He sniffs the water, gulps at the air. No others make a move amid the red glow. A good sign, all things considered. He smooths his whiskers, saunters over to the wheel. It’s his turn. He’s feeling lucky.
‘All righty!’ The man with the high voice and white coat flicks the fluoros to high beam. ‘Which of you suckers will it be today?’
He’s been there a month. Still no nametag. He reaches a hand into the cage, lets out a ‘Bastard!’ at the bite to follow.
He grabs the rat from the wheel. It squeals with the squeeze and the scalpel point. Then there are two colours of blood on the steel and the rat isn’t wriggling.
Shit. Third one this week. He is thinking that his boss will kill him and he’s thinking about the girl he found online, and he’s wrapping his finger in a towel before he selects another subject.
Carly crashes onto the swivel chair, toothbrush in hand, dressing gown agape.
‘Hello, Twinkle,’ she says to the rat on the wheel. Twinkle is next to the computer, twitching its nose.
She opens an email from “Roydaman1985”—a dating profile—and scrubs her teeth. The brushing stops. He’s a good-looking guy, into red wine and sunset walks. And a med student. The perfect date for an office Christmas party.
She scrolls to “vivisectionist”, creases her face, clicks to reject. She spits into a cup and reaches for floss.
Last night, Doug’s friends organised a naughty nurse for his fortieth. Today, he’s nursing a hangover while he streams datasets between servers.
The dating service drive is linked to others serving unrelated businesses: a regional bank, a hairdressing chain, a military system. This storage facility was set up for the Department of Defence.
Doug’s the only one who knows about the other servers. The offer of space for a few sly dollars seemed like a low-risk proposition.
A blip shows on the screen of an officer who’s spent slow weeks in wait.
He interprets the intel and escalates to his superior, who triggers the starting sequence for nuclear attack.
One scaled hand levitates a simulacrum of a bleeding Earth; a second scatters a die. Pointed nails rap planed slate in measured rhythm, watching, waiting, numbers turning.