(Finally getting back into this after letting myself get out of the habit last year! I lost all the fun in this story and threw out my notes – unusual for me, I normally keep everything but there you go – so now it is heading off in a direction that I never intended. Hopefully you will enjoy it all the same :-))
“Why don’t you tell me about them?” He suggested, moving towards them as Rachel watched him speculatively. “How can a hybrid bacterium strip the fallout from the Greenland disaster?” Rachel frowned, following him over to the vats where they stood, gazing through the bullet-proof glass.
“Ok, well there a huge number of bacterium and other organisms that actually thrive in environments without sunlight, places where we thought that life would be impossible. They prove that life does not need sunlight for energy. It is well known that uranium decays spontaneously in nature, creating a background level of radiation and my theory was that there must be some form of life which can metabolise this energy. A vast proportion of the planet’s store of uranium is held in the oceans in solution and so it seemed most likely that was where I would find what I was looking for.” She hesitated, looking at him.
“That is what we have found in the bacterium we are working with here. Unfortunately, they have evolved in the very deepest part of the oceans, where the environment and ambient pressures are entirely different from anything that they will encounter in the upper atmosphere. But it will be far easier to create a hybrid with harmless bacteria which already live in the upper atmosphere, than it would be to genetically engineer anything from scratch.”
“That sounds like it has real potential for disaster.” Rob commented mildly, “What precautions are you taking to make sure that there isn’t one?” Rachel frowned as he rushed to reassure her that he needed the information for his constituents; his public needed to know. But his eyes sharpened with an intent light as he leant towards her, waiting for her reply. Rachel straightened.
“Given your earlier comments, Mr Redman, I don’t really think that that is an appropriate question; however I can assure you that we take every precaution to ensure the physical security of our samples and our information.” She glanced bitterly at the exit door and avoided his gaze. “You can’t possibly have failed to notice the security around this base. I can assure you, sir, nothing is getting in or out of this lab without the knowledge of the powers that be.”
“I rather thought that I was one of the powers that be, Professor.” He replied, echoing her sudden formality. “However, I don’t believe that I have been made aware of nearly enough information regarding your activities here. My constituents have a lot of questions about the plans for disposing of the degraded waste that I believe you could answer a lot more completely than I, Professor.” His grey eyes hardened as he glanced around the room, taking in the business. Returning his attention to her, he sneered that he had expected more from a woman with a reputation as a balls out militant, asking what had happened to her very vocal belief that the public needed to know the truth in order to stop the project being used for commercial gain rather than the public good.
“I don’t know at all what you mean, Mr Redman.” Rachel replied primly, “It was made very clear to me that secrecy in this matter was paramount to the security of our country and that I had no more chances left. If you think that I’m going to fall into your little trap and lose my place on this project you are sadly mistaken.” She glared up at him, still just about managing to look down her nose. “Now, might I suggest that we continue with the tour? Perhaps it would be best if I chose the itinery from now?”