Copyright © Arno Le Roux 2017.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronically, electrostatic magnetic tape or mechanically; including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author. Although this is a fictional work, both the locations, organisations and events are factual. The characters and times in the story line are fictional; therefore, all resemblances to actual people present or past are purely coincidental. Should you wish to contact the Author: [email protected]
About the author
South African born Arno Le Roux is affiliated with a number of charities and he has a long history with and still has some affiliations with both the Finance-, Banking- and Insurance Industries; as well as his past career in the Safety and Security Sector, where his activities revolved around crime prevention, pathology, Serious Economic Offences investigations, intelligence gathering, Riot and Crowd Control Units, commercial and military firearm & ammunition identification, etc. As a part time consultant in an advisory capacity to his past and proud career, he also holds various impressive honours and awards within these sectors. Furthermore, he is a Certified Realtor dealing in both commercial and residential properties. His passion for the mechanics of corporates and commerce, religious history, pathology and psychology are interwoven in his fiction.
There is no limit to how far the caring ones around a playful little four-year old girl will go, in attempts to see her once angelic little face again – or close to it at least.
“In an ever-changing technological world, where science fictional-like medical trial-runs promise to guarantee that we once again can see ourselves or our loved ones, or those we sincerely care for – as before – greed and bureaucracy can warp ethics and hope into a twisted reality from where there is no escape.” He looked over his mute and pale audience as he paused mid-sentence, then continued. It was a colourful mix of medical students, pharmaceutical representatives and and a handful of up-and-coming surgeons who were confident that they’d seen it all. Most have stopped taking notes and some preferred looking at the speaker rather than his graphic presentation that he so dutifully prepared. The comprehensively illustrated video that succeeded the brief slide-show, woke up the stark reality that there had been no perfectly graceful way to explain the future of something that the wide-eyed audience had always taken for granted.
“Your word?! I think no more wine for you my friend. Maybe you need to eat something. Nikita! Nikita! Bring more meat! My friend is hungry!” The obese casino owner wolfed-down; wiping his grey beard with a linen napkin, another chunk of rare beef. Looking at his nervous staff; and forcing a large piece of broccoli into line next to the yet un-chewed block of beef, he pointed to his empty glass.
“Yes of course sir.” The young waiter knew better than to remind him that a bottle of Vodka per meal was maybe not what his doctor had in mind – when he advised more ‘light meals’ more regularly – and emptied the last remainder of the bottle into the waiting glass.
“I’m not hungry Olaf. But thank you.” A successful, lean and clean-shaven man looked at his manicured nails and pushed his half-full red wine glass deeper into the middle of the table. He was in his mid-fifties, commanded respect at home overseeing seven hundred employees and never took no for an answer. But, this wasn’t home and for a much hated change, he was sitting at the begging end of a too wide table, filled with ample food to feed a small army.
“Oh? I thought you were drunk. Didn’t you just say I can take your word? That your word is as good as gold? Igor, am I perhaps going deaf?” The casino owner paused his open-mouthed chewing, waiting for an answer from the waiter who remained at the table since the owner and his guest sat down almost an hour ago.
“No sir, your hearing is perfect sir. Always has been.” The waiter wiped a single lonely drop of sweat; which had collected on his forehead, away with his hanky chief.
“My man says I’m not deaf. So, you will list your company assets, your patents, and whatever value – to the value you attach to our time here, and have it emailed to my office. If you can do it today, I’ll arrange the transfer. I’m leaving later to the Bahamas, and I won’t be working while there. Yes?” Olaf continued chewing as if the man sitting opposite him automatically agreed already.
“Good. Let’s go. I want to show you the roof. We have added two beautifully extravagant new penthouses. It’s high from there, but the view is simply breathtaking. It’s high from up there, isn’t it?” Olaf frowned as the man was seeking too long for an answer to a seemingly very simple question.
“It’s high sir, the highest place in the city sir.” The waiter prayed to keep his job and that the pig of an owner would eventually stop eating and leave to check on the casino tables.
“My man says it’s very high. Come see.” Olaf stood up after cutting off at least 200 grams of beef more and let it disappear into his still-chewing mouth.
“Very good afternoon. Last time we met in casualty. I thought this time, it would be better for her to be away from the noise and that overpowering smell of medical disinfectant. I’m sure you don’t mind. Great seeing you so soon. I’m sorry that you had to travel across town during this time of the day, I don’t even want to know what traffic was like?” In his typical but unique manner he held his hand out to the tiny person first; before shaking her parents’ hands, while lowering himself as close as possible to her level. As hectic as what his work schedule was, in between hour long back-to-back consultations as preoperative heath checks and tedious theater work where he normally oversaw his younger colleagues gaining much needed experience while under his wing – and these were after the ‘regular’ business hours kept by his patients – he also still lectured at the university, which had both been a scouting mission – looking out for brilliant young minds for the clinic, as well as the apparent need which arose due to a surging shortage of specialists to treat burn-wound related accidents. As wound up as his mind had been used to, he always made a concerted effort to notice a special occasion, and if there wasn’t one, he was sure to create one for his child-patients. His little patient this time, had just turned four yesterday – he noticed from her details on file when he prepared for the consultation – and sent out his assistant to a nearby toy shop.
"Oh, remember the other day when we spoke and you were upset?" As always in the case of facial burns, he focused on their eyes while having a conversation with them - and never showed any signs of surprise or shock at the mutilations caused by the severe heat that they had the terrible misfortune to have met - or in the case of this little four-year-old, still dressed in her ballerina outfit, her 95% absent once angelic little face. He kept her attention, while layer by layer, slowly removed the bandages.
“I do, I do..?!” She was puzzled and looked in-turn up at her parents and back at Doctor Scherman – unsure what the reason for his enquiry was.
“Well, I was thinking… see, when you mentioned your prize Barby doll somehow went missing between the ambulance and the clinic… well, it made me think…” His deliberate pauses, proved to have the wished effect as he continued carefully removing another thin layer of protective dressing from her face.
“Yes?” This time she didn’t look anywhere but straight into the old Doctor’s blue-grey eyes while swinging her little arms back and forth past her pink laced ballerina dress.
“Since yesterday was your birthday, and I am sorry that I missed it… I do so love bright coloured birthday cakes and singing you know?” His little patient was now rocking forward and back – on the very tips of her ballet shoes’ toes and her heels, her arms picking up speed as she fanned them.
“You do, what is your favourite kind of cake? I had an ice-cream cake. A big one. This big”. The almost squeaky voice wanted to know, while exaggerating the size of the cake significantly with her hands far apart.
“Well you see I have a thing for ice-cream cake too, but… It has to be really cold and just as creamy. And if it’s not pink, I will so throw my toys out!” With a wide smile, it was about the best white-lie he could manufacturer. The old man in reality was not a fan of cake or birthdays since his dear and caring old Debbie passed away.
“No ways!! Mine was pink!! You don’t still have toys do you? I mean really?” His audience burst out laughing while his little patient shook her head, waiting for his reply.
“Oh but I do, I really do. But they’re small cars, old ones. I have the biggest collection in the world. Look over my shoulder. I was a racing driver many many years ago, I must tell you.” On the six, two-and-a-half meter wide rows of parallel glass shelves against the opposite office wall, and central to his vast collection of medical trophy-awards and gold framed certificates – were no less than three hundred colourful miniature racing cars dating back to the 1930’s.
The little girl’s father and mother were seemingly impressed and let out a slow appreciative “Wow Doc!”
But the girl missed the ‘proud and vast collection’ of cars entirely. Her eyes were fixed at the nearest corner of his large oak desk’s top. On it, a brand new Barby doll, dressed in a pink ballerina outfit, and holding a small silver magic wand – perched on the very edge – inside a large colourful and glimmering upright box. It looked down at where Doctor Scherman and the girl-child was – with him still balancing his weight on one knee on the carpet – sitting in front of her, having removed the last layer of yelly-like yellowish burn dressing.
“What is that?!” She wanted to know, and in that instant, nothing else mattered in her changed little world.
“Oh, you mean… Oh, that’s Debbie” I thought since the kind people in the ambulance couldn’t find your favourite doll, that we’d better do something about it.” He pulled the nearby medical waste bin closer while the apprehensive child stood closer to his desk – and he discarded the rolled-up mix of gooey gel that had turned red.
“You mean… You mean it’s for me? She’s mine? For real? May I?” She pointed over to the new doll, waiting for his approval to move over more and go fetch her.
“Of course, Debbie has been waiting all day to meet you. I’m sure she’d love it if someone would rescue her from that glittery box. If only… Mom and dad, who do you think we’ll ask?”
“Me of course, me!” Without further invitation, she lept past the old man and almost dove forward to retrieve her new small friend.
He showed her parents away from the two antique chairs facing his busy desk – decorated with three high towers of medical files – over to the large puffy brown leather couch on the other side of his office. After her more relaxed parents received their order of coffee, and an orange juice for his new fan hugging her surprise, he explained the processes that would follow in patient detail.
“But, at the same time, you need to understand this as parents. It’s going to be a life, at least at the outset, of organ donors and many too-big adults words for a small ballerina-to-be, – while trapped in between a life of ‘painkillers’ and ‘split-thickness’ and ‘full-thickness’ skin grafts”. Doctor Scherman said while looking down at the apparent expressionless small child. It would have been impossible for an outsider to judge whether she was bored or excited where she was wedged in-between her hopeful parents who each held lightly onto her arms. Her typical childlike qualities of careless-smiles, rosy-blushes and excited-blinks for her new blond-haired Barby doll, had all been stolen – leaving her seemingly indifferent to events around her. As difficult as what it was for him, he needed to tear himself away from the consultation which lasted a few minutes longer than he’d anticipated. A veteran surgeon of forty years; unlike his younger partners – hadn’t grown a skin thick enough, so to speak – not to get emotionally involved with the many tiny burn victims referred to him. They normally represented an unfortunate array of terrible scars, in many cases caused by events which were no fault of their own, ranging from boiling water, cooking oil, heaters and the other necessary things in a grown-up world which posed, at the time, no expected danger.
Assuring the little girl-patient that the doll; that had been awaiting her arrival earlier and perched at the edge of his desk – when she asked again – was her’s to keep, she gave him a sincere tight hug. He guessed that she must have been smiling, but couldn’t be sure. Saying their goodbyes, the young family left the consultation room and he leaned over with effort to the far side of his desk and dragged its bottom drawer ajar. Two large gulps later, he popped the lid closed and pushed the drawer in, as the empty plastic jar bounced into it. His thick home-made energy syrup was always just enough to carry him till… He hadn’t noticed the time, then, with large steps, almost tripping over the edge of the large thick carpet, aimed for the door as he jerked his thick red jersey from the wooden hangar, which landed on the tiled floor on the other side of the carpet – with a loud echo. With three back-to-back time-consuming skin-grafts still to oversee, he only had a short five minutes to grab a spinach pie and fresh orange juice from the vending machine. Downing both in turn as he descended down the two flights of stairs to the half-open theatre doors – his signature late arrival in theatre was loudly announced. ‘Last-minute-things’ is what ‘keeps you going’ his dear old Debbie used to say.
3am on a chilly winter’s morning and a 62-year old man’s polished-copper bedside lamp was still tirelessly reflecting off the steamed-up bedroom windows behind a narrow gap in the two thick burgundy curtains.
Outside, in repeated thin powder-like layers, the falling sleet patiently transformed the manicured lush-green shrubs and neatly cut lawns in the sought after neighbourhood, into a pale winter wonderland, with no one to witness.
Inside of the opaque glass shield, Dr. Sherman who still couldn’t fall asleep, looked into the bitter dark contents of the cold teacup and changed his mind, then placed it down again next to the lamp. Again holding up the large file with both hands, he continued meticulously and for a third time compared a list of four new-borns-to-be’s unknowing mothers’ comprehensive medical history. He knew more than anyone else; after the dozens of fruitless overseas trials over twenty years – which had aged him too fast, that there were no guarantees on life. His actual research had been unassumingly carried out in secret and under the pretense of significantly decreasing infections during skin-graft procedures. At the heart of geniusly-designed fake medical reports; with which he had continuously updated the shareholders of, he had however indeed successfully developed a synthetic membrane of which the benefits not only prevented scarring and skin discoloration, but had increased healing-time and limited thereby the concerning psychological trauma associated with the process, especially during pedriatic-related incidents.
“Almost like a split personality disorder”. He thought of being the kind and caring grandfather-type doctor one moment, and holding little ones’ hands while talking hope into their fragile minds. He wasn’t above, on occasion even singing a few purposely wrong words to a dreadful tune – just for effect, from “Old Mac Donald had a farm” – which normally worked like a charm to break the ice, as it resulted in crying belly laughter from both staff, parents and particularly the tiny ones, who quickly seized the opportunity to correct him. He was loved by all, joked with everyone, and he was generous with his innocent flirts with the older staff. All in all, if the people who spend just an hour in his company had a choice – he’d be both their grandfather and Santa. He was that popular.
“And the next moment…” He thought aloud and shook his head… Over at his concrete encased laboratory far below, he was cold and clinical and at home between infants and piglet’s being experimented on with the same measure of mercy. A domain where piglets and infants shared the same scale of humanity’s need for progress, dipped in a measure of ego and dressed up to fully mask the underlying theme no one would ever talk about in whispers… ‘the pharmaceutical parallel running and veiled world spinning on nothing but greed’. Unlike his giggling audience over the road – there in the the hidden concrete decorated world below – his audience was as numbered as their days. They were bar-coded and exposed to things, that even in their adult version – words would still not be invented yet to fully describe life in the basement.
He had been living two very different and demanding lives, having juggled his valuable but limited time available between the research he constantly shared with the medical facility he worked for, and the part meant for the government and his newly acquired partner. And mistakes at his age, given his vision, was an unaffordable luxury – everything needed to on-time and perfect in every way. He had been painstakingly splicing information of a so-called miracle-like membrane to replace conventional skin from donors – from sharing how he obtained these results. It became a precarious cat-and-mouse against-the-clock game where he was constantly alert having to recall who he shared what information with. In the process he was forced to look the other way while his conscience was eating at him – for the way his partner went about protecting the research. The separately kept researches, had immense costs which by far were were getting too close to exceeding his allocated budget, let alone taxing on his health.
He realised what the time was and that he hadn’t gone back to his other office – with back-to-back surgeries right up to 7pm the previous night. The four-hundred page file eventually tumbled from his wrinkled hands and found a face-down resting place on the duvet cover as the old man peeled the down-duvet away from his lower body, and swung his severly scarred and discoloured legs off the bed.
25 minutes later he had parked an locked his trusty old Mercedes-Benz at the darker back-entrance of a building opposite the renowned pedriatic hospital where he was a familiar and respected face. He looked around first, appreciated the quiet, and took a minute to reflect on what he had accomplished since his other work had moved from over the busy road, which during peak hour traffic, would have been a dreadful nightmare. Not a single day passed that he didn’t meticulously layer his reports to purposely confuse and delay his financial backers, who were getting increasingly demanding, fueled by their burning greed.
Drinking in the cold air, he looked around for a last time at the desolate sleet-covered parking area and quietly wondered, if at all he would miss his secret life. More importantly, if the name he was building up, was anything to be held in high esteem.
He arrived at the locked steel door marked “Goods Lift” and held up his right palm to the modified fire-alarm emergency glass box.
Dr. Sherman briefly glanced over to the lit now-fake wooden door to his right, that had been built-up from the inside recently, after two men were apprehended by Hano-Derm’s security personnel, subsequent to the unfortunate men having broken into the unused building and managed their way into the basement a few weeks before. As was agreed, Hano-Derm through Dermotech, paid for securing the premises as with all pharmaceutical companies they had liaisons with, and especially their research facilities. Both unsettled suspects told fantastic elaborate tales of the horrid things they had witnessed in the basement during the break-in, during which time Dr. Sherman was, as could be expected, apprehensive when the guards drove away with the suspects en route to police to report the matter. Both men were found dead two days later, after they reportedly escaped custody at a petrol station – having asked to use the bathroom – they weren’t seen again. From what Dr. Sherman learnt from the news that the men must have lost their footing while climbing over the wrong fence in a wild boar enclosure of a veterinary practice – who had looked after sick and quarantined zoo animals.
The heavy steel door took its time to move to the left and again grinded closed behind him as his boots were already clicking down the narrow dark passage inside, leaving traces of melting snow all the way to the next door. He felt his way down the unlit rough and unpainted passage wall that turned ninety degrees to the left, then found the cold lock that he pushed into and turned – the only one key which existed. From there, ten meters further, the final fireproof-woodclad door had been waiting since 3am the morning before. Faint yellow waist-hight lights – up from the cold concrete stairs, led him all the down to the belly of the desolate building, three levels down to what has become his great though unpublished secret Opus. With both the other facilities; one in Sweden and the other in South Africa, closed down and all data decimated by a virus the government so kindly supplied to him as backup to protect his work – when a mixed-team of concerned medical professionals and Interpol were alerted by a previous disgruntled partner, who seemingly have disappeared before the trial reached the Courts – this was the last and securest environment Dr. Sherman’s once-shared vision could continue unhindered.
Police kept in touch now and then with family just in case new information came to light, but they also said, after a month, that chances were high that his partner could have skipped the country. Especially since Dr. Sherman had reported the USD 10mil secret funding missing to Hano-Derm. Interpol were kindly asked to leave the matter alone at the time at insistence of the government. A suicide note and Will was discovered at their old offices by Dr. Sherman and a cash filled suitcase with USD 2mil – that he handed to the distraught family, who eagerly accepted it without informing authorities or the Trust who was trying to determine the value of assets for assessment of Estate Duty, should the man’s body ever turn up. He recalled his then partners’ immense dissatisfaction with their research that ‘by-far’ overstepped the ‘limits of ethics’.
Mothers who believed that they were admitted for either abortion procedures or adoption-after-birth, had no idea that part of them were living out their brief existence to find solutions to the Xpansion Microautografting System, which could only, and due to the lack of skin donors globally, stretch split-thickness skin-grafts up to nine times its original size. Conventional, or rather, law-abiding researchers managed thereby to cover far more wound-surface with significantly less donor skin. But in an increasing profit-driven world, there was always anonymous financial backers to allow a small handful of ego-driven medical pioneers to make their mark. Many hours of painstaking reverse engineering would eventually pay off to produce ethically accepted ways, where the miraculous ‘ethical’ end-results would run linear with the ‘actual’ behind-the-scenes work conducted. To keep him, and ones like him, pushing the boundaries of science at great cost to anonymous financial backers in the shadows – the once clear black or white ethical world became a hazy grey blurr of right and wrong. Part of his obscured world, were the other smaller anonymous few, who hid away during office hours but always waited patiently for his return in life-like nightmare, and were sure to keep him sitting up at night. Those, who at the end of their brief visits, would be forced to live-on in other playful children – after, and as if by alchemy, they were first reduced to nameless bar-codes and serial numbers, marked and penned-in, higher or lower on a ladder of probabilities.
Just less than two meters in height and three stories underground, was a reinforced concrete-cased 900 square meter maize or data and electrical cabling washing in and out of cramped glass cubicles - and sustained by its own power that it drew from a massive collection of solar panels, constructed on the building's roof of the once popular makeup factory. Recently Dr. Sherman was spotted on the ever searching radar of Dermotech when his breakthrough was published on an enhanced pig-based protein chemical which miraculously slowed down the degeneration of human skin during the storage and transito-phase between harvesting skin from about-to-be-deceased donors, and the anxious awaiting and medicated, sometimes comatosed recipients. Only during the third meeting of a lucrative offer to wholesale his patent under their banner, did it become clear that Dermotech was a front-company operation which was forty-five percent government funded and sixty-five percent Hano-Derm, the once battling prosthetic manufacturer, who somehow entered the 'skin and wound care' field and became the number one brand in the world to stock cleansers, shampoo, skin barrier wipes, and a range of products which kept it as a household name for a little over thirty years. The timing couldn't be more perfect, Dr. Sherman thought, and only let out a brief outline of his vision, had he access to financing. The shareholders at Dermotech, or to be more accurate, Hano-Derm, instantly became his new best friends. So the day dawned when Dr. Sherman was asked whether he had an unassuming location in mind for a small laboratory and a short-list of equipment - he was not shy by any means. No less than six hours later the CEO after "falling right off his chair' Dr. Sherman thought, called him directly to ask whether he has gone completely senile. Then having gone over the figures that had been prepared, should Dr. Sherman's research have ended - in even remotely positive territory...- The CEO called to apologise and doubled the price to be exclusively associated to his patent on the extended life-span of human skin harvested from donors. And then, before ending the call; and what Dr. Sherman was waiting for in anticipation, that whatever he wanted and more had already been authorised and paid into an off-shore account.
Although he made Hano-Derm literary jump through hoops, so to speak, and the logistics of his request was an uphill battle, the genius was in its simplicity.
"What!? An entire mothballed makeup factory opposite the clinic to be purchased for his use of a laboratory? Reconstructing the three underground basement parking areas, by closing up the above-ground structure and the first and second sub-level floors, leaving only the very bottom... the deepest one as the shell for an inaccessible and elaborate laboratory? Added to this, cameras and security for the premises?" The perplexed CEO put his steamy and full coffee mug down and pushed it away on the expansive glassed top of the boardroom table - to allow for wider space as the Financial Director opened the comprehensive hundred-and-fifty page bundle in front of him. Nothing was as he had been accustomed to in all his years of doing both minor local- and massive international
deals – that was, with the help of fashionable and typical Excel or Word documents and when someone really wanted to prove a point – when they were seduced with a lengthy music-riddled PowerPoint presentation. Rather than what the CEO expected, and for a strangely but surprisingly refreshing change he was staring at a very first in the corporate world. It was the sample of a seemingly mad, but brilliant mind – all laid out, with nothing other than apparently a black fountain pen and a ruler. Penned to the last finest detail in Dr. Sherman’s personal handwriting, were planned schematics of an unused building, the approximate cost tables of the security upgrade, re-branding the building as an non-existent electrical importer, and finally permanently closing up any and all doors, windows and normal access routes to the once vibrant, well to do makeup manufacturing and distribution company. From the busy road meandering past the clinic – it would seemingly be just another of many companies – cutting out an existence in an ever competing economy, on a prime location in the central business district of town. The final page which concluded his hand-written presentation, included a bar-graph of the writer’s anticipated progress with daily markings during the thirty day window to complete readiness.
“Hidden in plain sight. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do it. Where was he when we started out years ago Alfred? Let him know it’s approved. No wait I’ll call him.” The CEO was a visionary like Dr. Sherman. Hano-Derm’s conrol-freaked CEO and brain, managed to pull Hano-Derm from the gutters as a going-on-auction business, after purchasing it for a steal. At the time, and while being warned-off by all, it took him a mere two days to figure where the old prosthetic manufacturer had gone wrong and he made them a pre-auction offer they simply could not turn down. Like himself, there would be information the old man would have kept to himself, but he decided to respect it – as the building would at very least be an immovable though not apparently income generating asset, registered into Dermotech’s name after all.
The armoured glass security doors swooshed open as they separated and his out-of-place boots clicked on over polished floor as Dr. Sherman rushed in.
“Good morning, good morning Doc! Great day for you and the team today Doc, good luck! A bit early to check up on them, don’t you agree?” The ever smiling Doctor Janet Jacobs, whom he shared the highest clearance with, gave him a thumbs-up, mid-stride on her way to the server room. Doctor Scherman reacted tiredly while on his hasty trod by arrowing a quick wink and accompanying practised smile over to the too-energetic-for-so-early head of anaesthetics. With his eyes, he followed the bright long row of fluorescent overhead-lights dotting the endless corridor which disappeared out of sight, then turning to the right – he did a double-take. Having paused briefly, and satisfied that whatever pulled his attention in his peripheral vision, was gone now or maybe wasn’t there at all, he pulled out his electronically coded access-card for the laboratory to allow him in.
Overly-lit sealed cubicles served as separated smaller laboratories housing different stages of both growing and decomposing pig and human skin-tissue. A series of eighteen incubators were arranged in three neat parallel rows of six each. Each had cameras trained on them, recording round the clock – growth and reaction to light, distilled water and diluted acids.
Separated by a thick glass wall, were two stainless steel cubicles serving as incinerator rooms with two large extractor fan chimneys disappearing into the overhead concrete ceiling.
He paused his anxious walk on the inside of the laboratory, when he realised his almost neglect of the files which demanded his inspection. At the first row of small lit-up and heated glass incubators, he pulled the first file from a small shelf underneath one of them and paged to the latest graph.
“The main and problematic costly challenges the medical world had faced for years, hampering healing time, was that many patients experienced decreased sensitivity. Added to this was unsightly scarring and skin discoloration. But the main concern had always been; even with the highest caring preventive measures adhered to, was that of infections.” He thought of how he’d apply the wording of the results for Hano-Derm, and repeated it once over again in his mind as he closed his eyes.
He looked over to another ultraviolet lit sealed incubator next to him and pulled out the file to compare the increased growth of the first one. Then walking over to a third, also retrieved a file attached to a polished metal clip-board. While trying to estimate a time-frame for readiness, he thought of the miracle of how bio-engineered modified pig skin, as opposed to the skin from a human donor, showed to have developed its own vascular system within a mere 24-hours. It had taxed several of his years when he was a younger fifty-something man
to genetically modify pigs to eventually produce flatter faces and higher human-like cheekbones, and he measured and compared the width of the piglet’s face in the second incubator with the human infant’s in the third and then the one in the first of the incubators. The pale piglet; although lacking a spine and tiny bones in its legs, was in seeming acceptable health and it’s breathing stable. It’s head was; as Dr. Sherman had hoped a few weeks before, normal, bar the significant human-like flatness of its face. With his hands leaning against the glass as he leaned forward, he glanced back and forth at the muscle tissue of two faceless comatosed human infants in the first and third heated tiny glass boxes again. If he was right; after so many years, the protein that normally would have caused rejection – as it normally proved from pig-to-primate transplants – would be absent and soon after transplant, be healing at a tremendous rate.
Dr. Sherman looked over his shoulder at the rapidly healing and out-of-place human baby-face on the piglet in the second parallel row of faceless comatosed infants.
“It makes sense for them, because they don’t know what the future holds”. He thought as he stopped at the desk that his new partner occupied. Her computer screen was still lit, displaying a medical update from the clinic over the road’s shareholders who met with the health minister. His partner was a wizard at intercepting emails via fake Facebook accounts by which mining for information seemed to have almost become a hobby of hers.
“They seemingly in great detail, had discussed the ‘new’ technology that promised innumerable ways that positively and negatively impacted human life”. He thought to himself as he smiled and shook his head at the reference to ‘new’ – then continued reading.
“Gene editing, a double-edged sword. It’s probably too late already for the creation of counter measures”. He surmised it had been the sum total of the meeting, looking at a news clipping added to the email, and he carried on walking.
A second set of glass doors swooped open as they separated when he moved away from the retina-scanner.
“So much that we could have accomplished together, was brought to an unceremonious grinding halt. So very much”. Dr. Sherman told the sleepy occupant of the six feet long, two feet high glass box, and moved over and scrutinised the file of the other large glass box which housed a full-grown flat-faced boar…
“Fire?! How bad is it. And the research?” Brendon McBride who was beside himself with utter blind horror, tripped as he sat down. His gut was; grabbing on whatever hope there was to conjure up, overriding the shocking news – that it was maybe a different building or some other miscommunication that would be cleared up shortly – for him to re-enter his normally reality again. He looked at the many properties listed on the Excel sheet, as he let his finger trace down all the way to the bottom. He pooled together; without skipping even one, all their assets as well as all recent valuations on the numerous patents his empire bought up over decades, entitling him and Hano-Derm to strangle emerging competitors – leaving just Hano-Derm to monopolise the market, and influence politics via ongoing campaigning for pre-election advertising of who they needed at the helm.
On a closed envelope to the left of the lengthy securities printout, was a bright red stamp calling out his name, and only his. The end result of trusting the old man, like many before him – who he taken advantage of in the true sense, by annexing their once lucrative patents, to the benefit of Hano-Derm when the patent holders could not perform what was agreed on. He had borrowed to the hill and over – having to please the worst most merciless of lenders, and had put every last business and private asset up as guarantee – this without input from his international shareholders.
All based on already verified reports from the now missing old man. He wasn’t sure at the time how any of it was possible, until one scientists after the other, of a group of twenty, reported that after three days, still no vascular system had developed. But it was too late already and he signed in the interim.
Feeling the blood draining from his face, he pulled his large high-back black leather chair up and sank into it again- the phone glued to his ear.
He tried absorbing the report back from security who were alerted to thick dark smoke bellowing out from both the chimneys at the quiet building across the road from the clinic where Dr. Sherman works. The CEO noticed that he stopped breathing normally and at times kept his breath and let it go in long painful sighs. He looked into the distance high over the city skyline at the setting sun and prayed like he was five years old again.
Two weeks later.
“Not guilty! Well that’s just…” The red-eyed CEO of Hano-Derm who haven’t slept for days, washed down another two chilled cans of highly concentrated caffeine-infused Mocca-Maniac Energy drink. Pouring another half-empty goblet of whisky from his never used collection, he forced it down and pressed his burning eyelids closed after aimlessly sliding the bottle of eyedrops over to the two still-sealed envelopes that had been solely occupying his desk for a fortnight.
He opened his irritated scratchy eyelids, and against his better judgement looked over at the plummeting share price. An astonishing USD 900.00 per share two concerning weeks before vaporised into USD 98.00 per useless share four days ago on Tuesday morning. And now, as the repeated news hit social media and mainstream media in turn, had it bottom out on USD 9.67. The true and insanely inflated reports; leaked to an investigative journalist in India, showed how Hano-Derm via a researcher had inflated some of their medical reports to gain maximum financing. Part of the report, being made available to the medical world, included, in pen, the entire process to cheaply manufacture a synthetic membrane for wound care. A first in medical history, where the most basic laboratory in the remotest part of the world would be capable to carry out miracle cures for patients, who were previously solely dependant on skin from donors – with the added risk of loss of sensitivity, infections, and the other previous hampering challenges both physicians and patients had normally faced. It was a genius system designed around cutting out the financially corrosive monopolies – handing the power directly to doctors.
His computer was still switched on since two days before when he dreaded to make his way into his office – but had to after a call from Moscow, and locked the big varnished ebony office doors. After the news of his empire; which unexpectedly found itself, perched on the edge of a bottomless cliff, were tweeted and unsettling phone calls from journalists – his world was turned upside down and shaken. Doctor Scherman was apparently missing and the research facility’s promising results, that he had borrowed a hundred million dollars against – had been utterly destroyed beyond recognition by a massive fire – and by some twisted fate, the old missing partner who the world thought had committed suicide – had turned up in Mexico. For days the medical medical world lived on rumours and whispers as the most expensive in-camera trial in medical history played out. Minutes before it was reported by a Canadian newspaper, that a team of legal eagles pocketed no less than USD 8mil – and saw to it that the ex partner of Doctor Scherman, was found ‘not-guilty” for the allegation that he stole USD 10mil of government and pharmaceutical money.
The CEO opened and closed his top drawer over and over repeatedly, then opened it once more and left it open. He blankly stared at his locked office doors and ignored the pounding from the other side and incessant calling of his name. Only his newly purchased Colt 357 Magnum’s silver glimmer in the setting sun, offered him an exit out of the glass tower he ruled from.
“Your grandfather left this at my house my dear. He left a note with it, saying that one day maybe you’ll understand.” The old partner of her dear missing grandfather went down on one knee and presented the ballerina-to-be with a glass box containing a perfect specimen of a rare Mexican butterfly which became extinct recently.
“Thank you” The girl smiled and little-impressed with the strange gift, she continued and excitedly ran in a circle – a new hand-mirror had her full undivided attention as she was fixated on the return of exactly what used to be her angelic little face.
There is no limit to how far the caring ones around a playful little four-year old girl will go, in attempts to see her once angelic little face again - or close to it at least. In an ever-changing technological world, where science fictional-like medical trial-runs promise to guarantee that we once again can see ourselves or our loved ones, or those we sincerely care for - as before - greed and bureaucracy can warp ethics and hope into a twisted reality from where there is no escape.