William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Nineteen

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Nine in the evening; Adam saved his files, shut down the haunting image of the purple molecule, then sat back and undid the top button on his pants.

His work was going nowhere.  Against normal reporting protocols, he had written a full account of his findings, including the unauthorized live test on the mouse.  But in lieu of censoring him, Hammermill raised his salary to an impressive $325,000 per year.  Adam had been paid much more for his work, but not in a quasi-legal venture such as this.

Tonight, Adam had work that would keep him in the office late. Over the past week, he had tested the limits of his security clearance, learning that his ID card allowed him to walk through roughly 90% of Sentec’s doors.  Only those restricted to company officers were off-limits.  Which was fine; tonight he needed to get into the chemistry lab.

After a microwave burrito from the machine and three fountain sodas, he made his way to the chemistry unit.  Custodial services would come by at about eleven, so that gave him roughly two hours to work.

Accessing Sentec’s main chemistry lab, he turned on the lights and the ventilators.  He took out the the three vials Baker had given him and dumped half of each onto pyrex plates.

First he took the vial marked A, the methamphetamine sample that Baker claimed was straight from the lab.  Adam soluted it in ethyl alcohol, and burned it under the sensor, reading the results from the mainframe.  It burned clean, more than 98%, nice bouquet.  It was pure Candlestick, the same recipe he had worked with.  Well, not entirely pure; it was 30% lactose, packaged for retail sale.

Adam had a somewhat more than limited history with drugs.  He was a heavy drinker, and smoked marijuana now and again.  In grad school, he had experimented scientifically with heroin, recording each of nine exposures in curious detail, resulting in a manuscript he presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemists Association, which cost him his membership when it was perceived as unethical.

But his experiences with methamphetamines were disastrous.  Over a period of six years, he counted himself a habitual user, enjoying each experience immensely.  His publications on the topic resulted in a brief suspension from graduate school which was overturned only by the vigorous interjections of his graduate advisor.  Afterwards, Adam underwent a voluntary and solitary detox alone in a cabin on Kona where he drank vodka night and day.

Next, Adam burned the second sample, from the vial marked B, which was supposedly bought off the street in Seattle.  His heart was already beating faster, not from anticipation, but from the rush that even a whiff of vaporized meth induced.  This time it didn’t burn cleanly, the flame glowing a bright green for a moment.  Adam read the chemical signature from the monitor but couldn’t interpret of it.  The same properties were present, but a different cutting agent had been added.

He accessed Sentec’s chemical structure database to analyze it.  The results were inconclusive; the active chemical components, in addition to various inert elements, included an enzyme from an African fig and a protein that was only found in a certain species of blowfish.  These additives were clearly not normally found in North America’s urban pharmacopeia.

Next he prepared the third sample, from the vial marked C, the product bought off the street in Oakland.  It was clean, identical to sample A.  Very strange, he told himself.  What would these additives do to a user?

Adam referenced the online chemical library to determine if there were any known clinical uses for this substance.  The results stunned him.  The fig, if properly rendered, could induce schizophrenia, and the protein had documented characteristics that suppressed life signs, including heart rate, brain activity, and pulse.  The historical activity section of the readout confirmed ritual use in West Africa and parts of the Caribbean.

It’s not killing junkies, Adam realized.  It’s just making them look dead.  This substance was technically an anesthetic, and if you took enough you would die.  Most users would experience brain damage, but more significantly, they would appear dead, even to trained medical personnel.  Doctors who had no experience with the toxins, including medical examiners, would diagnose death.  That meant junkies were being buried alive.

Adam shut down the computer.  Someone in Seattle is fiddling with Candlestick, he told himself. He turned off the ventilator and hit the light.  Hammermill was waiting for him in the hallway, accompanied by two armed security men.

“What are you up to?” Hammermill asked.

Adam smiled.  “Working late.”

Hammermill smiled too.  “You used the mainframe.  It records activity.”

Adam shook his head.  “I didn’t know that.”

“Your activity is unauthorized.  You are in possession of illegal substances.”

“Am I in trouble?”

Hammermill chuckled.  “Not at all.  I’ve always been in favor of thinking outside the box.  I just want you to tell me what you have.”

Adam looked him in the eye.  “Sure,” he said.  “But I need a little patience, and some latitude to figure it out.”

“I’m all about latitude,” Hammermill told him, “but I’m running out of patience.”

Written by williamdoonan

January 24, 2013 at 3:53 am

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