No Good Deed
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
I could barely contain myself until lunch, and I actually managed to get called out in class for staring off into space. When I got into the cafeteria at lunch, I marched to the table we all shared and grabbed a stunned Rachel from behind, lifting her off the ground.
“Gah!” she squeaked out in surprise before seeing who grabbed her. “What the hell, Caspian?”
“I heard you were the one who organized that counter protest, yesterday,” I said.
I put her back on the ground, spun her around, and lifted her off the ground again, this time in a hug.
“Yeah, yeah, the secret’s out. I’m officially your biggest fan,” she said, her voice dry with sarcasm. “Now put me down, you dumb ox.”
I laughed and set her down, “Josh is the ox. Think of me more like an underfed Longhorn instead.”
I was in a good mood and hoped to bring Josh around after our confrontation the other day, but all I got was a sneer instead.
“Seriously,” I said, turning my attention back to Rachel. “You have no idea how much that meant to me.”
“You’re welcome, but it wasn’t just me. I mentioned it to a few people who thought it was a good idea and the thing kind of took on a mind of its own. Plus, it was fun, that preacher’s an asshole.”
She patted me on the shoulder and waved me off to my seat with a smile. I gave her a smile and headed around the table, grinning the whole way, practically radiating my good mood.
Josh, of course, found a way to bring that to a screeching halt!
“God Dammit!” he yelled, picking up his tray and slamming it down on the table again, the sound of it slapping into the table sounding almost like a gunshot.
His tray had still been partially full, and food went splattering all across the table. Two square slices of what the cafeteria called pizza but was more reminiscent of cardboard were launched over his head, landing on the table behind us.
The people at that table started to stand up, pissed at being nailed with the greasy squares until they saw Josh standing up angrily. Just by his sheer size, Josh is pretty intimidating. A pissed off Josh was not someone people wanted to mess with.
He left his tray where it was and stomped away from the table and out one of the side doors of the cafeteria.
“Sorry,” Amanda mouthed before collecting both their trays and dropping them off at the dish area before jogging out the door to catch up with him.
“What the hell?” I said.
I knew Josh was pissed at me for not giving in to his demands, but this was ‘next level.’ If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was a genetic negative, given the steadily escalating anger he had towards me.
Except, this was relatively recent, and we had spent almost a year together, much of it in close contact while we were on the football team, together. All the experience we’d had to this point with genetic negatives said he would have shown signs of it before now.
“He got kicked off the football team, today,” Jacob said.
“What?” Tami asked.
She had been in the same funk as me, and clearly was as behind as I was.
“Just before Thanksgiving they did a ‘random’ drug screening, but it was for the whole team. Josh’s test came back positive for anabolic steroids. Coach told him he was off the team, this morning.”
“Wow,” was all I could say as thoughts bounced around my head.
One thought was being both angry and relieved at the same time. I was pissed because I thought we had dealt with this last year, when he got busted for cheating. He seemed to understand taking short cuts like that only ended up coming back and biting him in the ass, and yet, here we were, doing it all over again. Josh should have known better. He knew UIL rules required all student-athletes to submit to random drug screenings for a school’s program to remain eligible.
I just didn’t get it. Josh was a good guy and at least seemed like he wanted to do the right thing, and then he goes and does something stupid like this.
The relieved part of my thought process was that I hoped this would explain Josh’s attitude over the last several months. Steroids were known for causing short tempers and irrational explosions of anger, which seemed to be a pretty apt description of how he’d been behaving to me. It also made a lot more sense, given the history between the two of us, than him being a genetic negative who somehow avoided any adverse effects for almost a year.
The last thing that occurred to me was that the girls also had to get tested, since cheerleading was also a school organized sport. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before, but there was a chance the biological changes in the girls might show up in a drug test. I wasn’t sure about that, but it was something else I needed to discuss with Alex when I went by her lab.
“ ... nd he just flipped out, knocked over the table in the training room and stormed out,” Jacob was saying.
I had gotten lost in my thoughts and hadn’t heard a word he said before that.
“So can he try out again, if he gets clean?”
“Nope. UIL rules make it a one strike deal. He’s done, and next year was when scouts would have started looking at him.”
“There goes his NFL dream,” Rachel said, sounding a bit sad.
“He did it to himself,” Jacob said, sounding much less sympathetic. “They made what happens if you’re caught, very clear. He knew the risks. Hell, he got lucky last year when he skated on the cheating thing. That should have been a wake-up call.”
No kidding, I thought. But I also knew I had to go talk to him and see if I could convince him to shape up or at least get a plan on what to do next. Although, I might let that wait for a day or two, until he cooled down.
The conversation turned away from Josh, since his outburst had already made everyone uncomfortable; but it was evident that the entire group was worried about him, leaving a cloud to hang over all of us.
I tried to change the subject.
Turning to Zoe, I said, “Ohh, I don’t remember if I told you, but I have to go down to the facility outside of Houston this weekend.”
“Really? Great!” she said, sounding weirdly excited.
“It’s great I’m going to Houston?”
“Yeah, we want to go with you!”
“Because,” Vicki said, breaking in, “There’s a building there we’ve been looking at for the first center.”
“Center?” I asked.
It was as if they’d had a conversation that I’d slept through. I wasn’t sure what they were talking about.
“We’ve been working on this idea. We want to open an Evolve Center. It will be a place we can distribute the low-cost food we’ve been getting easier, offer some job assistance programs like training or whatever, and hopefully open a small clinic.”
“I thought you worked through some charities already for the food thing?”
“We do,” Tami added, “But we also want to connect more directly with the people we’re helping so...” she paused, trying to figure out the right way to say what she had started to say.
I knew what she was getting at though. One of their goals with the charity was to start building long-term goodwill for the inevitable day when word about us got out. However, there was no way of saying that without having to explain more than we wanted to.
“Okay, I get it. No problem. You can come along, but we’ll probably have to go in two cars. I doubt Jawarski’s going to let me out on my own, and Megan has her van up at college.”
“No problem. We’ll have the fun car,” Zoe said with a devilish smile.
“I’d like to go with you if I can,” Rachel said.
“Really?” I asked.
She hadn’t shown a huge amount of interest so far in the stuff the girls had been working on, so I was surprised.
“I’m not all about partying,” she said, and then noticed everyone else’s face. “Well, not all the time. I want to do stuff, too.”
“Sure, you can come with us. We can party in my car on the way there. Two birds, one stone,” Zoe said.
“Well, I gotta get to class,” I said, as the lunch hour started to draw to a close.
I couldn’t help throwing a look out the direction Josh had gone before I left, however.
That afternoon Jawarski picked me up and took me off towards Mom and Alex’s lab. She wasn’t thrilled to hear about having to go with me to Houston over the weekend. I had no idea what Jawarski did in her free time, but apparently, she had ‘things to do.’ I offered to go by myself, just trying to be helpful of course, but she decided I had some ulterior motive and wouldn’t hear of it.
Which meant several hours in a car with a woman who hated me. That should be fun.
Mom and Alex were both in the lab when I arrived. I hadn’t told them I was coming since I hadn’t decided on it until I was already at school, and they came out of separate areas of the lab when I asked the office manager to let them know I was there.
“Is everything alright,” Mom asked as she hurried out of her office.
“Everything’s fine. Do I have to have a reason to come visit you?”
“No, but you always have before.”
“Well, I guess let’s keep the trend going. Is Alex...” I started to say and stopped as she came out of the secure lab and walked down the hallway towards us.
“Never mind,” I said, continuing. “Let’s go back to your office and talk.”
“Is something wrong?” Alex asked.
“Seriously, I don’t only visit during emergencies. I just had a few things I wanted to run by you guys, and I heard something at the last status update with Charles I wanted to find out more about.”
“Ohh, okay,” Alex said as we headed down the hall to Mom’s office. “I guess I just thought, since every other time you’ve come by...”
“Mom already beat you to giving me grief on that,” I said with a smile.
I shut the door behind them and sat in one of the two chairs in front of Mom’s desk. Her office was actually pretty tiny. They had opted for making the offices small to have more lab space.
“So, I guess first I have a question. Cheerleading is part of the University Interscholastic League which regulates all student athletic programs. As part of that, they require random drug screenings of student athletes. Would anything about our unusual nature show up in that kind of test?”
“If it was just a urine sample,” Alex said after a moment of thought, “then no. A blood sample would definitely show up as unusual to anyone who looked at it for more than a second under a microscope but, at least the one time I looked at a urine sample of yours, there was nothing out of the ordinary. I assume that is the same for everyone else. I guess I could collect a few samples and check them out, but I doubt they’d show up and you don’t.”
“No, I think we’re okay on that. Also, I’m not sure anyone would be overly thrilled to have to come in and pee in a cup for you unless they really have to. But a blood sample would be bad.”
“Usually. However, a lot of the places that do these kind of tests run them through automated programs, with a computer looking for specific markers. While the computer would detect the differences, unless it was specially programmed to inform the testers of them, it wouldn’t let anyone know. However, it’s still best to try and avoid blood tests if at all possible.”
“Got it. Question number two. I met with Charles, and he mentioned you two were working on a new cancer therapy and were nearing FDA trials. Now, I know you two are good. Better than good in fact, since you’ve both gone through the change. But hundreds, probably thousands of brilliant and dedicated scientists have been working on the cancer problem for decades, most without any luck. I can only think of one way you two managed to develop a ‘promising new therapy’ so quickly.”
“Yes,” Mom said, answering the question I was building to but hadn’t asked yet. “We are using your blood in the therapy. Or, at least some of your plasma.”
“That seems incredibly risky,” I said. “Going to FDA trials means a regimented testing program. It means the FDA looking over your therapy for possible side effects. Isn’t there a strong chance they’ll figure out what’s actually going on.”
“We’ve gone through this a hundred ways, and we think we’re going to be okay. Is there a good chance the FDA will notice our therapy takes over and changes the blood of those who receive the treatments? There’s a good chance. Will they figure out that the procedure also eliminates the effects of other chemicals and diseases? Maybe, although that’s a lot less likely. They will be looking at specific control groups for things going wrong, not random things going right that they aren’t checking for. I mean, it’s not like they’re going to question their healthy control group remaining healthy.”
“But you said it yourself, they’ll notice the effect on the patient’s blood, and maybe even the other effects.”
“I did. But people look for the answers they expect. As long as that fits, they stop looking. We are going to explain a process that works. They will see it working and assume the genetic workup we do and the process we use in creating the medicine will be what’s doing the job. They will not make the leap that we are actually regularly siphoning off plasma and blood from my teenage son, who happens to be the next step in human evolution, and using that to create our therapy.”
“Okay, when you put it like that, it sounds absurd.”
“Exactly. We have a fairly detailed description of our work-up to show the regulators. We’ve put together a combination of drugs, genetically modified them, then put them through a process to ‘activate’ the formula. All of which, if done in another lab, will fail to create a miracle cancer cure, but will create something entirely benign that won’t hurt anyone given the knockoff.”
“I don’t know. It sounds good, but I’m still concerned.”
“I know. And honestly, it is deadly. But, think of the people we can save. Children spending their first few years of life subjected to excruciating chemo or radiation therapies, and then many of them dying even after that. Families losing their mother or father, with kids having to grow up knowing that kind of loss. A child shouldn’t have to grow up knowing what that kind of pain feels like.”
I could see the pain in her eyes. I’d forgotten her husband, Zoe’s father. How his loss impacted the family. She had always seemed so in control and confident at all times, I sometimes forgot she had things in her past that still caused her pain.
Plus, she was right. If I wanted to improve the world and humanity, where better to start than saving children? Not that I still didn’t have concerns.
“You’re right,” I said softly. “You two are just fulfilling what I’ve been saying all along I wanted. Still, what do we do about people becoming loyal to me without their permission?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Alex said and held up a hand in protest. “So far, everyone you’ve changed has known you or known of you, and therefore has had a reaction. But people who don’t know you won’t notice the difference. And if they do meet you, they’ll feel an innate need to trust and support you. They won’t ever know the difference. And even if we explained it all to them, step by step, do you think any of them would choose excruciating death for them or their child, to avoid that?”
“Exactly. Cas, this is going to work.”
“But, you can only pull out so much blood or plasma from me at a time. Sure, I come by every week for you to take a draw, but how many doses can you make of your therapy. Unless you’ve figured out a way to synthesize it?”
“No, we haven’t,” Mom said. “Sadly, the therapy will be limited. I expect we will be able to do no more than, say, a couple of thousand doses a year. We could do more if we didn’t keep researching your genetics, or if we didn’t need to make those capsules. We all agree however that both of those are still a necessity. The good news is, while we’ve made the treatment a 5-week therapy mostly to keep it from seeming like a miracle drug, we only need a minuscule amount of plasma from you for that last dose.”
“We’ve tried our blood and we’ve done some tests with blood from Zoe and Vicki,” Alex added. “But while we all possess some of the effects of your system, our blood does not seem to have the ability to take over a host’s system and change them.”
“It seems you’ve thought of everything. I’m still concerned though.”
“We are too, Cas,” Mom said, putting her hand on mine. “But we think this is worth doing, despite the risk.”
“I guess I’m sold. How about you two knock off for the night and let’s go get dinner?”