Bang! A wrinkled fist raised up high and slammed down onto the metal desk. Bang! Bang! Bang!
“Fucking waste of my time this shit!” Dr. Nelson screeched into the empty room.
The gray-haired scientist glared at the stacks of turquoise folders towering in front of him with swollen, red-veined eyes, and then slouched over the rickety desk in angry defeat. He grumbled curses under his breath and imagined pounding his forehead onto the surface to knock himself out of his misery. It was just after midnight and the old man was beyond the point of exhaustion. The highly esteemed and -normally rational- Dr. Nelson had been held against his will for thirteen hours thanks to his new boss, Agent Reynolds of the CIA.
Nelson lamented over the fact that he was tired, hungry, and stuck inside of the Boston CIA Command Center. Had it been up to him, he’d have rather been able to work inside his personal laboratory which was only a twenty-minute drive from where he was now. At least inside his own lab, the heat cranked high and the coffee had taste. Sadly, for the weary doctor, Agent Spookface -as he like to refer to him- had insisted the job be completed inside the freezing CIA office, and of course, it all had to be done that night.
Dr. Nelson was the sole-proprietor of the Nexus Mind Research Labs; a place he’d run for nearly three decades with moderate success. His goal in life, was to cure Alzheimer’s disease. He’d performed many good and wonderful feats in his lifetime, and up until the economy crashed in 2008, he’d never struggled for work. He’d certainly never had to do anything shady like he was doing now in cahoots with the CIA. The proud man was not the least bit pleased about betraying his moral standpoints. He’d always been honest; it was his trademark. Though, he also realized, that in life, one sometimes was forced, “to do a little bit of bad, to obtain the greater good,” and that’s what got him into the ‘Formula 35C’ mess in the first place.
The task set upon Dr. Nelson that morning was explained as if it were an easy matter, but easy it was not. He was assigned (among many other things) to handpick fifteen “qualified” candidates, who would run through a TOP SECRET experiment that Dr. Nelson himself would oversee and operate. He had christened the project; ‘Formula 35C’. The problem was, he didn’t know what Formula 35C was! This was not standard protocol for the old man. Nelson didn’t mind playing doctor, or babysitter, but he certainly didn’t like playing God in an experiment for which no data was given. The proud scientist possessed a stellar IQ, numerous degrees, accolades etc. and never once abused his station or rank within the medical community. However, because of financial hardships, he had to forego his principals and thrust Nexus Labs into a sordid, back-alley deal with the CIA. The circumstances vexed Nelson greatly and challenged his reality.
As the old man stared gloomily at the blank walls closing in on him, he realized that nothing was clear for him anymore. Routine and procedure, once the operating basis of his existence were gone, and ever since he’d met Agent Reynolds, he’d faced entirely new networks of complication. The old man didn’t much care for the overly tall spook and felt the agent’s presence somehow sucked away at his life-force, but Nelson was too afraid to do anything about it, and so there he was.
Mr. Reynolds’ instructions to integrate fifteen men and women of very low intelligence into the experiment might have been easier had not hundreds of people applied. Furthermore, each of the fifteen people Nelson would have to choose, -under Reynolds' orders- should in some way or another, be desperately in need of money, if possible. In other words, the subjects had to be stupid and/or desperate enough that they'd ignore the fine print. If either of these criteria were not met, then he was to shred their folder immediately. Nelson stared a moment at the over-filled shredder basket next to his chair and sighed.
The saggy-eyed man had spent all day analyzing the applications of nearly two hundred individuals who responded to the ad. It was a fine advertisement and elicited considerable response. “Make $300 every day for 30 Days!” the ad claimed in big bold print. Anyone who clicked the link was redirected to a single-paged website containing the application form. Nearly everyone who applied had typed into the “Additional Comments” section to plead all the reasons they should get in. The idiots didn’t even know what they were “getting in” to, he thought, but the old science captain sympathized with the hard-up folk nevertheless. The pickings for good jobs in Boston were slim, and times were tough for everyone, including himself. The advertisement was effective because it claimed to pay more in a day than most of these people could earn in a week.
So far, he’d approved fourteen people to share in the experiment, but he needed one more to be through with the arduous assignment. Dr. Nelson sat there a few moments in silence and tapped the metal desk with his long fingernails. He daydreamed about the comforts of his warm home. His tongue throbbed for the taste of red wine, and his ears longed to hear the kind-hearted chirps from his loving wife, who was undoubtedly pacing back and forth through the kitchen concerned to death. Marge Nelson had always been such a worry-wart, but he couldn’t help but smile when he thought of her face. The thoughts spurred the doctor’s sense of urgency to escape his surroundings and directed his focus onto the folder of one, Jack McCoy. Potentially, Subject Fifteen. He gripped his white mug of black coffee and grimaced down two big gulps of the bitter substance. Ole’ Jonny-caffeine was the isolated gent’s only friend inside the drab and heartless building. He placed Jack’s folder in front of him and paused to look at the young man’s photo.
“Help me out Jack,” he muttered under his breath.
The thick folder held Jack’s online application, credit report, police report, FBI file, social media records, and driving record. Everything furnished by the CIA. The doctor rapidly scanned through each document, anxiously aware of the uncomfortable pressure building inside his bladder with each sip of coffee. When he finished reading, he let out a long thankful sigh. He decided then and there that the sorry-soul of Jack McCoy was going to be his fifteenth subject in the drug trial. All things considered, Mr. McCoy was a wild variable to the experiment. The fourteen applicants he’d already approved, breathed very average lives, under very ordinary circumstances. Most had their problems, and some had bigger problems than others, but none of them compared to Jacks.
Per the file, Jack was a financially ruined, degenerate gambler with very few friends and many enemies. The gambler’s life was almost stranger than fiction, and to the doctor it seemed, should be made into a Lifetime Network movie for TV. Jack’s father, John McCoy, stood a convicted murderer, damned to the confines of a concrete box for the rest of his days. While his mother Loretta, existed as a lonesome, old hag, slowly withering away inside a prison of bottom-shelf vodka and foul-smelling cancer-sticks. The couple’s lack of good parenting had led to a son caught into the drifting hell of insolvency and lies. Not the best ingredients to bake with, Dr. Nelson thought to himself. He then added Jack’s folder to the other fourteen approved applicants. Jack must do, he thought, since the scientist just wanted to be done with it and get the fuck out of the cramped office.
“Welcome aboard rats,” he said rising from the desk.
Doctor Nelson snatched the files and his half-drunk coffee off the desk as he headed for the door. His bladder pulsed, giving the doctor pee-pee dance legs, and he hurriedly exited the room to get on with his business. He hustled down the bright-lit and narrow hallway on plain beige carpet, and debated whether he should tinkle before or after his meeting with Mr. Reynolds. Feeling his gasket about to blow, the choice was made for him. He rushed inside the men’s room, dumped the folders onto the counter and quickly unleashed his gray-haired kick-stand. Within seconds, his muscles relaxed and the doctor exulted in relief as he trickled out every drop of transmuted coffee into the urinal. It was the single best moment he'd had all day. He zipped, flushed, and then washed his hands, noticing that they shook with nervy jolts of caffeinated lightning. The old man stood in front of the mirror a moment, under the harsh, crappy, light, and gazed at his gray, wispy hair and the heavy dark bags under his tired blue eyes. He let out a curt sigh. “Stanley... what the fuck are you doing? Is this right?” Getting no answer from himself, he collected the folders and headed back to the corridor.
As he strolled down the passageway, he crinkled his nose at the stale and frigid air that seeped into his skin. Apparently, Mr. Reynolds enjoyed the air-conditioner’s extreme, glacial settings to be fully employed always, which seemed senseless to the Doctor since it was as cold a New England winter as there ever was. The old scientist had lived in Massachusetts his entire lifespan, and he’d learned to appreciate the warmth of a blazing furnace during the snow months. It was yet another reason he hated the agent, he didn’t seem human. Nearing his boss’s office, the scientist began to wonder how he’d gotten himself into this mess.
Morally, Dr. Nelson didn’t feel right about the upcoming trial for Formula 35C, but he also didn’t feel like he had much of a choice at this point. The scientist’s first big issue was that he was going into the whole procedure blind as a bat. This constituted a huge dilemma to the man because he was extremely loyal to scientific procedure done correctly. He had requested all the data about the drug to be given over to his lab right away, but the agency wouldn’t tell him anything. It was another red flag to the old man. After 40 years’ experience in research, he found withholding of information to be particularly dangerous. Not to mention offensive to his scientific sensibility. Dr. Nelson always made sure that every person who worked with him was given all the material available. It was good science.
All that Doctor Nelson was told regarding Formula 35C, was that it was a strange cocktail of narcotics completely fabricated by the CIA. He wasn’t even sure if it’d been tested on animals, and if it had been, he didn’t understand why those results were not made available to his research team. The experiment wouldn’t have bothered him so much if it were rats that they would be testing. In his lab, the doctor had only ever tested on animals anyway, and usually with non-pharmaceuticals. The optimistic scientist loved the idea of using Mother Nature to find cures, and found artificial substances to be dangerous and in many cases, unethical. Unfortunately, he had signed the papers, and there was no going back. His desperation had put him into a position where no part of his life was in his control anymore. For truly, he had made a deal with the devil, and he had abandoned his own integrity. However, if he could cure Alzheimer’s disease, he thought, it would all be for the greater good.
He finally arrived in front of Mr. Reynolds' door and knocked twice.
“Enter,” came a soft voice.
Dr. Nelson shifted the folders to his other arm and carefully balanced his coffee while turning the knob and opening the door. The interior of the office was just about empty, and every wall stood a tiresome pale-white that seemed to moan in a dreary sadness. The tall and lanky figure of Mr. Reynolds sat along the back wall, hunched over his cluttered child-sized desk. The room’s lighting was too bright, and caused the doctor to squint his drowsy eyes uncomfortably. His ears took offense to the way the AC buzzed annoyingly loud and straight into the scientist’s already frazzled mind. Shivering slightly, Dr. Nelson walked inside. Mr. Reynolds lifted his head slowly, revealing his dark eyes and stern, pale features. Nelson felt uneasy around the man. There was something unsettling in his gaze and even more so in his unemotional mannerisms.
“Have you chosen your Subjects, Dr. Nelson?” Mr. Reynolds asked dryly, as he looked down to the papers on his desk.
“Yes Sir, I have fifteen as you requested.”
Mr. Reynolds started writing and offered no response.
“What’s the next step?” Stanley questioned while sipping his coffee.
Mr. Reynolds looked up, and narrowed his eyes as if annoyed by the interruption. “Leave me the folders and await further orders.”
Dr. Nelson carefully tiptoed over to the intimidating spook’s desk, fearful to make any sound, and placed the folders in front of the towering agent. Even sitting, the man was nearly his height. Dr. Nelson peeked down at the paper Reynolds wrote upon, and he could see what looked to be a form of hieroglyphics. Nelson’s eyebrows raised and he shrugged, not understanding the significance.
“Alright then, I’m going home where I’ll await your instructions,” he said as he turned to exit.
As he approached the door to make his long-awaited escape, he heard the agent stand up from his chair.
“Yes?” Dr. Nelson squeaked tensely as he turned back toward the agent. At full height, the spook's head nearly touched the ceiling, a sight that caused the scientist to down the remainder of his cold coffee.
“Why did you choose these fifteen people?”
The Doctor hesitated a moment before answering and stared into his empty mug. He stood there a few seconds, silently, and then looked up at the agent. “Because they all have one thing in common.”
Mr. Reynolds crossed his arms. “Which is what?” he asked.
“Some have no choice but to sign the papers because of their finances, and the others, who don’t hurt for money as much, simply won’t read the fine print… because they’re stupid. They’re all stupid.” the doctor replied while daring to grin. The agent said nothing and returned to his seated position. The nervous doctor took the cue and exited the room quickly.
Standing on the others side of the door, Dr. Nelson paused. He wiped away a single trickle of sweat beading down his forehead and sighed. “It’s for the greater good. It’s all for the greater good.”
CHAPTER THREE: ORIENTATION DAY