Chapter 4 - "And then"

The hypnotic man looked out across the field and into the schoolyard. All those young, unshaped, minds just playing there like an infinite resource. It was like a light bulb looking at a power station.

He was using a pair of military grade binoculars, which gave him an impressive radius of vision.

He found the target and tracked him up the street past the school. The pigeon was marching slowly back to the gold house. The hypnotic man liked to see things being properly controlled.

A new looking convertible was parked awkwardly in the car park of the lab complex the engine was still ticking over and the driver sat where he was.

Paul was sitting in his car with engine running. Now he was here he felt a little foolish. He was still extremely tatty around the edges and about as delicate as he had ever been. The hospital wanted to talk to him but all he wanted was to talk to his team.

He cut the engine and got out of the car. Johnny was walking down the steps to sneak in a cigarette.

“I thought you quit,” he said.

Johnny seemed to jump halfway down the steps. “Hallo, Mr Benite,” he said.

“Is John about?” asked Paul

“Yep he’s up in his office muttering and swearing about paperwork.” Said Johnny, pulling at his cigarette.

“I’ll just go up and see him then” said Paul.

The hypnotic man was trying to lip read the two men but the young one kept toying with that damn cigarette and would not leave his lips alone. The strangers beard was making thinks complicated too.

The young guy was obviously nervous but seemed to know the stranger. They seemed to only be exchanging pleasantries but even so it annoyed the hypnotic man that he could not read the situation better.

Now the stranger was going into the labs. The hypnotic man made a not that this young guy need to “be cured” of his bad habits.

Paul entered the building waving to Sam who sat there as ever on reception.

“Hello MR BENITE,” said Sam, “how are you today MR BENITE?”
“Mr Benite’s back” said some one, finally getting the tactless hint.

Paul greeted the impromptu welcome committee while trying to brush aside all enquires about his wellness.

He finally arrived at the relative sanctuary of the elevator and sank into its welcoming silence.

He soon found himself at the door of the office of John Baker. He knocked before he remembered that it was still he who was the boss and he walked in.

“Paul?” asked John. “God, you look awful, completely shattered. What have you been doing with yourself?”

“Nice to see you too, John”

“Have a seat man, tell me what’s being going on.” Said John

“Actually,” said Paul, “I’ve come to catch up with the developments here”

“Oh it’s been all go down here,” said John, “Jenny and Anthony were caught going for it in the spare office, Nigel is devastated, of course and is filing for a divorce. We all thought he was going to punch Anthony clean through the window at one point. Both men are on a months holiday at half pay.”

“That’s not quite-” began Paul

“Oh it’s much worse than that,” said john ignoring him, “It turns out that our Johnny’s only reason for giving up smoking was Jenny, poor lad really thought he had a chance.”

“John, what about-“ began Paul

“Mark for technical support?” Interjected John, “he’s done a bunk and no one knows where he is.”

“I’m actually interested in something in particular” said Paul.

“Oh yes, Peter from accounts has quit, it turns out he’d been spending his nights with his manager and she’s just got herself engaged to Tom Harris – a local headmaster who allegedly has a rubber fetish going on…”

“Yes but-” said Paul

“What you want to know about is the scientific progress.” Said John laughing.

“You basterd,” said Paul joining in the laughter. “You had me going there.”

“Well we’ve gotten quite far,” said John, “We’ve made some very interesting discoveries. Let’s go down to lab three and I’ll give you the short version on the way.”

“Thanks,” said Paul.

The two men walked from the office into the hall.

“It seems that we had a few things all wrong about this bug,” said John, “for starters it’s not nearly as fatal as we thought. It seems that the more fortunate victim doesn’t die but can often enter a form of dreamless sleep far shallower than a coma and not unlike hibernation.”

“You mean that girl wasn’t dead?” Asked Paul somewhat shocked.

“That could well be the case, but our hands were tied on that one, the hospital is responsible for her once they take her away again.” said John.

“What happened to her, do we know?” Asked Paul.

“No idea,” said John, “They closed rank on us and pulled some shite about patent confidentiality and that bloody living will.”

“I’d like to find out if we can” said Paul.

“Me two,” said John, “This way mate, corridor six is out of action.” The two men turned down the side corridor and walked in silence for a few minuets. After a while John said: “The main effect of this virus is a form of blood disorder”

Paul nodded for him to continue.

“We tested it out on some mice after our viral companion tests,” said John “but they had a tendency to expire within a day.”

“How did the HIV test go?” asked Paul trying to hide his anticipation.

“Killed it dead within seconds,” said John “This new virus would be the perfect cure if we can control it.”

“How close are we to that?” asked Paul eagerly.

“Almost on top of it,” said John, “We turned our testing onto rats and although they expire we discovered that we could keep them alive by way of a carefully composed collection of hormones and sedatives.”


“And they live to the coma stage and then expire after a few days in that state.” Said John.

“Oh…” said Paul.

“Hey that’s the best bit,” said John opening a door, “After you mate.”

“Thanks,” said Paul, “What do you mean best bit?”

“The rats internal organs had effectively been re-plumbed. The ear and nose tissue had completely changed so that they probably had hearing six times sharper than before and easily double their normal sense of smell.”

“That’s incredible,” said Paul.

“However,” added John, “the blood has also been changed so that although it was interesting for us it was not so good for the rat’s. It was lacking in red blood cells.”

“Is that why they died?” Asked Paul.

“Oh no,” said John, “we kept them on a drip and gave them regular infusions.”

“So what finished them, then?” Paul Asked.

“Sunlight,” said John, “they developed an incredible level of photosensitivity, among other things.”

“But what about controlling it, maybe even killing it off?” asked Paul.

“Ricky has a theory about that one,” said John, “I’ll let him tell you about that.”

The two men strode into the lab like kings. Every worker sat up right or stood taller like soldiers snapping to an informal attention.

Lab three was the largest single lab in the complex and was alone responsible for almost a billion pounds on the insurance alone. Some of the equipment here was so specialist that it sat unused for much of the time while other items were so widely used that there were three or four identical units with a careful booking schedule.

“Johnny,” said Paul “fetch us some coffee’s, lad.”

“Yes, Mr Benite,” said Johnny.

“Good lad,” said Paul, “Ricky, lad, can you spare us a few moments?”

“Sure.” Said Ricky putting down his paper work and coming over, “What can I do you for?”

“I’d like you to give us the short version of your theory about killing DL12,” said John.

“Sure,” said Ricky, “Well, once we noticed that the virus picks but DNA from the host as well as dropping it that gives us the way in.”

“I don’t think I follow,” said Paul.

“Most virus types simply use the host to replicate,” said Ricky, “but this one seems to have a relationship with host. It re-writes DNA and forces fresh growth but it also takes DNA from the host so that virus at the end is not quite the same as the one that started.”

“You mean it uses the host to mutate?” said Paul.

“No,” said John, “It simply picks up some of the hosts DNA”

“I’m currently investigating using that change as a key,” said Ricky, “My hope is that we can induce a weakness into the virus.”

“How long do you need?” asked Paul.

“Months,” said Ricky, “years maybe.”

“I’m putting the entire lab complex at your priority disposal” said Paul

“Uh, Paul-” began John.

“Furthermore,” continued Paul, “Your are on double pay and have access to unlimited overtime and staff, pull people from other projects if need be – I’d like to see some results real soon.”

“Paul, a word if I may?” said John urgently.

“No, John,” said Paul, “If word of this gets out then they could take this from us. This project is to have the utmost secrecy and we have a chance of doing well; but if we loose it to the big boys we will languish in obscurity for ever!”

“Sure thing, boss” said Ricky.

“I hope you know what your doing, Paul” said John.

“John,” said Paul, “please trust me.”

“Ok, mate,” said John, “but I want you to know that the sudden urgency of this has gotten me jumpy - we’ve done very well by not making waves and playing ‘dumb and dull’ for a long time.”

“It’ll be okay,” said Paul calmly, “accounts are more than used to hushing things down a bit.” He felt a little bad, John was a good friend and didn’t deserve to be kept in the dark but the longer he could not say it out loud the longer he could pretend it wasn’t true.

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