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"The answer is still no."

George Ridgewick could feel heat building in his ear. His pudgy hand gripped his phone tight enough to make the plastic creak, his dirty fingernails biting into his palm. His other hand held a smoldering cigar between two fingers, loose ashes pattering onto his desk as he nervously rubbed it with his thumb. He closed his eyes and brought the cigar to his mouth, taking a deep drag and letting the sour smoke seep out as he spoke.

"You're assuming things, Worthington," he snarled. He spun himself around in his chair and stared out at the shimmering city outside his office, resting his slick feet on the window pane and taking another puff from his cigar. "The things you're saying can be only be disproved with proper testing. All I'm asking for is one subject. A volunteer, someone who is willing, and accepts all the risks involved."

"One subject is all it takes, George," came the silky voice of David Worthington from the other end. George tugged a saturated hankey from his pocket and dabbed his forehead with it, gingerly rubbing his aching temples with his finger tips. "I was there. I saw the results of the testing, and they were the same every time. Your wonder drug just isn't safe for human testing, and none of your staff will certify it. Except you."

George leaned forward and parted the blinds with his hands, staring down at least forty stories to the river of slow traffic flowing through the congested streets outside his building. He finished the cigar off and flicked it over his shoulder, where it bounced harmlessly off the wall and came to a stop on the floor. Worthington simply didn't understand just how much work had gone into perfecting the drug. Countless genetic samples, intricate procedures , so much work to create something that was now in danger of being killed.

"David, they were rats-"

"Each and every time we introduced the chemicals to the rats, things began to happen," said David coldly. George only rolled his bulgy brown eyes, trying to do anything he could to keep from agreeing with David. "They got sick, George. Rashes. All over. Started at the eyes and spread like wildfire. And it was all downhill from there."

George slid open a desk drawer and removed another cigar, rubbing it beneath his nose to enjoy the smell before tucking it into his lips. He flicked on his lighter and rested the cigar’s end in the dancing yellow flame. He scratched his head through the thinning layer of hair covering it, and glanced at the post-it note clinging to the edge of his phone cradle. It was a ten digit number, a code, to one of the electronically sealed doors of his lab. Many of the scientists had gone, and unless David’s orders to destroy the samples had gone through already, his chemicals were more than likely still in the freezer. He had been eyeing the code number more and more as the heated conversation boiled between the two men, and now more than ever he considered hanging it up and taking matters into his own hands. David had no idea. He had only been there for the testing, he hadn’t done a fraction of the work and he was already rich; money was no object to him, so what did he care if the whole project flopped?

"Next it was bodily functions,” David said, bringing George out of a daze. “They stumbled all over each other like they couldn't focus, their breathing and heart rate slowed enough to cause brain damage, not to mention vomiting blood. They stopped eating...their normal food, anyway. It always ended in death George, because once they had infected the other rats, they stopped eating them. What stops the same things from happening to a human George? Do you want armies of infected people running through cities and eating each other?"

"What stops it from succeeding?!" George bellowed into the phone, slamming his fist into the desk hard enough to send sheets of pain through his arm. The cigar dangled from his lips and fell to the floor, where he angrily stomped it to death. His watery breaths tore in and out of his clenched teeth, tears swelling into his eyes. "You could be the only thing standing between humanity and infinite comfort! The ultimate pain-killer, David! No more arthritis pains! No more headaches! No more menstrual cramps! The only drug on the market to safely manipulate the spinal column-"

"Your drug is NOT safe! You've got to listen to reason," David replied. George dimly heard a sipping sound as David took a drink of something, most likely coffee. George smiled as he found himself imagining it as cyanide, or possibly battery acid. "Your miracle drug turned those rats into things, George. I don't think I need to remind you. It deformed the muscles in the throat, overwhelmed them with bacteria..." David trailed off, then let a yawn escape him. George took the yawn as David's way of subtly telling him he had better things he could be doing with his time, such as sleeping, or sawing off each of his fingers with a butter knife.

"You're not giving me the permission to use a human subject, are you, David?"

Silence followed, until David said with just a hint of pleasure:

"No, and I never will. The bacteria your people created is dangerous, and only diminishes pain because it eats away at the spinal column, and it reproduces far too quickly. If things got out of control, we’d be dealing with an outbreak. We could cure it, but there’d be no time. It's far too dangerous. I‘m sorry, George, but I want each and every drop of your chemical destroyed at once."

George felt the tears spill out of his eyelids. He shut them tight, hot rivulets crawling down his cheeks. Suddenly, with a bellow of pure rage, he threw himself at the wall, grabbed the phone wire, and yanked it free. He snatched up the phone and threw it as hard as he could at the wall, where it smashed into pieces and fell in a broken pile of plastic. George slid down the wall and rested his head in his hands, his shoulders heaving as he cried. It wouldn’t be long until the memories started again, the same horrid mind-scars that had fueled his nightmares, yet at the same time kept him going on his research; research for the project David Worthington had just stomped out of existence, much like the cigar that had been crushed under George’s shoe.

George had been twenty-four when she had died, and although he was now forty-five, the haunting memories still stuck with him like a broken dagger in his heart. He remembered the sounds she made as wave after wave of pain tore through her body, watching her weight diminish like air seeping from a balloon, seeing the color fade from her and drying the tears that ran down her pallid cheeks. He remembered wanting nothing more than to stop her suffering; he had done everything he could, refusing to leave her alone camping out in her hospital room for weeks at a time, holding her fragile hand while she was awake, watching the spikes on her ECG machine grow smaller as the days pressed on. She was still in too much pain to even speak to him, and the stuff in her IV wasn’t doing a damn thing to ease the pain. He had thought the same things over and over until she simply didn't wake up one morning, her face still in a grimace of pain. Two grim-looking male nurses had marched into the room and tugged her sheets up over her face, one of them seeing her pasty hand dangling from the edge of the bad and tucking it under the sheet. She had been another dead body to take to the morgue for them, but she was someone he loved with all his heart, and she had suffered long and miserably before she finally died. His new drug would have stopped her pain, as it would for anybody else who might need it, and she still might have been the mother he loved when her life ended that rainy day in the hospital.

Something small and yellow see-sawed through the air like a dead leaf from an Autumn tree, floating lightly down and landing on George’s bent knee. He watched it light, drift off, and land squarely on his shoe. His face brightened with hope. He picked it up between two fingers and climbed to his feet, holding it in front of his sweating face. It reflected in his maniacal eyes. It was the lab code from the phone he had just destroyed, and suddenly he knew exactly what he had to do.

George pulled the window open and glanced far down into the darkened parking lot of the building. He saw nothing but two dented dumpsters shoved crookedly together, overflowing with trash, and a single blinking street light. There were three cars sporadically parked, one of which his own. The night cleaners were in, but he could get around them easy enough. He had work to do, and now he had just the man to do it. Someone who wanted the drug to be a success as much as he did, someone who was willing to take the risk, someone who even shared his hatred for David Worthington. He rubbed the pulsing vein on the side of his neck. A perfect spot for the injection; it would take more than what they had given the rats, but he would manage. George pulled his white lab coat on and headed for the door, smiling even as he continued crying, holding the sloppily-scrawled lab number in his shaking hand.

To be continued... please review!!

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my work. Without people like you, writers would not exist.

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The following comments are for "Lab Work, pt. 1"
by BobbYates

hey i finished the story and i thought it was good.the one thing i already told you about...and i aint about to try to explain that and the other error i saw was instead of the word "bed" you put "bad" ...someones dead arm cant dangle over a well that's all i see so far and i want to read the other half so i can see if what i think is right about what he's gonna do. well i gotta go. bye

( Posted by: miranda [Member] On: July 9, 2004 )

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