Well, as often happens, this story has taken on a life of it’s own. I’m four parts in and the action is ramping up, but it still has a bit of story left to tell. If you want to catch up and read the first three parts you can click on the links below:
Things are starting to merge in the two threads of the story. It will be interesting to see how it ends up.
Please enjoy No Pain, No Gain Part 4
No Pain, No Gain – Part 4
“Dr. Haybrook, it’s me, Hanson.”
“Mr. Hanson, I didn’t expect you to call me on my personal cell phone.”
“I want to keep this conversation off of company communication devices. One can’t be too careful.”
“Not over the phone. We need to meet somewhere off campus. I need you to meet me somewhere discreet. I’ll text you the address.”
Hanson disconnected the call. Twenty seconds later, Haybrook’s phone vibrated as an incoming text message arrived.
2321 Carlisle Blvd
That was on the other side of town near a bunch of hotels and motels.
A second text came in.
That was thirty minutes away. It was a 20 minute drive from the lab, so Haybrook decided to shut down his workstation and walk out to his car in the employee lot. Even though Dr. Haybrook was one of the first employees to arrive each day, he parked far from the office. He enjoyed the early morning walk and was closer to the exit of the parking lot at the end of the day.
He arrived at his six-year-old Prius and climbed into the driver’s seat. At this time of day, traffic was minimal so Haybrook took the freeway service roads as he navigated I-25 toward I-40. He needed time to think. Why would Hanson want to meet outside of the office? Why the call to his personal cell phone?
The conclusion Haybrook reached was that he was being let go. It all added up. Hanson was likely tired of the constant nagging and proselytizing had finally gotten him fired. Hanson was a corporate man and had made it clear how little regard he had for Kongo customers. Haybrook would be let go and would be replaced by some yes man and the problems at Kongo Fit would continue. He knew that the technology was being rushed out to consumers much too quickly. Now he was being fired for his trouble and would likely be blackballed for being a trouble maker.
Haybrook made his way onto Carlisle Boulevard and the address turned out to be a chain barbecue restaurant. It was surprisingly not that crowded for the middle of the lunch hour. That didn’t bode well for the food.
He saw Hanson’s car in the lot and parked next to it. Hanson was sitting at a remote table on the restaurant’s outdoor patio nursing a glass of iced tea.
“Dr. Haybrook, thank you for coming here to talk,” Hanson said without looking up. He looked drawn. His eyes had dark circles under them and he appeared to be upset.
“Yes. Well, it seemed urgent.”
“It is. Quite urgent, actually. Please, sit down.”
Haybrook felt a rumbling of nausea in his stomach as he sat across from his boss.
“We have to keep this secret until we know what we’re dealing with,” Hanson started.
Haybrook was now confused. If he was getting fired, this was a bizarre way to start the conversation. Hanson was uncharacteristically nervous and conciliatory.
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Haybrook admitted.
“I visited the lab over on San Mateo today. It was shocking.”
Haybrook still didn’t understand fully.
“That’s just one of the medical labs.”
“Well, not exactly.”
Haybrook’s frustration with Hanson was growing exponentially.
“Look, if you’re going to fire me, go ahead. Otherwise, stop with all of the mystery and get to the point.”
“Fire you. No. I’m here to tell you that you were right.”
In spite of her hair and teeth falling out and her scaly skin, Joyce felt wonderful. In fact, she had never felt better. She felt strong, full of energy and lucid. Then she looked in the mirror. Starting with the good news, her tooth had grown back, but others felt loose. Her hair was growing back where it had fallen out, but more had fallen out during the night. Her skin looked different. It was a couple of shades darker and had a shine to it. Her nails were growing at an incredible rate. Even though her desire to go for a run was strong, she thought she would clip her toenails as they were longer than she had ever seen them. As she sat on the commode and positioned the nail clipper, she had difficulty squeezing it to the point that the device broke in two in her hand. She had similar luck with a pair of heavy duty scissors. What was going on? She decided to think about it during a nice long run. She put on her running shoes and exited the apartment into the bright morning sunshine. She felt good running. The concept of the runner’s high was becoming addicting to Joyce. Her endurance and speed were increasing exponentially. Before she knew it, she found herself two miles from her apartment. She realized that she didn’t bring water with her and she was thirsty. She decided to duck into the gas station convenience store and grab a bottle. She paid for the water and drained it as she walked out of the store. She didn’t notice the black van that pulled up in the parking space adjacent to the door. As she walked into the lot, the side door of the van slid open and three large men emerged and one of them grabbed her.
Joyce fought to break free with incredible strength that she didn’t realize she possessed. She chalked it up to adrenaline. Despite her efforts, however, the three powerful men were more than she could handle. She found herself on the floor of the van with heavy duty zip ties around her ankles and wrists. The driver of the van began pulling away from the store immediately as the door slid shut. Joyce had a heavy canvas bag pulled over her head. She kicked wildly until one of the men sat on her legs. She decided to save her strength until the van reached a destination.
The driver pulled onto the interstate and drove for about ten miles to the airport exit. The van pulled next to a private hangar where a private corporate jet waited for its passengers.
Joyce felt the van slow to a stop and she tensed her body ready to strike out at anyone that touched her. Before she had a chance, however, she felt a slight prick in her neck and the world descended into blackness.
Haybrook couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Hanson had seen something at the San Mateo lab that had shocked him into agreeing that Kongo Fit had a problem.
“Tell me what you saw at the lab,” Haybrook said.
“I can tell you, but I don’t think you’d believe me. Let me show you,” Hanson said as he flipped through photos on his smart phone.
“I took these in one of the sub-basement holding areas. I could only take a couple with the flash on so I didn’t draw attention, but I think a couple are enough.”
When Haybrook looked at the photos, the first few were just blackness with two glowing green lights. He thought Hanson had lost his mind until he came to the fourth photograph, taken with the flash on. The two glowing green lights were not lights at all, they were eyes. The eyes were attached to a face that was simultaneously inhuman and human. At least it was human at some point in time. The second flash photo was blurry.
“The light hurt its eyes. It’s almost as if it was sensitive to the light from being in darkness for so long.”
“Was this the only one?”
“No. That’s what’s shocking. There were at least 10 cells and I managed to look in seven or eight of them. They all had those glowing eyes staring out at me.
“Why are you sharing this with me? What does it have to do with me?”
“You don’t know, do you?”
“Don’t know what?” Haybrook asked becoming more confused.
“Five years ago Kongo Fit started a trial program with the buff cuff technology. Favors were called in and experiments were conducted on human subjects. One hundred maximum security prisoners were used as human subjects.”
“I had heard rumors of this, but I didn’t think they were true,” Haybrook said.
“Well, they were. Those ten poor souls in the sub-basement of the San Mateo labs are some of those test subjects.”
“Are you sure?”
“I am. I knew they were kept down there, but I had no idea what they had become until I went down there this morning.”
“So, what do you want me to do about it?”
“We need to find a way to disable the technology and maybe reverse it. You were right, consumers are becoming affected by it. The percentage isn’t nearly as high as the prisoner test subjects, but it’s still high enough and the outcome is frightening.”
Haybrook felt a mix of emotions. Vindication, dread and trepidation were just a few. He had been thinking about disabling the technology on his own. That would stop further contamination of any future purchasers of the Buff Cuff, but it would not reverse the effects of those that had already bought them. Besides, his actions would quickly be discovered and reversed before they did any good. As for reversing the effects of the technology, he supposed it was theoretically possible, but he wasn’t sure he had the resources to put it in action. With Hanson as an ally, he supposed he had a better chance at securing the necessary resources. He looked at his now humbled boss across the table and made a decision.
“I’m in. We have to stop this.”