“Can we go to Disneyland?” Jobe said from the back seat.
Larry smiled at the unexpected outburst and glanced in the rear view mirror.
“I’m sure we can get to Anaheim for a few days. And maybe we’ll wait until your uncle’s better so he can come too.”
“Yes!” Jobe said, and punched the air above his head with both fists.
Larry caught his own smile in the reflection of the mirror and saw it matched Jobe’s. The little guy looked more like his old man everyday. Smart too, maybe a little day-dreamy at times, but there was a spark behind those eyes which Larry loved to tap into when they talked of things that a boy of his age would often not find so appealing.
Larry stepped out of the car onto the grey concrete driveway and stared at his front door. His home. His house. It even smelled like he remembered it. His nostrils flared at the familiar scent of his garden. The warm grass, thick and dank.
His key slid in over tumblers. He turned the door handle and watched as the entrance way unfolded.
White painted walls. Plain grey carpet. Paintings by artists he had probably known when he bought them. And then the lounge, dining-room and kitchen beyond.
The morning with his wife; it came to him like a remembered dream.
“Breakfast.” he said with a deep breath.
“What?”Jobe said, carrying his bag down the hallway to his bedroom.
“Nothing, just remembering something.”
Larry went further into his home but couldn’t grasp any other memories. This, however, wasn’t the home he had shared with his wife and Jobe as a family. In fact, he and Jobe had moved twice since she passed on. He stood in the middle of the lounge and allowed himself to feel something more or remember something else from before his near-death in the outback. He had never changed the furniture, so that had remained the same, but maybe the room differed too much to their family home?
“Dad,” Jobe said from behind. “Can I take the Game Boy?”
His voice broke through Larry’s thoughts, and for a moment he forgot where he was. He turned to see Jobe concentrating on the screen and his fingers at the controls.
“Yeah, of course you can.”
Jobe walked back down the hall, his game still manipulating all his attention.
“You can probably get some cheaper games over there as well. When I catch up with you I’ll take you shopping.”
“Huh?” Jobe stopped and turned his head, his eyes still on the screen. “I thought you would meet us straight away. Where are you going?”
“He’ll be there when we go to visit your uncle,” Sarah said walking up next to Jobe and messing his hair. “Your dad will want to see Uncle Paul and you as soon as he can.” Then to Larry. “That’s right, isn’t it Larry.”
Larry’s relief must have shown through. Sarah smiled back.
“It’s as your auntie says, you won’t even know I’m gone.”
Sarah sat with Larry at the dining table while Larry sifted through the mail. Larry sipped on tea and then screwed up his nose. He half remembered developing a taste for it many years after moving to Australia, but now it tasted like muddy water. Sarah sipped hers and relaxed, her skin seeming to glow afterwards.
“Do you think you should say Paul will come to Disneyland? I mean I know he’ll be okay, but Disneyland?” Sarah stirred a little sugar into her tea.
“You caught that, huh.”
“I was sitting right beside you when you said it, Larry.”
“Hmm. We’ll see Paul, then wait as long as we have to. I’ll make it work.”
Larry told Sarah about flying to Brisbane to check on the stored equipment and paperwork and then how he would meet them at the hospital in San Francisco as soon as he could.
Larry drained the last drop of his tea. “I have to get packing and move on. You’ll be alright?”
Sarah brushed her hair back and stared at Larry for a long moment. “I’m always fine, Larry, you go ahead.”
A lean and tanned man stared back across the bedroom from the full length mirror. The bruises and cuts had cleared without scars. He had lost so much body fat that he could now count his ribs, although muscle also bunched in tight knots all over his body. His nose whistled when he sniffed, his teeth felt strange after all the new work done and his left hand, which had looked like it had been run over by a truck, was almost as strong as his right again.
His lost memories still plagued him, but he could at least now remember more about the tests at Sincorp. The initial experiments. The tests on animals then humans. Some of the strange side effects, although nothing detrimental. Then also some of the viruses that had been shelved because of their drastic changes on tested human tissue samples.
He partly remembered his decision to test the virus on his brother. Although at that stage it wasn’t really a test any longer, their findings had been proven, so had begun the lodging for approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Larry stepped away from the mirror and picked up his clothes to dress. There wouldn’t be as much need for doctors in the future once these viruses went into production. The world was about to change. For the better, he hoped.
Larry discovered long ago that viruses played an essential role in early evolution. The Sincorp board had been sceptical, at least at first. It took many meetings and many computer generated graphics to eventually convince them that not only was it possible to tap into viruses and bring out their lost traits, but that it would be highly profitable. He had first lectured the board on viruses being paramount in the dramatic evolutionary changes from the very first form of life on this planet, which also included the evolution of plants.
Fish were the first in taking a significant step in developing the ability to extract oxygen from the air rather than water. Later, another leap took place when select land animals developed wings for flight. Then the most recent: evolution of humanity and the ability to use tools and develop speech.
Early viruses had infected hosts and sampled the present DNA as the new viruses were born from a host cell. The viruses then infected another host of the same or sometimes different species, passing on information from one host to the next. This allowed the next organism to learn from the previous infected organism by the traits given to them by the virus.
The board had stared blankly back at Larry. Some scribbled notes while others just tapped their pens. Most were simple, although rich, investors, after all. Still, he wanted them to fully understand what was going on before he gave them an idea on profit.
He explained it like a bee pollinating plants: A bee traveled from one flower to the next to collect nectar which gave that plant an opportunity to reproduce sexually by attaching pollen to the bee, which would then be deposited onto another plant, thereby spreading the flower’s DNA to create more biodiversity. Viruses had done something similar with animals and plants. They also stored this information from encounters with species. That meant that his team just had to make the viruses pass the beneficial traits on to us. This would essentiality put evolution back on track.
Why viruses had changed their primary roll is unknown, just that they did become a negative force within organisms instead of positive. Now the only difference with evolution taking back what it lost when viruses went bad, is that Sincorp would charge people for this privilege, person by person.
Larry wound his way through the maze of streets on auto-pilot. He knew where to slow for speed traps without thinking and remembered clearly the large white truck near the main road which always had graffiti scrawled across it.
Larry dialled his travel agent. He gave his full name and VIP member number and was instantly asked if it was Brisbane he wished to make an immediate departure to.
“Thanks, Emily. Next flight possible. Also, later today I need to fly to, San Francisco. Economy would be best, but if none is available, then please just work your way up to business class until you locate a spare seat.”
Seconds passed when Emily spoke again and said, “I’ve found you a flight to, Brisbane for today at 12.05pm. Is that okay, Mr Emerson?”
“That will do just fine, thanks.”
“As for your flight to, San Francisco, it will take me ten to fifteen minutes to work out the best flight for you. Can I call you back, Mr Emerson?”
“Thanks, Emily. Any flight from 6pm onwards. Talk soon.”
“Thank you, Mr Emerson.”
The phone went silent. Everything had been automatic. He had not even thought of what to say or do. Or about the phone numbers and member number, he just did it.
He turned off the tollway and headed into the airport long-term carpark.
After a few minutes of searching he found a parking space not far from the terminal entrance. Considering the absurd prices for parking at the airport he hoped his stay would not be overly long.
His ring tone sounded from his pocket, he answered it to the voice of Emily again.
“Mr Emerson, I’m sorry to keep you waiting on information for your flight to San Francisco, I have a Premium Economy flight with, QANTAS. The flight leaves at 7.15pm. Will that suit your needs, Mr Emerson?”
“That will be perfect. Thanks.”
“Are you able to pick up the documents from our office, or should we have them courier it all directly to you at Brisbane airport?”
“I’ll be having a meal at the airport in the member’s lounge before the flight. Could you have them courier the paperwork to me there? Also, I won’t have any luggage to check-in.”
“That’s fine. Enjoy your flight, Mr Emerson.”
“Thank you, Emily.”
The plane descended into Brisbane airport after a two hour turbulent free flight. Not having to wait for luggage on the carousel, it was minutes later when Larry found the nearest taxi rank and hailed the closest driver.
“The Reserve Vault on Adelaide Street in the city,” Larry said once seated.
Larry decided on this building because it had once been the Reserve Bank of Australia, so already had excellent security. The taxi stopped and Larry looked over the grey concrete pylons and large glass entrance.
Inside, a state-of-the-art electronic surveillance system watched over anyone who came through the doors. If you wanted access to the vault you had to get past the biometric fingerprint readers, metal detectors and x-ray. The climate controlled rooms kept Larry’s stores at the correct temperature.
Larry now recalled the meeting with the CEO of Sincorp, Michael Track, the Monday morning following his chat with Tom. When he had told him he had overheard the conversation with the American colonel regarding the virus work at Sincorp.
“Unacceptable,” Michael Track had said. Larry shrank in his chair. “The deeper I looked the worse it is with this colonel. He’s not the only one who knows. I won’t go into details, but I’ll tell you what happens next!”
Larry remembered sweating a torrent at that moment in the air conditioned room. This is it, he had thought, fired, gone. Wrenched away from his own research.
“From the moment Tech Dynamics initiated a take over of the Sincorp parent company in San Francisco, I got worried,” Michael continued. “All the directors on the board said it was in our best interest to stand united, which made us pretty well secure against selling out or being taken over.
“Then I found out that some, or all, of the directors had caved into Tech Dynamics. Sincorp’s days are numbered. I need someone that can do something for me and soon. I hope that’s you, Larry.”
He paused for a moment while drumming his fingers on the dark wood-stained table. Then went on.
“I need you to box your work and store it somewhere. It’s ours, so I’m damned if another company is going to take it from us. This is asking a lot of you, I know, but you would be feeling the same way, I’m sure. Hell, you’ve got just as many years of time invested in this as I have, right?”
Michael’s black irises matched the dark skin around his eyes. He looked like he had not slept since the call Friday night. He searched Larry for an answer and rubbed one temple, never taking his eyes off him. The analogue clock on the desk barely moved across the face of the expensive marble-cut paperweight before Larry made his decision.
“I guess I don’t have a choice, but isn’t this a little drastic? And if they do take over, isn’t it illegal what we’re doing?” Images of prison and only seeing his son on weekends filled his mind.
“These are our findings, our discovery, our viruses and it’s still our board of directors that run this company. It only becomes illegal if the company changes hands and information regarding the research data is withheld. So for now, we are quite within our rights to safeguard these viruses as well as the data which created them. If a take over occurs then we’ll deal with the legalities when, or if that time comes.”
Larry wiped the cold sweat creeping down to the corners of his mouth and said, “Okay. What do we do next?”