William Doonan

I write books and stories.

MedicineLand: Chapter Fifty-Four

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Adam sat at the desk in front of the ventilator hood.  He stared as the image of the Magic Molecule appeared on the overhead screen.  He turned as Peter Westlake entered the room and gave him a little nod.

“Coming to work today?” Westlake asked.

“Apparently,” Adam said.  “How’s the baby?”

“He’s great.”  Westlake beamed.  “Crawling around like a little madman.  He walks from time to time, but not a lot.”

Adam stared at him.

“You mean the molecule.”  Westlake’s smile wilted.  “We’ll I’d say not so good, Adam.  You’re the team leader and you haven’t been around these last few days.”

“I’ve been preoccupied.”

“Are you better now?”


“Well, get better.”  Westlake sat at the main console.  “Magic Molecule waits for no man.”

“I thought we were calling it Howard,” Adam said.

Westlake spun around.  “Look,” he said firmly.  “Howard is my baby, the one I was just telling you about.  So you need to focus here because my fortunes are tied to yours.  We have to get this project moving so that I can say something on my performance review chart.  Otherwise I don’t get matching funds on my 401K for the quarter.  And I’ll blame you.”

Adam watched as the molecule rotated on the screen.  “How long would it take to shut down a human central nervous system?”

“We’re trying to make a snack cake,” Westlake said.  “Shutting down a human nervous system is not a reaction that would be considered ideal in a dessert product.”

Adam spun around.  “It’s a puzzle, OK.  Puzzles help me think.”

Westlake ran his hands through his hair.  “OK, then.  Let’s say exposure to a chemical agent like Sarin or mustard gas or something in that vein; loss of motor control would occur in under a minute.”

“What if I wanted to preserve motor control but interfere with cortical transmission?  Leave the brain stem alone?”

“Why would you want to do that?”

“I don’t,” Adam said.  “But what would be the best way to approach such a thing?”

“That’s a little outside my area of expertise,” Westlake said.  “If you wanted to make someone brain-dead, then lobotomize them.  Cut through some connective tissue in the frontal lobe.  The brain stem and the cerebellum, and most of the cerebrum remain intact, but the individual would be docile, to say the least.  He’d be a sort of zombie, if you will.”

“Could it be done chemically?”

Westlake was growing irritated.  “I don’t know, Adam.  There are thousands of neurotoxins out there that might interfere with specific neural networks, but for reasons that are obvious, they have not been adequately explored.”

“Not even with mice?”

“No.  Not even with mice.  Mice don’t have elaborate frontal cortexes, so you can’t effectively lobotomize them to your desired end.  And they don’t have interesting conversations, so you can’t really know the extent to which they are docile.  Why are you asking this?”

Adam turned back to the desk and got to work on the keyboard, flattening the Magic Molecule on the overhead screen, rendering it in two dimensions.  “Like I said, it’s a puzzle.”

“So we’re going to get to work now?”

“No.”  Adam shook his head.  “I have to get home.”

“No way.  You’ve been here half an hour.”

“I’ve been here nearly forty-five minutes,” Adam told him.  “But I do a lot of work on my spare time.”  He pulled a folded napkin from his shirt pocket and spread it out.  “I think we’ve been going about this wrong.”

Westlake groped for his reading glasses and stared at the molecular notations on the napkin.  “What did you write this in?” he asked.  “It’s all sparkly.”

“It’s a magic marker that writes on fabric.  It has sparkles built in.  I was working on Halloween costumes with my girlfriend’s daughter.”

Westlake looked up.  “Halloween is like ten months away.”

“Well there’s really no point in making sparkly costumes for Martin Luther King Day, is there?  So look at it.  Tell me what you think.”

Westlake frowned at he napkin.  The notations were mostly for sugar, different sugars then they had been using.  “Fructose?” he asked.  “There’s no reason to use fructose.  The sucrose components are not giving us any problems.”

“Fructose will bind to the fat more effectively.  That will help stabilize the molecule.  Then you can lose the hydrogen cyanide cap and replace it with cacao.”

Westlake took off his glasses.  “Cacao is chocolate,” he said, irritated.  “Chocolate is a flavoring agent, nothing more.”

“Tell that to the Aztecs,” Adam said.  “Chocolate, in its pure form, has a potent impact on neurotransmitter activity.  Aztecs used it to calm politicians and nobles, bring people to an even keel.  You need to use the real thing here, not a synthetic macro.  It will make the eventual product more expensive but it will have the effect we’re after.”

Westlake squirmed a little in his chair, studying Adam’s sparkly diagram.  “I don’t know,” he said.  “Maybe.  Have you tried keying it it?”

Adam smiled.  “I haven’t.  That’s where you come in.  I have to go now, so let me know how the tests go.  I think they’ll go well.  I think I just fulfilled my professional obligations.”


Written by williamdoonan

August 1, 2013 at 10:00 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

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