(One week before Orientation Day)
Bang! The doctor's fist crashed onto the metal desk as if it were the face of all his problems. Bang! Bang! Bang! "Well, this is just a load of shit!" Dr. Nelson yelled into the empty room, as if hoping the walls would apologize and fix everything.
He glared at the towering stacks of turquoise folders as if they were the source to every bad thing in the universe. Slumped over the rickety desk, he grumbled curses under his breath, sounding like a tired old man trying to to take a piss in the middle of the night. The folders seemed to mock him, like a mischievous group of giggling demons, and he wondered if he had unknowingly died earlier in the day, and this was hell.
"Oh, what a wonderful night this is," he muttered sarcastically, imagining himself jumping out the window to his own death. But, alas, he was stuck here, thanks to his new best friend, Agent Reynolds of the CIA, who had decided to make his life a living hell.
Dr. Nelson was the genius behind Nexus Mind Research Labs, a place he'd been running for eons with a smidgen of success. His grand ambition in life was to cure Alzheimer's disease, but right now, he was just trying to survive this daunting task the CIA had thrown him into.
Earlier, Mr. Reynolds had handed him a top-secret mission, which felt more like a secret recipe for disaster. The task? Choose fifteen candidates for an experiment called 'Formula 35C.' The only problem? No one had a single clue what Formula 35C even was!
As he thumbed through the applications, he couldn't help but think, This is like trying to find a needle in a haystack while suffering from hayfever! People from all walks of life had applied, and the doctor had to figure out who was desperate enough to ignore the fine print or, better yet, too dimwitted to read it. As if there was some magical process to predict who would do what! Sure, there was an aptitude test and basic intelligence test to guide him, but who's to say once they got into the trial they wouldn't start demanding lawyers to comb through the contract?
The ad had promised "$300 every day for 30 Days!" - a dream come true for any broke soul. Naturally, hundreds applied, including people who could mistake their own feet for hot dogs. But how was Dr. Nelson supposed to distinguish them from the rest of the lot?
He grunted, staring at the shredded paper in the basket, wondering if that's where his sanity had ended up.
Over the last 13 hours, he had approved fourteen applicants, but there was still one more to go before he could call it quits. He shuffled the folders, each one a story of desperation, despair, and hilarity. It was amusing at first, but after so many the old scientists was ready to lose his mind.
Dr. Nelson's weariness and his pulsating bladder pushed him to a choice. He resolved to grab a file at random and designate its owner as the 15th subject. The one he snagged belonged to Jack McCoy – a man down on his luck, a gambling addict, his family saga reminiscent of the Sopranos. What grated on the doctor, though, was Jack's potential intellect. He scored higher on the online intelligence and aptitude tests than everyone else despite being a highschool dropout. Dr. Nelson decided the trial needed a wildcard and waved that aside. "Fuck it" he reckoned.
With a rejuvenated spirit, Nelson seized his cold coffee, the 15 files and headed straight for the door. Despite his aching bladder's insistent rhythm, he pressed forward, praying it wouldn't betray him. He hurried along the well-lit corridor, whispering, "Hang on, Stanley, a bit more."
Reaching the men's room, he dumped the folders unceremoniously on the counter and faced the urinal like a knight preparing for battle. Within seconds, sweet relief washed over him as he unleashed the fury of transmuted coffee into the toilet. "By the firing of neurons, Batman! This is the most bliss filled piss ever!" The scientist hollered, his gaze darting to the stalls in a sudden panic, desperately hoping he was alone.
Zipping up and flushing away the evidence, he washed his hands, but they shook uncontrollably. Fatigue and fear twisted inside every one of Dr. Nelson's nerves. He gazed at his reflection in the mirror, questioning his life choices. "Stanley... what the fuck are you doing? Is this right?" he whispered to the mirror. His reflection merely stared back with a puzzled expression, as if to say, "Beats me, mate!"
As Doctor Nelson strolled down the passageway, he crinkled his nose at the stale and frigid air that assaulted his skin. It was like Agent Reynolds had a personal vendetta against warm temperatures, keeping the air-conditioner set to arctic levels even in the midst of a New England winter. The old scientist had lived in Massachusetts his whole life, and he'd grown accustomed to cozy fires and hot cocoa during the snow months. This was just another reason why he suspected Mr. Reynolds might be a cold-blooded reptilian alien in disguise. Nearing his boss's office, he wondered for the umpteenth time how he ended up in this wacky CIA escapade.
When the CIA first approached him, Nelson had fired off countless questions, but all they gave him about Formula 35C was that it was a strange cocktail of narcotics cooked up by the agency. He wasn't even sure if they had tested it on animals, and if they had, why keep it a secret from his research team? It didn't sit well with him that they were jumping straight to Phase 4 clinical trials, bypassing all the rules like a gang of Hell's Angels bikers in a shopping mall.
But alas, he signed the papers, and now he was entangled in a conspiracy web like a fly stuck in honey covered shit. It was a deal with the devil, and he'd kissed his common sense and integrity goodbye. Still, if he could cure Alzheimer's disease, he reasoned, it might just redeem him in the eyes of humanity. Or at least land him on the cover of Scientific Mastermind Weekly.
Arriving in front of Mr. Reynolds's door, he knocked twice. A soft voice invited him to enter. Dr. Nelson carefully balanced the folders and his coffee while opening the door. The office's pale walls moaned with boredom, and the AC buzzed like a caffeinated mosquito, tormenting his already frazzled mind. Shivering slightly, he stepped inside.
Mr. Reynolds huddled over a desk along the rear wall, his towering figure strangely similar in height to Dr. Nelson, even while seated. He sported a black suit with a blue tie, his face bearing a gaunt, almost cadaverous appearance, and his frame seemed unusually lanky. His uncanny likeness to the first zombie in the graveyard scene from the movie "Night of the Living Dead" left Dr. Nelson questioning the very essence of the man's humanity. The agent, paused from his writing to look up at the doctor.
"Have you chosen your Subjects, Dr. Nelson?" Mr. Reynolds asked with all the warmth of an ice cube.
"Yes Sir, I have fifteen as you requested," Dr. Nelson replied a bit too fast.
Reynolds resumed writing without so much as a nod. Apparently, "thank you" wasn't in his vocabulary.
"What's the next step?" Stanley questioned, gripping his coffee like it was his security blanket.
Mr. Reynolds looked up, and his narrowed eyes screamed, "Can't you see I'm busy?" But he held his tongue and merely said, "Leave me the folders and await further orders."
Dr. Nelson approached the agent's desk with utmost caution, fearful of making any noise that might provoke his ire. He gingerly arranged the folders in front of the towering figure and took a step back. As he glanced at the desk he noticed hieroglyphic-like scribbles on Reynolds's papers, Dr. Nelson raised an eyebrow, perplexed. It was a puzzle, either coded CIA messages or an Egyptian grocery list; he couldn't say for certain.
"Well then, I'm off to the warmth of my home and wife. I bid you a good night, Sir!” He declared and quickly turned to flee.
Just as freedom appeared to be within his reach, the sound of the agent rising from his chair sent a shiver of unease through him. He felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety and vulnerability, akin to what Theon Greyjoy, known as Reek, experienced in the Game of Thrones series he'd been watching. An uncomfortable, gnawing ache crept into his own groin.
"Yes?" Dr. Nelson squeaked. Did he say Reek? The doctor panicked.
"Why did you choose these fifteen people?" Reynolds inquired, arms crossed.
Dr. Nelson hesitated, then grinned, "Because they all have one thing in common."
"And what's that?" the agent pressed on.
"Some are so broke they'd sign a contract with the devil himself, while the others wouldn't read the fine print even if it was tattooed on their foreheads. In short, they're all stupid!" Dr. Nelson responded with a sly glint in his eye, even as his thoughts fought to push away the image of Jack McCoy's folder.
Reynolds gave him a blank stare, offering no response. Dr. Nelson took that as his cue to hastily exit the room.
Standing outside the door, he wiped away a single bead of sweat and sighed, "Well, Stanley, you may be in deep CIA shit, but remember, it's all for the greater good!"