A lot had changed since she saved the planet. Her father’s health improved, and her son, Brad, was speaking to her again (although those family updates were mostly unrelated to her heroic scientific discovery). But Heidi’s daily routine remained unaffected.
Heidi’s bioengineering miracle brought an initial wave of news coverage and awards. Her strain of algae that digested carbon emissions were lauded as a miracle.
After the media circus, Heidi decided to stay at the lab where she’d been for nearly two decades. Every morning, Heidi drove to the lab, and parked in her reserved spot. Inside, she was greeted by an intern who monitored the experiments overnight. She ate the lunch her dad packed, and left the lab by 6:15.
Being the savior of humanity hadn’t much altered Heidi’s professional workday, but her Global Warming solution led to a few unforeseen worldwide side effects. The most visible consequence was the giant insects. Beetles the size of dogs. Dragonflies as large as drones. Moth wings as wide as truck tires. The bugs grew larger because of the higher oxygen levels. A few entrepreneurs were already insectivore farming.
In a way, the insects made her son break his silent treatment. He called his mother after his townhouse was condemned due to a colossal termite infestation. Brad asked to stay a week or so until he could find a new pest-resistant rental. Heidi believed Brad used the insect dilemma as an excuse. He certainly had friends he could have called.
He’d stopped speaking with her about a year before her discovery. Brad said he was tired of being judged by Heidi and his grandfather. Until he called about the termite issue, Heidi didn’t know where Brad was living.
True to his word, Brad only used the apartment as a temporary respite. Within two weeks, he moved out. He stayed in the city and called Heidi every other week. But he still wasn’t back on speaking terms with Heidi’s father.
It wasn’t even lunchtime, and Heidi suddenly needed a break. They were working on new pheromones to control the insects, but her mind was drifting. She never left work early, but figured saving the world awarded her occasional scheduling flexibility. She could duck out early, and surprise her dad.
She gave a few instructions to the daytime lab assistants and left. In the parking lot, a swarm of damselflies the size of tennis rackets blocked her path. As she debated a course of action, her phone rang. Brad was nearby, and wondered if they could get lunch. Heidi agreed, especially since she couldn’t get to her car. She asked him to pick her up.
The swarm intensified, tripling in size by the time he arrived. She figured there must be almost a hundred. Their sound overpowering. Brad’s bright orange car attracted their attention. The flock descended on his sedan. Heidi was afraid they would trap and suffocate him in the vehicle.
Rushing back into the lab, she desperately grabbed any tool that might disperse the horde.
The flies were impervious to her clanging two tin trays together.
The experimental pheromone spray did provoke a response. It made them angrier. And they tried to bite through the car roof.
Heidi ran at the car, stabbing at their eyes with her keys. After a few moments, she fought back enough to open the car door. She and Brad dashed inside the lab facility.
She was drenched in bug guts. One of the damselflies had taken a deep bite into her shoulder. Brad called his grandfather to tell him that he was taking Heidi to the hospital. It was the first time the two had spoken in almost two years.
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