No Dating At Work
rating: +215+x

The cold, unforgiving silence that always filled the auditorium at Site 19, regardless of the number of people present, was broken only by the soft click of dress shoes moving across the stage. An assembly was never good. It meant one of three things: a major change in initiative of some sort, an announcement of some imminent threat that was inimical to all life on earth, or—possibly the worst—a new initiative from the O5 Council designed to ‘help’ the common workers of the site. Most often, these ended up causing more long term harm than short term improvement, a fact that was exacerbated by the fact that it was Dr. Gears slowly moving across the stage.

He moved with the normal, shuffling gait of a man who had progressed in years, though he held his back straight and even. He stepped up to the podium, then shifted a three ring binder of pre-prepared notes out from under his arm, opening it and then pressing one of the controls along the edge of the lectern to dim the lights and start the projector in the back of the room.

"I am here to announce a new O5 initiative," Gears said, his voice flat and even.

At once, the air seemed to go out of the room. The collective assholes of approximately six hundred personnel clenched, most of them lowering their heads in resignation as Gears pressed the button for the projector, bringing up the first slide.

"This is a standard, Class-3 plastic liquid containment vessel," Gears began, turning and gesturing toward the wall behind him, then looking down at his paperwork again. "Recently, there have been a rash of incidents caused by the improper use of these devices in the line of work, and we are making efforts to correct these misconceptions. Please note that these devices can be used to contain any number of approved substances. A memo has been distributed site-wide which lists the correct—"

There was a soft cough from the front row, a hand raised slightly. Faces turned and looked at the man sitting there. Most of them somewhere between shock that someone was interrupting Gears and relief that, for the moment at least, the new initiative seemed to be on hold.

The man stood, brushing at nothing on the front of his lab coat and shirt. "Dr. Gears, sorry to interrupt. My name is Dr. Bridge. Sir, I just want to be entirely clear… That’s… that’s just a bottle, right?"

Gears expressionless face regarded Bridge for a moment, and then, he nodded slowly. "Yes, Doctor. This is a standard, Class-3 plastic liquid containment vessel."

"Yes," agreed Bridge, "but that is… just a bottle. Right? There’s no… special structure to contain Euclid threats or something weird like that. Right?"

Gears paused a moment, turning to look at the slide, then back to Bridge. "In layman’s terms, yes."

"So… We’re being called here because there’s a misuse of… bottles?" he continued.

Gears didn’t frown—he never did, as far as anyone knew—but he might have narrowed his eyes in a method that anyone not close to him would have called imperceptible.

"Yes," Gears said.

Bridge nodded slightly. "Sir, and again, I apologize, but before we cover the proper use of the bottles… Could you perhaps address the improper usage of the bottles?"

Gears looked down at his notes again, then back to Bridge. "I assure you, Doctor, that by going over the proper procedure for using the device that the problem will be alleviated."

"Yes," Bridge agreed. "But I think, as an object lesson, it might be a good idea to address this. If I may… If I may suggest, I mean," he said. "Sorry."

Gears paused for a moment, then looked out at the crowd. There were a few nods of agreement, and after a few seconds, he shuffled his papers around, looking down at them again, then pressing the button several times, moving through slides labeled ‘Proper Substances,’ ‘Filling and Emptying,’ ‘Funnels and You’, until he stopped at the final one.

There was a soft swear from somewhere to the side of the auditorium. Doctor Kondraki—previous unseen and sunken slightly in his seat—had leaned up again as eyes darted from the slide to Doctor Kondraki to back toward the slide again.

"It’s not the first time most of you have seen it," Kondraki muttered, turning toward the wall.

"Please," Gears began, "remember that inserting non-specific objects or substances into the bottle can cause unexpected results. Specifically, placing an object capable of expanding in size may result in great difficulty in removing the object at a later time. In this particular case, medical intervention was necessary. Thankfully, no long term damage was caused with this subject."

People were shifting uncomfortably. Half were deeply concerned, and the rest were too afraid to laugh. The silence thickened, and after a moment, Gears pressed the button on the lectern again.

"From this angle, you can see the pressure being applied…" Gears continued, pressing the button again.

"And from this angle, you’ll notice that there seems to be a small amount of tension in the lower back, which can lead to a number of medical concerns," Gears added. "A pamphlet has been completed by the Site-7 Medical Staff which will outline the risks involved with such incidents. Each of you will receive a copy of this in the intrasite mail tomorrow."

"Oh, god damnit," Kondraki muttered. "Those bastards…"

Clef elbowed him slightly. "Hey. It’s not like it can get worse…" he said.

"And now," Gears finished. "An instructional video on what to do if you…" He narrowed his eyes at the prewritten notes, reading it twice to be certain. "…get your dick stuck in a bottle."

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