Reads: 65

Proteomics was Audri’s pet science.  Though her title Analytical Biochemist II suggested a broader range of areas, enzymes were Aud’s specialty.  She felt the answer to most human suffering from diagnosis to cure and from famine to abundance would be found within enzymes either natural or synthesized.

Audri realized that the incredible potential of the human body, as well as that of all God’s other creations, was no longer being naturally employed due to deterioration of once perfect DNA.  Each time the genetic code was passed from one generation to the next, it underwent minute changes.  However, this wasn’t the type of evolution that she was taught in her first biology class at Verchamp Academy.  Actually, these changing genes weren’t producing a more fit human race, rather they were steadily disintegrating.  Evolution scientists had allowed their egos to get in the way when developing many of their theories.  The purportedly more superior species of today were actually a mere shadow of those who dwelled on Earth thousands of years prior due to loss of important DNA code. Aud explored the possibility that some of that lost potential could be recaptured.  It was her life’s goal. 

Her work at R-tech allowed her access to the most sophisticated technologies and more than enough funding.  It was a near ideal scenario. Audri could work on the projects assigned by R-tech at the same time she was working on her own enzymes.  The downside was that she had to keep her side projects confidential.  It was not too difficult however, as the other scientists were so heavily involved in their own research that they scarcely noticed  anything else.  Staff other than the biochemists were even less of a threat because they avoided the labs due to the lengthy decontamination required to enter.

On that particular day a significant corps of fellow biochemists at R-tech were at work developing a safe and effective vector to introduce antibodies to baby formula.  The goal was to replace the archaic vaccination system.  Unbeknownst to the team that was working on them, Audri had already manufactured one. 

She wasn’t confident that her vector was going to be used for its intended purpose though so she didn‘t announce her success.  Instead, she began work on a side project while simultaneously digging through the background of the companies that were funding the antibody / baby formula project.

Audri was forced to be skeptical about the integrity of all of R-tech’s projects due to events that followed the completion of the latest synthetic vector.  Somehow the pertinent research logs for the product disappeared, as well as the associated hard drives.  Audri wondered if it was somehow related to the current series of murders her mother had warned her about. 

None of the national news organizations seemed aware that the idea had ever existed, much less that it vanished after being proven an effective carrier for certain genetic codes.  Audri remembered a blurb about it on a late night independent a.m. station.  However, stories that WDN, The Watchdog, reported were so sensational that only extremists believed any word  they reported.

Audri feared the same fate would meet her vector if she didn’t make it impossible for R-tech and the company that purchased the research to bury its existence.  Its application in introducing antibodies to baby formula was but one possibility for its use.  Although improving the vaccination system was noble enough, the benefits of her research were farther reaching and much more menacing.  She would have to put a few fail-safes in place before she announced her success. 

Audri’s thoughts were interrupted when her stomach groaned with its desire for something solid.  Since lunch early that afternoon, she had only had the water she’d sucked from the fountain in the lab.  Many of the chemists shunned the machine due to its presence in an area where dangerous microbes were routinely manipulated, Aud had decided not to fear it.  The fountain was foot-peddle operated and she made a conscious effort never to touch it with her hands.Her gloves often came into contact with things she’d rather not test her immune system with.

She’d coined the phrase Microbe Roulette referring to Dr. Wan’s nasty habit of touching the tops of his water bottles with his gloves.  She had witnessed him curl his lip as he watched her drink from the fountain today just after he had lifted his face shield with a gloved hand he had been working in, grabbed his personal water bottle and twisted off the cap with the other.

"Yuck." she said under her breath watching his ignorance of the potential ingestion of whatever he was handling.

Dr. Wan’s  successes were never listed in R-tech’s monthly newsletter, but he was frequently visited in his lab by a trio in three piece suits.  Always among them was Ed Venturi, the head of the company.  Audri considered mentioning to Ed that they take out a good insurance policy on Dr. Wan because of his unsanitary behavior.  If Wan were ever assigned a lethal microbe strain, his game of Microbe Roulette would be his last gamble.

Before heading to the lunchroom, Audri locked her computer. She closed the screen where she was researching the chairmen of Immunicorp, a potential buyer for her vector, and the screen where she was reading a back edition of Patent Worx.  The containers she had tried to smuggle through  security today had set the alarms immediately.  She would have to try a different angle.  She knew that in the 90’s there were a group of scientists attempting to manufacture synthetic muscle.  She needed to know the formula for it to see if it was a plausible product to conceal her vials.  The best spot to find that information was within the files of a patent agency.  If inventors thought they were going to be successful, they would patent their product to maintain full credit and control if it ever went to market in so doing they were forced to divulge details about their inventions.  The make-up of the synthetic muscle needed to be denser than the vials she was going to try and conseal.

Patent Worx was popular with the physiological sciences crowd.  In their archives, Audri had found more than a dozen abstracts indicating the development of synthetic tissue mimicking the function of muscle.  Maybe some of inventions would also mimic its anatomy close enough to foil the body scan.  It was worth looking into.

On her way from the lab to the elevator, Audri had to pass through three decontamination chambers.  She stepped into the stark white room locking the door behind her.  The chambers were activated via voice control so Aud clearly stated the necessary phrases to activate the ventilation system.  She then shed her baby blue hood, face shield, booties, and coveralls and disposed of them into a red biohazard bag.  Next, she rolled off her gloves careful not to touch any of her skin with the exposed side of the latex.  Grabbing the red bag with her gloves, she dropped the bundle down the chute leading to the incinerator.

She shut down the first chamber’s  system and moved to the second where she scrubbed the skin of her hands and arms with R-tech’s own blend of disinfectant.  After rinsing thoroughly, she stepped into a small room similar to an upright tanning bed.  With damp hands, she donned a pair of shaded goggles and started the lights of the third chamber with its specific command.  Aud wished this final chamber used the same bulbs as a tanning bed.  She hadn’t been in the sun much lately and was looking a little pasty.  She would be seeing her mother this weekend; Dr. Olivia would certainly comment on it.

 

 


Submitted: November 14, 2020

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