Home > The Turn (The Hollows 0.1)(16)

The Turn (The Hollows 0.1)(16)
Author: Kim Harrison

“Orange blossom honey is the boss,” she said as he got himself a bottled beer from the fridge. There wasn’t much else in there. It would make moving easier. “The wild hive across the street. You know the one? I’m thinking I might smoke ’em out the next cold morning. Grab me some bee spit. I have enough to make it through the winter, such as it is down here, but some variety would be nice.” She spooned more honey into herself, a tiny, appreciative moan rising. “I like not having to hibernate, but it is a drag stockpiling enough until the flowers bloom. It would almost be easier to sleep through it.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Kal exclaimed as she almost toppled over backward, wings a blur as she giggled. “Take it easy. You know, you can save it. Honey never goes bad.” Beer in hand, Kal went into the living room, long legs going everywhere as he collapsed in his favorite chair. It was set perfectly to see his new color TV and the garden equally well. He’d never used the fireplace. Orchid did, thinking it made a grand door. He’d been thinking about putting in wall-to-wall carpet this fall, maybe a shag. But that wasn’t going to happen now.

Distracted, he leaned to flick on the record player, staring at nothing as the preloaded album dropped and silence filled the room until the arm swung across and settled into place. He chuckled ruefully as “Monday, Monday” spilled out of the speaker. The Mamas and the Papas always seemed appropriate to whatever mood he was in.

Orchid flew an erratic path from the kitchen, her dust intermittent as she skidded to a halt on the table beside him. Kal figured it was the honey inside her more than the honey she was carrying that ruined her flight. “What’s got your panties in a twist?” she asked, beginning to slur as the honey took a grip on her. “Your aura is all mixed up, Kallie-Wallie. Did they fire you?” she said, laughing merrily as she fell backward on her butt, wings bent awkwardly behind her.

Six months, he thought, his grip tightening on the bottle. “As a matter of fact, they did.”

Orchid stopped laughing. “They can’t fire you,” she said indignantly, struggling to get up, but she was still sitting on her wing. “You have a five-year contract. You’re a friggin’ genetic engineer! In the top of your class. Dr. Trenton Kalamack.”

The sight of a six-inch warrior in tie-dyed silk and gossamer defending him made him smile. He knew the slurring would vanish as quickly as it had come, leaving her with no headache. She wasn’t drunk as much as in overload. Pixies had a high caloric need when active. Combine that with a need to remain out of sight and undetected, and it was a wonder any of them survived.

“I had lunch with a member of the enclave, an alpha Were in the military, the owner of Saladan Industries and Farms, and the CEO of Global Genetics,” Kal said, and Orchid reluctantly looked at the remaining honey and tucked her chopsticks away. “The enclave is sending me to the West Coast to check on a colleague’s work. They want me to make sure it won’t kill humans and that elves are immune before it goes to live trials.” He took a sip, lips curling at the bitter hops.

Orchid made a wobbly flight to his hand. The dust spilling from her created a warm spot against his beer-chilled fingers. But it was her fierce expression that touched him the most. “How is sending you to check a colleague’s work firing you?”

Kal shrugged, his eyes on her garden. He might own the land, but she tended it, lived like a true homesteader in a broken flowerpot under the prickly pear that kept cats and big lizards away. He always felt like a guest when he went out to feed the koi. “Trisk’s theories to embed DNA into somatic and germ cells is moving faster than mine. By the time I get back, my research will be six months further in arrears. It’s a no-conflict way to pull the plug on my work as the enclave puts all their resources into her donor virus.” He grimaced, feeling a sense of urgency rising. “It’s flawed, Orchid. You can’t control a virus as you can a bacterium. I don’t care how clean you get it by stripping out the redundant DNA.”

“They’re killing your research? On purpose? That’s so not cool,” she said indignantly, and then her wings drooped. “Six months?”

He forced his face to remain still, not wanting to show how much he was going to miss her. Size aside, she was the closest thing to a friend he had amid his rival colleagues. “They think if I work with Dr. Cambri that I’ll change my focus. Carry her work further,” he said, vowing that he’d show them just how dangerous her theory really was. Her techniques, though . . . those might be useful.

Eyes wide, Orchid sat down, right there on his hand. “They want you to work under someone? That’s not going to happen.” She snorted, reaching up for a drop of condensation from the bottle with which to clean the pollen from her hands. “Not Dr. Trenton Kalamack.”

“I have to do this,” he said, and Orchid’s wings hummed, making a cool breeze on his hand. “Showing them how dangerous her research is might be the only way to keep mine alive.”

“So you’re going out there to shut her down?” the small woman asked.

Kal smiled at her glum expression. “Officially?” he said, and she took to the air so he could sip his beer. “Officially, I’m going out there to find the holes in her patch job on a human-created tactical virus she’s been monitoring. She tweaked it to supposedly have no effect on Inderlanders, and since it can’t replicate out of a lab and has no host to carry it out of the intended range, it should be relatively harmless to humans apart from the initial reaction. If I fix the holes she left in it, the enclave agreed to put me in charge of it.”

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