"—just saying, Moira, this kind of thing can easily—"
The dark-haired woman, Moira, scoffs, rolling her eyes and slapping a palm against the doorpad, shoving her comms unit at Dr. Stephen Maheras' chest so she can key in the lock code with her other hand fast enough to avoid lockdown. "They couldn't have just gone ocular? Needing both hands free—"
"Is archaic, I know. We've all heard it before. Now, as I was saying." The door hisses a little as it opens. One of the guards standing at his post jumps at the noise. Maheras grins, hiding it behind a hand as the door hisses again and shuts behind them. "The dogs of war are jumpy today, aren't they?"
"Hilarious." Moira sighs, eyes narrowing as she peers at the overnight shift's notes. "Two more lost last night, but they were the first test group. There's only four left from that trial, and I'd call it luck rather than anything worth pursuing. Four is looking promising, though—the ratio seems to be holding without the problems Two and Three had... strong test results so far. I don't want to get your hopes up, but we may finish ahead of schedule for once."
Another hiss as the inner door slides open and a woman joins them, shaking her head and pulling her hands out of her heavy coat's pockets. "Stephen, have you seen these numbers yet?"
"Morning to you too, Arunima." When she crosses her arms and cocks an eyebrow instead of replying, Maheras grins and relents. "Da Costa was just talking about them, if you mean the Fours. I hear we're well on our way to having our little beast squad up and running ahead of schedule."
"Must you be so callous about the whole thing, Stephen?" Arunima's expression settles into a disapproving scowl, fabric crinkling as she crosses her arms, trying to seem intimidating despite being several heads shorter than he. "I realize the whole thing is macabre, but you could at least try to afford the work a little respect, if not the subjects."
Donning his own jacket, Maheras laughs. "Well, look at you. Should I sign you up for the CET newsletter, too?"
Moira's voice cuts through their sniping, sharp and irritated. "Children. If you're done, we're not actually through with that work yet."
They cross together into the inner rooms, Moira stopping to check the monitors recording vital signs and sighing with irritation. "Make that three— no, two subjects left from the first run. Two is still holding steady at thirty seven percent attrition, but three's risen to seventeen since last I looked."
The shriek from a gurney a few feet away is raw, more animal than human. Arunima jumps, then glares when Maheras laughs, loud in the now silent-again room. "Oh, c'mon. They're strapped down, you did a few of them yourself. They're not going anywhere." With exaggerated showiness, he shoves another nearby gurney with a foot, prompting a louder scream. "See? Safe as can be."
"Dr. Maheras." Da Costa's voice is icy, now, the earlier irritation fled in favor of a much more serious tone. "Dr. Biswas is right. The work should be respected, regardless of your political differences on ethical treatment of prisoners. Stunts like that could cost us time, do you understand me? Time you'll find a way to explain — and then somehow pay back the prime minister, I'm sure."
Suitably cowed, Maheras nods and backs away from the center of the room, retreating back to the small semi-circle of consoles near the door. "You don't need to invoke van Rijn, Da Costa." He swallows nervously when her face doesn't soften. "Dr. Da Costa. Apologies, both of you. Won't happen again."
Another scream splits the air as the three continue working in silence.