(Adult Language Used)
Tim smashed the phone on its cradle.
“Bastards!” he said, picking up the letter from the coffee table.
“What’s wrong, honey? Who was that?” Essie said, sitting beside her husband.
“The lawyer. He said the company won’t settle, and that either I take the four-week payment they offered, or I’ll have to take them to court. Which could take years. And this guy isn’t cheap.”
Essie rubbed Tim’s shoulders.
“Take the payment and forget about them. We don’t need the money! I don’t want you to put up with those corporate slave drivers anymore. You’ll find a new programming job that’s less stressful, I’m sure. One that’s going to let you spend more time with us. But for now, just take your unemployment benefits and relax for a few months.”
“Sorry,” he said. He got up and went to the bathroom.
“You should see the doctor. It’s been two weeks now.”
“Nah,” Tim said. “He’ll just prescribe me antibiotics again. This is just another stubborn flu. Hey, at least I don’t have a fever.”
Tim turned on the radio and sat down next to Essie.
“Tell you what though, I wish we were in Peru right about now. That empiric healer of yours could do some of that hocus-pocus on me,” he said, grinning.
“Don’t start,” Essie warned him. “You know I don’t like it when you make fun of them! Just because you don’t believe in natural cures doesn’t mean that . . . .”
“Shhh! Sorry babe, listen!”
“. . . and shares of Drach Pharmatec Inc. have rebounded. Correction, I’m informed that they are soaring well past their previous record high,” the radio host said.
“What do you care?” Essie said.
“Listen!” Tim said. “It’s about that Drach guy! Remember him?”
“How could I forget? He offered you a position right after you got canned! Good money, too. How did he know?”
“These CEO’s are all buddies; it’s in their ‘culture’. But it was the same type of company, I saw it right away. I will never work for a corporation like that again, I tell you that.”
“That is correct,” the radio said, “the shares are now up one hundred and fifty percent. Mr. Drach made his test results public to prove he did not have cancer, as it had been wrongly reported. The forty-nine year old billionaire and his team of lawyers are considering legal action against the hospital. In other news . . .”
“Wow,” Tim said. “Can you believe it?”
“Yes I can. I pity those poor people who made the mistake. This guy has enough clout to end their careers.”
Even though his shares soared with the eagles, the CEO was furious.
“Who screwed this up?” he yelled at his vice-presidents. “Who was the incompetent, careless, sloppy, soon to be former executive who allowed my test results to end up in the hospital? My first test results! Before the procedure!”
There was silence in the room. All the high-paid executives looked at their leather-covered agendas.
“Nobody, huh? How would you like it if I fired all of you right now?”
He wished he could do it, but he knew very well that was impossible; they knew too much. It would be very costly—and messy—to get rid of any one of them.
“Sir,” said a steely-eyed woman in a black dress, with her hair done up in a bun. “Perhaps this wasn’t such a bad thing. Your shares have gone up through the roof.”
“Thank you for that information, Damiana!” he exploded. “Do you know how much it cost me to get the doctors and the nurses to shut up? And I’m not talking just about money, if you know what I mean.”
“Yes sir. But if I may, I think this was excellent publicity for the procedure. Our clients have surely realized that there was no mistake with your test results. Now they’ll be flocking to get the procedure.”
Maurice Drach considered his top vice-president’s words. She was right. His philosophy had always been that one could never make too much money. However, he would need help to optimize the procedure in order to accommodate the hordes of customers that were sure to come. And he knew the man who could speed up the process by orders of magnitude, and, more importantly, cut costs.
But he might need convincing.
“This concludes the meeting,” he said. “Damiana, stay.”
Tim was getting ready for his next big project: finishing the basement.
The phone rang but he ignored it. Jimmy picked it up. The six-year old had just learned to read and write and he loved deciphering the name of the caller.
“It’s from Saint Joseph’s Hospital, daddy,” Jimmy yelled from the main floor. “They wanna talk to you!”
Tim picked up the phone in the basement.
“Is this Timothy Baker?” the woman said.
“Yes, this is he.”
“Mr. Baker, I’m afraid I have bad news. Your brother Michael has been in a car accident and is in stable but serious condition. He had emergency surgery and will require a long stay at the hospital.”
“Oh my god!” Tim said. “What happened?”
“Hit and run according to the police.”
“Yes, of course,” the woman said. “There is just one thing, Mr. Baker. Your brother does not have insurance, and the cost of the surgery and the post-operative care will be over three hundred thousand dollars. Does your insurance cover . . . .”
Tim hung up.
“Essie! Essie! We have to go to Saint Joseph’s Hospital! It’s Mickey!”
Jimmy was inconsolable.
“Is Mickey Raccoon going to be alright, mom?” he cried. Jimmy had called his uncle that ever since he showed up for Halloween dressed up as the famous mouse, wearing a raccoon hat.
“Yes my darling, of course he will,” Essie said. Turning to Tim, she said, “We could take another mortgage.”
“With both of us out of work?” Tim said. “Not a chance!”
“We could put down the house as collateral,” she said.
But this is our home! Tim thought. They’ll take it away if we can’t come up with the payments!
“No. We can’t take that risk. It’s not just us, it’s Jimmy too.”
Essie hugged him.
“How did the accident happen? Did the police tell you?”
“They are looking at some security cameras in the area. There is one witness who claims an SUV came barreling down the intersection straight at him. It didn’t even try to swerve. They suspect the driver was on drugs or something. Then he took off.”
“Will he recover?”
“That’s what they say. But the treatment is going to ruin my family. There’s not much my dad can help with, he’s pretty cash-strapped as is.”
“Why don’t I go back to the dentist’s clinic? I’m sure they’ll take me back if I talk to them,” Essie said.
“That won’t help. We need much more money than that. There’s only one thing to do: I’ll have a talk with Maurice Drach.”
“Damiana, come into my office,” Drach said.
She sat on his desk and crossed her legs.
“We’ve got him!” he said, pouring two glasses of whiskey. “He fell right onto our lap.”
Damiana took a pack of cigarettes from her purse and lit one up. “When does he start?” she asked
“Today.” Drach rubbed his chin. “There’s just one thing though. Was it necessary to have his brother injured? He almost died!”
“I investigated the precarious financial situation of Timothy Baker’s family, and concluded that it was his biggest disadvantage. Considering that his brother will need months of expensive therapy, I think it was a very good approach.”
“Yes, yes, you are right of course. And keep your-um, contacts handy. We never know when we’ll need more convincing.”
“Sure. But Maurice, I must insist; you’re being too careless with company security. Let me handle our sensitive documents. I’ll put my people in charge.”
“Nonsense! After we got rid of that moron I changed the passwords myself! Relax, will you? Your people are keeping an eye on him, correct? Between that and the money I paid him we shouldn’t have any problems. And his assistant didn’t know anything to begin with; he never had access to the documents.”
Damiana drank her whiskey and smoked her cigarette. She didn’t feel his confidence.
“So what will I be working on, Mr. Drach?” Tim said later that morning.
“Please Tim, call me Maurice. How about a coffee?” Drach called his secretary.
“You’ll be working in the most expensive virtual reality simulator in the United States, optimizing the existing code and developing new capabilities for the nanomachines. Virtual nanomachines, of course.”
“Virtual? So these nanobots that your vice-president told me about exist only in a simulator? I thought that your company was working with real nanobots.”
Drach waved his hands in the air and laughed. “Don’t believe everything the media says, Tim. We are not even close to achieving manipulation from an external controller, let alone guiding the nanobots in swarm configuration. That’s why your work will be so important. I want you to find the fastest and most efficient way to control the nanobots, so when we are ready, only a limited number of them will be needed. I want to go for reusability and quick turnaround time here.”
Tim coughed. “Sorry,” he said. “I have this stubborn flu.”
“You should get that looked at,” Drach said. “But I suggest you do it on Sunday. As of this moment, this company is your main priority. I pay you enough, so I expect nothing less than your complete and unabridged dedication.”
Drach finished his espresso in one shot, and got up.
“As your contract dictates, you are not to discuss your activities here, or anything you see or hear while in the premises. Are we clear on that?”
No Wonder he wants optimization! There are so many if/else-if/else/switch statements in the navigation library! I’ve got my work cut out for me!
Tim spent the first few months understanding millions of lines of code. Cutting the fat. Centralizing repetitive logic into a library of his own, which he called BotMasterControl.
Then, he scoured the code again to delete thousands of lines that achieved a particular piece of functionality in a thousand different ways, replacing them with single-line calls to his new library.
This is the typical result of a high turnover. I see the hands of dozens of programmers here. I wonder if they quit because of the crazy working hours.
A violent feat of coughing forced him to lock his workstation and head to the restroom.
When he got home that Saturday night, Essie wasn’t happy.
“You’re working yourself to death!” she complained. “And your flu is getting worse.”
“I’ll go to a walk-in clinic tomorrow. It’ll be alright, you’ll see.”
“How much longer do you have to endure this?”
“Just a few more months, I promise. When Michael’s done with his treatment and the bills are paid off, I’ll quit. And we’ll still have enough money to donate to those empirical healers of yours, so they can hocus-pocus the hell out of their customers.”
Essie wasn’t laughing. But she wasn’t angry either; she was just worried sick about her husband.
“I’m going to the clinic with you tomorrow, you big joker. To make sure you listen to the doctor!”
“This is excellent progress, Tim,” said Drach, genuinely impressed. “You’ve cut down inefficiencies by thirty-five percent. Recovery time is still a bit high, but I see that you are tackling that as well.”
“Yes Maurice, I think when I’m done here the process will be eighty-five percent more efficient overall. But I would like to get some help. There are so many repetitive coding tasks, that I think my time would be better spent designing new modules.”
“That makes sense,” Drach said. “I’ll assign Ivan to your team. He’s one of the few technical employees who’s stayed with us for over a year—you know how lazy programmers are these days . . . . If you can get any good use out of him, he can stay in the company; otherwise I have no need for him.”
Ivan was bright but very impulsive. Many times Tim had to change his code, because it would have caused a disaster with the nanobots had it been allowed to run.
“You tend to hurry too much, Ivan! Always allow enough time for unit testing, no matter what anybody tells you. Tim smiled. “I’m your boss now.”
“Ok boss,” Ivan said, looking like a wet dog. “I’ll spend more time unit testing. If only I had had a boss like you before, it would’ve saved me a lot of trouble-ooopsss!”
Ivan wasn’t just impulsive; he had a loose tongue too.
“What do you mean?” Tim said.
“I’d rather not talk about it,” Ivan said.
“You better talk about whatever might impact your work here, bud. I promise I won’t tell anyone.”
Ivan considered it. He liked his new boss. At least he didn’t yell at him every time he made a mistake.
“Well, it had to do with the CEO’s records ending up in the wrong hands. You see, at the time I was helping the systems administrator. He had access to every company document, and sometimes he tasked me with classifying and storing them. Not that I could read anything other than the file name, mind you. They were encrypted, and I had better things to do than sticking my nose in other people’s business—Although I could have decrypted them if I wanted to . . . Occasionally, I had to send some of those documents to external systems. Like the medical exams the doctors here did on the CEO. I was supposed to send the results to the practice of one of those doctors, but I didn’t realize that the email address that was in the clipboard was actually that of another hospital that same doctor worked for. I think you know the rest of the story.”
“You are the one who screwed up? How come you’re still working here?”
“I’m good at . . . er . . . maintaining email server records . . .”
“What happened to the systems administrator?” Tim asked.
“He-um . . . got canned,” Ivan said.
“Oh, boy. Are you sure you didn’t read any of the documents? What about Drach’s tests?”
“Nope. I was afraid of being fired, or sued, or both,” he whispered. “But I kept copies. Of everything that came through our servers. Drach doesn’t know.”
Tim’s phone rang.
“Yes, this is him. Your office? Now? I’m afraid I’m very busy, doctor. I’ll have to reschedule for Sunday.”
Tim’s forefront was suddenly drenched in sweat.
“I see. Let’s make it this evening then. I’ll try to get out of work early tonight.”
The mature doctor was distant, impersonal, and almost robot-like. Very professional.
Tim feared that this was not just a long, stubborn flu. He hoped it was not something terrible—like pneumonia.
Arching his eyebrows, the doctor lowered the test results on his desk, and said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, Mr. Baker. You’ve got lung cancer. Stage three.”
Tim didn’t say anything. The doctor didn’t either.
When was the last time I had a chest x-ray? Tim thought. Was it two, three, five years ago?
The doctor picked up the test results again, and turned the page. He was going to give his shocked patient all the time he needed.
Essy! Jimmy! What are they going to do without me?
Tim finally spoke.
“Surgery?” he said.
“Not a viable option, I’m afraid. There are three sizable tumors and a few smaller ones that have already spread to the nymphs. The best chance we’ve got is chemo.”
The doctor was wearing a business suit. Funny, I thought doctors always wore white lab coats. I thought that when a doctor told a patient that he had cancer he had to wear a white lab coat!
Tim wanted details. He had to know when the chemo could start—the sooner the better. But he had to keep it a secret. They couldn’t know! They’d suffer so much!
A checklist formed in his mind. Schedules, diets, medicines, hospital visits, checkups, etc. But he wasn’t thinking right. He was trying to deny it, to minimize it.
“How long?” Tim asked, finally.
And that’s the question the doctor was waiting for.
“Less than two years, Tim,” he said. “That’s the best-case scenario.”
Calling a patient on a first name basis meant bad news obviously.
“Tim, I recommend that we start you on chemotherapy as soon as possible. I’ll try to schedule something for next month.”
“Thank you,” Tim said, getting up. His legs trembled under his weight.
He had so much to do, and so little time to do it.
“Just a moment,” the doctor said. “Last week you mentioned you had a young son, is that right?”
“What? Oh, yes, that’s right,” Tim said, absent mindedly.
“We should perform the same tests on him,” the doctor said. “I suspect your son may have inherited the same defective genes. He could develop cancer at a very early age. I’d like to be sure, out of an abundance of caution.”
That week was the longest in Tim’s and Essie’s lives. Every conceivable test was done on Jimmy. Although Tim’s coughing had increased perceptibly, it did not bother him at all.
Drach was not happy when Tim called in sick the whole week. He did not care about any doctor’s notes as he so bluntly put it to him; he just wanted him back at the office first thing Monday morning.
When the results came back, the doctor called Tim and Essie to his office.
“The good news is that he doesn’t have cancer right now,” he said. “The bad news is that he is at seventy-five percent risk of getting it before becoming an adult. Therefore, I recommend a battery of recurring tests to catch it earlier than-” He cleared his throat.
“I can recommend a few excellent clinics,” he said.
Essie couldn’t hold it anymore and broke down in tears.
“This is too much for me Tim! First you, and now Jimmy might get it too?”
The doctor excused himself and left the office.
“We’ll manage. I promise you that!”
He didn’t believe his own words.
Monday morning Tim showed up at the office with bags under his eyes.
“Party all weekend, did you?” Ivan joked.
“I wish,” Tim said. “What’s new around here? Did you implement all the methods I designed?”
“Done all that, boss. And guess what: Drach ordered a live run of your latest code. You’re becoming a rising star around here. Can I be your friend?” Ivan said, blinking rapidly and resting his chin on his intertwined fingers.
Tim wasn’t in the mood for jokes, and became upset. But not because of Ivan’s antics.
“What do you mean a ‘live run’?” Tim said. “A live run on what? Is there another simulator?”
Ivan seemed surprised.
“Um, no. I meant a real test with the nanobots, Tim. They’ve done it before, you know. I didn’t get to see the tests myself, but I heard that they actually injected the bots into lab mice.”
Tim stormed out of his office.
“Do you have an appointment?” Drach’s executive assistant asked.
“No!” Tim said, opening the double doors.
Drach wasn’t alone; Damiana and a few of the other VP’s were there too. Damiana looked at Tim with her cold blue eyes.
“I am sorry, Mr. Drach!” the assistant said. “I tried to stop him!”
“It’s ok Anna, don’t worry about it. Well Tim, I see that you’re back! Feeling better?”
“No, and I have to talk to you about that. In private!”
“Alright people, please leave us; we’ll reconvene in the afternoon. No, not you Damiana, stay with us.”
Damiana closed the doors and sat on a corner couch. She could cover the whole office from there.
“What’s on your mind?” Drach asked.
“First of all, why did you order my code to be tested? I never said it was ready for testing!”
“I see. Well, we move at the speed of business here Tim, and a particularly profitable business has just fallen on my lap. I think it’s the perfect opportunity to try your code.” Drach smiled.
Before Tim could go on, he said, “But you said you didn’t feel better. What’s wrong?”
This is why I’m upset, Tim thought. What do I care about the stupid code? It’s his own business whether he wants to test it on some other system or not!
“I’ve been diagnosed with cancer, that’s what’s wrong!”
Damiana didn’t react in the slightest. She rummaged through her purse instead.
“Oh my god!” Drach said. “Is it serious? I mean . . . Did they catch it early?”
“Yes, it’s serious. Very serious. I’ll be dead in less than two years . . . If I’m lucky. So I came here to tell you that from now on I’ll be working remotely.”
“I understand,” Drach said, opening his laptop. “Please give me a moment, Tim. There’s something I need to check quickly.”
Tim couldn’t see what application he had opened, but he was typing like a mad man.
“Mmmhhh . . . I see, I see . . . Aha!” Drach said.
“Tim,” Drach said, “I think I can help you more than you can imagine. Sit down.”
Drach showed Tim the results of several cancer patients with cancers of all sorts: brain and lung tumors, leukemia, liver, and pancreas.
“These test results belong to ten of our customers, when they were diagnosed with terminal cancer.”
Drach pulled up another set of results.
“Now these here belong to the same people . . . After our treatment was administered.”
The results showed them to be cancer-free.
It was clear to Tim now what the “live run” meant – the next customer was due to receive his treatment. He felt his blood boil.
“So you’re telling me that you have the cure for cancer? How long? How long have you had it?” he said, raising his voice.
Damiana took something out of her purse, but Tim couldn’t see what it was. Perhaps a lighter. It wouldn’t surprise him in the slightest if that cold bitch lit up a cigarette.
“We’ve had the treatment for quite some time,” Drach said. “And I’m offering it to you . . . Free of charge. Well, almost free of charge. You have to agree to work here forever. In exchange for your dedication, I’ll compensate you handsomely. Forget about your mediocre suburban life. From now on you’ll live in a mansion like mine, and your kid will attend the best school in the country. Isn’t it a great time to be alive? To stay alive?”
Tim jumped from his chair.
Damiana pointed the small silver gun at him. “Careful,” she warned him.
“Please,” Drach said. “Damiana, there won’t be any need for that. I trust that Tim is a logical man and he’ll make the right decision. Correct?” he said, looking at Tim.
“You son of a bitch!” Tim screamed. “You’ve had the cure for cancer all this time, yet people are still going through chemo and radiation and all those treatments just to buy them a few more years of misery? Who are you giving the treatments to? Who are the lucky ones?”
“VIP’s. Wealthy individuals who are willing to pay me insane amounts of money to be cured. People you see daily on TV; politicians, actors, entrepreneurs. Hell, we’ve even had an ex-president here!” he laughed hysterically.
“About your second point,” he said, “our company also commercializes chemotherapy drugs. It’s a huge source of income for us. Do you think I would just let it go to waste? The world is not ready for the cure! The masses can’t afford it, anyway!”
More hysterics. Tim began to think his boss was a lunatic.
“And now,” Drach said, “you can rip the benefits of this amazing technology . . . With all your improvements, which will allow us to perform the procedure more often, using substantially less nanobots. Cutting our costs. What do you say?”
Damiana walked across the room and stood behind Drach, smiling. She still held the small gun in her hand.
“I-I-I need to think about it . . . I-I’ll let you know,” Tim said, shaking his head.
“Of course, of course. You go back to your office and think about it. In the meantime, I’ll let Damiana here make sure you and your family are well protected. We don’t want anything to inconvenience our new Chief of Research now, do we?”
Tim stumbled out of the CEO’s office.
Damiana gave Drach a disapproving look.
“What?” Drach said. “What the fuck did you expect? I had no choice! I need this son of a bitch! I can’t serve all our clients in a timely fashion unless I improve the process! But relax, will you? He’s got no other choice either. Keep an eye on him and monitor all his communications, and if he tries something, don’t kill him! But of course I don’t have to tell you that,” he said as he pulled her down by her collar and kissed her.
Back in his office, Tim wished he had a bottle of whiskey. Millions of lives were in his hands, and he had the power to save them.
Just like he had the power to save Jimmy’s and his own.
He would have to allow pragmatism to beat idealism this time, at least temporarily. He would put Jimmy and himself through the procedure. That would be his deal. Then he would try to talk Drach into making it available for the public.
Who am I kidding? This bastard will refuse! But I can’t abandon Essie and Jimmy!
He was still brooding over it when Ivan walked into his office, unannounced as usual.
“You look like crap, boss! What happened?”
“Ivan,” Drach said. “You said you kept copies of the emails that went through your servers?”
Ivan’s eyes opened wide, as if he was about to be ordered a secret mission. He’d do anything for Tim now; he had helped him keep this good paying job.
“That I did,” he said, giving Tim a mysterious look.
“Where are they? Can you show me?”
“They’re right here! Well . . . In my special folders, which only I can access. What do you want to see?”
“The documents that prove that cancer patients have been cured here.”
“What? What are you talking about? What cure? There’s no cure!”
“Oh, yes there is! You said you didn’t read the documents, remember? Show me now.”
Tim became irate as he browsed through the medical records of some of society’s most respected moralizers. The worst part was that some of them were doctors too. When he was done gathering the most incriminating documents and emails, he felt like walking into the nearest newspaper.
But he was not going to do that. It was the card up his sleeve.
A quick glance at the bottom right corner of his screen told him it was three pm.
“Ivan,” he said. “Ivan!” he repeated to his shocked assistant.
“Can you prevent my emails from being tracked?”
“Yeah, piece of cake. I know the security software in place, I can disable it temporarily for certain accounts.”
“Ok, I’m going to type an email now and I want you to ensure it won’t get tracked when I hit send, is that understood?”
“You got it, boss. And by the way, whatever it is you intend to do, I’m with you. I owe you my job here,” he smiled.
Tim began typing.
“I need your help . . .”
It took him two hours to summarize the process. The documents proved how long the company had had the cure for, and who had taken advantage of it.
There was just one final thing to do, the most difficult one; the most dangerous one.
“Ivan,” he said. “I want you to go home now, and never come back here. You go talk to these people.” He wrote down names and phone numbers. “They’ll get you a good job in a decent company. Thanks for your help.”
Ivan shook his hand, picked up his backpack and left as casually as he could.
Tim headed to Drach’s office.
Drach was drinking whiskey with Damiana.
“Have you made your decision?” Drach said. “I can get you in for the procedure next month. Recovery time is only two days. After that, you can start mansion-hunting with the wife and kid.” He smiled. “Do we have a deal?”
Tim explained his deal.
Drach’s hysterical laughter cut him off. Damiana wasn’t laughing; she was clutching her purse.
“Oh Tim,” Drach said wiping the tears from his eyes. “You kill me! Here! Let me pour you a drink. I didn’t know we’d hired ourselves a joker, Damiana! Cheers!”
Drach emptied his glass and said, “Now, let’s talk real business here. Wasn’t my offer good enough for you? What else do you want? A helicopter?”
Damiana took her little gun out of her purse and said, “Do you like playing with fire, Tim? It’ll be just a matter of time before we find another expert. You can be replaced, you know. Nobody is essential.”
She looked at Tim with her clod blue eyes, and said, “And you should think about your family at this moment . . . About their wellbeing. You don’t want them to have an accident like your brother did, do you?”
Tim opened his mouth in shock. His hands began to tremble and he dropped the glass on the carpeted floor. He had to sit down. He stared at Damiana with rage.
“Tim,” Drach said. “You are nobody, just like your brother. But I’m giving you the opportunity to become somebody here. Now come on! It’s a very simple decision! Just say the word and we are in business!”
Tim remained silent. He got up, picked up the glass which had rolled under Drach’s desk, and filled it with whiskey. Drach and Damiana looked at each other.
“You’re right,” Tim said, “It’s a simple decision. And this is how it’s going to be. You’re going to call the newspapers and tell them you have a very important announcement to make; a breakthrough in cancer treatment, using swarms of nanobots to kill cancer cells throughout the body. You’ll provide all the details: designs, software diagrams, and even the lab rats’ test-”
Drach’s hysterical laughter came back. Damiana pointed the gun at Tim.
“Have you lost your mind? You can’t bargain with us! I could have you killed today and nothing would change!”
“Maurice,” Tim said, “check your email.”
“What?” Drach said, still trying to control the last spasms of laughter.
“Check your email I said!”
Drach swiveled his chair and opened his laptop. His face changed from drunken red to ghostly white.
“You son of a bitch!” he screamed. “How did you get this . . . Who sent me this? Who the hell is this-this ‘email@example.com’?”
“Never mind,” Tim said. “Open a couple of attachments.”
Damiana moved next to Drach and opened a few of the attachments; her boss was too shocked to react. She screamed. A scream of rage mixed with impotence.
“Here’s the deal,” Tim said. “You make the cure for cancer available to the world, and you treat as many people as humanly possible; free of charge. And if you run out of money, I’m sure that your VIP Clients will be more than happy to contribute, in the interest of privacy. That is, of course, until other clinics around the world begin administering the procedure themselves. Then you can close shop and retire for all I care.”
Tim drank a big gulp of whiskey, which caused his cough to come back.
“Make the call now,” he managed to say in a raspy voice.
“No! It’ll be my ruin! You bastard! Why couldn’t you just take my offer? You’re going to die!”
With trembling hands, Damiana pointed her gun at Drach’s head.
“Make the call, you fool!” she said as she put the gun against her boss’s temple. “I had told you infinite times to put me in charge of the sensitive documents! I’m not gonna go down because of your incompetence!”
When Tim left the room, Drach was picking up the phone under the careful watch of Damiana.
“Hey Mickey Raccoon,” Tim said on his cellphone, as he left the Drach Pharmatech Inc. building. “It’s done. I owe you one.”
“Nonsense!” Michael said. “I’m the one who owes you big time! Did I do well? You didn’t call me ten minutes ago, so I sent the email as agreed.”
“You did well, brother,” Tim said. “How are they doing?”
“Safe at a friend’s house, outside the city. They’ll meet you at the airport.”
“Don’t mention it,” Michael said. “When will I hear back from you guys?”
“Once we’re settled down I’ll let you know. Perhaps you can visit, brother.”
The departure gate was packed with vacationers escaping to South America.
“They just called our seat, dad!” Jimmy said. “Get up, let’s go!” he pulled his father’s hand.
“Look!” Essie said, pointing at one of the TV screens.
“And this just in,” the reporter said, “Mr. Maurice Drach, the owner and CEO of Drach Pharmatech Inc., has just announced that his research department has made the breakthrough of the century. He claims that they have found the cure for cancer! The details are being shared with the American Cancer Society and with thousands of doctors and institutions around the world.”
“What will the next steps be?” the amazed anchor asked.
“After the doctors validate the research, human trials will begin immediately,” the reporter said. “Oncologists here at the American Cancer Society tell me that terminal patients will be the first ones to take the procedure, which involves the use of nanobots injected in the patient’s bodies. Sophisticated software will guide these microscopic machines to the cancer cells and destroy them. Details are coming out by the hour, so stay tuned for more.”
“And there you have it folks,” the now fully composed anchor said. “The biggest discovery of our time: the cure for cancer. We’ll come back right after these messages . . .”
Essie pulled Tim’s arm.
“Is this why we’re going to Peru?” she said in a trembling voice.
“I’ll explain it on the way. Let’s board now.”
“But-but-but can you be cured? Can Jimmy be cured, if he ever gets it? How long before they are ready?”
“Could be some time . . . It could take months, even years. You know . . . government approval and all that.”
He smiled and said, “That’s why you have to take me to your empirical healer down in the jungle, so he can perform his hocus-pocus on me. And buy me a couple of years.”
Nestor Delfino is a computer programmer. He lives with his wife in Mississauga, and works as a Software Developer in Toronto. Loves to read stories that are not only entertaining, but have social commentary too. An avid soccer fan.
In 2014 he completed his first science fiction novel. Before embarking on the editing process, he began writing short stories to improve his craft. And he fell in love with writing short stories. He has been published at AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Saturday Night Reader, and is upcoming at Kzine and the Far Orbit: Apogee print anthology.