|janecarnall (janecarnall) wrote,|
@ 2009-01-07 09:48:00
|Entry tags:||keptverse, pieces|
The Pieces: Dana
This is part 3 of a 7-part sequence. (Part 1, Part 2). Hooray, I have parts 4 and 5 also written, which will be posted Thursday and Friday, and hopefully I can get 6 and 7 written by the weekend.
The previous stories in this series (my Keptverse) began with The Games (six parts) and continued with The Network (one part), The Players (seven parts), and The Gambler (seven parts). The whole series will terminate with the next sequence, "End Game", which is planned but not yet written.
The story may be regarded as fanfic set in poisontaster's Keptverse. There is a species of cast list here.
Part 3: Dana
Dana visited Melissa and her partner and their children every Sunday. She always had – Sunday afternoons were always time for family visits – and Gerard had agreed it would look more suspicious to discontinue. By agreement, Melissa didn’t talk about her friendship network, and Dana didn’t talk about what she was supposed to do at work.
By next Sunday, it would all be over. Even if they talked about it.
“Sam, can I talk to you?”
Gerard looked up from his computer screen. He shrugged, wordlessly, and pointed to the chair in front of his desk. After a couple of minutes, his fingers stopped moving on the keyboard: he tapped twice, probably shutting a file down or saving it, and turned his own chair a little, leaning back and folding his hands across his stomach. He didn’t say anything for a moment, and nor did Dana, though she thought that she had what she wanted to say summarised.
“Coffee?” Sam asked, after a moment. If she said yes, that would put off the question for at least fifteen minutes.
Dana met Sam’s eyes and kept her voice completely level. “Adam still thinks Devlin-Macgregor will begin decimation tomorrow, or at best the day after. He thinks it will take them three days to finish them all off. I want to tell Melissa about it – about Commerce ordering a decimation at that site, that’s all.”
“That’s all?” Gerard was frowning. He grinned, a distortion of his face. “That’s all?”
“Yes, Sam.” Dana kept her eyes fixed on Sam’s face. “I think Melissa may know someone who works there. Maybe more than one. They do have free employees.” She thought Melissa might even know some of the slaves of the company’s free employees, but she wouldn’t say that to Gerard.
“Anyone who tried to stop it would get killed, if they were lucky. Get turned over to Commerce, if not.”
“Not stop it,” Dana said. She had been thinking of this, only of this, for nearly twenty-four hours. “Record it. Witness it. Melissa says – people think about personal slaves first, factory slaves last. But two thousand people - if there were photos of that circulating on the Internet – If people had to see it – ”
“You’re hopeful,” Gerard said, and laughed – an abrupt, entirely humourless crack of sound.
“This is legal, what they’re doing,” Dana said. She made it half a question, by her tone, and Gerard nodded.
“Decimation is legal with Commerce approval. But if you’re thinking that means they think they’ve got nothing to hide, this is Commerce, they always have stuff to hide. And Devlin-MacGregor aren’t exactly the most wide-open company on earth.”
“Yes. The only people meant to know about this while it’s happening are their slaves. I think my sister could change that.”
Gerard stood up, and turned his back on her. He was standing by the window. He put his hand up against the glass, and seemed to be leaning against the window, looking out at something. Not looking at her. “If Commerce found out one of my kids had leaked their plans to the abolitionists, they’d want me to take action. And I couldn’t tell them I’d approved it. Even if I had.”
He turned around. Against the light from the window, his face was hard to see. “Do you understand what that means, Dana?”
“You’d send me out on the next foreign delivery,” Dana told him. She had thought about this.
“If I could,” Gerard said. His voice was expressionless. “If I couldn’t – ” The light outlined him, made him difficult to look at. He had stopped speaking mid-sentence. When he went on, his voice had changed, become colder. “You know what Commerce would do to you. And Melissa.”
“Melissa wouldn’t have to do anything illegal.”
“Do you imagine that would stop Commerce?” Gerard’s shadow against the window shook his head slowly. “Do you really think they couldn’t take Melissa, if they wanted to?”
Dana had more confidence in Melissa’s ability to position herself just on the right side of the law, and pull strings with the politicians and pundits who read her blog, but Melissa wouldn’t have wanted her to talk about that to Gerard. Melissa got emails directly from the senior Senator for Illinois, who passed as a moderate Laborite.
“I think Melissa can get away with it. Even if Commerce finds out it was her.”
Gerard sat down behind his desk again, his face impassive. “But you can’t,” he said, and it wasn’t a question. “You would be guilty of leaking secure information. Commerce would want you questioned. If you had gone behind my back and leaked information that I considered a serious threat to our security, the very best you could hope for would be that I would be angry enough to kill you right away.” Gerard’s voice was without emotion, as neutral and tired as his face. “And that’s what I would have to tell Commerce I had done. You would no longer exist.” He stopped, and considered Dana in silence for what felt like a long time. “That isn’t a risk I find acceptable, Dana.”
“But it’s my risk,” Dana said.
“To accomplish what?” Gerard shrugged.
“I don’t know,” Dana said, after a moment. She had a complex array of reasons, and had meant to go through them all – from the value of direct images to convey a message, to the relatively small risk to her of being discovered by Commerce. She didn’t think those reasons would impress Gerard now. “But if we don’t do anything, those two thousand people are dying for nothing. At least we can try to have them remembered. If the abolitionists find out someone carried out the punishment, maybe they can get the law taken off the books. If we do something. If we don’t do anything, nothing happens. Except two thousand people get killed.”
Gerard shrugged. Again, he sat still in silence, looking at Dana. Finally, he said “Okay.”
“You’re going to let me do it?”
“No,” Gerard said. “I’m going to think about it.”
“I need to tell Melissa tonight – if I’m going to.”
“I’ll give you my decision before you leave tonight.” After a beat, Gerard added “I won’t keep you here so late you don’t get to leave. Now get out of here.”
Willow was in the clinic when Dana got back to it. She was carrying her notebook and her laptop, and she looked appalling: white and wrung out. Better than last night.
“How are you?” Dana asked.
“I’m fine,” Willow said. “I wanted to talk to you about something.”
Dana nodded. “Why don’t we sit down?”
“I need to set up my notebook,” Willow said.
“For this?” Dana sat down. She couldn’t tell Willow about Melissa and her networks: that was on a need to know basis. She certainly couldn’t tell Willow what she and Gerard had talked about: if Gerard said no, Dana wasn’t sure what she was going to do. “Why don’t you just tell me what you want to talk to me about?”
“Richard,” Willow said, unexpectedly. “Gerard asked me to find out why people want to buy him, and I interrogated him this morning – ”
“You what?” Dana stared, it hardly seemed to sink in. “You interrogated Richard? Does Gerard know? What – Willow, what did you do?”
“Gerard asked me to,” Willow said. She looked bewildered. “I just asked him questions.”
“In the kitchen. Ray was there. Only s-some of the things Richard said – I wanted to set up the notebook, I’ve got a recording and a transcript – Dana, what’s wrong?”
Dana laughed. It wasn’t funny. “It’s okay. What do you want to show me?”
The transcript was simply of conversation – questions and answers, though Willow had begun with an array of all the textbook questions for starting an interrogation.
“Who is Sykes?” Dana asked, reading the transcript.
“There’s a Frederick Sykes on the amputees list,” Willow said. “Richard called him on Thursday and looked him up on Facebook. He’s on the Chicago network. He doesn’t have any connection with Chicago Memorial or Cook County – he doesn’t list his employer but he’s not on the hospital websites. Richard tried to page a Doctor Ferguson on Sunday, but he thinks he was trying to page a Doctor Lentz. I looked up the liver samples on the page Richard was looking at Wednesday, and they were all signed in by Dr A. Lentz, but he isn’t on the hospital website as a current employee. Richard says there’s something wrong with the liver samples, but I don’t see anything wrong with them. Except a lot of them were signed in on the same day, but that was months after Richard was arrested,” Willow added.
“What are you asking me?”
“Can you see what Richard thought was wrong with the liver samples?”
Dana glanced at the clock on the notebook screen. “What do you think this has to do with buying Richard?”
Willow shook her head. “I don’t know. But look, Dana, Richard says he talked to Chuck Nichols on Thursday about Lentz and Sykes and these samples. And right after that, Doctor Nichols tried to buy Richard. RDU90 means a drug that was being tested, doesn’t it?” Willow hardly waited for Dana’s nod. “Maybe this was a research project that Lentz and Richard were working on and Nichols wanted to buy Richard to keep on with the project? And then when he couldn’t get Sam to sell, he asked Devlin-Macgregor to help? They funded the research for RDU90.” She came to a halt and looked at Dana. “Or, you know… maybe Richard’s just crazy. I mean, he is crazy, Sam warned me, but I mean really crazy, seeing something wrong when there’s nothing to do with these samples at all. I couldn’t see anything.”
Dana looked at the clock again. “Okay,” she said finally. “If I can figure it out in half an hour. If I can’t, I’ve got too much to do. I want to leave on time today. Can you hack me on to their website? It’ll save time.”
“Sure.” Willow opened up her laptop. “I’ll find Doctor Lentz.”
The samples were standard, taken from patients who had been given RDU90. Often recorded as having been taken by a surgeon, usually Doctor R. D. Kimble, during an operation. Signed into the database by a Doctor A. Lentz. All the liver samples were healthy. Willow was right that a whole lot of them had been signed into the database on one day, far too many for good practice, but Lentz had probably been the kind of doctor who put off his routine admnistrative work and did it in one rush. There were too many samples to look at all of them: Dana picked out a dozen at random and conscientiously looked at each one at the highest possible magnification. Richard last Thursday hadn’t had any better access.
There was nothing to see. Dana pulled up two dozen more, and looked at them more rapidly, trying to see something that Richard could have spotted, even something completely insane.
Willow made a noise of disappointment. “I found Lentz. He’s dead.”
“Oh,” Dana said. She was disappointed herself: she would have liked to send Willow away with more help than just a negative. Sam evidently wanted Willow to have an easy job to do this week, and Dana agreed she needed one. “How did he die?”
“Vehicular homicide,” Willow said, with just a ghost of her juvenile amusement in the law enforcement jargon. “Over four years ago.”
Dana looked at the date of the sample she was examining, and her heart missed a beat.
“What date?” she asked.
“August first,” Willow said.
“That’s the date on these samples,” Dana said. “And Willow… I think I know what Richard saw. These are all samples of a healthy liver. The same healthy liver.” She pulled up four of them, side by side. Seen like this, even at low magnification, it was so clear she couldn’t believe she’d missed it before.
“What happened to RDU90? What name was it patented under? What time of day did Lentz get hit by the car?”
Willow was looking at the screen. “The report doesn’t say,” she said. “He was walking to his regular tennis match. Richard thinks Lentz falsified his data. But he didn’t, did he?”
Dana waved that aside. “He may have. But someone else did, too.”
“Are all of those really from the same liver?”
“Yes,” Dana said. “That’s what Richard must have seen – what he told Doctor Nichols. Willow, can you find out what happened to RDU90 without anyone knowing you were looking?”
“Of course,” Willow said. She looked briefly very happy and pleased with herself, and Dana thought she deserved it. It took her about five minutes.
“It went up for sale as Provasic,” Willow said finally. “Reduces arterial plaque. But a new version was approved by the FDA last year, because…” She stopped. “The original patent turned out to cause liver damage in some elderly patients. Dana, the only name that’s the same on the original patent and the new patent is Doctor Charles Nichols.”
to Part 4