Chapter Twenty-Nine: Strength
Professor Elias Dominic Florian – simply known as ‘The Professor’ amongst members of his inner circle - was of course the brains behind Diligence Bio-Pharmaceuticals.
Ever since he was a young man, The Professor had always kept himself busy. This showed no signs of slowing down, even when he became the youngest serving member on the board of directors at the University of Bern - the international leader in scientific research. Consequently, the same institution where he was awarded his doctorate several years earlier.
Setting up his business was a relatively easy project for the Professor to establish. However, due to its ongoing relevance in the world today, it would not be as simple to dismantle.
This is because what had originally started out as an interesting pastime for the doctor had mushroomed into an entity which has since been able to wield vast amounts of power and influence on all sections of society.
Although The Professor was immensely proud of all his research projects, like a father of many children, he felt some were more worthy of praise than others: The Alpha Stem Cell Study, being one of them.
Years and years of meticulous research had culminated in Diligence finding - and isolating - the weak gene. This was the definition his crack team of experts came up with to describe their most recent wonder.
The weak gene was a breakthrough by every stretch of the imagination. And as a consequence, the patenting of its use had reaped huge financial rewards for, the then, blossoming company. But for The Professor this was not enough.
For you see, many took Professor Florian for an ambitious man - and he was. But most notably, ambition was no drain to him. No drain at all. It didn’t have to be coaxed or teased out of him like an actor before a performance. Ambition flowed in his blood – his ancestry. The Professor was instinctively drawn to ambitious people like a moth to a flame. A person without ambition, to him, was least of all the thing they first claimed to be. However, there was something else that fuelled his ambition. Something else which kept him up at night and occasionally blighted his days. It was something buried deep in the heart of all human matters…What propelled him to keep on going till the very end, was The Professor’s insatiable pride...
Yes. The Professor had lost count of the number of times he had been called up by officials from the Nobel Foundation. They lauded him with praise for his remarkable findings in Cellular Biology and Biomedical Sciences. Of course he never won. And he could never win. Quite simply, because many of The Professor’s discoveries worked against the Foundation’s core tenets, which specifically outlined that the recipient of The Nobel Prize, had to have created or invented something that would be, first and foremost; for the greatest benefit of mankind.
Suppressing cures and waging biological warfare - through the use of his inventions – although, exemplary in its own way, was something he had to carry out under a cloak of invisibility. Well, up until now that is…
The Professor and his special team of experts were finally drawing closer to revealing - or at least shedding some light - on the possible existence of a strength particle: The yang to the yin. The opposite of his once greatest find - the weak gene.
It was a unique strand which embodied all the exceptional qualities inherent in human DNA. And what’s more, these molecules were rampant in the blood of wholly-formed foetuses. All that was needed now to ratify the findings was the last batch of stem cells which was due from London any day now.
The Professor was immensely proud of this particular project. It’s eventual findings, would no doubt, make him, and Diligence vast amounts of money. But it would also secure him the Nobel Prize – the one thing that all of his money could never buy. And the thing that would give him the recognition he felt he wholeheartedly deserved, and had systematically been denied.
I have to admit, I don’t like talking about pride. That’s because I don’t like pride. For me, it’s as pleasant as messing around with one’s own faecal matter. For that is the best way to describe what pride is: it is a humongous stain on the human fabric...
If you could only see it from where I’m standing, you’d recoil back in disgust. It’s ugly, it’s hideous, and it sullies the beautiful landscape. Trudging through a field pitted with smelly cow dung, is a far more welcoming sight, than the look of this very humanistic characteristic.
All other human flaws can be dusted down, swept aside, or washed away. But a stain? Well, there’s not much that can be done about a stain, other than to acquire a new piece of fabric.
For you see, Pride, is not like Love. It cannot go everywhere and be found in all things. In short, it doesn’t travel well at all. Its only function is to cling to ‘self’ and the ‘self’ is its lifeblood. As a matter of fact Pride has similar characteristics to that of a leech. For it parasitically derives its existence from life…all aspects of one’s life...As it so happens, no amount of money, personal achievement or power can dispense with Pride - as The Professor soon found in time. For Pride wants it all, and it can never have enough. One can only get rid of Pride, if one is willing to starve it…Which is not such an easy task to accomplish, mind, especially, if you have a large appetite. And The Professor most certainly does, being a man of his stature; achievements, education, expertise, refinement, resilience, intelligence, success, standing, fortitude, wealth, wisdom, durability, pedigree and so on...
Pride was at the heart of everything The Professor did, and everything he did, fed his rapacious Pride.
I guess you’re wondering whether The Professor was aware of this overbearing flaw. But of course not! Are any of you for that matter? It’s easy to judge when you forget how Pride works. It’s like a leech, remember. It’s not heavy - but light. And most times you forget it’s even there. But much of the energy you humans produce, is channelled into feeding this one little thing…
So, one can only imagine The Professor’s growing frustrations as talks, about the possible termination of his beloved seven-year project, was likely to become a reality.
“What do you mean Bernard?”
“I mean - the doctor. The agent we assigned to this project is proving to be a real liability. I don’t think he’s up to the job. He talks of this task being compromised by a woman who can communicate with newborns. I have no idea what he’s going on about. However, it’s only just come to my attention that this person’s name is being bandied about in the public domain,” he cleared his throat. “If details of this project should come out into the open, who knows where it could lead...”
The Professor noted the emphasis on the last few words.
Bernard continued. “As I said before, I take full responsibility for this. I had my doubts about this doctor.” He sighed. “I’m still in London for another week. While I’m here, I’ll continue to do my own research into this matter.”
“And the project?” The Professor asked.
There was a long pause before Bernard answered. “Even if we agree that the project should be put on hold - not discontinued.” he said quickly. “…but put on hold for the meantime. With everything I’ve just relayed to you, we’re still left with a slight problem...wouldn’t you agree?”
The Professor was silent. “Yes,” he said eventually. “We are. And what do you propose we do?”
“Before it’s too late, I think we should begin to focus on salvaging whatever we have from this wreckage. In other words, we should start making the necessary steps to extract ourselves from the situation. Would you not agree?”
The Professor breathed in sharply. He was vehemently opposed to this outcome, but even with anger, rationality needed to be deployed at all times. Bernard was right, distance was best. “Alright Bernard - salvage away.”
“Thank you Professor.” Bernard replied, “I will be in touch shortly.”
Conversation - over with.
Problem solving – enacted.
Sometimes you can’t help but admire the clinical minds of the rational.
It’s 6.45pm on a Wednesday evening…
A woman collapses onto her bedroom floor. She’s writhing on the ground in what could only be described as abominable pain.
‘It’s not supposed to happen like this!’ she bawled thumping the ground with her fist. And she should know. After all, she had lived through the perils of labour three years earlier. What was happening to her now, was unnatural because it felt as much...
‘Oh God! What is happening to me?’
Fortunately for the young woman, there was help at hand. Her husband quickly bundled her into the car, ignoring the stunned looks from his neighbours as they had all rushed out to catch a glimpse of the person making those disturbing noises.
As fast he could, he navigates through the city’s roads, praying, that he would get to the hospital in time. His wife looked like she was ready to die. If this was the case, he silently pleaded, what was to become of the little one?
Meanwhile in baby paradise the soul mates had convened again. They were missing another member. But there was no need for alarm. For this time it was baby Albert’s turn to make his way to earth, and begin his journey into the big wide world…
Dr. Lawson had just left the neonatal ward. His body was stiff and creaking with exhaustion. He desperately needed a drink. ‘Something with glucose in it’ he thought, wiping the sweat off his brow.
He had successfully delivered a baby by emergency caesarean. The girl had unwittingly got herself tangled in her own umbilical cord. Rescuing her from the situation was the fun part, attending to the mother who had been in labour for over 11 hours, had been a huge pain. Probably, the biggest drain of his day so far.
Richard quickly made a brief stop at his workstation. He planned to take a few pills before preparing for his next delivery. He was hoping, this time, it would be the one he had been waiting all week for…
Earlier, that day, he had decided that he was going to go ahead and complete his mission for Diligence. If suspicions were raised – so what of it? Before they could figure anything out he’d be long gone.
He could always leave the NHS - or Britain - for that matter. There were plenty of places he could go to.
But the chance to be part of a life-changing project?
This opportunity only came once in a lifetime. No sane person turns their back on success, not if they had worked as hard as he had to attain it.
The doctor slid into his chair. He looked around him. It was clear. He quickly gulped down his pills. He was just about to check his emails; it would be the last check of the day but his mobile phone started ringing.
It was Bernard.
“Bernard. I was planning to have a chat with you today. However, I can’t talk right now. I’m on duty. Could I phone you later?”
“No.” Bernard said abruptly. “This won’t take too long. As quick as you can, tell me what the current situation is with the arrival of the final specimen,” he paused, “…and everything else that has happened so far...”
Without hesitation Richard gave a brief report on everything that had happened up until the point of the phone call.
Bernard ummed as though he was verifying the information against his own compilation of facts.
Richard, however, did not mention his strange meeting with Lydia. He felt there was no need, since they didn’t talk about Diligence. But he quietly debated on whether he should inform Bernard about his silly encounter with Henrietta. He decided to go ahead with it. He gave a brusque account of the incident.
“So,” Bernard drawled in his faint German accent, “she threatened you, and mentioned Diligence.”
“Yes. But I was able to get the disc back. And as soon as I get home, I will wipe everything off my computer. Seriously, Bernard. There’s nothing that she can say, which can’t be refuted. She’s a silly girl - completely neurotic.”
“Okay.” Bernard sighed. He was silent for a moment. “Richard. Listen carefully to me. We want you to step away from this project - is that clear? There’s no need for you to collect the remaining specimen, do you understand? We are terminating the project.”
“Terminating the project! W-what! Why? Are you sure about this?” Richard looked around him, he was stupefied.
“Yes. One hundred percent. Stop everything and take care of the matter with your home computer.”
Richard was beyond confounded. With steely determination, Diligence had set up, and carried out, what could only be deemed as a near-to-impossible task. And yet, just before its completion they decide to pull the plug on it. He was lost for words. “Bernard…Has something happened? I’m sure it’s nothing which can’t be sorted out. I can still go ahead…”
“No Richard.” Bernard calmly replied. “You are relieved of this project. We will inform you of our next step in due time.”
Richard fell back in his chair. He was stunned. But after a few minutes the shock began to subside. He felt a cool sensation creeping through his chest. It could very well have been the effects of the drug he had taken, but Richard knew better. It was relief he was feeling: pure-as-day, god-honest, genuine, relief! Because deep down in that murky well of secrets, Richard knew he wasn’t up for the job today.
Because he wasn’t quite himself today.
Although he kept telling himself otherwise.
Nevertheless, the conversation wasn’t over. Bernard hadn’t finished talking.
“So, you’ve told me everything that has happened thus far. Now…tell me everything you know about this baby whisperer...”