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This is, of course, a work of fiction, including a fictitious disease. This story may describe disturbing images of the victims of that disease so I thought I’d just give a heads up. Enjoy, please rate and comment.
The not too distant future…
Two pinpoint beams of light shown up through a helmet and illuminated a pair of brilliant green eyes. The brow above was furrowed in concentration and more than a little frustration. The man sighed in disgust and stood up away from the microscope. The lab was brightly, almost garishly lit and built like a tomb stocked with a menagerie of scientific equipment. Large doors and vacuum chambers were the only way in or out. Dr. Kevin McEvoy was sealed from head to toe in a heavy duty, plastic reinforced rubber suit keeping him clean from the incredibly hostile environment only a half inch away from his skin. Music was playing from speakers in the corner of the room hooked to an mp3 player outside the room set to random. At the moment David Bowie and Freddie Mercury sung about being Under Pressure.
“What do you think, Kevin?” Asked a tall blonde standing next to him who also protected by an isolation suit.
Kevin remained silent for a moment and he thought of what he had just witnessed. When he was young he thought of the microscope as an amazing machine which let you see into another world full of wonder. Now he thought of that world as being a cold, desolate place where constant battles raged. He wondered if there was intelligent life in the universe and they had the power to view the daily life of Earth, would they think the same thing.
“The cells show no sign of immunity. They’re still degrading.” He finally answered.
“Yeah, but at a much slower rate.” The blonde answered. “You saw that, right? The levels of decomposition between the control group and the treated group differed greatly.”
“I wouldn’t say greatly.” Kevin answered with resignation clouding his voice. “I wouldn’t say that at all.”
“Kevin!” The blonde raised her voice gaining her superiors attention. “What’s going on with you?!”
“What do you mean?” Kevin asked, genuinely surprised.
“It’s a difference! We’re making progress.”
“I don’t see how I’m supposed to get excited by what may be a 10% decrease. 10% at best!” Kevin argued.
“Did you see the cell walls? They were intact longer than the control groups. It’s something to work with!” The blonde proposed. “I’m not saying have a press release, but it’s a direction we didn’t have before.”
Kevin sighed again and bowed his head. “You’re right. I’m sorry. This thing is still out there and still on the loose. I thought we would have nailed it down already.”
“Why? Because all of the other debilitating diseases have been so easy to cure? SARS? EV71? Hantavairus? Pneumonia for Christ’s sake?! When AIDS was cured we thought we could use the Barovsky method to find answers to every other virus. And we can’t, so we have to start all over again.”
“I need better than what we’ve got here, Anne!!! I need a fucking cure!!!” Kevin screamed back and pushed the large metal door open and waited for it to seal.
When it had and the sprayers disinfected any possible stray and deadly microscopic passengers on the suit, he pushed through another set of doors and undressed from the heavy protective garment. The sound of the sprayers coming on again informed him that Anne wasn’t done with the argument. She was a good doctor, Kevin thought. Young but she would learn. She had graduated top of her class and her resume was full of impressive fellowships. He had been glad he’d been able to convince her to come work for him. The National Center for Medical Studies needed her and since she had been there, she hadn’t disappointed. The doors opened again and Anne stood in front of him, having pushed her helmet back off her head and stood with her hands on her hips.
“I’m sorry, Anne. My mind’s not in it today.” He apologized.
“No shit.” Kevin chuckled and looked up to see a smirk on her face. He was forgiven or at least she was thinking of forgiving him. “Look, take the day. Get out of here. Get laid. Whatever you need to do.”
“Thanks, boss.” He chuckled again at the switch in roles. “It’s a good find, Anne. You’re right. We’re heading in a good direction. Why don’t you write up the report and you’ll present it on Monday.”
“Really? You’re letting me present?”
“It’s your find. Take the credit.” He stood up and changed his scrub pants for jeans.
“Ok. I was going to set up another culture and treat it with 50% more AD450. I’ll let you know the results and write up the report after that.”
Kevin knew she was pressing her luck and trying to see how much she could get away with.
“Yeah, write it up whenever. It’s only Thursday now. Why don’t you have someone in Lab B get started on it. Also have them run another IDC4 test on HLFs series 5 through 7.”
“Oh my God. What did Lab B do to piss you off?” She asked in surprise. “You know they’re going to burn your effigy.”
“I casino siteleri could give a shit. Just have them run the tests.” He said, threw on his shirt, shoes and started heading out of the room. “Oh and Anne?”
“Yeah?” She said just as she was about to head into the `clean room’ again.
“Go above 15% with the AD450 and you’ll be fired so quick they’ll take away your new Mercedes NR2.” He smiled as she frowned and left for the day.
Kevin flashed his badge to everyone interested as he walked out of the building and tried desperately to avoid Brian Tsu the director of the NCMS. He was a great politician but only a good enough scientist to have an inkling of what the doctors and scientists who reported to him were doing. Brian looked up and caught Kevin’s eye.
“Dr. McEvoy!” Brian called and hurried over to him.
“Yes, Brian?” Kevin said, slowing barely to let the man catch up.
“Are you leaving?”
“For the day, yes. I’m not feeling so hot and I need a little R&R. You can put it down as a sick day if you want.”
“That would be something you’d have to take up with HR, though I seem to remember something about mental health days in the new contract you researchers negotiated.” Leave it to Brian to remember the important things.
“Yes, mental health day. That’s what I need. Thank you, Brian. I’m going to go work on my mental health right now. If you’ll excuse me.”
“Dr. McEvoy, you do realize that the Secretary of Health and Science as well as the Vice President are due to arrive in two weeks and both have expressed an interest in all the work concerning HLF.”
“I didn’t realize that, Brian. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.” Kevin said, still walking toward the door of the large building which housed the labs for the National Center for Medical Studies.
“So?” Brian asked.
“So what?” Kevin answered.
“So what is your progress? What is your current status?”
“The mutability of HLF and its consequent mutant series has given some difficulty in progressing with an effective vaccine or treatment.” Kevin started rambling the current and well known HLF protocol in a monotone voice. It was an insult to Dr. Tsu but he didn’t care at the moment.
“Recommended treatment still consists of large amounts of I.V. bolus fluids to combat sepsis, hydroxychloroquine to prevent hemolysis, and a rigorous antiviral protocol, though which antiviral is most effective is really a crap shoot at this point.”
“Kevin!” Brian stopped walking and waited for the man he secretly confessed as being the best virologist in his employ to stop as well. Kevin did stop and turned around.
“Give me something.” Brian pleaded.
“Brian, you know how these things are. We might cure this thing tomorrow or we might not see a cure in our life time.”
“Hemato Lacramal Fever has killed nearly seventy five thousand people since it’s first victim only a year ago. It’s blinded and paralyzed almost 30% of those who survived. Those statistics are from this country alone. Not to mention the U.K., India, China, Japan, Australia and most of Europe.”
“Don’t you think I fucking know that?!” Kevin yelled, not caring who was around to witness his insubordinance. “Don’t you think I come to work every day thinking wouldn’t it be great if I could fucking find the cure for the fastest spreading disease we have pillaging its way through our society?”
Kevin took a deep breath and looked out of the glass doors only a few feet away and prayed that getting out of the building would give him the break he needed to get back to work. He heard the other man turn and start to walk away.
“Brian!” Kevin called and waited for him to turn back. “We have a compound which seems to slow cellular degradation more than just hydroxychloroquine treatment. It’s not a lot and it’s nothing to get excited over, but it’s something.”
“What is the compound?” Brian asked.
“It’s a derivative of Sulfanilamide combined with some amino acids.”
“Sulfanilamide?” Brian asked, confused.
“I know. I wouldn’t have thought so either.” Kevin found a new, though hesitant respect for his boss. Apparently he was following the conversation. “It was Dr. Bartholomew’s idea. I let her run tests cause I thought it couldn’t hurt.”
“I’d like a report.”
“You’ll have it on Monday.”
“Why don’t you take a couple days, Dr. McEvoy. You’ve been under a lot of stress. A break will do you good.”
“I just might do that.” Kevin said and walked out of the center.
Kevin arrived home feeling exhausted as if he hadn’t slept in years. He kicked off his shoes and flopped back on his couch to watch a little t.v. It wasn’t long before HLF was mentioned on the news during a piece meant to scare the general populous into either finding the nearest bomb shelter or rebelling against the government for not solving the greatest social catastrophe to hit the U.S.A. since the 2016 Labor Strike Riots. They had pictures of the suffering and those that had already died. The canlı casino dead all had red stains running down their faces from the corners of their eyes appearing as if they had cried blood just before losing their lives. It was an image Kevin had seen many times, and could always see just by closing his eyes. The faces all changed but the bloody tears remained. More than one religious group had used the disease to support their beliefs that the end was coming. A rash of mass suicides had hit every nation that had been affected by HLF. Kevin turned off the television and sat on the couch as the sun made it’s way across the sky and set behind the Colorado Rockies.
Kevin awoke the next morning and decided that he wasn’t going to go in to work. He called and let Anne know and then dragged himself into a shower carrying his morning cup of coffee in with him. He stood under the hot spray of water and tried to clear his mind of the incessant buzzing he felt clouded with. It was all nonsensical information and emotional bits of data flowing through his thoughts like static, occasionally congealing into a feeling of guilt or inadequacy or a picture of people now dead because he hadn’t found a medicine to save them. That’s what he was supposed to do. He was a doctor. He was supposed to find the right medication to save people’s lives. Kevin shut of the water and stepped out of his shower and up to the mirror.
He hadn’t shaved the last two days and his stubble was now a light beard of dark brown hair showing only little bits of gray. He stared at himself and saw how tired he was. He shouldn’t be this tired for a man of thirty eight. Kevin looked down and saw that he had lost a good deal of weight off his stomach since having been given the responsibility of the HLF labs A and B. Since he hadn’t been terribly overweight to begin with, he now looked slightly unhealthy like he had battled a cold for too long. Kevin looked farther and saw a gray hair in the small bush above his thick shaft.
“Oh fuck!” He said. The day had come. The day when he could no longer tell himself that he was a young man. The day he found a gray pubic hair. And to find it today of all days. He giggled, which was unlike him and finished drying off.
He threw on a pair of shorts and a Harvard t-shirt he had gotten when he was in med school. He slipped on his sneakers and left the house for a run. He didn’t run often but it helped when he was stressed. It wasn’t long before the thin Colorado air robbed him of oxygen and forcing him to stop and catch his breath. A truck pulled up and stopped next to him.
“You all right?” Came the husky question. Kevin turned to the truck and into the brightest blue eyes he had ever seen. They were bright, shining and smiling. He was thankful he was out of breath because he couldn’t have answered if he wanted to.
“It’s none of my business but if you haven’t been up here that long the air’s a bit thin and maybe you should think twice about jogging.”
God, he was handsome, Kevin thought. The driver was a large man and took up a good deal of the drivers seat. One long arm stretched to the steering wheel with a large hand draped over it. His hair was shaved close to his head but from his eyebrows and trimmed beard Kevin could tell it was black. His smile warmed Kevin who smiled back.
“I’ve been up here… for a little over a year now… Just don’t have… much time to jog.”
“You’ve been up here a whole year and we’ve never met? There are only a few hundred people in all of Bright Arrow. How can that be?” The stranger asked.
“I’m with NCMS.” Kevin said getting his wind back. “I’ve been working most of the time I’ve been up here.”
“NCMS, huh? You’re military?”
“Oh. Well, jump in. I’ll give you a lift to town. I gotta run some errands and can give you a lift back if you want. Should only take about an hour or so.”
Kevin opened the door and climbed into the cab. He had planned on running the entire way and back but suddenly this sounded like a much better idea.
“That sounds cool. I appreciate it.”
“Can’t have someone from the Center for Medical Studies dying from exercise now, can we?” He said and smiled again.
“I guess not. It wouldn’t look good on our track record. My name’s Kevin by the way.”
“No offense, but really?” Kevin asked and Pike laughed.
“No. Paul Ichabod Malloy II. My father’s Paul so I got Ichabod. My brother’s and sister changed it to Ich, which was still better than Ichabod. In college someone got to calling me Pike. It stuck.”
“Ok. Nice to meet you Pike.”
“You too, Kevin.” They drove along in companionable silence for a while still being ten or so minutes outside of town.
“What do you do for NCMS?” Pike asked.
“I’m a doctor.” Kevin said simply not wanting to get into his duties too much. “What about you?”
“I do construction. Mostly building houses but also do renovations and stuff like that.”
“That’s cool. You like the company your with?” Kevin asked kaçak casino and Pike looked glanced over at him and smiled that sexy smile again.
“Yeah, Kevin. I like the company I’m with a whole lot.”
Kevin felt his face flush and color like a school girls but couldn’t help grinning.
“I know what you meant, Kevin. The answer to the question you didn’t ask, is yes. The answer to the question you did ask is, since it’s my company I had better like it. Right?”
“You own your own construction company?” Kevin was impressed. “You can’t be more than thirty.”
“Jesus, thank you.” Pike laughed. “I’m thirty six but I’m glad to know that I still look younger. What do you do at the Drama Center?”
“That’s what the locals call the Center cause it’s always full of people running around and bigwigs visiting and planes flying in and out of the base. Lots of drama, you see.” Pike explained.
“Oh got it. Cute. Well, I’m a doctor…”
“You said that.”
“Yeah. I’m a virologist. I research-.”
“And try to find vaccines and treatments for viruses.” Pike finished.
“How’s that going?”
“Not going well.” Kevin answered.
“Do you work with HLF?”
Kevin didn’t answer for a while.
“That’s whats `not going well’?”
“I’m sorry, Pike. I really can’t talk about it. No offense but if I told you something that had you worrying you could tell your neighbor and that neighbor would tell someone and all of a sudden I’d be drawn out in front of a news crew to give a statement and there’d be hell to pay.”
“No need. You’ve got your hands full enough with everything that’s going on. You don’t need that kind of shit mucking it up.” Pike said and seemed like he really did understand.
They didn’t speak until they got to town and parked. When Pike got out, Kevin saw that he stood taller than the truck. He must have been 6’4”, four inches taller than Kevin. He was built like a mac truck with a large chest falling down to a flat stomach and a large bulge stuffed into form fitting jeans. Kevin’s mouth went dry.
“I’m going to run and do my errands. You can come with or not but I’ll be back at the truck in an hour.”
“Actually, I think I’m going to just hang around here.” Kevin said.
“Cool.” Pike nodded and walked a few feet before turning around. “Kevin, let me ask you something.”
“In the truck when I said I was enjoying your company-.” He seemed nervous all of a sudden and Kevin smiled.
“Well, you see… I’m gay. I’m not ashamed by it but… Oh shit, this is coming out all wrong.” Pike sighed and shuffled a big heavy boot in the dirt. “I hope I’m not making a mistake in assuming you might be too.”
“You’re not, Pike.” Kevin said and Pike nodded.
“Would you like to get lunch with me after I finish the stuff I got to do?”
“I’d like that.” They both smiled.
“Cool. I’ll see you at Carter’s in an hour?” Pike asked.
“See you then.” Pike turned and walked away with Kevin checking out his ass.
`This was going to be a good day’, Kevin thought.
An hour later, the two sat in at and outdoor table at the little cafe and waited for their waiter to get to them. They didn’t speak, suddenly feeling a nervousness they hadn’t felt with each other in the truck. When their server arrived and took their drink order, handing them menus, they both paid a great deal of attention to what they were going to have. The nervousness didn’t abate by the time they received their drinks and gave their food order but they now didn’t have the ability to hide in a menu. Pike chuckled.
“What’s funny?” Kevin asked.
“Us. We talked most of the ride here but now we can’t seem to find a word to say.”
“I know. I guess it’s always a little more intimidating when the stakes are raised.”
“I guess so.” Pike smiled. “I like you Kevin, obviously or I wouldn’t have invited you here. I’m not a real big dater. I don’t go on dates a lot.”
“Oh.” Kevin said, wondering exactly what he meant. Pike must have realized the thought as it crossed Kevin’s mind because he hurried to explain.
“I don’t hook up that much either. I mean, a man has needs and I’m no angel but I’m not a big slut.” Pike closed his eyes in embarrassment. “I mean-.”
“I understand what you mean, Pike. I’m not a lily white virgin either and I do happen to enjoy sex. Personally, I haven’t been able to indulge due to my job, much less get out and meet someone important. I’m glad you asked me out here though.”
“You were a hard one to read, Kevin. I wasn’t sure if I was making a total ass of myself by asking you, or if you were interested. You just seemed… sad.”
“I was definitely interested, though I probably wouldn’t have taken the initiative.” Kevin sighed and tried to let go of some of the stress he was feeling. “I have a very difficult job which I love, don’t get me wrong. But when so many people are suffering and I can’t come up with the answer…. well, I haven’t found a way to deal with that yet.”
“I can imagine how that’d be a heavy weight to bear. And to bear it alone must be even harder.” Pike commiserated.
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