Paul Moore was the old man's name. Paul was the soul owner of Heisenberg Laboratories, and had started working there at the age of twenty seven, after his uncle died in a car
"He was really my only family." Moore said, sipping at his coffee.
We were sitting in a small cafe called Taylor's Coffee House a few blocks from my apartment. I hadn't ordered anything, despite having not eaten since the day before.
"I'm sorry." I said looking anywhere but his eyes.
"Don't be. It was his time. Now, seeing as we probably only have about a week left to talk to each other, I'm going to try and teach you as much as I possibly can about The Lab." He leaned forward. "Imagine this, Mr. Anderson if you will. Say, you want to build a space station on Mars." He snapped his fingers. "Bam. Done."
I raised an eyebrow. "So... you guys make space stuff?"
He laughed. "No, no. We make everything Todd! As long as it has to do with science anyway. Now, say you want to make animals talk. 'Whatever you say ol' buddy'" He mimicked a high pitch voice and laughed harder.
I chuckled nervously. "That sounds great, really, but..."
Paul's laughter faded. Suddenly his expression hardened and this time when he spoke, it was barely a whisper. "Say you want to start World War III." I swallowed, anticipating what he said next. "Done."
For a moment I felt that same dream feeling that I had in his office, then the waitress walked over with the check, and Paul looked up, breaking the trance. Moore smiled as the girl took his empty mug, looking like a completely different person from a few seconds before.
When the waitress left, I said “I’m having trouble believing someone could have that much power in their hands.”
He nodded. “It takes some getting used to.” If there was any foreshadowing in his voice, I didn’t hear it.
“But how is that even possible?”
“Never mind that just yet.” Paul stood up, wincing a little. “Damn knees just don’t like me anymore. Come on, I’ve got something to show you.”
We took a cab back to Heisenberg Laboratories, or as Moore liked to call it, The Lab. He started coughing on our way there, and for a horrible moment I thought he was just going to keel over and leave me with a job I didn't even understand. Luckily, we both made it there alive.
The building seemed more alive then when I had last been there. People in white lab coats, as well as suits and ties, were walking through the lobby, sitting in the uncomfortable chairs or chatting amongst themselves. I felt very out of place in my T-shirt and jeans, and I noticed several people watching me as I followed Moore to the elevator.
The old man was shaking hands, waving and smiling at almost every person in the room. "How are you feeling Annie?" It took me a few seconds to realize he was talking to the girl behind the desk I had met the day before.
I quickly looked away, pretending not to notice her. "I'm good. How's your cough?" 'Annie' asked, her voice now cheerful and pleasant.
"Better then ever." He laughed, apparently forgetting our ride over.
We stepped into the wonderfully empty elevator. As soon as the doors closed, he turned to me. "Sorry about all those bug-eyed people back there."
"Why were they staring?" I asked.
"Probably assuming your my successor. Which you are." He laughed. "Of course, now its going to be flying around like a rumor until I confirm it. Ah well." He waved his hand, as if banishing whatever trouble might come from it. "Anyways, they'll probably be staring at you for the next few days now. Sizing you up I mean. Seeing what qualities you have or don't, keeping tabs on how you behave or take care of yourself. It's something they have to do I suppose. They'll probably be rushing to my office pretty soon. 'Oh, Mr. Moore! You can't choose him! What if he doesn't brush his teeth every night?!'" Paul laughed and I found myself joining him, despite the sinking feeling in my stomach.
"But don't you worry." He continued as the elevator opened. "I've made my decision, and they can't change that."
We stepped out into a small white hallway. On the right side of me was a rectangular window that showed a group of people working on some kind of engine. I paused only for a second, since Paul walked at an oddly fast pace, but for a moment I thought I saw a strange blue light shining from somewhere inside the engine. I forgot about it once we stepped through the door on the other side of the hallway, but now it comes to me as clear as water. That seems to be the case with most of the things I remember now, the little details sticking out like sore thumbs while the important parts fade away.
If I had any doubts about The Lab being a strange place, they disappeared when I saw the flying car. I didn't know what type of car it was, but I was almost certain you could see it on the streets on any normal day. Though, this car certainty wasn't normal.
It was in the middle of a large room. Bright lights were shining on it from every direction, making the car look like it was almost glowing. It had no wheels, and there appeared to be nothing inside the car either. People like the ones I had seen working on the engine were walking around in dark blue suits that said things like Student Engineer and Supervisor.
On one side of the room (which I had now discovered was circular) there was a group of men and women wearing white lab coats. Some scribbled things on clipboards while others pressed buttons on various monitors and scanners. I had a pretty good feeling I wouldn't understand a word of what any of them said.
Paul waved to one of the lab coat wearers and they pressed a button on the wall. The lights dimmed. The blue suites retreated to the edges of the room.
"You're gonna like this." Paul grinned at me. I kept my doubts to myself.
Suddenly, a bright blue light like the one in the engine filled the room. The entire bottom half of the car was glowing. I winced against the light, but kept my eyes on the car. With a quiet humming noise, it began to lift off of the ground. Once again, my mind retreated to the safe haven of all of this being a dream.
The car hovered for about a moment or two, starring at me with its headlights, before drifting to a halt on the ground. The lights came back on and everyone went back to their business, as if nothing had happened. A man with a rag began to wash the windshield of the car.
"The hell...?" I asked, looking at Paul.
"Isn't that somethin'?" The old man grinned, crossing his arms against his chest. "We've had her for about six years now. Didn't cost hardly nothin' either." He looked at me. I don't think he was a very good mind reader, because he said to me "I know what you're thinking. Why the hell haven't I released this to the public yet?" Which wasn't what I was thinking at all. My thoughts were more along the lines of 'how the hell?'
He actually sort-of answered this question with what he said next. "We can't tell the public everything, Mr. Anderson. Especially not stuff like this. You see..." He trailed off, as if thinking of the best way to explain it to me. "We had a little help with this one. From friends who aren't exactly... from here."
"You mean like the Russians?" I asked.
"Well... no. More like the Marshans. Only they weren't Marshans."
I raised an eyebrow at him. "You're telling me you've dealt with aliens before?"
Moore scratched his head. "Well not me. Not directly anyway."
"Sir." I said at last. "This is all sounding pretty fucking insane."
"It will for a while. And most of it is. But as far as I can tell you don't have much of a choice when it comes to dealing with stuff like this."
"You still haven't told me what it is you actually do around here."
"I'm getting to that. First, you need to know about The Lab." We walked around the car and into another hallway. This one had the same long rectangular window as the last one, but there were three of them on each side, all looking into a different room.
"The Lab is split into several sections." Paul said as we walked at a slow pace through the hall. "This one is used mainly for medicine and technology stuff. I like to call it Tech Medics." He smiled at me, but my attention was focused on the window to the left of me, which contained what looked like a small submarine with wings. The old man kept talking though, apparently not-too concerned if I was listening or not. "We have hundreds of engineers, scientists and a few doctors running around this place. We're the reason most of the modern medicine exists today."
"We've even got some stuff that, just like the car, hasn't and shouldn't be released yet. For instance, we've already gotten farther into finding the cure for AIDS then any other research facility in the world. But we can't tell anyone. We've found cures for several other things too. Cancer for instance. But as I said, none of it can be released. Now, the floor below us has-"
"Wait." I cut him off. I had zoned out through most of what he said, but the C word caught my attention. "You guys have the cure for cancer?"
He bit his lip looking away from me. I blinked in disbelief. Nobody I knew had cancer, but I remembered that more then a few of my family members had died from it. All the slogans, fund raisers, and ads I had seen to find the cure were coming back to me. Of course, I had never really paid attention; cancer was almost unreal to me. But now, as I realized that not only did Heisenberg Laboratories have the cure, but they refused to give it to anyone, I felt a dull anger rising.
"You're telling me..." I began, my voice shaking.
Paul put up his hands. "Now, now, there's no need to-" I cut him off again.
"-That you've had the cure all this time? While people are dieing?"
"Listen to me, we don't have a choice-"
"You f*cking b*sterd!" I screamed at him.
He narrowed his eyes at me. "We don't have a choice when it comes to these things. You've seen how desperate people are to find a cure. If we give it to them now..." He trailed off.
"If you give it to them now thousands of lives will be saved!"
"And if we give it to them now thousands more will be lost!" Now we were both yelling. "People will be coming to us for answers to everything, they'll start thinking we're some kind of gods! America might not give it to the other countries, did you ever think of that mister Anderson?! Wars are started! Nukes are thrown! And when everyone realizes we don't have the answers to everything, what do you think happens then? What if everyone realizes that it was our fault their homes are blowing up?! We can't tell the public everything Todd! People are too stupid and crazy for us to give it to them now!" He started coughing, his chest heaving. When the coughing subsided, he spoke again, his voice quieter, but still angry.
"You asked me what my job was. What your job will be." He looked at me. "Well Todd, my job is to decide whether a thousand or a hundred thousand people should die." He coughed. "My job is to decide whether we should build a flying car or a gun that vaporizes people. And sometimes, Mr. Anderson, I have to choose the gun. Sometimes, I have to let the world suffer for just a little longer. We're not going to keep the cure locked up forever, but we can't take it out now. We can't."
Silence fell between us. Paul looked even older standing in front of me. He looked like he had seen both war and peace, like he had held dieing children in his arms and felt the very essence of happiness. Was this what I would look like? I suddenly wondered whether Moore was as old as I thought he was.
"That's not all you have to do, Todd." He swallowed. "But sometimes it feels like it."
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