Theresa could feel her heart beating in her chest as she ran down the corridor. Her face had flushed and felt hot, and there was a humming, almost ringing, sound in her ears. Her legs felt shaky and her hands actually were shaking. She clutched them in front of her, and carried on running.
She rounded the corner and skittered to a stop in front of the lifts. There were five of them, side by side, of which the leftmost one was reserved for officers and high-security clearance personnel. Predictably it was the only one waiting at this floor, all the others were elsewhere. She pushed the button, a recessed steel plate in the wall next to the middle lift and waited, trying to breathe normally. She managed two regular breaths, then she started gasping again and squeezed her hands together, making herself hold her breath and count to five.
The lift arrived on her third count of five and the doors slid apart silently. The lift was empty, and she strode in, relieved, and pressed and held the button for the thirteenth floor. The doors closed agonisingly slowly but no-one appeared, no-one pursuing her caught up. She leant back against the lift wall feeling shaky with relief as the lift ascended.
She stepped out of the lift with her breathing under control and her mind racing. How had a report gone out with a mistake like that? The report should have indicated that the solution had been tested up to 20% and no further. At least, she thought, the report hadn't provided any details of what the 25% solution did. Had it? She hurried up again, her shoes clacking down the blue-painted corridor towards her office.
Inside her office she paused to pour a cup of coffee from the filter-machine in front of the bookcase and then she sat at a paper-cluttered desk and quickly riffled through a pile to her left. The report was about a third of the way down, and she noted absently that she needed to catch up on her reading before it became unmanageable. Paging quickly through the report she came to the presentation of the results, and there it was: a table of solutions tested that should have finished at 20% and instead had a gap between 20% and 30% and then further results up to 45%.
Another pile of papers was pushed to one side revealing a bank of buttons on a small metal unit the size and shape of a cigar-box. She pressed the left-most one and it beeped once. She waited, then said,
"Janice, who wrote up the results of the test of the conjoining serum?"
Immediately a soft female voice answered, "I typed it, Maurice gave me the draft copy. It had your signature on it."
Theresa released the button and frowned. She glared at the desk, and reluctantly turned her chair round and rolled it a couple of feet to the desk behind her where her computer sat. Switching the monitor on, she located her email client and noted with dismay that she had over two thousand unread messages. Swearing softly and mildly she typed Maurice's name into the search field. The search took nearly a minute; she had over seventy thousand emails stored, but the one she wanted from him, with the preliminary draft of the paper, was the third one below nearly eighty unread messages from him. She clicked on it, opening it, to see how the draft she had signed off had looked.