Agnet Krause pulled her gear from the equipment allocation box, quickly inspected each item, and laid those that’d need detailed testing to one side. Like this gun, which would require a full disassemble to check the armature, lest the thing be rigged to explode in her hand.

That last thought seemed paranoid, but considering Property’s legendary incompetence and the reality of her precarious situation, she should trust her instincts. Because every time she ignored them, calling herself an over-thinker, high maintenance, or even crazy, basically parroting her performance reviews, she’d been burned. Every. Single. Time.
The uniforms were the correct size, but bad news. Beneath the clothing sat a bright yellow radiation meter, boding fun times. Project Management, claiming overwhelm, hadn’t released the assignments location, but now it seemed her destination was a blasted wasteland.

A hard plastic shell encased the meter, as if it were brand new, but nothing was brand new anymore. On closer inspection, scratches marred the display window and the wand’s sensor ring. She ripped open the packaging, flipped the switch, and aimed the wand at the peculiarly resilient potted plant that’d graced the prep room’s window sill since the dawn of time.

Tick, Tick, Tchick, tchshshsh. She jumped back. Had someone poisoned the plant? Sure, it was ugly, and people were placing bets on the day of its demise, but nobody would kill it with radiation when a simple herbicide would do the job. She needed a negative control, maybe this freshly laundered clothing. But the clicking didn’t let up, not one jot, when she tested a pair of coveralls, the door handle, the table leg, and her own shoulder. Funny to feel relief for a plant, when some careless technician, dumb as a donut-hole, had nearly exposed her to high energy subatomic particles.

She jogged downstairs to Sub-basement 2, a location suited to the double-dealing underworld that was Property, and banged through the door. Passive-aggressive quiet permeated the olive-green, dimly lit corridor. A yellowed sign, “Equipment and Requisitions”, arrowed left into the belly of the dragon. And shortly, she was leaning over a counter shouting, “Hello?”
Her call fell flat in the cramped reception area, its trio of dismally uncomfortable folding chairs empty for once. At thirteen hundred, somebody should be manning this desk, but maybe they’d extended lunch for a team meeting or afternoon nap; they could’ve posted a sign. But, no. Not Property.

Storage might be expressly off limits was but screw them all. Righteous anger propelled her around the counter and into a warren of crammed wooden shelves smelling of oil and plastisizer. The shelves were labeling in alphabetical order, but they hadn’t filed the radiation meters under “R”. No. Property, in its infinity perversity, had filed them under “G”. Ten minutes lost to some sicko’s sense of humor.

The first unit she plucked from the shelf was in better shape than the one they’d allocated to her. It’s needle flicked when she powered it on, and it detected little until—tchssssss—clicks so fast the sound was practically white noise. The unit they’d allocated to her was as hot as a johnny cake straight from the fryer. Imagined scenarios skeetered through her head—the wand dangling against her thigh or tucked in her breast pocket—the unit stored in her backpack, her using the pack as a pillow. A cold sweat moistened her hands. She wiped them on her trousers and grabbed both meters. This properly functioning model would do nicely, and she’d stash this hot piece of junk in the contaminated locker.

Back out at the counter, she hesitated. Her next move should be to fill out a requisition form, reporting the swap. Then she should report Property to the Section Head.

But what if…

Instinct advised, “Keep your mouth shut and your eyes wide open.”


About the author


Bio: Writing about unusual people in unusual situations with works falling somewhere between science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Author of Harmony Lost and Discord and Harmony, available direct from website or multiple ebook retailers.

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