Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Despite having been at his new post for almost six months, Phillip just couldn’t stand the last part of his rounds. The research facility was vast, and staffed several hundred workers during the day, but it was a different story at half-past midnight.
The corridors and labs that bustled with activity all day long now lay mostly dormant and still. Throughout the complex, there was an absence of life.
Except in one section.
Phillip had never given animal testing any thought one way or another, but after having to do nightly patrols of the facility, he came to abhor it for reasons most would never even begin to consider.
Even the fact that there were three other guards on duty didn’t help assuage his nervousness. Robert was at the central monitoring station, Jackson was patrolling outside, and old man Mikhail stayed in the gate booth out front.
The sounds of Phillip’s own foot steps echoed coldly off the spartan surfaces. Occasionally, animals would stir in their cages as he probed the shadows with his flashlight. Despite how many times he made these rounds, he was always expecting something to pop up and surprise him.
He turned the corner down the last corridor and froze. At the far end of the hallway, about eighty paces away, one of the labs was still lit up. Normally, if there was working being done outside of regular hours, there would be a completed PHR-06 form at the central monitoring station.
Realizing he had not seen one today, his hand instinctively reached up and released the clips of his taser holster.
Not hearing any noises, Phillip approached slowly towards the lit workspace with his flashlight raised, his other hand ready to draw his weapon at a moment’s notice. As he neared, he noticed that the pass-locked door was still shut and to room seemed empty.
Phillip chuckled to himself. One of the researchers or cleaning staff must have left the light on. He was about to re-clip his sidearm when a noise made him reconsider.
It sounded like it came from within the lab, but at the same time not.
Preferring to err on the side of caution, Phillip drew his taser and undid the safety. He moved along the observation window in the hallway while scanning the interior of the lab. There were several rows of felines in cages. Some were sleeping, while others were grooming. One was even biting it’s own tail. He almost breathed a sigh of relief until his light shone on the last of the cages.
One of them was open, and empty. If he recalled correctly, these animals were here for pathogen research.
Before Phillip could ponder this further, a furry ball of black and white leapt up at him from below the inner window ledge. He almost lost his balance as he backed up in surprise.
Again, the cat leapt futilely against the glass where he had been standing. This time he just chuckled.
“Hey Phil—” a female voice started as a hand touched him on the shoulder, but Phillip heard no more.

“I think he’s waking up,” said a familiar voice. “How ya doing rookie?”
Phillip opened his eyes. More painful than the light piercing his eyes or throbbing in the back of his skull was the burning in his chest. He looked down to see his shirt open and a large bruise at the source of the burning. He looked over to see one of the lab techs standing next to Jackson and Robert.
“Did the big bad putty tat attack you?” chided Jackson as he offered a hand up.
Phillip tried to stand, but felt his knees go weak despite Jackson’s aid. He settled for sitting.
“Easy now,” said Robert. “Just sit up for now.”
“What . . . happened?” Phillip said as he winced.
Each syllable made his head throb and his chest sting.
“Well, apparently, Suzy here tapped you on the shoulder . . . you wanna fill him in, hon?” said Robert turning to the lab tech.
“Well, I was going to apologize for not filling out a PHR-06 form. I was coming back from the bathroom when I saw you staring at the glass,” said Suzy. “But as soon as I touched your shoulder you fired of your taser. It ricocheted off the glass and got you right in the chest.”
Phillip went to look down at his chest, but grabbed the back of his head as it throbbed again.
“So what about this head ache?” asked Phillip. “And why was I on the ground?”
Jackson just chuckled as Robert turned his face away coughing.
“Um,” started Suzy, “I guess you sort of, I dunno, tripped over your own feet?”
Phillip just sighed. He had been surprised indeed, just not the way he would have ever expected.

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