[This is Part 5 of my original short story "Blood Science" - a tongue-in-cheek look at a scientist trying to write Science Fiction and Fantasy from a logical perspective. See the "Coming Soon" tab above for more on the upcoming schedule, including the return to The Lab Rats Guide to the Brain.]
Bob had the all-night talk and news station playing on the radio during the drive to work. Talk radio was usually not his preference, but his headache wouldn't tolerate music this early in the morning.
It was one of those call-in shows dedicated to insomniac UFO abductees and conspiracy theorists.
"They're real, I tell you! I looked in his window last week and he had a coffin instead of a bed."
"Thanks for calling, Helen, but why were you looking in his window in the first place?"
"Well, he's so creepy, ain't he? Greasy hair, funny accent, says he's a professor. Has few visitors, just some creepy looking college kids. He only comes out at night and on rainy days, that's not normal!"
"I don’t know Helen, sounds normal for college kids to me. Are you taking precautions?"
"Oh, yes. I have the garlic over the doorway, a wooden stake by the bedside, and my Ned had a priest come over and sprinkle the holy water just like it says on the website. Oh, and I only wear high-necked gowns."
"Very sensible Helen. Right after the break folks, we've got Bill in South Dakota who says his cat was replaced by aliens. Be right back."
"Watch it in the evening, read about it in the morning, or Hear It Now on XVPR, News Talk for the Triad."
"This morning's top story, county health officials have ordered the recall of thousands of units of blood from area hospitals after discovering faulty storage units at the local blood bank. Three thousand homes in the Greene Park subdivision are still without power after last evening's thunderstorms, and area police are investigating a pair of suspicious deaths…"
Bob turned into the nearly empty parking lot, and switched off the car, silencing the news announcer in mid suspicion. He walked up to the front door of the building and used his Faculty badge to unlock the security door. 'Mike from Security' was on the phone at his desk and looked up in surprise.
"Oh, you're here already." he put down the phone. "I was just calling to tell you that John showed up about five minutes ago."
"He did? Did he say where he'd been?"
"Just muttered something about a migraine. He looked pretty pale."
"He always looks pale."
"Paler than normal. He looked pretty sick, to me. I told him you were coming in, but he said he'd take care of it."
"Okay. I'll go check on him then head back home for a few more hours' sleep."
"It was just a breaker. He'd already reset it. So I sent him home, told him not to come back until tomorrow. Then I checked the readouts on the other equipment and drove 20 minutes back home, only to get 2 hours sleep and be back here for the nine AM class. That's why I could do with another cup of your fine coffee, Jen."
Jeannette was leaning against the door frame of Bob's office. "Get it yourself. Besides, you've got your own coffeepot."
"True, but I've only got a mild blend, too much acid otherwise. You have truly Wake-the-Dead coffee!"
"Flatterer! Did he say what it was?"
"He thinks it's either the flu or food poisoning."
"Really? I've got messages from Nigel and Keisha to their advisors saying pretty much the same thing. Either they had dinner together, or someone's been sharing germs!"
"Huh. Those three live in the lab, I can't see them getting into the sort of trouble you're implying. "
" 'Stranger things,' Bob. Nerd love is the finest."
"Get out of here. We both have work to do. Any word from Geoff or Emil? "
"Not yet, but then since you just taught the class you traded with Dr. Rose, I don't expect to hear from him until this afternoon. Dr. Tepes only interacts with me via email, and frankly, that suits me just fine."
"Yeah, I can understand that. Anything else?"
"Oh, right. I almost forgot. You need to approve the safety protocol transfer on the blood requisition."
Blood? As in blood banks? Why does that seem familiar?
"What, human blood? What am I requisitioning blood for?"
"It's for Dr. Tepes' stem cell cultures. You cosigned the protocol as the Department's representative to the Biosafety Committee, so you get to approve the transfers."
"FIFTEEN UNITS! Why the devil does he need fifteen units?"
"It's there on the protocol. The factor he's extracting is in nanomolar concentration and he needs a few micromoles to test on the cultures."
"Riiiight. But the original protocol stated 5 units each month. What's he doing? Drinking it?"
[To be continued ...]