In this draft we’re introducing the reader to the bad girl. What do you think? Did we do it?
“NPT Newsz.Now.” Ursula spat the command at the device on her wrist. The microbial virologist stood behind the upper most tier of seats in the empty lecture hall impatient for National Public Telepathy’s live broadcast of world news to appear on the observation wall. She stood, gripping the back of a seat with long fingernails sinking into its plush fibers. Her lips curved a smile they seldom exercised anticipating the news of her prowess, news that would prove her genius in genetic manipulation.
A running ticker came into view. Breaking news. Olympyons faced with deadly out-break of an unknown origin.’ An impassioned announcer tallied victims. “Five hundred people have succumbed within the last six hours. Emergency…..
“Vhat eez zhat? Five hundred, only five hundred?” Ursula doubted the accuracy of that report. After a lifetime of work to create the annihilator of millions she’d only succeeded in killing five hundred? She snapped her head from left to right making sure she was still alone, then cut her eyes to the DB framed in rubies embedded in her bony wrist. There’d soon be a class filling the hall and she knew enough to pretend abhorrence to this developing news. Her nails dug further into the upholstery and she glared at the announcer as if it was his fault more innocent victims weren’t dying.
She listened. “The victims display no sign of early trauma or disease. It appears they suddenly lose consciousness, their lungs collapse and hearts stop. All attempts at saving their lives have failed. Geneticists at the Ponce Heidon Institute have isolated an unknown virus from the victims’ blood. I repeat, no source has been established for this deadly strain. The Olympyon Center for Disease has issued a public notice, when at all possible, place all activities on remote operation, activate Level 5 sanitization procedures and stay tuned to NPT for updates. It is speculated the …..”
Vel, zhat’s not going to help von leetle bit. Ursula quietly scoffed at the OCD’s attempts to prevent contagion and swiveled a stilettoed heel toward the doorway. The news announcer’s somber report continued streaming, his voice fading as she marched out of the lecture hall, purposely allowing the live broadcast to greet the students as they arrived.
Speaking to people was not something Ursula enjoyed, so it seldom happened; but when it did, she usually spoke about herself. When she spoke about herself it was always in the third person, elevating her persona to the pinnacle deserving of Valympyon’s preeminent virologist.
She felt her time much too important to waist collaborating with those in her field who believed research for the good of humanity required open lines of communication and continual updates on new processes and discoveries, learning the lessons in one’s failures and replicating the successes.
She believed discipline and hard work directed by a strong leader produced a society that would best rule humanity, a society whose elevated understanding of genetics would select for the strong and brilliant thus eliminating the weak and lazy.
That was the tenet by which she ruled the Ursula von Menglebort Genetics Department of the University of Villanois. Weekly evaluations kept her small staff of talented men and women task oriented. Maintaining the performance of her botts, the programmable members of her staff lacking messy things like lungs, skin, hearts and the ability to gossip, was the daily responsibility of her well-paid mechanical engineers. Casual conversation was to their boss a waste of efficiency, not tolerated on work time. Her staff worked a precise schedule that allowed for the required break time. Every micro second of it found them in the lounge. Since the employee lounge was not under her direct supervision, it was the place of idle chatter and Ursula the choice of gossip.
Holding a frothy cup of gnarlythorn nectar, a virologist new to her position, sank into the chair and joined her friends at the table. “Ursula just passed me on her way to the lab. Don’t know why I bothered to say good morning. Clicked by me in those stilettos just like I didn’t exist.”
“Oh, don’t let Dr. Cuddles bother you. We all get the same treatment.” The microbial geneticist smirked to frothy as he sunk his teeth into a jelly donut.
“She’d have you disciplined if she heard you called her Ursula. Smiling at frothy and taking the last chug of his nutritional TX, the mechanical engineer who could pass for an actor in a Fitness Center ad, continued. “It’s hopeful, just think in ten years she’ll be looking up to us hunched over from all those years developing spinal curvature of stiletto syndrome”
Jelly Donut smiled and wiped the berry jam from the corner of his mouth. “Stiletto syndrome or not, I gotta hand it to her. She’s no dummy. Her conclusions of the genetic basis for hundreds of diseases is unrivaled. I’ve read most of her findings. Hate to admit it but they’re flawless.
“Flawless like her porcelain pallor?” He glanced around to make sure no one else was listening then leaned in, “I bet her pearl’s black.” TX took a bite of celery.
“That’s none of your business,” then in a whisper, “Black? No one has black. If it’s true, she’s brewed up the coating. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been invited to her lab. Has she given you the grand tour?” Frothy looked first at Jelly Donut, then TX. “Well?” she insisted on an answer.
Jelly donut put down his cup of coffee. “You gotta be kidding. Valympyons don’t give away secrets, especially if the work is ordered by The Great Mumba himself. It’s my hunch that Ursula’s up to no good despite what she claims. Did you see the holomeet with Dr. Heidon where each chaired a panel of experts on disease? Something like Authair’s Initiative on Infectious Diseases. About two months ago. Anyway the discussion got lively when Ursula, tried to defend Valympyon’s secretive research. Something like this.” He crossed his legs, clasped his hands and straightened his back for the full effect. ‘Vhy Dr. Heidon, Valympyons hide nothszing zhat vould be for zee benefit of Autzheeriansz. Urszula is closze to announzing a new dizcovvoree.’”
TX to Jelly donut. “You nailed her, the attitude and all. Wonder what ‘zhat new dizcovvoree eez?”
Jelly donut took a swiggle of coffee and added “Don’t know but she’s been having a run on rabbityles. Deliveries arrive every other day. Guess she’s testing a new vaccine. You’d think I’d be involved in the study. That’s my expertise.” Jelly Donut stirred in more sugar. “Bad choice for panel chair, that woman.”
Frothy crossed her legs, leaned back, her clasped hands behind her head. “Well, she’s given me a personal office. Can’t beat that. Imagine all I do is review lab reports for inconsistencies. I just DB her my analysis report at precisely 16:18 every day and she responds, ‘Lab # blablabla received. Don’t think she reads them. Gives them to her botts to review.Boring.” She gave boring a three syllable significance.
TX sat up looking at Frothy. “Did you know she’s got botts performing lab analyses? That way she just has to dispose of the ones that get contaminated. No problem. No report required, just follow proper disposal procedure while sitting in her plexi-walled office and pushing buttons.”
Jelly Donut looked from Frothy to TX. “Yeah, untouchable. She’s got one huge government contract for humanitarian research, whatever that means.”
Frothy raised her eyes. Look, if that’s the case, humanitarian research I mean, Ursula, excuse me, Dr. von Menglebort is sure to get drafted by the Planetary Center for Disease Control to help find the source of this outbreak. Now that’s something I’d love to tackle, a real humanitarian challenge.
Each clap of heel in cadence with her thoughts brought Dr. von Menglebort closer to her office. She passed the lounge unaware she was the entertainment of break-time gossip. Her lips tightened in thought as she entered the foyer of her office and its door sealed shut behind her. Zee numbers are too small. Urszula vil have zee microbes quadrupled. A new batch vil be ready for deelivoree by mid-vake cycle tomorrow, she thought to herself. She’d demand Mumba Zola approve a second fleet of self-destructing drones to spray the lethal spores onto denser populations in Olympya.
She sat down and kicked off her shoes watching as one rolled on top of the other. She liked those red shoes. The same color decorated her DB and pulsated from her biopearl. No one had ever seen her pearl. It lay under a double nictitating membrane on the underside of her right wrist as did that of every mature female Authairian; hidden to be seen by only the chosen. Hers was rubellite, the power of life, she liked to think.
No longer did she resist the urge to look upon it. She twisted the bony wrist and made a half fist clamping three middle fingers into her palm as far as her fingernails permitted. Bones protruded, veins popped. The membrane concealing the gem opened. Its garish glow pumped power to every molecule of her imagined celebrity. She spoke aloud to Ursula enjoying the imperial ring in her own voice. “He vil agree vhonce he zees zat broadcast. Zoon vee vil be rid of Olympyons and zeeir vil be no Ponce Heidon. Urszula vil be zee zupreme zsheneticist in Autzheer. Ha.”