<- Chapter 3: Of Catepillars & Men
The tests all go well, and it seems that my new device is on it's way to FDA approval. I've made two more chambers to experiment with, and on the side, I've secretly been running a few experiments on myself to see if I can use it to integrate and remove various animal features. They've mostly been successful. I've been able to grow an extra set of arms using a little fly DNA. I've played around with skin coloration by adapting the pigments of butterfly wings. I've even changed genders by playing around with human chromosomes.
My latest adaptation is gills. I figured it was a good time to test out gills because me and some friends are going scuba diving next week, and I figure I could impress them by breathing without the aid of scuba gear.
Of course, my intern has found out about my side experiments, but instead of running to my boss about it, he decided to join in on the fun. He's looking into using the chamber to perfom various cosmetic changes usually done by surgery.
February knows too, but she doesn't get anything changed. If I were as perfect as her, I don't think I would want to mess around with it too much either.
Today, I've got a note in my box. My boss has scheduled an appointment to see me. I'm sure it's the FDA approval. It probably arrived today. I'm so excited with the anticipation of the meeting.
I walk in (with my collar unfolded to hide my gills) and notice February already seated there. This confuses me a bit because she's not involved in this experiment. I take the seat next to her.
My boss starts off, "I must say, Rick... I didn't think it was possible, but you did it."
He slaps a paper from the FDA on the table and continues, "The FDA has approved your new device. The research project is over. You did a great job!"
"Before I discuss with you what to do next though, I want to talk to you two a bit. A few people have come to me suggesting that you might be romantically involved."
February speaks up, "We're not! I swear! We're just friends!"
"I know. I had you followed a few of the times you went out, just to be sure. But you're just a bit too friendly. I want you to two to tone it down a bit for everyone else's sake, OK?"
"Uhh... Sure...", I mutter.
"Thanks. That's all I... Feb, you have something stuck in your hair."
As he reaches over, I realize that one of her antennae is showing, and he's about to try to pull it off.
"Oh, don't worry about that, it's just a sort of novelty joke hat.", I quickly blurt. I'm too late though, he's already pulled it and realized that it's attached. February seems to be in pain, and in her struggle the other antennae flops out.
"Are those... Antennae?"
Me and Feb immediately look at one another. Feb's face is full of worry, and mine probably is too.
"It's just a few hairs she clumped together and dyed green.", I say, realizing that was a very poor attempt at covering it up.
"Hmm, well what about that scrape?"
"Huh?", I respond, before realizing that he's pointing at my neck. In paying attention to Feb's slip, I totally forgot to be careful to keep my lab coat collar covering my neck. "Oh, that. I tripped over my coffee table and scraped my neck on my television stand.", I lie.
"Do you know what recreational activity I do in my spare time, Dr. Shay?"
"I go fishing. This means that I know very well what gills look like. Also, as a doctor, I know what cuts and scrapes look like. That's not a scrape."
"How could I possibly have gills? That's ridiculous!"
"Is it? That device of yours seems to be able to perform other miracles. Perhaps with a little change of input..."
"Maybe... But that's not what I've been testing."
"You mean that's not what you were authorized to test.", he says, as he pushes a button on his phone. He speaks into the phone and says, "I need you to report to my office." I wonder who he was talking to. Me and Feb get up to head for the door, but he tells us, "No, I need you two to stay here for a few minutes."
Feb and I look at one another again, as we sit back down. A few seconds later, my intern comes in, and my boss points at my neck and asks him, "Are these gills?".
He moves his finger to point to Feb's head and asks, "And these are?"
"Anything else, I should know about?"
The intern looks at us, sorta confused. He finally replies, "Those were done while I wasn't around. I don't know how they got them."
"Do you know of any other abnormalities on them? Or anyone else that may have some unnatural mutation?"
"I find it somewhat strange that the only two you're aware of are the only two I've found."
The intern points at Feb, "I know one more, but that's it, I swear. She has wings."
At this statement, I immediately know that I'm done here.
"Dr. Springs?", our boss starts, "Do you have wings?"
Feb realizes that she's gonna be fired along with me, and she loses all composure. She pulls her lab coat off and throws it at our boss as she stands up and spreads her wings as outstretched as they will go. They're a beautiful shade of light blue with some pink and yellow accents. "Yeah, why? You got a problem with my wings?"
He's a bit startled by her sudden boldness, but replies, "Yes. They're a crime against God. Here at Lotek, we're supposed to heal people, not play God."
"That's what you've been doing wrong.", I interrupt, "You can heal way more people by playing God than you can any other way. We can only truly fulfill our Hippocratic Oath when being as close to godlike as we can be."
He glares at me and adds, "Dear Lord, if this is what's coming out of our schools now, our children are surely damned..."
The intern speaks up, "I told him it was a bad idea. I said he shouldn't do it. I only didn't come to you because I didn't want to lose my position."
I turn and look at him in disbelief. After working by my side for months, and performing many of the experiments himself, and even suggesting some of them, he stabs me in the proverbial back.
"Hiding something like this from me is the best way to lose your position. Don't let it happen again. And as for you to," he turns to me and February, "Your last checks are in your boxes. I don't want to see you again. And take those boxes you've been working on out of here too!"
"If I'm taking the boxes, isn't this mine?", I point at the FDA paper on the desk.
"Take it. I don't want anything more to do with your monstrosities."
I grab the paper and walk out with Feb, glaring at the intern as I pass him. Me and Feb spend the rest of the day clearing out our stuff. We put the medical chambers in her truck, and all of our smaller personal items in my car. As we're about to depart we look at one another and realize that we don't work at Lotek anymore. Upon realizing this, we both smile, and without a word, we kiss.
We both drive to my apartment, and, leaving everything in the cars, we go inside to discuss what to do.
"So, I guess we apply to some other hospitals.", she suggests.
"Nah, we've got the FDA approval for these. We can just rent out some space and set up a small clinic. No HMO would cover it, so we wouldn't have to deal with those. People would pay anything for some of the services it could provide. We could pretty much name our own price."
"Where would we find such a place?"
"I'm not sure, but it's best if it's in public view, so we don't have to advertise too much. At the same time, we have to be able to live there. Because of the length of time the chamber takes, we have to stay overnight probably every night, so we might as well live there."
"I'll look at Jake's list and see if anyone is renting out space like that."
She goes over to the computer, so I decide to make something for us to eat. Just as I finish up and start putting the food on the table she says, "Hey, how about this one. It's right in the middle of a big shopping mall open 24 hours a day. It has four back rooms. We could put each chamber in one of them and our bed in the fourth. We'll just use the main room as a sort of reception. Whenever we're sleeping or if all chambers are being used, we'll just close up until that status changes."
"That sounds pretty good. Let's go check it out tomorrow."
With that, we decide to eat, and then go to bed. We're both exhausted from all the stress and moving around today. We fall asleep in one another's arms.
Thinking back to when we were in college, with this new perspective about Rick, I realize that I was just as blind to his hints as he was to mine. For example, he always made sure to sit near me. He was usually late because he always loses track of time when he gets caught up in something, like talking to somebody or finding something intreresting on his way over. There were always plenty of seats closer to the door, but he always came over to me. I never noticed because I was too busy watching for him. I'd wonder if I should call and let him know class started, but I was always too scared to call him. I've always had his number, but I'd never called him.
Realizing this, if we weren't co-workers, I think I could tell him how I feel about him. He's been interested this long and hasn't said anything, so who's to say a woman can't make the first move? My boss, that's who... We'd be fired immediately.
Rick fixes his wings and offers me the same, but I'm not so sure I want to get rid of them. I know it's kinda silly, but the wings have given me a different perspective. Sure, I hide them, but thanks to them I've become more confident and realistic about things. I no longer think of everyone as so much better than myself. I still like helping people, and I'm still attracted to Rick, I'm just more sure about things. The wings kinda represent that for me now. If I could, I'd wear them proudly on the outside of my clothes. As a matter of fact, I begin having some clothes altered to allow my wings through at some point in the future. I don't plan on staying at this old-fashioned dead-end of a hospital forever, and Rick's too smart to do so either, so someday I'll be able to show my wings to the world.
Eventually our boss calls us into his office to ask us to be a little less friendly. It's all a formality really. I don't think he'd ever actually check up on it. It's kinda creepy that he had us followed though. Just as I think he's ready let me go back to work though, he sees something on my head and before I know it he's yanking at one of my antennae. Rick thinks up a quick lie, and it almost saves me, except for the fact that his collar slipped down revealing gills. Our boss like to fish, so there's nothing Rick could say to cover that up. It's at this moment that I knew for sure we were done there. He hadn't said that we were fired yet, but I knew we were. And my head hurt pretty bad too from all the yanking.
I didn't expect Rick's intern to squeal though. He had been more involved in using the coccoon for alterations than I was, but he saved his own cowardly hide by ratting me out about my wings. I'm glad for him though because he deserves this hospital. I had just about had it with the place anyway. At this point I rip off my lab coat and throw it at my ex-boss while spreading my wings as wide as they'll go. I actually yell at him in defense of my wings. I've never yelled before. It was exiting to be able to do, especially to my boss.
He rambles something stupid and Rick comes back with a response that I find both witty and very intelligent. I get so turned on by how smart he is...
Once we're packed up and ready to go, we stop and look at one another for a minute. I want him, and we both know that he wants me, but he's too scared or unnaware or whatever. I gotta make the first move. I lean in and give him a passionate kiss.
Back at his place, we discuss what we're gonna do. We decide to go into business together. He has a great idea, but as usual he leaves out all the details, so I wind up on the computer looking that sort of stuff up. I find a great place for us. We go to bed and decide to deal with it the next day.
Chapter 5: The Road to Success ->
Copyright 2006 Sean Breslin