Catch

Days were lost in the vibrant hum of machinery. Rings floated from paper, chained in a pleasant melody of different shapes and colors. Purples, blues, and reds churned into new concoctions. The feint sound of Vivaldi wafted from a set of speakers in the corner of the lab as equations burst forth in a crescendo of exuberance only to fall quickly in the sense of quiet reality. Suspense and anticipation rose with every test. Nothing was more beautiful than discovery, fatherhood of abstraction and eternal life.

‘Heather,’  the sense of enchantment faded slightly. ‘Is the shaker ready?”

Julian’s lab partner, an equally passionate and intelligent woman grabbed the test tube from the table without prompting. Both were enchanted composers.

“Let’s do this.”

Julian chuckled.

“Indeed.”

Heather smiled warmly. The work continued to enthrall even after months of perseverance. Research was a measured master.

The shaker rattled. Chemicals turned into potions before the alchemists eyes. Perhaps this concoction would be better, this tweak would be satisfactory. It would be another day before the two could even start to understand their new compound.

Testing day. The coffee tested same. The routine never changed. Julian pulled up to the loud speaker of his favorite fast food restaurant.

“I’ll have an egg sandwich.”

The soft texture and warmth were comforting. Park, grab the badge, walk into the stark interior of the university laboratory. It was just another day. Julian hated how confident he had become in the continuation of his research. He needed something to keep him on edge.

Heather was always early.  She became accustomed to waking up with the sun while growing up on a farm. A few students scattered throughout the lab prepared monitors and cages for the test subjects.

On a hunch, the rats were split into three groups. Aside from the control group and one afflicted with Huntington’s disease, a group of healthy rodents was also set to receive the new elixir. Hopefully, the diseased rodents would show signs of improvement in the coming days. . It would take at least a weak for the data to form a pattern.

Every Thursday, Julian sat at his laptop responding to emails and taking care of clerical work. He monotonously plodded on. It seemed that undergraduate students would do anything to get out of actual work.

The door to his office, slamming against the wall.

“Jesus!” Julian turned to see who had entered, half expecting to see a student.

“Heather?”

“You’re going to want to see this. It is working.”

“Ok?”

“It’s better than expected. They want to try it on humans!”

“Already?”

“The afflicted group is showing massive signs of improvement. There is a catch. It seems to improve cognitive awareness equally well.”

“Dammit. One of our grants is with the military.”

The DARPA grant was one of the main reasons their research continued.

The desert was an inhospitable place. High temperatures, hostile civilians, patrols in heavy, somewhat useless clothing. Joe kissed a a picture of his wife and brother with Huntington’s disease whom she took care of. They couldn’t afford in-home care or the new medicine that promised to help temporarily reverse cell degeneration. The actual concoction was supposed to be the cheapest on the market but his brother would likely be dead within a few years.

“Ready sergeant?” A scrawny private asked.

“Let’s go. Command gave us some pills that are supposed to help with.”

“Have you tried them?”

“Yes.” Joe lied but took his pill anyway. The rest of the marines followed suit.

Baijah was a backwards place. The buildings were easily comparable to the beaten down one room shacks found in the back woods and ghettos of Arkansas. Everyone was on edge. Poor, desperate, and indoctrinated. These were the perfect people to turn into hostiles. The soldiers eyed the walls and roofs suspiciously.

The barricade wasn’t surprising. A few burning buses, enough to stop the convoy of joint light tactical vehicles. Bullets pinged off the specialized plates. The company specialized grabbed the controls to the remote turret and started to suppress the enemy.

Room clearing. Joe barked orders. Something felt different. Even with the instinct instilled by basic and continual training, everyone was more alert.

The group entered the third building intact. The entryway was pitch black but something was amiss. Out of the corner of his eye, Joe spotted a small slot no larger than a can of Bud. He took aim as his soldiers walked into the room. The first shot from the AK-47 whizzed off of the side of a privates helmet and Joe fired a perfect salvo at the hole. The tip of the gun protruded loosely from the wall.

The private, who would normally be seriously wounded shot Joe a quick glance.

“Freaking pills.” He blurted out.

Julian’s new vehicle was somewhat of a spectacle at his new gig. Headquarters was set in an old industrial building not unlike a strip mall. Julian and Heather were a success story to the newly graduated PHDs. The university was happy to take a portion and let their work continue.

The chemist’s parked in his front row spot, grabbed his breakfast sandwich and walked into Paladine Enterprises where Heather stood talking to a potential employee.

“Julian, we have another order from the army.”

The candidate’s eyes narrowed with keen interest.

 

Leave a Reply