's teeth to see how old it is. Will you open the box already?"

Val eyed the red and black warning symbol. "Do I need hazmat gear?"

"Camouflage!" Jeff said, and yanked open the lid.

Inside the box, separated by a grid of plastic dividers, was a rainbow-colored assortment of liquids sealed inside clear vials. Val picked up one vial and brought it just close enough to read the tiny markings etched into its surface.

"Jesus Christ," she said, dropping the vial back into the box as if it were radioactive. "That's a Pfizer logo." She leaned down to look closer. "Merck, Genentech, Abbott..." Val glared at Jeff. "What the hell is this, Jeff?"

He smiled. "Call it a shortcut."

Val slammed the box lid closed. "Are you a complete fucking idiot?"

Jeff's smile faded, and he scowled at her. "This is going to save us years of research, you should show some appreciation—"

"This is worthless! We can't get the patents unless we publish, and we can't publish without a plausible cover story."

"Make up any cover story you want," Jeff snapped.

"I'm a terrible liar," Val said.

"Take some acting lessons," Jeff said. "We're damn well paying you enough."

"You're not hearing me!"

"Are you saying I just wasted sixteen million dollars' worth of industrial espionage?"

"I'm saying you need to set up another lab," Val said. "I'll give you some names. You hire the people under the table, just like you did with me, and then you take these vials and dump them into unmarked containers.

"Ship the new 'samples' to the other lab. Say you got them from overseas, some off-the-radar acquisition, whatever. Those lab techs will have complete deniability. Have them do the analysis, then hide the results in a site-wide report and kick the molecules back here for synthesis."

Jeff's smile returned. "If you had a dick, I'd offer to suck it right now."

"I appreciate the sentiment." Val's stomach growled. "Maybe you could just bring me an actual pizza."


Image: Biohazard Sign by Dion Hinchcliffe, February, 2009