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PHARMACIDE Post #11...


“Mere obstacles, Jon: obstacles that can be overcome.”

“I wish with all my heart that was true.”

“Why’s that, Jon? Tiring of being a doctor already?”

“Well, Hannah,” Pender began. He rubbed the soft leather of the chair. It felt cool to the touch, “I like St. Anthony – the hospital itself – very much. They do exceptional work here and they are teaching me a great deal about medicine. But I’m afraid I do not much care for the constant interaction with patients. At least, no nearly as much as I thought I would. I am being, Hannah, painfully honest.”

“And I appreciate that, Jon. What specifically bothers you about working with patients?”

“The unpredictability, I would have to say. There seems to me to be little to no order. Patients have hardly ever responded to the meds and therapy the way I predicted. On top of that, I seem to be more and more interested in their charts and the results of their diagnostic tests than I am in them.”

“You know, Jon, not everyone who went to medical school wound up practicing clinical medicine.” Hannah placed her elbows on the soft padded armrests. She touched together the tips of her fingers. Her perfectly manicured nails made fine clicking sounds when she drummed them together. “My thinking is that you are destined for something different. I tend to think you’d play a much greater role on the research side of the hall. I believe that’s where your true talent lies.”

Pender stared at her. He felt the disappointment clouding thick and dark over him. He wanted a few pain pills. Maybe wash it down with some vodka. This really blows.

“I would love to pursue research as the main focus of my medical career, Hannah, but I still owe the civil service more years that this project can wait. Four years I owe them. I regret making that decision now, but it was the only way for me to pay for school.”

“You don’t come from a wealthy family, I take it?” Yes they are, Jon, quite rich. But they have stringent rules, don’t they?

“Oh my family is wealthy alright,” Pender explained,” but that doesn’t mean I get a monthly check from them. I have to live off my civil service stipend, which is plenty when you live like a monk.”

“Which you do.”

“Yes and with no complaints, I might add. But as far as money from the Pender clan goes, I will not get even two coins to rub together until my thirty-fifth birthday. And that is only if I have made an adequate contribution to society.”

“Do you think civil service is the best route to that goal?”

“Well,” Pender added somewhat sheepishly, “That was the plan.”

“Where will the civil service send you?” asked Hannah.

“Oh, who the hell knows,” Pender said, disgustedly, “Probably some inner-city snake pit, or a rundown reservation. Unfortunately, I have no say at all where they’ll make me play doctor.”

“Maybe you do, Jon.” Pender stared. “Look, the National Health Administration is an adjunct to the civil health service. Hudson-Smythe does quite a bit of pro-bono work for them. They are great folks, just desperately understaffed, you know.”

“Too true.”

“Yes, well the NHA has approached us recently. They have a small but crucial project concerning vaccine distribution. You know, American inner cities, Africa, places of intense need. It’s quite an easy project really. It will simply involve coordination of Hepatitis B and the Small Pox vaccines to different regions. Small project or not, keeping hard data would be daunting in other hands. But simple enough when you have adequate funding and computers at your disposal.”

“Which Hudson-Smythe has in spades.”

Good boy, now you’re getting it, Hannah thought. “Indeed we do,” is what she said.

“But that should take nowhere near four years to accomplish.”

“Maybe it will,” she said, “And maybe it won’t.” Hannah gazed directly at Pender. “Nevertheless, Jon, I have a solid working relationship with the NHA and I can assure you they will need our help with projects like this for years to come.”

“Please, Hannah, bottom line it for me.”

“You can choose to fulfill your civil service obligation here with us at Hudson-Smythe.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Pender asked, dumbfounded.

“Not at all,” she assured him. “And in addition to your NHA assignment, we will ask you to conduct the viral research we discussed earlier. This, of course, will supplement your monthly stipend a great deal. Enough to, let’s say, quadruple it.”

“Quadruple,” Pender said as he stared off into space, “Research.”

“I want you to be comfortable, Jon, so you can concentrate on your work. When your obligation to the civil service is complete, Hudson-Smythe will grant you full researcher status. That, Jon, will give you nearly six figures per annum as a base. More importantly, you will get immediate profit sharing for any viable drugs you create.” Pender finally came back from la-la land and looked at Hannah. “It could make you quite wealthy, Jon, as wealthy as your family, but in your own right and on your own terms.”

Pender was gripping the arm rests of the chair. Dad will have to look me in the eye and deal with me as an equal. Fuck his money, I’ll get my own. The sooner the better. He asked, “When can I get started?”

Hannah reached into the center drawer of her desk. She removed a lengthy contract. “As soon as you sign this, you can put in whatever length of notice to the hospital you feel is appropriate and that will be that. In other words, start as soon as you want, Jon. Just sign on all the dotted lines.”

She slid it over to him. Pender had never seen anything like it. The employment contract was like a cross between business tax forms and a mortgage application. He flipped through a few pages, pretending to look under the hood for anything leaking. Pender didn’t know what the heck he was searching for. Maybe he needed an attorney.

“Kind of on the lengthy side, Hannah, don’t you think? I’m not inadvertently applying to the Secret Service, am I?”

“I’m sorry about that, Jon. A necessary evil I’m afraid,” she told him. “Most of it concerns an FBI back ground check (which I will pitch the second you walk out the door) and pointed matters of confidentiality (which I will wave over your head in an instant if you decide to ever get cute).”

“I see.”

“Look, Jon, the work we’ll be doing here will be highly prized by a number of our competitors. There is massive revenue potential at stake. We all have to take that in its most serious tone.”

“I understand, Hannah, I really do,” Pender said. He proved it by initialing and signing everywhere that’s needed. He handed the contract back and exhaled.

“Thank you, Jon.”

“I get the necessity of the gag order, Hannah, but what about publishing. All researchers need to publish their work. I might want to teach someday. I’ll need to have a bibliography.”

“We’ll do whatever we can to help you reach those goals, Jon, just as long as you take to heart our security measures. It goes without saying that all research is kept in this building. There can be no working from home.”

“Hence the mini home away from home in the back,” said Pender.

Hannah nodded. She assured him, “Of course you can publish in the scientific journals, but all drafts must cross my desk first. Which is a good thing, really,” Hannah continued, “I know many of the peer review members. It should help you maneuver through the Old Boy bullshit club.”

“You know, Hannah, with all this secrecy, one might be inclined to think you are planning to build a weapon of some sort.” Pender added a smile at the end.

“No weapon,” she told him without a trace of humor, “Just a drug.”

“I will be researching one virus and developing one drug,” Pender stated plaintively.

“Yes,” Hannah replied, “One that everyone will need.”

“Well, Hannah, color me on board,” her new researcher told her.

Now we can begin, she thought with a big smile.

What a wicked grin Hannah has; Pender remembered feeling.

Doesn’t that just figure, Pender thought, right place, wrong time. He said: “It’s unfortunate that my prior obligations preclude me coming to work here.”

–END Post #11…’NEWER POSTS’ for Post #12!! Still more Pender and Bergh…