No Good Deed
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
It was pretty late when we all got back to the house. Aside from the drive to get home, we stayed at the Center until it shut down for the night, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed with what they’d accomplished. I didn’t get to talk to the person they’d hired as a jobs counselor since, as Olivia had said, she was totally swamped. From our brief introduction, she seemed highly competent, though.
The clinic was also very impressive, and I’d met the person on duty at Mom’s lab during one of my previous visits. Most of the things she was dealing with, at least while I was there, were smaller ailments that people without insurance let go untreated. Things like rashes, infections, and poorly set breaks. Not difficult to treat really, but things that could become serious if not dealt with.
I avoided the ‘mental health’ office, and it was something I’d let fester on the drive home. I got why they wanted to change people with otherwise incurable mental conditions although I was still unhappy with putting people through the change without their permission. It was the idea that they’d told someone I hadn’t met or okayed the entire truth that bugged me. As much as Mom and Jawarski pressed me about the need for secrecy and not letting the truth slip, the fact that they just went and told someone new really bugged me.
I had to pull back from some of the people I met at school, quit all sports and keep my every move in check every day, and here they were just telling people.
By the time I walked into the house, I had built up a good mad and was ready for a fight.
“So, I hear we’re just telling anybody about our secret now, huh?” I said to Mom, who was in the den waiting for us to get home.
“If you want to discuss something specific, I’d be happy to talk with you,” she said, laying her book down on the couch next to her. “If you’re going to come at me with that attitude, you should just keep walking and go to your room until you calm down. Then we can discuss whatever has your pants in a bunch.”
I’d expected an angry response, or surprise. I had not expected a calm, even-tempered response, nor being put in my place in the same calm tone.
“I ... that is...”
“How about you sit down and tell me why you’re upset?”
“I went to the Next Step center today,” I said, sitting down, “and I found out you gave the ok on telling their ‘mental health’ professional everything and gave the ok to change people without telling them what was happening.”
“Partially. I told Janet, that’s the ‘mental health professional’ you mentioned, the whole truth before we decided to let her work at the center. She was doing research on your blood with us, and we found there was no way we could use her and not tell her what she was seeing. She’d already asked questions and was starting to figure out some of the facts on her own. Not about evolution and all that, but that she was studying the blood from someone we had access to, since we kept getting new samples, and that person’s blood had some pretty amazing properties. We had to change her, and then explain everything to her to keep her from, in her excitement, mentioning what she figured out on her own to anyone else.”
“Why didn’t you ask me first?”
“For one, because I don’t work for you. You are my son in fact, if not through birth. I will, from time to time, make decisions on your behalf. I know you didn’t grow up in the normal nuclear family, so you haven’t encountered this before, but this is what parents do. You might be super smart and the cutting edge of what it is to be human, but you’re also sixteen years old. Experience counts for a lot, and I’m not too shabby in the brains department if I say so myself. Alex and I realized she had figured enough out to be a danger to us, and decided we needed to act fast to keep her from putting us in danger, even unintentionally. She’d met you already, so the loyalty portion of the change kicked in when we dosed her, and the scientist in her understood the benefits our study could produce, and the dangers you would be in if this became common knowledge.”
She was right. I hadn’t had a real parent before, but I understood what she said about a parent’s job was true. Now that it was explained out to me, I couldn’t immediately see another option they had with the woman, nor any reason to doubt her description of what had or could have happened. I, however, did not like being shut down so easily when I’d come in knowing how right I was. It was a childish stubbornness, but like she pointed out, I was still sixteen.
“I still don’t think we should change people without their permission,” I said petulantly.
“Cas, we’ve been over this. You’ve said many times your end goal was to get the world ready for the next step of human evolution and spread that evolution to better mankind. Which is a stance I’ve always applauded. But we can’t do that and stay our small family group. We are at the point where we need to start expanding out or accept we will never be more than a small enclave that will eventually wither and disappear. This is an ideal place to start. One, these people have an illness that science cannot cure. Two, the people we are talking about are affected by their illness to the degree that they aren’t able to live in society anymore. They’re forced to live on the fringes in terrible conditions. Three, they have fallen off society’s radar. It’s a selfish point, but they are a group we can change without coming under too much scrutiny. We are making their lives better, and forwarding our cause at the same time. This is as much a win-win scenario as I could ever imagine. Can you imagine a single person we treat would rather live in the grips of whatever’s troubling them if they knew the truth and could make a choice? Heck kid, this is the exact same argument you went with when changing Celia.”
She had me. I folded my arms and said, “Fine. I guess.”
“Don’t pout,” she said with a laugh. “It looks bad on you. I know you almost always get your way. You have followers that love you, and you’re regularly treated as the kid genius leading us into the future. Well, kiddo, you too are human. Another one of a mom’s jobs, is keeping your head from getting too big.”
“You’re doing excellent work then,” I groused.
“Why thank you,” she said with a smile, ignoring my tone. “Now, if you’re done with your snit, I have some news.”
I let out a huff of air. I knew she would only do what was best for me. I also knew I could trust her to make the right decision.
“I’m done being a brat. Go ahead with your news.”
“We passed our animal trials,” she said.
“Really? I thought it was going to take longer?”
“Normally, it would; but thanks to your new friends at MilTech, they put us in touch with some NIH folks that could help us push things along. I’m not a fan of the favoritism that drives so much of our government, but I figure if I have to live with it, I can take advantage of it. It helps that we encountered no complications at all with our treatment. It helps that our process includes no actual drugs, so there’s nothing to actually cause side effects.”
“So what does this mean?”
“Next we begin Phase I clinical trials. Its main goal is to identify negative side effects of the drug in otherwise healthy patients. We give small doses of our ‘drug’ to them, and record everything that happens.”
“Aren’t you worried about someone from the FDA seeing something they shouldn’t?”
“Not particularly. They are only looking for what they’re expecting to see, or something actively happening to patients. People who go through the change don’t get radically stronger, or radically smarter. They do become immune to disease and alcohol, and drugs will no longer have an effect on them, but that isn’t something people will notice right away. We screen for both, and tell people those are not allowed on trial. And even afterward, how quickly do you think people will notice they’re no longer getting sick? How easily do you think they’ll connect the medical trial they got paid to do, with the fact that they aren’t getting drunk or high anymore? It requires a pretty huge leap to get there.”
“I guess,” I said, working through what she said and not immediately being able to plug holes in it. I wasn’t sure there would be no danger in it, but that was just a worry in the back of my brain for the moment. “How long will this last?”
“If everything goes right, which I can’t imagine it won’t, considering what our ‘treatment’ really is, we should probably move to Phase II trials this summer.”
“What’s Phase II?”
“We start testing the treatment on terminally ill patients, to see its effectiveness.”
“Won’t they notice when it’s one hundred percent effective?”
“That, they would notice. That’s going to be the hardest part, honestly. We’ve mixed your plasma with some other innocuous materials, to mask its presence. Some of the people we test will get the actual treatment and go through the change, and others will have to go through a version of the treatment without your plasma in it.”
“But, then they’ll probably die!”
“I know, and I hate it, but it means those we do give the actual treatment to will live. The alternative is we keep this to ourselves, and they all die. Or we give it to everyone, your secret becomes publicly known, something you seemed very concerned with earlier, and the chances of something happening that takes you from us, and gets rid of any future chances of doing this treatment, increases. I don’t like the idea of purposefully not helping some people any more than you do, but it’s what we have to do if we are going to help others. We won’t make them any worse than they are, at least.”
“But, while they’re on our trial, they won’t be on any others or taking any other medication which might save them.”
“I know. I’ve wrestled with this, I really have. The people in this trial will already be very sick, and their odds under any other trials I know of would already be pretty bad.”
“But after that? I know we said we are going to claim it requires a component that cannot be synthesized, and only our clinic can administer it, but wouldn’t someone notice if everyone who comes through gets cured?”
“Yes, and we’ll deal with that when we get there, but honestly, it’s this or not doing it at all. Which would you rather?”
“Yeah, ok. I just don’t like it.”
“I know you don’t, and that’s one of the reasons we all love you. We can only do the best we can, sweetie. No one asks you to be perfect or solve all of the world’s problems. The only one who does that is you.”
“We have some time anyway. Phase I we can do with the facilities we have now, but Phase II requires the new lab we’re building down near the new house, and your new offices. It’s not really going to be a lab anymore, but a small medical facility, including rooms for patients to stay while we’re doing tests on them. Anyway, that’s for another day. For right now, it’s late. I’m sorry to keep you up, but I wanted to share the news since its pretty exciting for us. You run off to bed.”
She held out her arms, and I got up, walked over to her, and got a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then headed up to join the girls.
I still wasn’t settled with the decision the next day, but I also realized this wasn’t going to be a battle I was going to win, at least not directly. I still wanted there to be some kind of actual process we went through if we decided to change someone, and definitely if we were going to bring someone into the circle.
I was sitting out on one of the benches in front of the school mulling that over a few days later. I didn’t need to head into the office since a lot of what we normally do was being moved to the new facility. That was actually a good thing since we’d already started moving a lot of our production down here, which meant moving most of the engineers. We were starting to become less productive as the administrative staff and the rest of the company were so far apart. Most of the office staff had headed down, renting apartments until the new sub-division was finished. Ted, Jonathan, and Marcus were all following my lead and building their own homes, although much smaller than what my family was doing.
I’d talked to Ted’s wife, and she was particularly happy. She always wanted to live in the country but had thought it would be something that would have to wait until he retired. Now, she had a small country house with a couple of acres. It was close enough for Ted to drive to work every day, and close enough to a large city to have access to that as needed.
What this all meant was that, for a few months at least, my schedule was more like that of a normal high school kid again, including waiting while my girlfriend finished cheerleading practice. I didn’t have to run to the offices every afternoon and would be doing most of my work remotely. It did mean I’d have to drive down to the new facilities every weekend, but the girls were going to need to go to the new Next Step center anyway, so we’d still all be together.
It did mean more of a headache for Jawarski since we’d be in hotel rooms every weekend. We’d keep switching where we stayed for security, but it still made it a pain for her. Mom was of two minds. She would have a little more peace and quiet on the weekends, since half the people who lived there would be gone, but she wasn’t crazy about her kids spending weekends away from home. At least she still had Tina and Judy in the house, and I had noticed her mothering of them had picked up. With Megan going back to school and Celia ‘cured’, Vicki’s mom would be back in the house next week, which was sure to multiply the mothering those two got.