Hildi’s nose itched.
She ignored it. While she waited for her lab partner to emerge from the airlock, she checked the seals of her blue biocontainment suit again. Good habits could save her life.
Hildi pulled a coiled yellow air hose suspended from the ceiling and plugged it into a socket near her waist. The deflated suit expanded as air roared past her face. The familiar ballooning sensation saddened her for a moment. She’d miss her work here.
Then she grinned. She’d be wearing a pressure suit in her new job and performing similar cutting-edge work in an even stranger environment.
Her practiced eyes appraised Biosafety Level 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most dangerous lab. Everything “down and cold.” But an adjoining room held liquid-nitrogen freezers filled with hot agents, the deadliest diseases known to man. Francine stepped from the airlock. Hildi’s college friend had never worked in Level 4, but she moved with confidence. Hildi stared into Francine’s faceplate and noted her calm expression. She’d do fine.
Hildi maneuvered past the stainless-steel tables dominating the room. She pulled two-inch test tubes, a push-button micropipette, and other tools from drawers and placed them in the biosafety cabinet, a glorified box with a fume hood and clear front that rested on the work counter. She detached her hose, inhaling the reserved air in her suit.
Humming to herself, she walked into the adjoining room and attached her suit to another hose. Every time Hildi moved in the lab, she repeated the procedure, a necessary inconvenience if she wanted to continue breathing.
She punched a code into the lock of one of the stainless-steel freezers and extracted a vial of the latest X virus that may or may not have killed John Doe.
Returning to the biosafety hood, she slipped her yellow-gloved hands under the clear protective shield, a sneeze guard at a toxic salad bar. She withdrew a tiny sample of the unknown and released it into one of the tubes. After Hildi repeated the protocol many times, she keyed the information into the computer.
Hildi glanced at Francine just as she straightened from a hunched position over a microscope. Francine turned, her movements jerky like a marionette’s. Her suit’s chest zipper gaped, exposing her blue scrubs underneath. She seemed to shrink as her biosuit deflated.
“I’ve got a problem here!” Francine yelled, her voice quavering. The rush of air in their ears turned conversations in Level 4 into a shouting match. Francine fumbled for the zipper with trembling fingers.
Bonnie’s debut novel, Dark Biology, released September 2013 from Harbourlight, an imprint of Pelican Book Group.
She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband of thirty years. They’re owned by two Siamese cats. John is an electrical engineer who works with lasers for a living. He’s also a Mad Scientist who owns 2,300-pound electromagnet.
Bonnie’s other interests besides writing include reading, cooking, solving Sudoku puzzles, and volunteering at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She attends a local science fiction convention as well as various writers conferences. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, its North Denver Chapter, and the Denver Area Science Fiction Association.
Website: Where Faith and Science Fiction Collide: http://www.bonniedoranbooks.com/
Blog: The Mad Scientist's Wife: http://bonniedoran.wordpress.com
Twitter hashtag: #DarkBiology