The Flaming Cheeseburger Incident

Here's another attempt at short fiction.  Actually, it is not all fiction.  More about that later.

The lab had its share of accidents - moreso than the one down the hall, with the robots handling plutonium behind lead glass.  Those guys really had to dot their i's and cross their t's, but nobody cared too much about us diddling around with fuel injectors.  Well, not nobody.  See, in silhouette, the fuel injectors look a lot like rifle shells.  One of my Middle Eastern colleagues had a tiresome discussion with the TSA when he forgot to take them out of his bag before he went to the airport.

The fuel injectors did have a sinister look to them.  They were a glossy, featureless smoky near-black color - if I could get a car painted that color, well, that would be gangsta.  And you couldn't scratch these fuel injectors with anything.  That miracle coating was what we were all working on.

The thing we used to make the coating was basically a radio transmitter inside a fat drum up on a table.  The lab administrator came by one day (Lord knows why; he's a physicist, he must have been slumming to check out what us engineers were doing) and missed an important call on his cell phone.  He told us the call was about his car getting stolen, but my theory is that his wife had called him home for a nooner and that was why he was so pissed off.  Anyway, that was the "a-ha" moment when we realized why we all complained about our cell phones at work - the coater was trashing all reception for a half a mile around.

It was picturesque.  Even the administrator was impressed by the purple glow of the plasma inside the drum, which you could see through a glass porthole.  We'd pump out all the air, pump in a chemical called silane, then fire up the radio antenna.  It was so powerful in there, it lit the silane into a plasma which then condensed onto our fuel injectors.  Cormac (the "rogue with the brogue" we called him, privately) ran the thing most of the time, and one day he decided to roll a chair into the crowded little lab and read his hometown newspaper.  For weeks afterwards his pallid complexion was set off by a deep tan on one side of his face.  Sort of like a human half moon.  Apparently there was some ultraviolet coming along for a ride with that radiant violet.

Then there was the time the firemen came.  Silane, you see, is pyrophoric.  The gas burns on contact with air.  Remember how I said we pumped all the air out of the drum before we filled it with silane?  Well, one time we didn't.  It wasn't Cormac on duty that day, but whoever it was, they should have seen the flames through the porthole.  The air in the drum must have been used up pretty quickly, but eventually enough silane was pushed in that the pressure was higher than the air pressure in the lab.  And the silane began to leak out.  Fingers of orange flame shot outwards in every direction from between the two big beige steel pucks.  The fire alarm went off.  Cormac skidded into the room and all he could say was "CHAYSBAIRGER?"

The firemen knew what to do in the event of a nuclear robot running amok, but the flaming cheeseburger wasn't covered in their standard operating procedures.  They opened the drum.

They were commended for it, later, as were we all.  Not for valor though - as we were picking through the rubble, somebody noticed that the cieling tiles had an odd sparkle along with their shiny smoky near-black glaze.  The place had been built in the days when asbestos was considered a wonder material and it was put everywhere, so maybe that mineral catalyzed the formation of the new compound.  I don't know how it happened, but it was basically diamonds.  We all got rich for burning the lab down.  Especially the firemen.