This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 782 words.
That night at home, Jimmy was in a bad mood. He had read up on the black death, and was upset to discover that it could easily be cured now, using modern antibiotics. He was going to have to think of something else.
Lesley was watching the news after dinner. There was a sports report about a British Tennis hopeful. They were showing his debut at Wimbledon the previous year. All she kept on about was how green the grass was, making Jimmy exasperated. He spoke quite harshly to her, suggesting she could go and look outside to see green grass. His decision to allow her the colour television was proving to be a bad one. She sat in front of it all evening, going on about how rich the colours were.
Misunderstanding his grumpiness, Lesley suggested an early night, and some of what she called ‘bedroom fun’. Jimmy reluctantly agreed. At least that might relax him.
Day three at work involved being shown the protective gear and safety equipment. In some rooms, that involved using a full suit and helmet, with a tube connected to air mounted on the wall. Eileen put on her own suit, to show Jimmy how it worked. “You will get your own suit for each relevant area. There is a double-glove rule, and it also covers your shoes. Under no circumstances should you enter these specific rooms without being fully suited-up. Then whoever is working with you will check your suit for tears or damage, and make sure your breathing apparatus is working. Nobody goes into those rooms alone. Do you understand that, James?”
Jimmy told her he understood fully, then asked her if he would be working with her. “Sometimes, yes. You are being seconded to the biological warfare section, as I understand it. I mainly work in corrosive and toxic chemicals and gases. You must have impressed someone to go straight into that division”. Jimmy smiled, and shrugged. Always humble.
When they got home, Lesley proudly showed him a chicken and mushroom pie she had cooked for dinner. As she prepared the vegetables, she asked how he liked it at Porton Down. Jimmy told her it wasn’t exactly what he had expected, but he was sure it would work out well once he was used to the strict procedures. During the BBC News after dinner, the weather man spoke to him with God’s voice, asking why he had failed to make a difference. Jimmy told him he had to be patient.
This was going to take a lot longer than he had realised.
Friday was his last day with Eileen, before starting full time in his section. She took him into the animal laboratories to show him what went on. Jimmy wasn’t keen on those experiments. Pigs, monkeys, rabbits, rats, even birds. They hadn’t done any harm to anyone, yet they were being horribly killed here. People needed to know about God, but animals were just animals.
Eileen was almost boastful as she described how pigs were horribly burned with mustard gas, and monkeys choked to death with chlorine gas. Both had been around for decades of course, but she explained that they were constantly being refined, and were a good source of income when secretly sold for use by other countries, like Iraq and Syria. She almost laughed as she added, “The funny thing is that we get to sell them abroad in secret, and then the Foreign Secretary makes a big fuss about it when the countries use it on their enemies or their own people. He gets their ambassadors in and gives them a telling off, but it’s all wink-wink, and just a game”.
The last thing on her list that day was to show him an experiment using her much-improved chlorine gas on a monkey in a cage. In a sealed room, she made sure they suited up carefully. “This is the latest version. The effects happen in seconds, and there is no cure or antidote, James. It kills very quickly”. The creature looked unconcerned, and was holding onto the bars of a cage that seemed too small. When they both had their suits on, Eileen indicated that he should plug his airline into the receiver on the wall, showing him how to do it with her own one. When she was sure he was safe, she opened the valve on the small cylinder of gas next to the monkey.
Seconds later, unaware that Jimmy had quietly unplugged her airline, Eileen was writhing around on the floor, staring up at the dead monkey in the cage.
Jimmy waited two more minutes, then pressed the big red alarm button next to the door.