The climax to this story is coming. I promise. It’s been so fun to write. It looks like some light will be thrown on Joyce’s situation, but wait, maybe not.
If you want to catch up on previous parts of the story, just click the links below:
Please enjoy No Pain, No Gain – Part 9
“What’s your angle here, Mr. Alberg?” Hanson asked.
“Yes. Why are you interested in the test results?”
Alberg paused for a moment. He looked at Hanson in a way that suggested he was sizing him up. He paused inordinately long as he searched for the right words.
“It’s personal. I have a personal reason for asking you about the test results.”
Hanson wasn’t sure why, but something in the way Alberg met his gaze told him that the man was sincere and that his curiosity was more than passing interest in the technology. Hanson wanted to be cautious, however, he grabbed a pad of paper from his drawer, scrawled a note on it and discreetly passed it to Alberg.
NOT HERE. ASK TO GO TO THE REST ROOM.
Alberg looked at the note. A quick look of confusion quickly turned to one of understanding.
“Before we get too far into this, is there a restroom nearby? I drank too much water
“Sure. I’ll walk you down there. You need a badge to get through a couple doors and your visitor bade won’t have access.”
The two men left Hanson’s office and walked down the hall to a metal door with a small square window augmented by wire mesh. Hanson waved his badge in front of the sensor and the door’s lock clicked open. They repeated the process through another door and were at the restroom. After ensuring that this remote restroom was empty, Hanson locked the door and walked over to a sink and turned the water. If Alberg thought this was strange, he didn’t indicate it.
“Sorry for the mystery, but I’m pretty sure my office is bugged and I know there’s not a camera in this room. The sink will make the sound picked up by any audio devices extremely hard to hear.”
“So what’s going on?”
“I’ll tell you, but I hope it doesn’t put either one of us in danger and I hope you can help.”
Gini ran some preliminary tests on Joyce’s blood and couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The structure of the blood cells didn’t look human. In fact, it didn’t look organic. The blood had the consistency of motor oil and, to make it even stranger, the cells looked like they were mechanical in nature, almost like tiny cogs or gears. This was unlike any blood sample she had ever seen. The chemical makeup was even stranger. There were the usual chemicals one would expect in human blood, but they were supplemented by bits of some type of polymer that definitely didn’t belong there. In addition to the modified cells, Gini could see tiny organisms flitting from cell to cell. These organisms appeared to be performing some type of maintenance and, beyond that, altering the structure of the cells. With further magnification, Gini could see that these were not organisms at all, but tiny machines. She had to look twice and snapped a digital photo and a snippet of video to be sure. She was looking at the first human application of nano technology, at least the first she had ever seen. It was exhilarating and, as she thought of what was happening to Joyce, quite frightening. She immediately sent the video and photos to Dr. Haybrook. She wasn’t sure what her next steps would be.
Hanson told Alberg the whole story starting with the military contract for the original tech and the decision by Kongo Fit to use the technology in the fitness device. He also told him of the test subjects in the sub-basement lab beneath the pathology lab and about Dr. Haybrook’s findings and initial alert. Finally, he told him about Joyce. If Alberg was shocked by any of this, he didn’t show it. He just listened calmly and, when Hanson was done, he paused to consider what he had just heard.
“I was afraid this was more widespread,” Alberg finally said.
“What do you mean? You knew about this?”
“Well, yes and no. I mean, I have a personal situation and I wasn’t sure the technology was responsible, but what you just told me confirms it.”
“What do you mean?” Hanson asked.
“My brother. He died and I think the Buff Cuff technology is responsible.”
“It hasn’t killed anyone yet that we know of,” Hanson said. “What’s the connection?”
Alberg took a deep breath. It was obviously a painful story for him and it appeared that he was hesitant to share it. He finally began to slowly relay the events as Hanson listened intently.
It took every ounce of control that Joyce had to lie on the cot and not kill the guard that delivered her food. He put it on the floor of her cell and used a long pole to slide it within her reach. She envisioned herself leaping from the cot and crushing his skull like a walnut, but she channeled every ounce of her strength into maintaining control. Attacking the guard would get her restrained again, or worse. She wanted to keep her freedom a secret and also wanted to give the man and woman that visited her a chance to work on a solution. She wasn’t sure, however, how long she could maintain this level of control. It might be a day. It might be during the next meal. She felt herself slipping away and the uncontrollable rage taking over.
Haybrook pulled out his private smart phone when he felt it buzz in his pants. He looked at the pictures and video that Gini had sent. It was worse than he thought. The programming had gone haywire in Joyce’s body. The nano machines that were supposed to repair and strengthen her human blood cells were transforming them into some kind of hybrid human/machine. If this was happening throughout her body, she would eventually lose her human characteristics and be reborn as some type of inorganic monster. How far would it progress? What would her end-state look like? He wanted to know, but the priority was to try to find a way to reverse it. At this point, he had no idea how they would accomplish this or if it was reversible at all. He decided that he needed to leave and combine forces with Gini in the lab at his house. Maybe they could come up with something together.
Alberg leaned against the wall and steeled himself to tell his story to Hanson.
“My brother had a hunger for competition, much like I do. He was always looking for something to give him an edge. He was in his mid-forties, but had the body and the stamina of a man much younger than his age. He was into human growth hormones, testosterone injections and every type of supplement you can imagine. When the Buff Cuff came out, he was one of the first to purchase it. The changes started almost immediately. At the time, I thought it was the chemicals he was putting in his body, but I suspect there was more to it.”
“What kind of changes?” Hanson asked.
“His hair fell out. His skin changed. He was also obsessed with exercise and eating healthy.”
“I’m sorry, but so far, that sounds like the typical behavior of someone ingesting the things you spoke of.”
“Yes. That’s what we thought, but the pace of the changes accelerated after he put that device on. He started running obsessively at every chance he had. He was found on the side of the road early one morning on his usual running route. We thought it was a heart attack, but I’m just not sure.”
“What makes you question that assumption?”
“Two things. First, when I went in to identify the body, I honestly wasn’t sure it was him. His features had changed. We had to use dental records to positively identify him and even those were not as accurate as they could have been as teeth that had fillings had re-calcified locking the metal fillings inside the tooth. His hair had completely fallen out and his skin was tough and scaly.”
“Was an autopsy performed?”
“That’s the other strange thing. We requested one, but his body disappeared from the morgue before it could be performed. We were told it was a clerical mix-up and that his body would be found, but it hasn’t. The more I thought about it, everything started to change as soon as he started wearing the Buff Cuff. I didn’t want to ask about it at the board meeting because of the panic it would cause without justification. I wanted to talk to someone first and confirm my suspicions. I think they are now confirmed.”
“It sounds like you are correct,” Hanson admitted.
“Now I’m ready to sound the alarm.”
“I agree, Hanson said. What do you think is the first step?”
“Well, I have some pull with the media. I’m going to schedule a press conference and announce my suspicions along with your story. I’d like you to be there as well.”
“That sounds like a good start,” Hanson said, feeling like a weight had been lifted from him.
“I’ll set it up and contact you with the particulars. Let’s shoot for this afternoon to coincide with the 6 P.M. news.”
The two men shook hands and left the restroom. Hanson walked Alberg to the door and returned to his office. He dialed Haybrook’s extension and found that he had left for the day. He would call his cell in a bit. He needed to contemplate the big step he was about to take.
As Alberg pulled out of the VIP lot, a black sedan surreptitiously slipped in about three car lengths behind him. The press conference would not take place.