Bio-containment technician Nelda Thirstman scrubbed the corrosion off a used flux fuse. "This one is cracked," she said.
Her supervisor, Angry Brenda, snatched the part out of her hand. She rubbed her fingers up and down the large tempered glass component like she was giving the world's most aggressive hand job. "It's fine," Brenda snapped as she handed it back to Nelda.
"You can see it's cracked," Nelda said. "And cracked fuses are meant to go into the discard bin."
"That part costs over five thousand dollars. It would be way cheaper to replace you, then to replace that part." Angry Brenda had flyaway hair that puffed up from her temples like an owl's ear tufts. It was the closest thing she had to an endearing feature.
Nelda sighed and put the clearly cracked fuse into the returns tray.
The lights in the basement component processing room flickered. The boys in engineering were cranking up the machine.
Like everyone else in Building 3, Nelda indulged in some speculation about the purpose of the secret experimental machine on the 200 level. But unlike most of her colleagues, Nelda's graduate degree was in ethology. Animal biology and behavior, that is. So the parts that she pulled from the autoclave gave her very little in the way of clues.
Nelda secretly suspected her lack of engineering education was one of the reasons why she had been given a job inside the secure zone. It was easier to keep a secret from a woman who wouldn't know a clue to the nature of the big bad secret machine if she tripped over it in the hallway. Which was something she often did, as that was where they stored some of the redundant components.
"Take that to the plant room." Angry Brenda shoved the returns tray in Nelda's general direction. Nelda managed to grab it before it slid off the table.
"It would be an honor," Nelda said.
Angry Brenda glared at her suspiciously, but being irony-impaired she could find no fault with Nelda's reply.
Brenda traipsed through basement passages that would make Giger proud, and then took the hydraulic lift up to the 200 level. Outside the plant room, she had to run the gauntlet of two armed guards stationed at the metal detector.
The detector pinged, causing the two guards to reach for their rifles.
"Ya caught me," Nelda drawled. "Imma packing metal."
The two guards looked angry and startled. Irony-deficiencies ran rampant through the staff of this secret research installation. [I wonder if there is some kind of vitamin supplement for that?]
Nelda sighed. "Machine parts, like it is every day. Some of them"—exaggerated shock-face—"are made of metal."
The guards didn't speak but did put down their guns. One of them ran the smaller metal-detecting wand over Nelda's body.
[I should get an intimate piercing just to fuck with him.]
The other looked through the returned parts bin. He took out the flux fuse and shook it.
"Is that how you treat your boyfriend?" Nelda asked.
"I don't have a boyfriend!" the guard replied.
"No wonder if that's how you handle a rod." Nelda took the part from him and returned it to the bin and went through into the plant room.
As Nelda had noticed the first time she entered it, the room was disappointingly devoid of plants. It was the control room for some enormous collection of equipment that seemed to occupy most of the rest of the building, with spaces for people just sort of jammed in wherever they would fit.
Only two of the scientists were present. They never told her their names so she had nicknamed these two Dandruff and Beaker. Dandruff seemed to be very senior and most of the others jumped to serve his every whim. Beaker was young, gangly, and always seemed to be gulping like he was trying to swallow a live goldfish.
"Where is that damn fuse!" Dandruff shouted.
Nelda pulled it out of the tray and Beaker snatched it from her while taking a good look at her cleavage. He then tripped as he turned and dropped the part. Nelda just managed to snatch it back. Beaker hit the floor, the large glass fuse did not.
"Put it on the socket!" Dandruff shouted. Shouting seemed to be the only form of communication he had mastered.
Nelda looked down at Beaker who seemed to have rolled a critical failure while just trying to cross the floor. He wasn't moving. "Um, I think your guy here is unconscious. Or dead, maybe?"
"Put. It. In. The. SOCKET!" Dandruff positively screamed while pointing at the machine where a single small hatch was open, revealed… well, a socket.
"I bet you say that to all the boys," Nelda muttered. She put the tray down on a bench and took the fuse over to the machine.
Inspecting both ends of the fuse it seemed like one end was smooth and the other seemed a bit more socket-able with two small prongs poking out. She took a firm hold of the fuse and slid it into the hole.
Dandruff seemed to register, for the first time, that she wasn't Beaker. His look of apoplectic anger raised his profuse white eyebrows enough to reveal his beady brown eyes. "What the f…"
A flash of golden light emerged from the face of the machine like golden showers from God. [I really hope this doesn't ruin my scrubs].
Nelda took a deep breath of suspiciously fresh air. She stumbled slightly on the suddenly soft ground.
In front of her was a view, between verdant trees, of a peaceful river valley. The song of birds, the smell of flowers, and a golden sunset all competed for the attention of Nelda's bemused senses.
"Well, well, well." said a smooth, deep, masculine voice.
Turning to the left, Nelda was confronted with the sight of a paunchy satyr, top half man – bottom half goat, with a cock the size of a subway sandwich.
"What on Mirth are you supposed to be?" the bearded satyr asked.
It seems like the title of the story ("Chimera Girl") is a bit misleading for some people. I am open to suggestions for a better title.
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