No Good Deed
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
When I’d said I was going to get tired of being on bed rest for multiple weeks, I hadn’t known the half of it. A week and a half into my recovery period, and I was starting to go stir crazy just laying here.
The girls had come in to keep me company, and I’d spent a very strange couple of days with Mrs. Polaski as she had me take one test after another. Our original schedule called for us to be tested over a week and a half, with the tests spread out to one each day. I’m not sure if it was some sick game of hers, or she just wanted to see how far she could push my abilities.
She didn’t actually know about my abilities, but she’d spent enough time with me to realize the girls, and I weren’t average students. I think she suspected there was more I was capable of that I didn’t show in school. Whether she chalked that up to laziness, or something deliberate, I couldn’t say. I did get the distinct impression that she was trying to learn more about me though.
Every time I finished a test, she would just set another one down in front of me, until Alex showed up and told her I needed my rest. I swear I could have kissed Alex in those moments.
Not that the tests were hard. I’d done the work to study for them, and my memory was basically eidetic by now, so the recall was really easy. It’s just mind-numbing to mark in scantron after scantron or write out long rambling essays about the themes of Midsummer’s Nights dreams, or the causes of the Civil War. I was going out of my mind, when she finally announced I was done with all my tests.
The girls couldn’t stay with me as much as I’d have wanted, because they still had almost a week of classes, and they wanted to finish out the school year and say goodbye to all our friends. Alex had already told me I wasn’t going to be up and around by the time the school year ended, which was kind of a bummer.
Josh was missing, and Amanda was pissed at me, but I was still tight with the rest of our gang, who’d seen past the front Josh had put up to how he was starting to go off the deep end. They’d all come by to see me, which was nice. We’d talked, and they’d all promised to visit us at our new place when they could.
Several had worked it out to do volunteer work at the center, both to help their college applications, and because they wanted to spend more time with the girls. Several had already spent some weekends down there helping. There seemed to be a never-ending demand for volunteers.
Still, as the year came to a close and I laid on my back in the hotel at night, after everyone had headed home, I got a little melancholy. When I started last year, I’d been worried about what High School would mean for me. My adoptive father was dead, and Margaret had moved Tina and me to a new town where we didn’t know anyone.
The rollercoaster of the last two years had been pretty extreme, but I think the thing I was most surprised at was the friends I’d made. Not just the girls, although that was something, but all the people in our group. Now I was done with school two years early and heading into something new. I wouldn’t ever admit it to anyone else, but I was a little terrified.
We were set up really well and had plans for how we were going to take everything forward, but there were still so many unanswered questions.
Thankfully, after the third week of bed rest, I got a reprieve of sorts. Jonathan showed up with Douglass in tow.
“Hey, guys,” I said as they’d walked through the door.
Vicki had left about an hour before to help pack up the house, so I’d spent the last hour just staring at the wall.
“We’ve got good news!” Douglass said excitedly.
“You’ve decided to go around Alex and bust me out of this place?”
“Not quite,” Jonathan said with a laugh. “We do have news, however.”
“Ok, consider me properly in a state of suspense.”
“We’ve worked out the kinks, and several internal runs on the battery look good. Your Colonel Ron has managed to arrange another demonstration with NASA.”
“That is good news. What did we finally find out about the failures?”
I’d been getting regular reports, but they’d slowed to a trickle while I was recovering. I think Alex had put her foot down about how much work people were bringing me. Until that moment, I don’t think Mom realized all the paperwork they’d been sending up to me to read over every week since they all moved to the new facilities. The one thing that I hadn’t seen in any of the reports, was what - exactly - failed.
“We found a manufacturing defect in the material we were using for the solid-state storage. Going back over it, the same defect is in every prototype we made. It seems this failure isn’t something that happens every time, or very often with the defect, but it’s a ticking time bomb.”
“Literally. While I’m not happy we had to wait until our demonstration with NASA to find out about it, I guess its better that we get through all the trials, rather than have our battery go up in space and fail.”
“So what are we doing about it?”
“We retooled how we were manufacturing the plates and our quality assurance of them. It’s going to take more time to produce and cost more, but in the long run, it will be worth it.”
“So they are on board with another test?”
“Yes,” Jonathan said. “There are a lot of skeptical people over there still, and it’s going to take more on our part to really sell them on it now, but I think we’ll be ok. Aaron has done a really good job of calming them down. He reminded them of a couple of other high profile failures that happened on parts that are now standard on most stuff NASA sends up.”
“I’m sure these guys like to be reminded of their failures.”
‘Well, they weren’t NASA’s failures, just failures of the producers of those other parts. It did make it clear to them they can benefit from second chances.”
“We’ll still be fighting an uphill battle,” Douglass said. “There are some people who’ve already made up their minds. Luckily, we don’t have to convince everyone. Just the right people.”
“So when does the test happen.”
I looked over at Alex, who’d walked in a moments after Jonathan and Douglass had shown up, probably so she could chase them out of the room if they stayed too long.
“Will I be out by then?”
“Maybe,” she said. “You’re healing well, faster than I could have ever dreamed, but you still need more time. You’d probably heal faster if you weren’t being interrupted so much by all these visits.”
“These visits are the only thing keeping me sane.”
She just harrumphed at me.
“Just keep me in the loop on what’s going on,” I said the Douglass, ignoring her grumpiness. “I’ll work on the warden, here, and see if I can get out on parole.”
She glared at me, but I ignored it.
“What else is going on?”
They gave me a rundown on what had happened since I’d been laid up. Things were going well on the desalination plant. We were running full bore and already had it in several of the ships MilTech had refurbished. We were out of the trial phase all the way, and the technology was proving itself and making us some good money to boot.
Jonathan also had some news on more fallout from Richards’ downfall. They’d managed to round up a bunch of his flunkies that had gone into hiding at the same time. With Richards dead, the flunkies had started nosing around other criminals, looking for new employment, which put them back on the FBI’s radar.
I was happy to hear there. It seemed like no one notable, or at least no one who might decide to come and finish what Richards had started, was still in the wind.
Jonathan and Douglass finished their rundown and left.
“Since you in business mode, I guess I should tell you that Angela and I also have some news.”
“You’re going to let me out of here?” I said, lifting my head off the pillow, which was as close to sitting up as I could get.
“Not a chance.”
I let my head flop back down and said, “Damn.”
“I probably should wait for Angela to get here before I tell you, but honestly, I’m too excited. We got word today that we’ve been cleared to test our ‘protocol’ on our first live patients.”
“Really? When? How many people?”
“In the proposal we submitted, our plan was to test five patients in the initial batch and then after the reports on that batch cleared. As for when not until July. Angela wanted to leave some time open at the end of this month and the beginning of June for your move, which actually works because we have to go over our protocol a few more times.”
“Why? I thought you’d already submitted it.”
“We submitted a draft of our protocol. Considering that, while we know without a doubt that this treatment will cure everyone we give it to; it doesn’t work like we’re telling the FDA it does. We have to make sure we’ve covered ourselves enough to explain how it’s working, without giving away what’s really happening.”
“Is that even possible?”
“We think so. For the FDA, unless something goes wrong, they generally go off of the results submitted to them. Its how medication has slipped through in the past. They get test results from the team conducting the trial as well as the patient’s primary physician has signed off on. In those other cases, results were fudged, and only later when the medication was widely used and people started getting sick was it looked into. We know our medication isn’t going to go bad since it’s not really medication.”
“What if a genetic negative slips through?”
“That’s our big weak spot, and why our ‘treatment’ will have to be performed only by us. We’ll have to screen multiple times before we put anyone through the change, just to be sure.”
“If it’s as successful as it’s going to be, aren’t pharmaceutical companies going to try and backward engineer us?”
“Probably, but I’m not worried about that.”
“Think about it. They would need to make the leap that our ‘medication’ is essentially genetically mutated plasma that itself mutates the DNA of the patient, creating a new strain of antibodies, that aggressively seeks out and changes the foreign substance into something the body can absorb and use. I’ve studied your biology for a full year, and I can barely wrap my brain around it.”
“I guess that’d be a bit much.”
“By default, people see what they want to see, or at least what they expect to see. It’s what makes people able to live next to serial killers and never suspect or why average Germans were able to live a few miles from concentration camps and never suspect. In hindsight, the clues are there, but since it’s so unfathomable, you just look past it and see something else.”
“That makes sense.”
“The key is, we need to fly under the radar. That means we are going to have to do something that none of us, you especially, are going to like.”
“What?” I said in a flat tone.
I had a guess at what she was about to say since it’s something I’d already thought about but hoped we’d avoid.
“Some of the people we treat will have to get a version that doesn’t work.”
“Because if it were one-hundred percent effective, someone would notice,” I said, again in the flat, emotionless tone.
“Yes. I’m glad you got that. I was worried you’d dig in your heels.”
“I’m glad everyone thinks I’m so unreasonable.”
“I don’t think that, Caspian.”
“No, but I know you, and pretty much everyone else, thinks I take my ethical decisions too seriously.”
“I wouldn’t put it like that.”
“I know. I know you guys are just being practical and looking out for all of our best interests, mine especially. I also know that I’ve hobbled us at times when I ‘dig in my heels’ and made things harder. This isn’t one of those times. I figured this out a while ago. If we help everyone, there’s no way we won’t be noticed; which in turn, makes it probable that we won’t even be around anymore to help anyone, once people in a place to make money off of my biology get into the game. I’d rather help half the people we could, but operate for years; over helping everyone we talk to, but have to shut down too soon.”
Mom came into the room but didn’t say anything, just closed the door and stood back to listen.
“So you get it.”
“I do. I also have some rules we’re going to have to go by.”
“Of course you do.”
“One. Every child we help gets the real thing. Two, while I know we can’t do this one hundred percent, I’d prefer we give the ineffective versions to much older people or single people. If we’re going to only help some of the people, I’d prefer we default to people who will be able to enjoy their newfound lease on life for a while or people with families.”
“So you’re going to choose who lives and who dies?” Mom asked from her spot by the door.