17.The Plan

This time the group met in a small room that doubled as a library and conference room. The walls were lined with books and journals. In the center was a table built to hold about ten people.

Sam told the group about what had transpired since the last meeting. There were smiles when he described the Parley's Canyon accident and people nodded their heads in approval when he told of Dr. Solomon's findings. He could see everyone lean forward in their seats when he told them about his discovering that Epidemic E had followed the administration of Schneider polio vaccine from lot number R7001. When he told them that R7001 had gone to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Buffalo, Nick Tarkas stood up and raised his fist; "Way to go! Sam, absolutely magnificent!"

"We have a problem and an opportunity," said Sam. "Apparently a group of school children in Buffalo were given the R7001 vaccine on Friday. My associate Eric Harper is there now gathering what information he can. Obviously, there is much more that can be done.

Sam had thrown the ball into the center of the court and now he waited to see what would happen. He didn't have to wait for long.

"We could get samples from these people," said Zabalka," and maybe we'll be able to isolate the virus."

"I would like to do the serological studies. Maybe we can find out what that contaminating virus is," said Tarkas.

It was obvious to Sam that everyone was so excited that no persuasion would be necessary.

"Of course, there are some details that will have to be cleared up before we can start," Zabalka said.

"Such as?" Levering said quietly.

"Who pays for it and who gets the credit."

"We have the funds to pay for it," said Levering, "and, of course, whoever does the work will get the credit, and when the secrecy is lifted, will get to publish it."

"I think that I have the best facilities for isolating the agent." said Zabalka.

"I agree," said Levering, "Nick, you said that you would be interested in doing the serology."

"Definitely!" said Nick.

Ellen Bast's eyes glistened with excitement: "What a wonderful opportunity to follow the development of the condition from the beginning. We could check out attitudes before and after the disease hits."

"Who would you check?" asked Sue.

"We would check the children to see if they had any after effects of the virus. Then we would check all contacts of the appropriate age group: parents, teachers and so on. Mike, could you fund our sending a large team into the Buffalo area?"

"Yes and we could also fund anything related to the isolation and identification of the virus. Just have your accountants submit a list of expenses and overhead. Of course, we can't fund any expansion of existing facilities," said Levering, looking directly at Zabalka.

"Sam," said Zabalka, " when could you get me a vial of the vaccine?"

"I'll have it air expressed to you as soon as I can phone the Departmental Secretary in Salt Lake."

"What the hell are we waiting for?" said Nick, "Let's shuffle off!"

"Shuffle off?" asked Zabalka.

"To Buffalo!" said Nick.

Zabalka looked puzzled.

Eric Harper occupied a motel room in the town of Cheektowaga, a suburb of Buffalo. When Sam arrived, he was astonished to find it with all of the trappings of a war zone control center. On a large table in one corner was a computer and a young woman busily, and silently, working at its keyboard. An identical computer occupied another corner of the room, with Eric seated at it's controls, his sleeves rolled up and a cup of coffee in his hand. He turned and greeted Sam with "What's the news from Bethesda?"

Sam briefed him on what had taken place and the fact that he was about to be inundated with a psychological team from Monser's institute, a one man army named Nick Tarkas, and someone from Zabalka's lab.

"I guess we'll have to rent another computer for Monser's people and Tarkas. At any rate, by tonight we'll have a complete list transcribed into the computer of all of the children, their ages and all of their contacts including teachers and parents. I've engaged three young and starving local pediatricians who are busily examining all of the kids."

"How did you manage to do this without giving away the show?"

"All in the name of better polio vaccination and disease prevention."

"And it worked?"

"Yup; even the doctors bought it. Of course, they were so hungry that they would buy anything if it had a paycheck attached to it-want a cupacoffee?"

"Sure! Anything happen yet?"

"A few of the kids have some very mild symptoms: a few cases of very mild diarrhea and a couple of kids with low fevers and mild headaches."

The next day, the people from the Schmuckler Institute arrived and rented out the remaining vacant rooms in the motel. Ellen Bast got together with Eric and, in a relatively short time had the appropriate print outs with names, addresses and phone numbers.

"How are you going to find out about their sex lives?" Sam asked.

"We're not. We're representing ourselves as a group making an attitude survey about a variety of things such as education, politics and so on."

"Then how are you going to find out about sex?"

"Easily! We have questions on sex education, reactions to advertisements containing sex and attitudes about nudity. We'll have a whole background of information that will pretty much delineate their attitudes toward matters sexual. We'll be able to use it later to find out if they've changed. Of course we'll have scads of useless information about their attitudes on education and politics."

"Maybe it's marketable," said Eric.

"Not as marketable as sex!" replied Ellen.

Nick Tarkas arrived with a suitcase full of tubes and needles. After he had talked to Eric, he got together with the pediatricians and told them what blood samples he needed. Then he found Sam.

"I'd like to get some blood samples from some of the old EE victims. It'll give me a head start on what to look for." said Nick.

"That shouldn't be too difficult. When do you need them?"

"In the next couple of days."

"I can get them for you in a week or two."

"That's not soon enough. I'll get them myself. Give me the names and addresses and I'll fly to Salt Lake tonight."

"Why don't you send a technician. You might have a few problems, being such a handsome man."

"I have only one technician and she's a young woman with a family. I couldn't expose her to all that prurience. Besides, I'd have to let her in on the secrets and that would hardly be worth it for half a dozen blood samples."

"O.K.", said Sam, I'll give you the names, addresses and phone numbers. But don't say I didn't warn you. Why do you need those samples anyway?"

"Well, they should have high antibody titers to whatever viruses they've acquired in the last six months. It will give us a head start on what to look for. We'll test for a whole battery of antibodies and, if we're lucky, we might find one that's consistent in all of them."

"What about the samples that the doctors are going to take for you?" Sam asked.

"We'll stash those away to use for comparison with samples that we'll take after the disease has run its course. If the amounts of antibody to a particular virus is greatly increased, it's good evidence that the person has had the virus. It can be more reliable than cultures."

"When will you have some results?" asked Sam.

"If something positive turns up, we'll know by the end of next week. By then, if we're very lucky, Zabalka's cultures may come up with something."

"Nick, do you think that it would be a good idea to test the R7001 vaccine itself on some people to see if it will cause altered behavior?"

"As a scientist, I would say that it's an excellent idea, but I think that it's terribly risky. You have no idea what the effect might be. It could conceivably be deadly in the dose contained in the bottle, and even if it's not, we have no idea what the long term effects might be."

"Suppose that the effect was permanent happiness?"

"Great! But suppose that the effect is like most things in life -happiness followed by misery? I can tell, Sam, that you're considering doing it yourself. Take some advice from an old friend, don't!"

After lunch, everyone went off to do what he or she had to do. Sam went to his room, where he lay on his bed and thought, first about Epidemic E, then Sue, and then about them both together. At two o'clock, the phone rang. It was Mike Levering.

"Sam, My friend from the F.D.A. sent me a copy of an application for a new experimental drug, from Schneider Laboratories."

"So soon?"

"When it comes to money, that bastard doesn't waste any time."

"Has he done anything yet?"

"For one thing, he's given it a name: Rejuvenatus. For another, he claims that it has been tried on twenty people and that it's an aphrodisiac with no apparent side effects."

"Do you really think that he's tried it?"

"Sure. He may be a bastard, but he's not stupid. He knows that if someone else tried it, based on his recommendations, and they got sick, he would be in for one hell of a law suit."

"Do you mind if I give him a call and try to get more information?"

"Go right ahead, but don't be surprised if he tells you nothing."

Sam put in a call to Schneider. Much to his surprise, he was put through to him immediately. The Schneider on the phone did not sound like the suspicious angry man that he had talked to a week ago.

"Michaelson," he said, "I'm glad you called. I want to tell you about R7001. It's the greatest thing since the invention of the wheel."

"What makes you think so?"

"Well, after you left, I got a vial of it and some sugar cubes. I put a couple of drops of it on two of them. I ate one and my secretary ate the other. It was great for both of us. Best damn banging I've ever had, and it's still going on. Come here, honey, and say hello to our angel, Sam Michaelson."

"Hello you wonderful scientist, you," she crooned.

"Did you have any fever or headache?" Sam asked.

"Hell no! Never felt better in my life. Just horny as hell all the time."

"Did anyone else try it?"

"We gave it to eighteen volunteers from the lab. It had the same effect on most of them. Just one couple didn't react. That's ninety percent -pretty terrific for a new drug."

Sam listened to him go on about how wonderful it was to feel young again; which was why he had given it the name Rejuvenatus. When he hung up, Sam reflected, what incredible bullshit! To think that that fathead was running of one of the largest drug companies in the world. At least we now know one thing : the vaccine itself doesn't produce the disease with fever and headaches. But does it do what Schneider says it does. Probably also not, but I'll have to get some reliable test data on that. It won't be as dangerous an experiment, now that we know that twenty people have tried it and none were ill.

Sam called Sue and told her what he had found out. He didn't finish before she said, "Your guinea pig is ready Dr.Michaelson. Any time, any place."

"How about Denver, day after tomorrow".

Sue agreed. Sam had decided that, since he was a fifth wheel in Buffalo, he might as well go somewhere else and be useful. He made plane reservations to Salt Lake City, where he would pick up a vial of R7001 and a box of sugar cubes and then go on to Denver.

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