Evangeline Wright reported on the rising gas prices, the school testing debacle and chip implants as monitoring devices. Lately, she was stepping on toes – she was taking on prescription drugs and the link to the school violence. Then she disappeared completely. Jack Richmond discovers a building on the edge of the Research Triangle where school children are being remotely monitored at a distance for medication reactions. The monitoring room was joyous at the killing of 16 students until the discovery that they were being recorded. Jack Richmond wakes with no memory at all.
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When Jack Richmond attempts to piece together the vast conspiracy he has uncovered, he finds that he is the victim of experimental drugging. Jack wakes up not knowing who he is. He escapes and takes refuge in the woods where other homeless "turnouts" from the institution have also found a home. Here is a tale of unexpected allies and a peek at who is really running things.
Big Pharma Lecture
The lecture room was filled with businessmen. Suits were the dominant uniform, not lab coats or doctor's smocks. It was not a talk for medicos or psychiatrists, nor for the makers or purveyors of prescription drugs. This was a talk for investors. The topic was not remedies and cures, it was dollars and cents.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the speaker began.
In the next to the last row, high in the cheap seats, I was trying to look inconspicuous. I had came camouflaged as a student, in jeans and an oversized sweater, not realizing that there were no students in attendance. I would not pass for an investor or representative of some foreign interest seeking to grab a piece of the American pie, the fastest growing pharmaceutical boom in the history of the known universe. That's why I sat alone in the nose-bleed section.
If they knew that Jack Richmond, investigative novelist and radical newsletter publisher, was in the crowd – well, they wouldn't so much be in awe as very angry and probably violent.
“How many drug-induced rampages will the public endure before they suspect prescribed medications as a cause?”
Dr. R. J. Sweeting stood at the podium in a gray suit, white shirt and deep red tie. His gray, thinning hair and Van Dyke beard screamed out “Psychiatrist!” He would put on narrow, wire-rimmed glasses to look at his notes and take them off to address the audience.
“How much carnage will the public tolerate before they insist a drug be taken off the market?”
In the back, someone coughed. No heads turned to see who coughed. The silence that followed was a warning to the offending party not to cough again.
“Can stronger medications be put on the market without public outcry arising? And how much outcry will it take before the FDA is forced to remove them from the market completely?”
There was a stirring in the audience. A few low mumbles could be heard. The speaker looked pleased at the uneasy response. He stood smiling in a pale pool of light in the center of the stage, as if nothing else on Earth was as important as that circle of light.
He took in a long breath, furrowed his eyebrows and continued:
“Or will the drugs have to be reformulated, at the cost of billions of dollars for additional research and taking many years before the products can come to market again? Or will the product never come to market again under that name? Will 'Marketing' have to create another name for the product, one the public doesn't recognize, one without a bad opinion attached?”
The mumbling increased. They didn't like that idea more than the others they didn't like. Doctor Sweeting waited patiently for the rumble to die down.
“Those and other questions will be answered by the study I am proposing.”
The lecture auditorium was designed for 300, but today, barely 70 were present. From the collection of airport and private limousines, hired Town Cars and luxury vehicles in the parking lot, I assumed it was an out-of-town crowd and very high level. Big Pharma meant big business. I had long ago given up the idea that medications were about health; it was about money – all about money. With the money came power and with the combination of money and power, properly used, came control. Ultimately, I had concluded, it was all about control.
“When the tires blow on an Explorer SUV, the victims sue Ford. When a woman burns herself on a cup of hot coffee, she sues the restaurant chain. But when a student who has stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication against doctor's orders goes berserk and kills a dozen of his classmates, no one sues the pharmaceutical company; there is no liability.”
Several of men in suits who had been sitting back in their seats now sat forward. This was what they wanted to hear.
“Nor should there be. After all, people drive into trees or each other on a regular basis, yet cars are not banned. People drown, yet swimming is not illegal. People choke on jumbo shrimp, yet they are still being served in our finest restaurants.”
Agreeable grunts were heard; heads nodded. The soft glow from the stage showed a wave of agreement going through the audience.
“In fact, it takes a student going on a rampage now and then to bring to light things that should have been taken care of long before. Gun control becomes an issue only after someone gets shot. Security is brought up to proper levels only after a lack of security has become an issue.”
Doctor Sweeting was beginning to pick up speed and volume, now. He was clearly getting to the part he liked best.
“A day of mourning is a good cleanser. People have a chance to speak with a professional. Medications can be prescribed that should have been present all along. After each violent eruption in our school system, the number of prescriptions in that part of the country skyrockets.”
He was almost gleeful, sending a hand soaring aloft and watching it ascend, following the imaginary trail extending from the hand into the air, up to the high ceiling and beyond. Then, without lowering his hand, he dropped his eyes to the rows of intent businessmen.
“Until usage is universal.”
He let that settle on the audience, slowly dropping his hand, turning, picking up his notes, shuffling them and putting them back on the podium without a glance. He leaned on the podium with both hands, sinking his head into his shoulders.
“The screening of every pregnant woman and new mother, of every student from kindergarten to college level, of every soldier in every branch of service and of every civil servant within the government will ensure that no disorder will go untreated, providing an automatic and unending stream of product consumption unequaled in history.”
An excited murmur now ran through the crowd, receiving this news like ground-floor investors in a new dot com.
“Science fiction writers for decades have foreseen a world in which the entire population is medicated. Those days, gentlemen, ladies, are not far away. Thank you.”
The assembled throng erupted into deafening applause. I slipped out before anyone could turn around and see me. They would have seen in an instant that I didn't belong as I was the only one without a suit and tie.
In actual fact, I didn't own a suit or a tie. I didn't need one when I went to school in Durham, didn't need one when I was a budding author in New York and didn't need one now, as a small publisher of a radical newsletter in Hillsborough.
Look Both Ways! had a growing subscription base and was reprinted in private blogs and activist sites. I was a man on a mission; I didn't need a tie. What I needed was a way into the other building, the one in back.
I had heard from locals about a building with no title or sign, on a road with no name, inside Research Triangle Park, that collection of companies among the trees between Raleigh and Durham. It was said there was some pretty secret experiments going on there; security was high, though no one knew exactly what took place. Apparently, even the workers didn't know what went on outside of their immediate areas. I had to get inside to see. If it was just a better mousetrap being built, I would promise not to tell. But if it was what I thought, what Doctor Sweeting alluded to, I was going to blow the lid off.
Already, I knew from my previous research, kids in foster homes were being used as guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical industry, taking a bad home-life situation to nightmarish proportions. If the ongoing screening and subsequent drugging of students and young mothers continued unchecked, every man, woman and child would eventually be on drugs. To have everyone using your product for life is the goal of every manufacturer, but to have government mandated screening of women and children, military and civilians alike just to sell pills is downright insidious.
The basic concept had already been exposed in fiction, not only my own, but popular fiction. In the cult film “Crimson Spectacular,” the villain infected the entire society with a disease virus for which he controlled the cure. The cure had to be administrated daily, or irreversible deterioration of health ensued resulting in death. Anyone not going along with the program was simply refused the daily antidote. Problem solved. The entire population would then be under control. It was all about control.
“You can have money and power and also have control,” I had often told coffee shop friends over espresso back in New York's bistros. “But if you don't have the control, you can lose the money and power. If you have control, money and power are assured.”
There was nothing wrong with money, or power, or control, depending on how you got it and how you used it. What I was seeing was pure evil in the acquisition and application of control. I felt I was close to discovering proof of the conspiracy, the one that had us all in it's grip. My heart was beating out a rumba!
I crept down the stairs to the back exit, looking for a way into the nearly impregnable building in back. The door slammed behind me with a final sound. I was committed now. “Or ought to be,” I thought.
The building I had just left was gray concrete blocks in back, as was the rear building, plain and ominous. There were no windows on either wall; they didn't want people looking in – or out. I looked up and counted four stories – a large building for the area. Most were one or two stories, sometimes three; four was rare.
Across the small stretch of grass that separated the two buildings, was a single walkway ending in a wide, concrete patio devoid of the expected patio furniture. The only thing in evidence was a tall receptacle for spent cigarettes; this was the smoking zone. The door by the concrete slab had a deadbolt, but someone had set it to keep the door open rather than locked.
The door swung freely open to my touch, so I ducked inside, my heart pounding inside my chest. This was forbidden ground. If caught, I would be in trouble, big time! If they twigged who I was, I would be in even more trouble. That's why I had left my wallet at home. If caught, I would simply say I came for the lecture and got lost. That was the plan. It was a half-baked plan, but a plan nevertheless.
Plain, metal stairs, painted green, went up to the right. The only door on that floor was locked, so I started up the stairs. I found it was the same on every floor, though there was a metal ladder next to the fourth floor door. I climbed the ladder to find a crawlspace, not tall enough for standing but enough to allow me to crouch through. It was dark and musty, but there were sounds below and enough light filtering through the ceiling cracks to send ghostly shoots of white into the dusty air. I took a deep breath and crawled up into the darkness.