Connor stared at the vial. The vial was almost mystical. The vial held the means to balance the scales, to attain retribution. The Vial held the fruit of seventeen years of dogged research.
Connor was a top rate biochemist and geneticist. In his own mind, he was the best geneticist of all time—and didn’t hesitate to say so loud and clear, if pressed. He worked for a large Pharmaceutical Manufacturer. He had access to some of the best laboratory equipment to be had.
Some of his undercover work, what his blue-collar father had called “Government Work”, had been done at work, right under their very noses…
But there was a limit to what even the brightest and best PhD could hide from other competent geneticists. It was fortunate for Connor that his income was well into six figures.
He had no wife, no surviving children and no other interest except payback. His house was well out of town and it had been built to Connor’s specifications. There was an ample basement and a sub-basement. In fact, the signature of his basement was about fifty percent larger than the house that topped it.
His garage also had a basement and there was a tunnel connecting the house basement to the garage basement. The tunnel was nice and wide. One could have parked an automobile in it, if he could have gotten one there.
Connor had let the contractor think that he was some sort of Survivalist or Prepper—nothing to get excited about.
The place was high, dry and tight. He’d had green tiles laid on the floors and he kept them clean enough to eat off of. He even had a full-sized industrial buffer in his basement lab. It was a bit demeaning for a PhD, who lived in a half-million dollar home to do his own sweeping, mopping and buffing—but cleanliness was important in a Genetics Laboratory and Mad Scientist types couldn’t very well allow servants into the covert workplace.
Connor had bought much of his gear from laboratory supply houses. Some of it he’d liberated from work, or gotten permission to salvage instead of throwing it away. Some of it he’d built and cobbled together himself. Some of the online sites devoted to Genetic Hacking in the Home Laboratory had been most helpful.
He was fifty-four years old but he looked twenty years younger. Staying in top-notch physical condition was one of his most important disciplines. One’s brain worked better when one was in good shape and he hadn’t known how long it would take to develop his virus. He couldn’t have his vengeance foiled by a middle-aged heart attack or stroke.
Seventeen years ago, his fifteen-year-old son had committed suicide. A few months later his wife had been killed in an automobile accident. The other driver had been at fault but Connor was convinced that his wife’s state of mind had contributed to the accident.
At any rate, both his wife’s life insurance and the driver’s insurance company had paid off quite handsomely. Shortly after he had the money in hand, Connor had resigned from his teaching post, moved to Atlanta to take a very high-paying job in research and development and started on his master plan.
He’d driven a very hard bargain with the company. He cared nothing for money anymore. He didn’t care about anything except getting his own version of payback against the type of folks who’d taunted his son until he’d felt low enough to take the Suicide Express.
Maybe, he thought, if he’d paid more attention to the boy or been more tuned into his inner moods—maybe he could have done something. But primarily he blamed his son’s peers for their cold-hearted insults and jokes at his son’s expense and secondly, he blamed mankind, or at least modern civilization for creating a society where such activities were allowed. He blamed himself only a very distant third.
But now the virus was perfected. It would do exactly what Connor had designed it to do—no more, no less—Certainly no less. It had been very tedious mapping out exactly how to build his virus without access to human-like primates, or even very many lab animals at all. He had used a few mice, rats and guinea pigs along the way…
But if he came up with a promising drug at work, they might order tests on several thousand rats at one time. He certainly couldn’t afford to house and feed so many rats—even in his over-sized basement. And he was no Willard.
He’d developed beyond state of the art imaging and simulating software. The hardware alone would win him a Nobel Prize and make him a multi-billionaire, but he cared nothing for such things. He was driven by a single idea.
Now that he had his virus, he had to be extra careful…be a damned shame to get caught now.
First of all, he put a quantity of the virus into a roll of Wet-Wipes. Atlanta had quite a few Bar-Be-Que Restaurants. He visited one a day and made a point of appearing mildly Germ Phobic. He wiped down his seat and his table with the doctored Wet-Wipes. He wiped his tray and his plates. He used the payphone and carefully wiped down the receiver, the keys and the coin return slot.
He wiped the door to the restroom, the flush lever on the toilet, and the handles on the sink. He used a small aerosol bottle and sprayed the air and into the air ventilation system when he found himself the restroom’s sole occupant.
Of course all his money was liberally saturated with virus.
When he had a dozen Bar-Be-Que places thoroughly contaminated, he branched out. He went to McDonalds and Wendy’s and Colonel-Fried Chicken. He went to Chinese restaurants and Steak Houses.
Next on his list were bus stations. Then he went to the airport. Atlanta had the World’s largest airport. He used payphones, sat in the seats and used the facilities.
And just in case anyone was watching him too closely, he bought several tickets. He flew to St Louis to see the Arch. He flew to Chicago and visited several Museums. Then he flew to New York.
In all the big cities, he went to the bank and got two stacks of ten-dollar bills. He went down the heavily trafficked streets in broad daylight, when being mugged was a minor concern and he gave a ten-dollar bill to every panhandler that he encountered.
He made a point to use the Taxis often, and he always paid in contaminated money.
Finally, he spent three weeks in Tokyo and another two in Paris.
For the final phase of his plan, he manufactured about eleven pounds of Pure Chrystal Meth—crushed into a very fine powder. The powder was ninety-nine percent pure Methamphetamine and about one percent pure virus.
Injecting or snorting the drug was a sure way to infection. Smokers might kill the virus with their fire but more than likely; they’d infect themselves handling the drug. He divided the eleven plus pounds evenly into several overweight “ounce” bags. He dropped three brand new unused syringes into each baggie.
He contacted an acquaintance that he’d been cultivating for some time. Brad was a down-and-out addict. He was a loser and a biker wanna-bee, but he couldn’t quit doing drugs long enough to afford a bike.
Connor had been over-paying Brad to do yard-work and miscellaneous chores around his homestead for some time. He’d also talked with Brad and shared an occasional beer with him. He even gave him a modest handout occasionally.
He’d impressed upon Brad that he had excellent security; beaucoup security cameras and that he’d be very vengeful if Brad ever tried to steal from him, or ever told any of his junkie friends that he was an easy touch—he wasn’t.
But as he told Brad, everyone needed at least one friend, and Brad was his friend, his best friend—his only friend.
“Brad,” Connor began, “Why do dope-dealers get caught?”
“Lot of reasons,” Brad said.
“Mainly because to be a dealer, you need customers,” Connor told him. For instance, I’m an excellent chemist. I could manufacture Methedrine without buying any red-flag chemicals. I could filter my wastes and my air enough that there would be no telltale odors. In fact if I were cooking up a batch in my basement right now, would you have any reason to suspect?”
“No,” Brad said.
“Well I’m not, “ Connor said. “But come into the Garage, I want to show you something.”
There was a Brand New, Top-of-the-Line Black Victory Motorcycle.
“Can you ride that?” Connor asked.
“I reckon!” Brad said.
“Well its yours. Here are the keys, and the title and the current registration. Sign here…”
“I don’t know what to say…” Brad began.
“I’m not through yet. I know that you’re always broke so here’s $500—that should more than cover the title transfer. Can you go straight to the License Bureau and get that transferred, and come back here—without stopping off someplace to get high? That’s important. I have something else for you.”
“What’s all this about?” Brad asked.
He was totally bewildered.
“Isn’t today your birthday? And didn’t you tell me that you hadn’t gotten a birthday present since you were a kid?” Connor said.
“If someone made a bunch of drugs as a one-time thing and then cleaned up quite thoroughly afterwards, there would be minimal risk of getting caught, ” Connor said.
“I can see that, “Brad agreed.
“Well here is ten pounds of purest Crystal Meth, divided up into one-ounce bags. This stuff is ninety-nine percent pure. I want you to try a tint hit before you leave, because I want you absolutely convinced of its purity. I don’t want you, or any of your customers to OD.”
The tiny dab of powder that Connor put into the vial was ninety-nine percent pure, but the water he used was not. It has several custom additives. Including the latest mind-enhancing and alertness enhancers that a multi-billion dollar Pharmaceutical Company was working on—under Connor’s leadership.
Connor didn’t mean any serious harm to come to Brad—though it was an acceptable risk in his mind—and he sure didn’t want the whole batch of virus bearing drugs to end up in an evidence locker somewhere.
Three weeks later, Brad come by to say hello. He told Connor that shortly after leaving, he’d gotten very paranoid. He’d stashed four of the ounce bags and sold the rest of the drug medium level drug dealer. He’d sold it at a giant discount and had still gotten eight thousand dollars cash. He’d also been wise enough to promise much more where that came from—to keep down the dealer’s temptation to rip him off.
Neither Brad nor Connor knew that the Dealer had stomped the living daylights out of the pure Meth and had pedaled it to folks who’d went all up and down the East Coast.
But Connor was satisfied that his virus was well distributed. It could survive on a dry surface for years. Sneezing, kissing, sex or any exchange of bodily fluids could spread it. It could be ingested or injected. About a week after it was contacted, it caused frequent sneezing, but since there were no other symptoms, it was largely ignored.
Then it infiltrated the target tissue, altered the necessary genes and settled in for the long haul—the infected person remaining infectious the rest of his days—though the Virus no longer prompted him to sneeze.
All Connor had to do, was to wait. It would be awhile—but he should have many good years left. He decided to concentrate on getting in some quality Hunting and Fishing time in while he waited.
Twenty years later, Connor was back in his hometown. He went to the local bar and sat down at the bar. The bartender must have weighed close to five-hundred pounds.
“Give me a beer and a shot of Scotch,” Connor told the bartender.
The man was sitting on a stool, and he grunted and wheezed as he got to his feet to get Connor his order.
“You very seldom see a man your age, who is still lean,” The Bartender said. “You’re very lucky, you know.”
“Luck had very little to do with it, “Connor said. “It’s a matter of exercise, diet and will-power.”
“Horse Spritz!” The bartender ejaculated. “Haven’t you heard the news? It’s a retrovirus. It attacks the fat cells, and radically disposes the whole system towards morbid obesity. Over ninety-eight percent of the population of Earth is infected.”
“So you’d get fat, even if you kept your food intake to a bare minimum?”
“Not exactly, but the virus turns the appetite to full-throttle twenty-four seven, when you don’t keep the fat cells satisfied and gradually growing. Not even Heroin or pure Amphetamine takes away the full-time obsession with food.
“I had bariatric surgery ten years ago. I got down for a while—but the intestinal track re-routed itself. The altered body is very good at regenerating anything to do with food absorption.
“I really fought the weight for awhile. Then the Doctor told me that I could accept gaining thirty-five or forty pounds a year, or I could die. At a certain stage, the fat cells have first shot at all the essential nutrients. If there isn’t enough to go around, the vital organs starve to death—even while the fat cells multiply.
“Say, why don’t you know any of this?” The bartender completed his impromptu lecture.
“O, I know it all very well—It’s just so joyous a thing to hear it all laid out one more time. You don’t remember me, do you—you fat piece of Spritz!?!
“I’m Conner, Michael Doyle’s father. Do you remember how you used to taunt him?
“ ‘Fatty-Fatty; Two-by-Four—Can’t get through the Bathroom Door!’
“He was just a bit chubby. He was still a boy—but you boys rode him about his weight until he hung himself.
“How does it feel, now that the shoes on the other foot—Fattie?”
Connor hadn’t been all that sure that mankind would survive almost universal morbid obesity—not that he’d cared—but they’d adapted. As many jobs as possible, were automated. Jobs that required agility, strength and endurance were almost exclusively the province of those still young—and thin enough to do them.
War was impractical—anyone over thirty was almost certainly too fat to be a combat NCO, or Field Officer…
Besides, the young and trim were too valuable a resource to cast away lightly.
Connor had altered his own DNA—first of all, to make himself immune to the Virus, but secondly—just to make some drastic improvements.
He’d allowed his face and hair to age—for the moment—but his body should be around for a long, long time. It was a good thing that he’d infected one other with the immortality retrovirus, he reflected.
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