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© Copyright 2017, Thomas Roberts
~~ All characters in this book are 18 or older. ~~
I wasn’t physically in the lab when it happened. I was in storeroom that was accessed from the lab. I didn’t wear a lab coat, I didn’t even work with radiation. I worked in the office filing reports with the University that oversaw us. I heard the commotion because it was impossible to miss—men shouting, alarms blaring, lights flashing. I came out just in time to see the lab being sealed off from the rest of the world. Lead-lined shutters came down, the doors locked, and we were trapped inside with a small vat lying open on the floor spilling out small pellets.
The first thing we did was strip and take showers before crawling into our radiation suits. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing except me; I hadn’t been trained. There wasn’t much for me to do as the real scientists did scientist stuff trying to get a handle on the accident. Dr. Kalan, the manager of the lab, talked to everyone to determine where they had been, what they had been doing and what they’d seen. He confirmed the contents of the vat, although there was no question. Everyone knew. Everyone except me, that is. I had only a rough idea what those harmless looking pellets were.
The lab looked exactly as one would expect it to look: machines that cost millions of dollars surrounding University-issued aluminum tables that were covered with equipment and drawers—thousands of drawers in large aluminum bureaus.
I had an idea of what they were doing since I filed the reports, but I had no specific knowledge of the day’s experiments. All I knew for certain was that a suspicious-looking vat was lying open on the floor. A few pellets had spilled from it, but no one could touch them without special gloves.
It seemed like hours before the main door unlocked and men came in dressed in serious hazmat suits (not the type we were wearing). The only thing we could see were their eyes, but we knew who they were. They sounded like spacemen as they talked to us, and tried to calm us down while they used radiation detectors.
“Don’t worry guys, we’ll get a handle on this,” the man in front said, but no one believed him. “Dr. Kalan, can you please give us a report?”
Dr. Kalan was a great guy, older-looking, like a real-life Santa Claus. Ah shit, I thought, Christmas was less than three months away. We all listened as Dr. Kalan gave his report: the exact locations where each of us had been, a list of our names, and the sequence of events. His paperwork was thorough and, as far as I could tell, accurate.
The men in spacesuits spread out to measure the amount of radiation in every corner of the lab. After they were done, we were escorted out, one at a time, to provide urine and blood samples. The nurse might have been female—her eyes looked feminine—and she did everything including holding my penis with her thickly gloved hand to collect the urine. After we were tested, we were each placed in separate rooms where we could take off our suits and put on hospital gowns. At least that’s what happened to me.
My room was ominous-looking, a glass box with a hospital bed, a chair, a night stand, and a table. I was hooked up to some machines and given and IV. My only view was through a glass wall into another small room containing a couch, a coffee table, a chest of drawers, a small table, a plain chair, and an upholstered chair. It looked like a hotel room without a bed, but I noticed that neither couch nor chairs had arms on them. I spent time trying to fathom the reason for the other room and the lack of arms on the furniture.
There was a large hospital-style clock on the wall over the couch. I watched it slowly turn for three hours before the door to the visitor’s room opened and our Director of Risk Management came in, along with the woman that I think had taken our blood and urine. To my surprise, she was our on-site medical doctor, Dr. Irene Coates.
“Ryan,” she said, pulling the chair close to the glass wall. “I have good news and not-so-good news. Which do you want first?”
“The good news—no—yeah, the good news. Bad news can always wait,” I replied.
“Okay. The good news is that, while you were exposed to radiation poisoning—”
“That’s the good news?” I exclaimed.
“Let me finish. While you were exposed, it does not appear as though it was enough for you to get sick,” she said.
“Well, that’s good. When can I go home?”
“That’s the bad news. You were exposed enough to be a danger to anyone you come into contact with. You’re going to be our guest for a while.” She didn’t look sad about the bad news.
“Define ‘a while,’” I demanded.
“No more than two, maybe three, months. Four at the outside,” she said, getting up. “Your dinner will be brought in and your wife has been informed.” And then she was gone. The Director and I both watched Dr. Coates leave the room. She seemed too young to hold such a high position. She was about my age with a spectacular ass. What a thing to be thinking right then!
It was time for the risk management guy to take over. “We have a clear protocol for just this type of incident,” he said. I was a fucking incident!
“You’ll be interviewed, and reinterviewed. You’ll get sick of it, and I’ll be sick of it right along with you. Your wife will be coming to see you but she’ll have to stay on this side of the glass. You can’t have any physical contact. Your wife can visit as much as she likes, and stay as long as she wants to stay. There are no cameras monitoring you. You can have guests too, if your wife is with them. If anyone needs to see you while she’s here, they’ll call first. At least we can provide you with some privacy—otherwise a nurse or doctor might pop in at any time of day or night.”
He went on to explain how the lights worked. The lights in the visitor area and in my glass cell were individually controlled with an on/off switch on either side of the glass. That meant I could have the visitor area brightly lit while I was in darkness, if for some reason I wanted to (maybe he thought I’d sleep better that way). The sound worked the same way. It could be turned on for both rooms, or on for just one of the rooms.