By Joel Mendez
The short story is based on the author’s upcoming novel, “The Casualties”. The events occur twenty-one years from the novel.
Bronx, New York, 2038
He had been staring at the X-ray on the screen for some time but his mind was somewhere else. In the next twenty minutes he would initiate a breach at his medical facility of a risky kidnapping of patients.
In his large suite on the 45th Floor of glass building on the site of the former Riker prison on Rikers island, he pulled a cigarette and started puffing it. He hadn’t smoked since he was in his twenties and cigarettes were barely sold anymore. It was an awful habit, being brought back by rich and anxious men. He wasn’t ever a smoker and never one to be anxious but today he was. He pulled the finished letter from the typewriter slowly. The typewriter was a gift from his wife, who had the propensity to write letters to her husband, first handwritten then by typewriter. He placed it in his office, when he worked late he found the tap of the keys relaxing. He took one last puff and pushed the cigarette down using one of his many awards as an astray.
He walked to the corner of the office, opening a small window, letting fresh air into the nicotine filled office. The wall behind his desk displayed his awards for his research and articles framed in the discovery of his pioneering research. At one point at the center of the wall was a large crest, mounted with the coin of his nobel prize in science and his written speech he gave for his accomplishment in eradicating cancer. About six months ago he removed it. He told his colleagues he wanted it at his home. It lasted three weeks on the mantle of his study, serving as cover for his wife, before he went to his shed and slowly took it apart, throwing parts in the garbage, using the African blackwood holding the gold of the inscription of his success into the firepit where it would burn slowly as he read the speech over and over into the late night while sipping a sweet rum that only tasted bitter to him. The gold and the coin was harder to destroy as he worked hours to scrape his name off the gold and the words of recognition. He sold the gold in the black market in the Village, with the money sent anonymously to a fund providing legal support to the subjects whose genetic code saved many from cancer.
He only saved the phrase, “The sacrifice of the many is the greatest gift to mankind.” He had spent a weekend using a small amount of the African blackwood to create a small placard to place on his desk. His colleagues took a liking to the placard, they made replicas and even the facility created a coffee mug with the quote which became the best selling item in the gift store. Eventually one Monday morning he walked into the lobby of the facility and looked at the wall and just blurted out “God damn it!” He made a scene and walked away as the crowd regained their focus to the mural in the lobby with the statues of the patients as they surrounded a wall “The sacrifice of the many is the greatest gift to mankind.”
The doctor turned the placard on his desk inward as it faced him when he sat at his desk to help him suffer and remind him of what needed to be done. Today it faced outward since he was reviewing charts on the digital screen. When he thought about his oath to his profession, his patients and to himself, he wondered how he let it get out of control. It all began with a test case that revealed that a birth defect on any extra chromosome being the key to saving devastating diseases. Then the research, the clinical tests, then the peered review paper. The paper was the downfall. Once it was published, there was no ethical pushback, not after a decade of the DC attack, which created the global wars and the way science and technology saved what was America and now the world. The advancement of science started to bring the world back to peace. He was the most famous physician within weeks of publication.
The ground-breaking research moved so quickly. In what started in extracting genes from the deceased of the birth defect known as terminals, now the state sought living patients who were going to live their rest of their life with physical deformities and mental disabilities. The state would start a program under the guise of the motto that tortured him, “The sacrifice for the many is the greatest gift to mankind.” Parents and caregivers would be lavished with money, security and most of all heroic sainthood in the new North America, as slowly families provided their loved ones, mostly children, to the research which would save millions of people worldwide and continue to innovate for new cures. Most of these cures would be experiments conducted in the facility where the doctor stared at the medical scan while glancing at his watch.
The wall buzzed as one of the walls, his secretary, was trying to connect a call. He clicked his remote. “Doctor, your wife is…” “I’m not taking any calls,” he barked at her and turned off the connection. He was ashamed. He had never spoken in that manner to her, but he had to keep focused and he had to keep forward. Any distraction, especially his wife asking him to pick up a pinot for dinner could have him abort his treason.
It was almost time. He was overcome with fear. He felt a fear mixed with anxiousness which could only be released at least temporarily by his guilt. There was no turning back and regardless of the success or failure of the attempted kidnapping, his life would never be the same. He could not return to his large brown stone in Connecticut. He left a letter for his wife that would try to explain his actions.
He went to his desk and picked up the file of the patient, which was typed with heading as subjects with an internal number, on the standard brown hardbound medical facility file. His name would appear on the second page. Mr. Qui Lau. He not only had the extra chromosome but had a son in the facility. One of the most important discoveries in the 21 project, an opportunity to know about the healing chromosome, where scientists can extend the use of the chromosomes through generations. There was another file marked “RESTRICTED” with only four hard copies and never saved in the medical facility computer systems. It was a joint project with him and the President of the facility, leaders of the North American regions and the NAIA, the North America Intelligence Agency. It was a project to find a 21 female subject and mate with the Lua’s son as they become older to advance the extra chromosome.
A knock on his door followed by the opening of the door. Two men armed with side arms and long weapons arrive carrying a metal briefcase. His frantic secretary trailed behind them, “Doctor, I told them you were busy but they simply just walked in…”
“Mary, there are no problems. I was expecting them. They were not unscheduled for a meeting.”
“Oh…” she said, holding her notepad to her chest. “I see…”
“I apologize for not coordinating with you but as you can see, disclosure was pivotal. I expect your discretion as well.”
The armed men look at Mary.
“Of course, doctor,” she said sheepishly and started to turn away.
“Mary…” She turned to the doctor.
“Thank you. Also, I want to apologize for my tone in our last call. Please let my wife know I will be late tonight.”
“Yes…doctor…you’re welcome.” She smiled and looked at the armed men and quickly walked out, closing his office door.
“Right on time gentleman.”
“Dr. Herbert Cohen, the document please.”
“Of course,” he handed the restricted file over to a tall man with a buzz cut and serene look who served as the lead agent. He reviewed the document, secured a tamper-free seal, set it on the metal suitcase, placed a digital code and handcuffed it to his wrists. The young man by his side was lanky with glasses and made no eye contact with the doctor.
The lead agent looked at the young man and nodded. The young man took a small device out of his pocket to track listening devices, scanning the office. He then placed a small USB inside the drive of the wall computer and ran a scan. “I apologize for the disruption, but…”
“There is no need to apologize…all for the sake of security and our regions.”
“Thank you for your understanding,”
“Looks like we are clear, sir,” the young man finished his scan and went back to the wall computer, pulling out the USB, then inserting it into the scanner. He placed the scanner by the doctor’s desk. He turned to look at the lead agent. The lead agent turned to the doctor, “We are almost done, but we have to be thorough.”
“I understand, do what you have to.” The lead agent glanced at the young man. The young man started to look through Dr. Cohen’s desk drawers, around his office and any other compartment.
“Dr. Cohen, under the Regions code under the policy of handling of classified material, any person using or storing classified material without consent and approval from…”
The doctor nodded his head in approval. It was the same speech he had heard before in years of classified reports on the 21 project. He nodded, listened, signed consent documents in the past but it was now where the implications of this breach were understood. He smiled at the agent.
“Understood Dr. Cohen, sign here. What is that?”
The doctor leaned over his desk and signed the document. The young agent held the letter he penned for his wife.
“It’s a letter,” the young man said, scanning the pages.
“What type of letter?”
“A private one,” Dr. Cohen interjected. “A letter to my wife.”
The young man said, “It’s harmless, a love letter, rather good.”
“Corporal, continue your work, you can schedule relationship advice at another time with the good doctor.”
“Yes, sir, that should do it,” he placed the paper on top of the typewriter.
The lead agent placed the signed document in the metal briefcase with the medical file and closed it, pressed a button setting up the digital code and then handcuffing the box to his wrists.
“Thank you Dr. Cohen for your time.” The men walked out of his office.
Dr. Cohen went over to an open drawer and found an envelope. He picked up the first page, the letter to his wife, folding and inserting it into the envelope, writing her name, Olivia and placing it on the center of his desk. He took another envelope and looked at the three pages left on the typewriter. He reviewed his typed report on the restricted 21 cable that was currently locked securely in a metal briefcase making its way out of Rikers Island. He folded his report placed in the envelope and looked over to the typewriter. Under the document was the USB. He picked it up, added it to the letter and sealed it.
He walked out of his office.
“Doctor, where are you heading,” his secretary asked.
“Mary, I have a meeting and I won’t be back. Plan to pick up a pinot for dinner tonight with Olivia.”
Dr.Cohen took the elevator down to the lobby, walked past the motto on the wall and entered the exhibit of the sacrificed patients which he avoided. The exhibit was empty. He walked slowly seeing digital stories of the subjects who would sacrifice their lives for the world. He stopped, there was a statue of the first subject with his motto inscripted inside.
“Lovely what they have done here,” a muscular man with a curly red beard said. He was dressed in a janitor’s uniform and was wheeling a mop and bucket, standing next to him.
“Never been here before. All these years and never entered,” Dr.Cohen said.
“Why has it taken this long?”
“Because I know too much.” He handed the janitor the envelope.
Dr. Cohen walked out of the Riker’s Island Medical and Research Advancement facility and was never seen again.
Joel Mendez, is a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department but working on his dream to write the next great Sci-Fi novel. A world traveler who has lived the last 15 years in Europe, South America, Afghanistan, and currently living in Southeast Asia with his wife, two daughters (who also have the writing bug) and a russian gray cat who likes to sleep on Joel’s lap while he writes. Most of Joel’s short stories submitted for Pearl S. Buck are part of the greater world building of his upcoming novel, “The Casualties.” You can follow Joel on twitter @jmjoel79 and his writing on theintentionalman.wordpress.com.