Friday, November 25, 2011

Going Green - Part 2 of 2

© 2011 by Henry Melton

"I could tell at once that the quarantine was just a fake, set up hurriedly when we arrived.  The controls were dead.  The air pressure system was turned off."  Jenkins sat in one corner of the room.  The others each took a corner of their own, as if seeing how far apart they get from each other.
Dr. Wilson, from the opposite corner, nodded.  "We're working day and night trying to find a way to deactivate the chloroplasts.  That much is true."
His wife glared at him, keeping her eyes off Janis Porter, glaringly green, except for her heavily made-up face, once she'd shed the suit.  "Well, Cyrus, you've always said you wanted your name to go down in history.  You've done it now.  You've invented a venereal disease all your own.  Only with this one, people can tell at a glance who's been doing who.  You've ruined us all."
Jenkins held up his hand.  It looked like he was going to have to be the voice of moderation. "Just a minute.  Let's get all the facts before tossing our future to the fates.  How does this disease progress?  What are the symptoms?"
"Sunlight," offered Janis.  "Light's the trigger.  I was infected for three days before I noticed anything -- but I was working night shift then.  I never saw the sun.
"But came the weekend, I took off for the beach.  I woke up from a nap in the sun and was like this -- fully developed.  No one was around.  I wrapped myself in the towel and came straight here."
"Any other symptoms?"
"A slight itch for a day or so, but that's gone."
Dr. Wilson nodded.  "My infection," he looked down, avoiding his wife's face, "happened a day before that, but I'd been outside, on and off.  I'd noticed a few green freckles, and when Janis called in a panic, I knew instantly what had happened."
Jenkins nodded.  "Now the critical question; who knows?"
"No one."
"The security guard?  Ms. Porter?  Who saw you arrive here?"
"Oh, he saw, but I'd done my face, like today."  Her thick makeup was like a pink face mask on her otherwise green head.  "As bundled up as I was, he didn't suspect anything."
"Dr. Wilson.  Who knows the nature of this research?  Who would suspect?"
"Hmm.  Maybe Harris and Tarrant.  But I've been pretty tight with it.  How much noise did you cause Cin?"
She declined to answer.
Jenkins talked into the silence.  "Okay, here is an option.  Mrs. Wilson, how much would you pay to keep your husband's infidelity secret?"
"What are you saying?  I don't like the sound of this."
"I'm not talking blackmail.  I'm just doing my job.  You're my client, not your husband, not the lab.  That's my understanding.  I may have a solution, but much of it will be up to you."
She looked at her husband, and frowned.  She sighed.  "I'd do anything to hush this up."
"Even turn green?"  Jenkins held up his hand again to silence her outrage.  "Consider this option.  You and your husband hold a press conference.  You're both visibly infected with the chloroplasts.  You lay out everything about the research.  Only two things change.  Dr. Wilson had the accident, and you are the innocent victim.  A loving husband is working night and day to find the cure for his wife.
"There'd be lots of press coverage.  Some would be negative, but that can't be helped.  Much would be sympathetic.  If you, Mrs. Wilson, can show the world that the symptoms are mild and manageable, and that you aren't a dangerous Typhoid Mary, then your reputation would skyrocket, and the company would be in great shape.
"As I see it, you have a potential gold-mine here, if you can make it reversible, and there are no more side-effects."
Dr. Wilson frowned and asked, "What about Julie?"
"She has to stay out of sight, of course.  Work at night; wear lots of clothes and makeup.  See no one in person.  There can be no hint, at this first stage, that a third person is infected."
His wife snarled, "Just forget her, Cyrus, if you know what's good for you!  It was her mistake in the first place."
Jenkins turn his attention to the nurse.  "Ms. Porter, there is definitely a future for you in this plan, if we can hold the secret together.  After the cure is developed and announced to the world, and if the PR job is handled correctly, there'll be a flood of demand for this product, and not just for livestock.
"The company will need a media spokesperson.  You'll need to spend every moment preparing.  Be smart, sexy, idealistic, and very comfortable being green.
"Become a vegetarian, starting today.  Read all the eco-fringe literature.  Hit all the environmental web sites.  Understand your audience.  You have walk in their sandals and talk their language.
"But if you can pull it off, you'll be a celebrity forever."
Jenkins let each of them think about their roles in silence.  He'd given them each a way to survive the disaster, and profit from it, but marital infidelity had torpedoed bigger conspiracies than this one.  He gave them a 30% chance to pull it off.
In any case, he was billing Mrs. Wilson immediately.

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