Home > The Turn (The Hollows 0.1)(6)

The Turn (The Hollows 0.1)(6)
Author: Kim Harrison

She stared at him, stunned. She’d be free, as few women were in the sixties.

“You will work in a lab,” he said, drawing her into motion again. “It’s where I think you ought to be, and I usually get what I want. You will maintain your job performance for your human employers, but your primary focus is to inform us of any unusual developments.” He chuckled, rubbing his bald head ruefully. “Sometimes the humans get lucky, and we want to know of it.”

“But you said I needed to learn where I belonged,” she fumbled.

“I said you needed to learn who you are. You are a dark elf, Felecia Eloytrisk Cambri. And I’m giving you the chance to live up to your potential. Will you take it?”

Her heart pounded as she realized what he was offering her. On paper, being forced to work outside of an elven lab was a harsh punishment, but in reality, she’d be doing what she enjoyed, what she was good at, and working someplace where she could make a difference.

“Well?” Ulbrine hesitated at the door to the hall. She could see that the contract had been time-stamped an hour ago, legal and binding even if she signed it now. Beyond him lay the world. She could be what she’d always wanted, had striven for. Quen was right. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought.

Her hand trembled as she reached for a pen. “I’ll take it.”

2

Stifling a yawn, Trisk confidently made her way deeper into the underground labs of Global Genetics. It was nearing noon, and she could feel her body slowing down, forced to stay awake to hold to a human schedule. After three years, she no longer nodded off over lunch, but it was hard to fight the urge for a four-hour nap when the sun was at its highest. Elves were most alert at sunrise and sunset, but it had been ages since she’d allowed herself the luxury of her natural inclination to sleep at noon and midnight.

Her low-heeled baby-doll shoes were eerily silent on the polished floor, and the faint smell of antiseptic was a familiar balm, pricking the back of her nose. After noticing a few high eyebrows this morning, she’d closed her lab coat to hide her short, bright yellow skirt, but the matching hose still made a colorful statement. Her lab assistant, Angie, said the outfit was fine, but getting the new look past the stuffier old men she worked with was proving to be difficult.

“Hi, George,” she said to the man at the glass double doors, and he rose from his desk to open them for her. There was no need to show her ID, and she didn’t even bring it out from behind her lab coat.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Cambri. Save me a piece of cake?”

His smile was infectious, and her mood brightened. “One with a rose on it. You got it,” she said as she crossed into the restricted zone. Immediately the drier air and tang of ozone from the massive computers under her feet made her long hair float, and she impatiently tried to corral the strands that had escaped her hair clip at the back of her neck. If she were at the elf-run NASA facility, the computer needed to comprehend the genetic code of just one organism would fit into a room. Here, with human-only equipment, it took an entire floor—at least until someone leaked the technology and humankind took another leap forward.

Trisk heard the building’s head secretary before she saw her, the woman’s trendy thigh-high vinyl boots clicking on the hard floor. “Hi, Trisk,” the bubbly older woman said as she turned a corner and came into sight. “Are you getting him now?”

“Right this minute,” Trisk said, and Barbara beamed, her eyes alight as she took Trisk’s hands for a quick second.

“Outta sight! I’ll make sure everyone is in the lunchroom,” she said, the click-clack of her boots quickening as she ran in prissy, mincing steps to the security door and the elevators beyond. Her colorful dress rode high, and her hair was tall, but the day planner tucked under her arm had everyone’s schedule in it, and the self-appointed mother of them all knew more than anyone about how to keep the small facility working, even if she did look and act like an aged stand-in on American Bandstand—which raised the question: If Barbara could get away with flaunting the new styles exploding into the shops this summer, why couldn’t Trisk?

Because Barbara isn’t helping design tactical biological weapons, Trisk thought as she passed her lab, still proud of her name on the door. Her outer office was dark, but she could see through the interior windows into the brightly lit testing bays, green and gold in the artificial sun. There had been a marked slowdown in her lab since the patent to the Angel tomato had been sold to Saladan Industries and Farms and the slow, yearlong process of transferring data, seeds, and propagation techniques to Saladan Farms had begun. She’d have to find a new project by the first of the year, but for now, she still had a secondary, newly tweaked seed crop growing in the huge underground nursery—along with all the tomatoes she could give away.

Across the hall was Dr. Daniel Plank’s lab, and Trisk hesitated at the window, waving to get the attention of the two people suited up in level-two containment suits. The suits were big and bulky compared to the ones she’d learned in, making her feel foolish the first time she’d climbed into one and not known how to zip the stupid thing up. Fortunately she didn’t need one anymore in her day-to-day. Her product was two years in the field and doing well.

Both figures looked up, the taller immediately gesturing for her to come into the outer office. She knew it was Daniel even if she couldn’t see his blond hair and plastic-framed glasses through the thick helmet. He was the closest thing to an elf she’d seen since moving out here, and it bothered her that she’d been drawn to his slim build and light hair like a junkie.

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