“Here at Polis Innovations, we believe that struggle makes one strong. Life is filled with many unexpected battles and challenges. Our goal is to make sure you survive and excel at them. Even if it means tossing you into strange and violent situations with little preparation and gear. Unless you die. Then you are of no use to us. Polis Innovations: Your fight is not yet over. Unless it is. Good luck.”
Toughing out this new job wasn’t as hard as Clarke expected. Sure, she was promoted because the last guy was attacked by genetically modified insects and there was a minor explosion every other day, but she dealt with it. After about a month, she was finally comfortable in her new office…even though her staff were rather eccentric and she still didn’t know who or what Kansas was. That’s fine. There’s plenty to keep her busy. Checking on the progress of their current project with her lab underlings, for instance. Or lack of progress if the sight of Monty and Jasper pouring a yellow energy drink into an empty aquarium with a strange glee was anything to go by.
“If that’s not the sedative we’re developing, I’m stealing that pie you’re hiding in the fridge that you think I don’t know about.”
Startled, Jasper dropped the cans he was holding into the aquarium, splashing the liquid all over the counter and onto their pristine lab coats. Monty’s eyes widened in horror when he jumped back.
“You’re cleaning that up,” he muttered. He clutched the silver cans to his chest when he caught Clarke’s look of disapproval when Jasper began to shuffle in front of a fishbowl with a couple of goldfish. “We were just seeing if the stimulant effects of the caffeine in Acid Fog would have similar effects on aquatic creatures as it does on humans.”
“Dropping goldfish into a tank full of the most intense energy drink known to man is only going to make their tiny hearts explode.” Their lips pursed when Clarke continued to stare them down in expectation, “The sedative?”
Jasper jumped and scrambled to collect a folder and a nearby vial containing a red liquid sitting in a small glass display among various other identical vials. He held the vial out to Clarke, who took it and raised it to the light. Her brows furrowed as the contents seemed to glow. She dropped her gaze to a nervous Jasper who handed her the folder as well.
“Why is it red? It was transparent before.”
“When we tested the serum on Group 27 thirteen days ago, we discovered that it had some nasty side-effects before eventually fading away. Their bodily functions slow down at first, but after about thirty minutes on average, the side-effects start to kick in.”
“What kind of effects are we talking about?”
“The kind that you don’t want in a sedative,” both turned to Monty as he wheeled out board with various chemical formulas scribbled on it. Flipping it over, he pointed to a list of nearly unintelligible script. “We’ve been keeping a record of the side-effects Group 27 has been experiencing, and so far? Vivid hallucinations. Restlessness. Inability to form proper words. Aggression. And we’re not even touching what’s going on in the cellular level.”
Jasper moved to the board and flipped it back to show the formulas. Uncapping a marker he pulled out of the pocket of his coat, he circled a diagram of something that Clarke didn’t understand.
“We think we figured out how to reverse the effects and turn the crack on drugs into the sedative it’s supposed to be. The red coloring is just a minor cosmetic effect from the mixed chemicals. ”
“So it works now?”
Jasper and Monty froze at the question before turning to face her. Monty stepped forward and gently retrieved the vial from Clarke. Setting it back in the display, he slowly turned to face her.
“We haven’t had the chance to actually test it yet. Group 27 still needs a couple more days to stabilize before we administer the new version of the sedative. And they also keep refusing to get injected again. So we’ve been a bit delayed…”
Silence stretched in the lab as Clarke considered the lack of cooperation of Group 27 and the deadline for the sedative. After a moment, she walked to the fishbowl, picked it up, and tucked it under her arm.
“We have a week to get a working prototype for the sedative or the government we’re working for is going to stop funding us. And we all know how Polis feels about failure and losing money. You should be able to at least lessen the effects enough to convince them to keep giving us money. Or we’re all in trouble. I’m also taking the fish. I don’t trust you not to dump them in the Acid Fog.”
They watched her leave with the lab with their fish.
“We’re just going to let her take our fish?”
“Are you going to convince our scary boss that giving us back those fish is in her best interest? Our boss who will probably get Lexa down here to yell at us for slacking off?”
“You make a good point.”
“I have my moments.”
“Clarke. How is the sedative coming along and why do you have a pair of goldfish on your desk?”
Clarke looked up from her computer to see Lexa standing in her doorway with a clipboard in her hand.
“I commandeered them from the lab.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time someone has commandeered something before it was genetically modified from the lab. As for the sedative?”
Looking away from Lexa, she opened a drawer to her desk and pulled out a folder. Pulling out a file, she stood up and gave it to Lexa.
“The sedative has some issues, but they think that they’ll be able to fix them before the deadline.”
Lexa quickly scanned the document and handed it back to Clarke alongside the clipboard.
“Make sure there’s a report on my desk by the end of the week. Also, you need to sign for Kansas’ veterinary release. Hand it to Bellamy when you’re done going through it. Apparently, Upstairs thinks that Kansas is still my problem,” Lexa said as she tapped the clipboard. She walked out of the office when she saw Clarke pull out the attached pen and begin to sign the form. She’ll check in later. Maybe with some goldfish food as a gift. Perhaps the special fish food in storage would work.
Glancing up at the movement, Clarke watched her boss leave her office. Her very pretty boss with the perfect hair and the skirt that fit just right…
“You missed your chance, Princess.”
Her head snapped up at the sudden interruption. Focusing on the man in her doorway that completely slipped past her notice, she quickly finished off the last signature on the page and shoved the clipboard into her intern’s arms.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Blake.”
“She already used up her office affair. Don’t hold your breath. Your shots are slim, Griffin.”
“Bellamy, if you don’t take those papers down to the lab, I will volunteer you for another one of the lab’s experiments.”
His face blanched at the prospect. He had just gotten out of quarantine after the last one. There was no way he was going to be another test subject if he could help it.
“Good luck with tall, dark, and scary.”
At her glare, Bellamy bolted out of the office. The sound of a door slamming echoed after him as he made his way down the stairs. After the elevator experiment that will never be spoken of again, he didn’t trust the contraptions. He’ll stick to the stairs, thank you very much.
“Did Bellamy seem nervous to you?”
Monty looked up at Jasper with furrowed brows. “No more than usual. Why?”
“Kansas will be off the truck in a few minutes and you know that he always leaks some weird pheromone after a vet trip.”
“But he only affects male adults over 56. We didn’t inject him with that aging serum we tampered with, right?”
“Weird. Thought we did.”
Their discussion was cut short when a man in a grey uniform walked in with a folder. Pulling out a pen from his pocket, he set the folder down on the counter. Taking the pen, Monty and Jasper flipped through it, taking turns signing as needed. Once done, they handed the folder and pen back to the man.
“Ya’ll really splurged on the crate. Much bigger than last one. Angrier than usual too. Haven’t seen your beast rattle the crate since that time when it was a baby,” the man said before tucking the folder under his arm and turning around.
Monty and Jasper stared at the retreating man in confusion then turned to stare at each other. After a moment, they rushed to the security monitor. Flipping it on, their faces paled when the camera panned over the inside of Kansas’ enclosure. The abnormally large crate was open and instead of Kansas roaming around the forested area without a care in the world, the enclosure was destroyed. Trees were knocked over and bushes were ripped out of the ground. The most troubling thing was the destroyed wall and no beast in sight.
“I don’t think that was Kansas.”
“Should we tell someone?”
“We should probably tell Clarke about this.”
“Think she’ll be mad?”
“Monty? Doesn’t that hole in the wall go to the human testing chambers?”
After a moment, they reached under their labcoats and pulled out a small gun. Inspecting it, they nodded in satisfaction at finding it fully loaded with small darts filled with an orange liquid. A grim look passed across their faces.
“I’ll go tell security," Jasper said. Checking his pocket for extra darts, he looked at Monty, “You go tell Clarke that we have a problem.”
They made a mad dash down opposite ends of the hallway.
Lincoln and Octavia stared at the scene before them. A group of people had mobbed the copy room supply closet and had black ink streaked across their faces. Armed with broomsticks and mops, their voices boomed across the room in something that sounded like a foreign language. The ‘27’ patches on their sleeves were hardly visible underneath the ink.
Reaching for her holster, Octavia drew her tranquilizer gun, checked to make sure it was loaded, then made her way towards the group of runaway test subjects.
Lincoln sighed and went to find Raven with his own gun in hand. Just in case.
After closing the blinds to her office, Lexa reached into her desk drawer, pulled out a pair of earmuffs, and placed them on her head. Now able to tune out the screaming and clanging of metal outside her hallway, she returned to her paperwork. In the absolute silence, she smiled.
Clarke stared at the monitor in her hands. Her blank stare unnerved Monty. In the month that she became his new boss, he’d never seen her this quiet. It was more nerve-wracking than he anticipated. She hadn’t fired anyone yet. She also hadn’t thrown anyone into the testing chambers to be experimented on. She was a good person. A good person who would realize that this situation was not his fault. Or Jasper’s.
“The delivery guy picked up the wrong animal from the vet and neither of you checked to make sure that it was Kansas.”
Monty averted his gaze and nodded. He might blame Jasper.
Clarke watched Octavia and Lincoln jump over downed employees accidentally struck by tranquilizers trying to restrain the crazed test subjects. Both Clarke and Monty jumped when the sound of a large crash sounded outside her office window. He carefully closed the door to avoid having attention drawn to them. Group 27 was now armed with broomstick spears and fighting a large gorilla.
“Monty, is that the gorilla-”
“That we accidentally mutated and sent to the vet to be euthanized before King Kong became a reality, yes.”
“Well, now we know what was in the crate.”
Moving over to her desk, she opened a drawer to pull out her tranquilizer. After attaching the holster, she started to dig through the boxes until she pulled out a blue box. Opening it, she loaded her tranquilizer with the contents and attached the extra darts to her holster’s belt. Seeing the darts filled with the bright blue liquid, he tried to get her attention.
“Those darts are too strong for group 27! You’ll put them in a coma!”
“I’m not going after group 27.” Tranquilizer gun in hand, she brushed past Monty to open the door. “I’m going after the gorilla.”
Monty gaped as he watched her storm out of her office with sheer determination on her face. He almost felt pity for the gorilla. Almost.
Octavia grunted when she tossed the unconscious employee off of her. She removed the empty dart from the man’s arm and placed it back into her belt.
“Sometimes, I hate my job.”
Lincoln looked at her in sympathy as he dragged an equally unconscious woman out of the way and into a cubicle. His brows furrowed when he noticed an ink-streaked member of group 27 approaching Octavia from behind while armed with a stapler. He flinched when Octavia reached into the cubicle to grab a potted plant and threw it at the member before he got close.
“Sometimes, I also love my job. Grab his legs.” He nodded and went to help her carry the knocked out member to the nearest quarantine room. Sometimes, he also had a love/hate relationship with his job. Today was one of those days.
Clarke slunk around the corner to avoid the remnants of group 27. She was going to knock out that gorilla. Since it was technically euthanized, it was no longer company property. This meant that she was able to take out her frustrations out on it without repercussion. She was going to enjoy it.
She could hear it. It had made its way into the cubicles of the ARK and had yet to move. It felt as if she was moving at a snail’s pace along the wall when crouched down under a desk behind the gorilla.
“Do you have the blue darts?”
Clarke nearly hit her head on the desk in a panic. Whipping her head around, she found herself face to face with her Lexa. Lexa, whose pretty green eyes stared her down through the ink streaked on her face. Lexa, who was loading bright blue darts into her gun. Lexa, who was also taking cover under the desk. She wasn’t sure if the room was getting hot or if it was from being pressed against her boss. Clarke wasn’t sure which option she preferred. She had to say something.
“Yes, I do. Why do you have ink on your face?” She blurted out.
Lexa didn’t miss a beat, “To blend in with group 27 of course.”
“Why would you need to blend in with group 27?” Clarke tried to keep her voice down but it only came out as a furious whisper instead.
“To become their general, lead them into a trap, then quarantine them. Why else would I need to camouflage myself?”
“Of course you did,” Clarke dropped her head with a sigh.
“Anyway, we must focus on the gorilla. If we don’t subdue it, it will devastate the building and we will all be removed from the company.”
“I don’t want to get fired…” Her confusion grew when Lexa began to study her face.
“We won’t get fired, Clarke. Nothing so simple. Come, aim for its back while I distract it.”
“Wait, what-” Clarke didn’t have time to react when Lexa reached for the broken leg of a chair with a ridiculously attractive smirk on her face and charged for the gorilla. She gave a cry when the metal bar in her hand connected with the back of the gorilla’s head. The beast roared in fury and pounded the floor when she managed to stay out of its reach. Unable to properly aim at the gorilla at the risk of darting Clarke, she continued to strike it when its arms reached for her.
Watching the pair attack each other, Clarke waited for it to turn away from her. Once the gorilla had turned around, she snuck out from under the desk and took careful aim. When it reared back from Lexa’s strike, Clarke released as many darts as she could until the beast’s back was littered with small darts.
It stumbled forward, but didn’t stay down. It whirled around to face and chase down Clarke with sluggish swings. With a quick reload of her extra darts, she emptied them into the gorilla’s chest. It slowed further and appeared unable to raise its arms properly. Backing away, Clarke worked to stay out of its grasp. Soon, it finally collapsed. Its back now sported triple the darts that Clarke had originally shot at it. Looking up, she saw that Lexa now had an empty gun and no darts left on her belt. Both holstered their guns and moved a safe distance away from the gorilla.
“Remind me why I took this job?”
Lexa looked down to meet Clarke’s gaze.
“You didn’t. Collins was attacked by carnivorous butterflies, and you were already trained, so we kept you when the position opened instead of firing you when Polis bought your previous employer.”
Clarke closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She likes this job. She’s good at it. It pays well. The benefits are fantastic. Her boss is super pretty. Her underlings are nice. She likes it here. She does. She swears. She was startled out of her thoughts.
A crackle came over the loudspeaker.
“You rang, boss?”
Lexa continued to watch Clarke try to find the loudspeaker and camera. Both are too well hidden, and yet, Clarke is determined to find them. Even though she hasn’t been able to after a month.
“Make sure maintenance fixes this mess by tomorrow morning.”
“You got it, Commander. Nice show you two put on. Maybe I’ll join in the fun next time. Even though we both know that I won’t.”
The crackle disappeared and they were left alone with the unconscious gorilla.
“Commander. I like that. Call me Commander Lexa from now on.” Clarke looked up. She snorted.
“I’m not calling you commander.”
They stared at each other for a moment until Lexa spoke up. Her voice was softer than Clarke had ever heard it, “I’m glad we kept you.”