StoryHack Podcast

A Podcast of Action, Adventure, & Mystery
Posted 09/15/2023

Episode 44: Jewels of the Toad

Almost anything can happen when certain chemicals get together in the correct proportion—even a time blast!

This episode features "Jewels of the Toad" by Frank Patton.

Betty Goodman was the sort of of golden-blonde you'd expect to see pictured on a billboard smiling gaily at a bottle of coca-cola. But this was war—so Betty Goodman was looking intently (no smile) at a madly bubbling pot of chemicals and she wasn't on a billboard. She was in a war chemical plant making something that wasn't even mentioned outside the well-guarded walls.

In spite of what was in the pot, Betty considered herself just another woman in war work, and she didn't blow any whistles to let people know she was "doing her bit." Betty wasn't like that. Even her mother didn't know what was in that bubbling pot into which Betty peered through her plastic face-guard —if she had, she might have turned a little pale.

"How's it coming, Bets?" a man's voice asked from the other side of the laboratory.

"I'm ready to mix, Pete," said Betty, her voice muffled behind her mask. "It looks about right. Temperature is okay, and color is just right."

"Turn it on, then," directed the man. "I'll be right th…" The phone bell rang and he answered it. His voice came to Betty.

"Markey speaking… oh, Carter… yeah, got another bath just about ready. It'll be down to you in an hour… whaddya mean, trouble? No… sure, we'll be careful. Aren't we always!"

As he talked, Betty was turning two valves to an exact degree, and watching a crimson liquid flow in measured amount from a huge retort into the bubbling pot. A cloud of vapor swirled up madly, mushroomed darkly against the ceiling, was swiftly drawn off by the ventilation system.

Markey hung up the receiver and walked toward Betty. He peered into the pot and grunted.

"Filthy looking soup," he said. "Smells worse than ever, if that's possible."

"There is a funny odor to it," admitted Betty a trifle uneasily. "I don't think I ever smelled anyth…"

"If only the lab boys could dope out a way to get these crystals without going through this precipitation process," Markey said. "And bigger! Do you realize what it would mean to the war effort if…?"

"Pete!" said Betty, suddenly gasping. "That stuff…"

"Stinks!" yelled Markey. "Beat it, Bets! She's going to blow…!"

For the rest, listen to the episode!

If you are interested, there is a free epub of this short story available on the main StoryHack site. Jewels of the Toad