Reads: 96

Interstate Highway 41


Refocusing her attention to the dashboard of her Prius, Audri noted the time, 6:36 p.m.  She would have to increase her speed if she was going to beat her co-workers to R-tech.  If she arrived the standard fifteen minutes early for her 8 p.m. shift, she would be forced to bear witness to the rehearsed small talk of the other scientists as they passed through the four-step security procedure and decontamination. 

Listening to their jokes and simplistic observations of the weather was often too much for her to bear.  Though they were intellectually more gifted than most people who benefited from their discoveries, the scientists continually devalued themselves by attempting to mimic the mannerisms of Joe Public. It was a trade-off of the Aspbergers that most of them endured. 

The thought of it made her blood pressure rise.  Her cheeks flushing, Audri uttered to herself, “Ugh, I can’t bear it today.”

Mocking her straight-laced reputation, she slammed the down the gas pedal.

As her eggshell-white car sped its way up highway 41 toward Chicago, Audri’s mind jumped to the message her mother left on her voicemail.  Why would the newest victim of the Southside serial killer mention her place of work in his final breath?  She gripped the steering wheel harder.  Nearly all projects at R-tech were highly classified.  It actually surprised her that no one associated with the lab had been killed for their research up to this point.

Audri herself was working on a plan to smuggle her work to a competing company due to R-tech’s record of prioritizing multi-million dollar bonuses for egotistical playboys over social welfare.  It only made sense that there were other disgruntled scientists planning similar schemes.  However, unlike Audri, most would probably be seeking only personal gain.

Slowing her car as she exited from the highway, Audri joined the herd of traffic pulsing down the street.  The stop-and-go rhythm caused by the stop lights could be frustrating if you were in a hurry.  However, R-tech employees didn’t have to endure it too long.  The facility was only six lights from the exit.  As Audri cruised under the final light and took a left into the parking garage, she decided to make an appearance in the cafeteria during break.  If anyone had intimate knowledge of the murder victim, they would most likely be acting more anxious than usual. 

In line to enter the garage, Audri noted how thorough R-tech security was.  Every employee regardless length of employment was subject to a four-step clearing procedure and decontamination prior to each shift.  The process took from fifteen minutes to half an hour depending on the security crew on duty.  When it was Audri’s turn she moved her car into the parking garage and pulled up to a sturdy steel gate between two thick red lines on the floor.  The weight-activated system  triggered a series of lasers mounted on cement pylons which scanned her vehicle recording its make and model.  It then read her license plate and the chip embedded in the R-tech badge tucked against the window on the dash.Vehicle information was sent to a computer which ensured the make, model, license, and badge codes matched employee records.  A green light flashed, then the gate sunk into the floor allowing her car access to the employee parking spaces. 

Step two was a body scan similar to the controversial scanners used on passengers in airports.  The scanner would first project an image similar in detail to a topo map, exposing the body in 3-D.  It then went a layer deeper to reveal potential objects held in employees‘ mouths or other orifices.  Objects of differing densities were briefly highlighted on the screen.  Suspicious formations would signal the guards to do a hands-on search.  Depending on whomever was manning the gate, Audri did not mind the light pat down. 

Jacob Englehart and Rob Black were on duty this evening.  Rob was model- handsome, but Audri much preferred Jacob.  Jake’s eyes were a beautiful blue which contrasted nicely with his dark, curly hair.  He was a bit of a rebel.  His uniform was forever slightly wrinkled, his shoes were scuffed, and his hair was longer than considered professional.  However, his ability to discern the essential actions in the face of an emergency made him indispensable at R-tech.  In face of a threat, Jake could activate the correct programs to isolate the problem without shutting down the entire facility. This was crucial considering the levity of R-tech’s research.

Jacob had been the only other student at Chris and Audri’s testing session to pass the Definer and earn entrance to Verchamp.  It was unusual that both her and Jake ended up at R-tech in such different professions.She hadn’t had any classes with Jake, but knew that since he had been accepted into the school that he was intelligent.  She would not be able to underestimate his ability to detect her plans to smuggle her work out of the lab.

Moving toward the body scanner, Audri wondered which of the trial containers in her trouser pocket would set off the alarm first.  She had again chosen materials aiming for them to blend with her own dermis and muscle.  None of the containers she attempted thus far had passed.  She would have to be patient.  Once she found the correct material, she would start considering shape.  The flask would have to  be tucked beneath her arm without appearing like a tumor growing from her pec.  That was a concern for the future though.  Right now, it just needed to blend with her flesh

Submitted: November 14, 2020

© Copyright 2022 Son-Ja. All rights reserved.


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