“There’s a problem with the milk.”
Cara raised an eyebrow at intern in her well-practiced “do tell?” expression. She’d brought double PhDs to their knees with that eyebrow.
The intern was uncowed. Cara didn’t know whether to write the skinny grad student off as an idiot or be impressed by the stainless steel guts that demonstrated. “The whole milk, to be exact. Not ours, that is, we didn’t develop it; it’s in the dining hall.”
The intern hesitated. “That is, as far as I know, it’s a dining hall product and not one of our developments; if the Facility is using its dining hall for non -consensual, uninformed testing, I quit.”
“Not the staff dining hall.” It was not the most robust denial, but Cara wanted to see what this one would do.
The intern relaxed minutely. “Then there is a serious problem with the whole milk.”
“And you’re telling me exactly why…?”
“Dr. Hdjagrekd is on vacation; Liam is onsite in Oceania; the senior intern in my department — experimental dynamics — is seeing things and locked himself in the janitorial closet; and the staff and management in the dining hall won’t talk to me more than ‘what do you want on your taco?’ Lee said — before the whole thing with the hallucinations — that they won’t until you’ve been here at least 6 months.”
“True. I generally have the same rule.” The kid started to deflate. What’s your name, intern?”
“Name? Uh.” From the expression, nobody had asked that — or used that name — in a while. “Rory Hann, ma’am. I’ve been here three months. I interned at Global Viadyne before that, for a year. Biolyn before that.”
“All right, Rory Hann. What’s wrong with the whole milk?”
The intern made a small noise, something between a throat clearing and a snort of surprise. “You’re going to listen to me?”
Cara reached into her desk and pulled out a small gold pin; she tossed it to the intern. “Congratulations, you’re effectively now marked as a one-year intern. I think you’ve earned it. Yes, I’m going to listen.”
Rory fiddled with the pin. “Okay. So. The milk, 2% milk is 2% milkfat. But ‘Whole Milk,’ this whole milk, it’s not 4% milkfat.”
Cara raised that eyebrow again. Was she going to have to take the pin back this quickly? She’d never misjudged someone that badly that quickly.
“Okay, yeah, everyone knows that. Everyone. But the thing is, the rest of it is the thing. So yeah, some of it is water, of course. Or milk protein. But if you add up the percentages – if you run the thing through a centrifuge – well, okay, it destroyed three centrifuges, sorry, but I used the old ones. The thing is, part of the remainder is dark matter and part of it is dark… energy.”
“Dark Energy.” Cara leaned forward. “Dark Matter. In the milk?”
“Which leads me to the question… what’s in the cows?”
Prompted by this comic on XKCD.