Lab Rat part 26

Posted: February 5, 2011 in Fiction, Test Subject, Work

I look up again and watch the blisters that mar her otherwise angelic face fade and disappear. Her skin pales a bit. Apparently I caused sunburns too. I let go of her hand, and drop the syringe on the tray next to the one she used on me. “I’m sorry about, uh, losing my cool.” She still doesn’t say anything. I stand again, much steadier than last time, and get a towel from the cabinet. I start drying off as best I can.

“You aren’t the first test subject.” Her voice is quiet, but it shatters the near silence simply because I wasn’t expecting a word. I throw the towel over one shoulder and go sit down again. “You asked how I knew you wouldn’t hurt people with the power I was giving you. I didn’t. I had a contingency plan. The first guy I brought in to the lab was a decent guy, but completely inept. It wasn’t entirely his fault. The formulae were still very new. He didn’t have whatever it is you do that lets you control these things. Maybe it’s in the genetics. I still don’t have as much information as I’d like in that area. Anyway, he tried to use the flight power outdoors, and disappeared into the sky.”

“He flung himself into space?” I’m a bit skeptical. Who could be so dumb?

“Maybe. I never found him. I don’t think the authorities ever did either.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah.” She looks up at me again, and her eyes have cleared. “The second subject was exactly the sort of person who shouldn’t have access to this.” She points at my injector. “He was passable as far as the use of the powers was concerned. He was better at the documentation than you are. His failing was that he used the injector to rob an armored car. I think he thought I wouldn’t find out. It’s true that I am buried in my work most of the time, but I’m not stupid. Phones have had programs that allow one to listen in on police radios for a long time now. When you’re out, I listen in, just in case something goes wrong.”

“Is this out of concern, or to make sure I’m not knocking over liquor stores?”

“At this point, mostly the former. Initially, I was concerned that you’d use the powers… improperly.”

“So what’d you do about the crook?” I’m almost afraid to know, but I can’t help myself.

“The next time he came in for a fresh set of cartridges, I gave him one he wasn’t expecting. A variety of cyanide, along with food coloring to keep everything the same color.” She shivers. “It’s the only time I’ve ever killed anyone, but he deserved it. His criminal activity wasn’t limited to robbery.” I remembered hearing something about that last year, and I thought the cops were just making shit up to cover for a botched response. Suddenly a whole string of things I’d seen on the news a while back make a lot more sense.

I got scolded at work a few days ago. I kind of knew it was going to happen, but that doesn’t mean that I liked it. Basically, my boss is frustrated that nothing ever gets 100% completed. She’s absolutely right, of course. I’m frustrated about it too. I don’t like being unable to get everything done. I did some thinking on the whys and wherefores of the situation and I came up with something. The nature of our workload and our accountability for said workload is such that there is constant pressure to report how much I got done. If I were to do a single project and see it through to completion, I would have one thing that I could report that I worked on. If I had two projects that I saw through to 95%, I’d have two things that I got work done on. Basically, if I have twenty things to do, and I manage to get them all to 75% of completion, I can point and say “look how hard I worked!” without fearing that I don’t look busy enough. It’s like the runner’s paradox, with a marathon’s worth of runners. I can get everything half done, then half of what’s left, then half of that. Thing is, I’m just working on more and more details, but I’ll never be able to actually finish anything. I think I’m going to try doing a single thing at a time until it’s all the way done again and see where it gets me.

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