Gear, part one

Posted: May 25, 2013 in Fiction, Test Subject

My eyes snap open. My phone is beeping at me. Ugh. No matter how much technology advances, no matter what song your alarm plays, an alarm clock is still an alarm clock. My favorite song waking me up every morning has taught me to hate it. I sit up. I fell asleep with the light on again. Still wearing yesterday’s workout clothes. I yawn, stretch. I scratch my face. I sniff. I reek of stale sweat. Yeah, that makes sense. My view of my surroundings sharpens as my eyes start working again. I finally stand, locate my bag, and silence my phone.

It’s a short walk to the tiny closet I call a bathroom. I strip as I go, leaving a trail of dirty clothes. I twist the knob on the shower. There’s a rattle, then the slap-hiss of the water bursting out of the lime-scaled showerhead. I step in. “AH!” Too hot. The skin on my chest burns, and I claw at the knob. The water cools, but I turned the knob too far. I suck air through my teeth as I adjust the controls again. The water heats up. “Damn it, I know better than that,” I say to no one. I quickly scrub myself clean and dry off. I pull two sets of clothes out of the clean pile; one to wear and one to change into in case we destroy the ones I’m wearing in the lab. I cram the change of clothes into my bag, and hoist it onto my shoulder. I grab a breakfast bar from the torn open box on the counter and fairly bolt out the door.

The commute is boring as always. The passengers on the bus all have an unspoken agreement; we all pretend that the others don’t exist. Eventually we hit my stop, and I depart from the main road into the industrial buildings. I come to my particular featureless grey building and go in. Doctor Allison greets me at the inner door. “Morning, Doc,” I tell her. Her ice blue eyes deliver a flat stare. I thought for sure she’d warm up to me by now. And maybe she has. “What, no gun today?” She still doesn’t say a word, but she turns and moves her lab-coat. A holstered pistol. I laugh. “My mistake.”

She turns and walks toward her workstation. I dump my bag on the nearest one. “What are we doing today, Doc?”

“I’m assigning you some equipment.” She’s all business today. Really, she’s all business every day, but sometimes she says good morning.

“Aw, you shouldn’t have! My birthday isn’t for a couple months.”

“These are not presents, Mister Brinks.” She still won’t call me by my first name. “These items will be checked out to you. I expect all of it to come back to me in serviceable condition, should I request it.”

“I understand.” I put on my solemn face. I understand that she’ll want it back, and that the job will eventually end. I also understand something else. It’s one thing to keep track of what she’s given me. It’s another thing to check out things as though she had to track inventory for more than one person. I keep my mouth shut. It’s difficult. I watch as the doc pulls a plastic crate out from under her desk. She sets it on one of the empty workstations. She pulls out a clipboard.

“Make sure all of these items are in there. Initial each one. Sign at the bottom.” She turns and walks off. I don’t see where she goes. I reach into the crate. Netbook. Check. Next is a first aid kit, but it’s the backpack like the city paramedics carry. I look around. I feel like this is worth a raised eyebrow, but the doc is nowhere in sight. I turn back to the crate. There’s nothing else in there. I look at the checklist. There’s something called an injector on there.


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