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part two of

The Key To Believing

chapter 11

The Essay

Saturday night in New York: everyone else would speculate that by staying home he was waiting for a woman. In a way he was, but he did not expect her to come through the door right then and there. He had to take what little tidbits of her he could.
It had been hard, all this time, waiting for her to call him, the way she had done in the past years since college, waiting for every chance he had to see her. He knew he had to wait until she was ready for him; he had to know that she wanted to be with him as much as he had wanted to be with her all of this time with her.
In the meantime, all he had was her essay to read before she would see him in Ohio.
Carter sat on his couch in his living room, trying to find a comfortable place to read. He knew that trying to be comfortable would be pointless, because even if he hated her essay, he would be reading her words, and they would give him a key to unlocking her mystery. Carter got up and walked toward the dining room table. There was nothing on it, so there would be nothing there to distract him from reading. He turned on the light over the table and sat in the closest dining room chair; he even noted that the iron back of the chairs would make it more rigid and more difficult for him to lean back to relax.
He actually thought for a moment that if he had people over for dinner, they probably wouldn’t like sitting on his chairs, because the chairs may make them always feel tense.
“It’s a good thing I don’t have people over all the time,” Carter thought, realizing that he wouldn’t want people over to his place anyway.
He sat down with a red pen for changes and started reading her work, though he had to stop after reading the first page, with a hand-written note from her.

###

C -
I hope you don’t mind my sending you this. I know I should have more detail in these, but I don’t think I have enough personal stories to tell. I am sure my grammar is poor in this and I’m sure I overlooked details in these essays.
All the first essays were just old essays I had written, but I thought they might somehow relate. (The gas bill story was even a true story from when I first moved away and had a roommate!)
But I respect your opinion and I really appreciate the read. Thanks. - S

p.s.: I will save the big THANK YOU for when I see you in Ohio!

###

“This isn’t fair,” was all Carter could think. He tried to concentrate somehow. He’d keep this letter near his bed that night, the way she kept his books near her bed.
“Would she would ever get to the same point I have been,” he wondered, “and would she have the patience that he has had in waiting?”
“What kind of signal is she giving me?” he thought as he wondered what kind of “thank you” he would receive in Ohio. “And why she had to use all capital letters when she said ’thank you’?” he wondered. Though he couldn’t imagine it, a part of him thought that maybe she did buy some lingerie from the catalog he teased her about.
Then he stopped himself immediately. “There you go again, Carter, stop thinking that way. She didn’t mean anything by it, and she couldn’t even buy lingerie for herself. Even from a catalog... Just read.”
He knew he would still bring the note to his room when he went to sleep that night, but he turned the paper over and read her essay.


a collection of essays

Government Inefficiency

Our gas was shut off today. The gas company had a problem with our bill and shut off our gas without letting us know, while my roommate and I were out. We were not notified that there was a problem with our bill or that anyone was considering shutting off our gas.
So my roommate straightened everything out with the gas company, and they told us that they would be at the apartment sometime between two in the afternoon and eight in the evening.
Now, I won’t go into the fact that when someone you are paying for a service gives you a time estimate for a house visit, they are late over ninety-nine percent of the time.
I won’t complain about that because it didn’t actually happen this time -- someone arrived at around three thirty in the afternoon. (Besides, everyone already knows how awful it is to be held hostage in your own house waiting for people who never show up.) The man came by and turned on the gas, and asked to check the burners on the stove. So he did, and then he asked if the water heater was electric. It was in the basement behind a locked door, and the super was out of town for the weekend. So the guy said he’d have to turn off the gas until I could get the door unlocked to the water heater, to make sure. He said they had people working until midnight and all day tomorrow, so I should call back so someone else could get out here to turn on the gas again.
I waited for my roommate to come home, and we unscrewed a panel from the basement so we could get to the water cooler before the super got back. When I called the gas company back, I was only on hold for a few minutes (another pleasant surprise). Then when I explained the problem, the man told me that I had the wrong number, that this was an emergency line. Apparently not having gas is not an emergency for the gas company, so he gave me the other number.
I was on hold for at least another ten minutes (no, make it more like fifteen), before a lady got on the line and asked me my problem. I explained what had happened, and she said she couldn’t get anyone out there for another week. They were booked tomorrow and couldn’t schedule me in. So, from what I had gathered from the situation thus far, our gas was shut off due to a misunderstanding, the person who came to turn on our gas wanted to check something we’d never had to have checked before and wouldn’t keep our gas on, and then they couldn’t get someone out there to turn on the gas for another week.
Did I mention that it was Fourth of July weekend and we needed to cook?
Oh yes, and bathe. I suppose we could bathe in cold water.
So then my roommate called back and tried to see if there was anything else he could do. When that didn’t work, we asked if there was any competition, or if we had to get our gas from them and we had no choice but to wait a week for gas. I already knew the answer, but I hoped it wasn’t true, for one brief moment.
When my roommate got off the phone, I started thinking about some of the problems we have because of monopolies. Yeah, it’s not something I’d have a problem with, normally I wouldn’t be complaining about monopolies, but the only place in this country where monopolies exist are in businesses where the government runs or subsidizes the business.
The Post Office. Utility companies. The commuter rail system.
Great.
People complain about monopolies all the time -- in our phone companies, with computer giants like Bill Gates -- even though there is nothing close to a monopoly in these industries today. Of course there isn’t. The government steps in before competition gets a chance to provide a better product.
But that’s a different rant. Back to the gas company.
The government doesn’t let private businesses get too close to a monopoly. But when it comes to the government stepping in and running businesses, the last thing the government would want is something competing with them.
Especially when any other private business would probably run any operation more effectively than the government. They’d have to; they’d have to make a profit and wouldn’t have the chance to get as much money as they wanted by taking it from people.
Oh, the government calls it a tax. My mistake.
How many times have you heard people complain -- for that matter, how many times have you complained -- about the long lines and the slow service at your local Post Office?
How many times have you tried to take a train across the country rather than fly? Why are the costs of taking a train comparable to flying when airplanes are faster and more expensive to build and maintain, especially when rail companies get government subsidies in order to stay afloat and take at least four times as long?
What do you do when your electricity goes out and they say they’ll come out between ten in the morning and two in the afternoon, so they make you stay home from work, and then, of course, they don’t even show up... What do you do -- call another electric company for immediate service?
What do you do when the gas company cuts off your gas and says they can’t turn it back on for another week?
Am I making my point here?
I was working one day, waiting for these city employees to come to our job site and do their job. When I still thought they were going to show up and just be late, I thought of asking them if they liked paying more taxes. When they’d answer no, I’d have to ask them then why they are so inefficient -- because it’s their inefficiency that causes taxes to go up, so we can pay more than we should for these services.
I imagine they can’t put two thoughts like that together, though.
Sorry. Now I’m just getting bitter.
But there would not only be increased efficiency in work and therefore better products and services and more choices if the government got out of these businesses, but there would also be less money in taxes to pay, since we wouldn’t be subsidizing the inefficiency of the existing government agencies with money we worked hard for.
My point? Well, I guess you get my point. Nobody likes to have to deal with inefficiency, but no one stops to think of where it comes from or what to do about it.
So what do we do about it? Well, I suppose you could complain as much as I do, but then everyone would think that Americans were just a bunch of complainers. We could stop voting for government officials who think we want them spending our money on inefficiency.
Or we could tell our officials that they’re right, we don’t like monopolies... And the first ones we want to get rid of are the ones run by the government.
The government doesn’t have to be running companies for us -- we’ve proven that we can do that ourselves -- in fact, we can run them better. It’s the government’s hold on companies and industries that’s strangling us.


Balancing the Budget

If we are going to try to balance the budget, the key isn’t in doing it by taxing everyone until the debt is gone. The key is accepting more responsibilities as citizens, and not expecting the government to make things easier on us.
The reason why the government costs so much money is because we continually expect it to do more and more for us. The capitalist base that this country was founded on suggests that the government is there to protect our basic rights -- “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This means that as individuals we reign supreme, and no one has the right to take our life, our property or our ability to accomplish what we are willing and capable of achieving.
However, as time has progressed, our political leaders tell us that we need to be taken care of, and to appease us they have offered, as a government, to do more and more for us. We have agreed, these things would be better if the government took care of them for us. But that was where we went wrong.
The government is bogged down with a quagmire of laws protecting ourselves from ourselves. Seat belt laws. Motorcycle helmet laws. Speed limits. Laws to tell you when a rapist moves into your neighborhood, or laws to tell you when you’re mature enough to drive a car, or drink. It seems to make sense that we shouldn’t do these things and can abide by these laws, that we should make responsible choices. But the government is going beyond it’s basic role of protecting us from the force of others by mandating to us as individuals what we are allowed to do that is legally “safe”. This is what is infringing on our rights.
We haven’t offended the rights of others by speeding on a highway. By telling us we cannot speed, the government is infringing on our rights to do what we want with our property, when it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. If, because of our speeding, we hit another car and injure another person and/or their property, then we have infringed on another person’s rights and we should be punished. But not until then. By fitting another car or being in an accident, we have infringed on additional laws. The government’s job is to protect us from others, not from the possibility of accidents caused by others.
We haven’t offended the rights of others, for instance, if we choose not to wear our seat belts while driving or riding in a car. The government’s job is not to protect us from ourselves, but from others. Even if we get injured in our cars because we weren’t wearing our seat belts, we cannot and should not blame the government for not intervening -- their job is to protect our right to decide whether or not we want to use these safety measures.
I won’t argue that wearing your seat belt is not a good idea, but I’m not going to tell anyone that they should relinquish the responsibility of making these decisions to their government. When you let the government make some choices for you, what’s to stop them from making all your choices for you? Capitalism is a clearly defined set of rules, all surrounded around the notion that the individual human being’s rights are most important. However, when you give rights away you start to slip into socialism and let the government take control of some aspects of your life for you. Then they can take more and more -- because you’ve let them -- until you’re faced with a dictatorship, with communism, and no rights as an individual at all.
The government is also bogged down with providing for those who originally can’t -- and now won’t -- provide for themselves. The productivity generated by a free economy has produced a great many things, for all of the people in this country and others. It has raised the standard of living for all. Considering the standards people had two hundred years ago, considering the number of religious wars that killed so many over the millennia in human history, considering the thousands of years the world lived in moral and economic darkness with other political systems, it is evident what people owning their own work can do for productivity, creativity and progress.
From workfare, the Welfare State has risen. The creation of the welfare state has given people a reason to be unproductive. The creation of the welfare state has made people believe they deserve something for nothing. The government never said that every individual in the country was granted “life, liberty and a block of government-subsidized cheese,” but this attitude, the attitude that people deserve something for nothing from their government, can be seen in our homeless on the streets, with their cups in their hands, marking a post to beg from daily in front of people going to work. They ask for money, bless you when you pass (invoking the notion of a god and the altruistic notion to give to others, even and especially if they don’t deserve it), and occasionally, when they don’t get the money they want from you, they scream in protest, as if the money in your pocket isn’t yours but theirs, and they think they have every right to expect a handout from you. America created this mentality when they created the welfare state, and we’re paying for it in many ways. The lack of a balanced budget is only one way we’re paying.
When the government and the people thought it was good to help others, they didn’t know that helping themselves by being productive raised the standard of living, created new products and services, and did end up helping others. They also didn’t consciously think that the productive earnings given to those who didn’t earn it had to come from somewhere -- from productive people’s pockets. Our productivity, as well as our budget, suffered for it.
The government is even bogged down with controlling and subsidizing many aspects of our lives. National defense is a job for the national government, because part of its job is to protect us from outside threats (that’s the “life” part of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”). But supporting the arts, education -- the government is not responsible for any of these things.
The arts have come under great scrutiny because people don’t want their tax dollars funding certain kinds of artwork. America’s health care is more expensive and rated worse than eleven other countries in the world. That also applies to the education system. We need metal detectors at the gates of our city schools and kids graduate from high school without being able to read.
A business couldn’t run without producing a good service or product -- in fact, it would have to produce a better product, since it would be in competition with other companies. And a business couldn’t run at a deficit -- it has to be able to run efficiently in order to run well. In what has been the most capitalistic society to date, we have proven that companies can run efficiently and well, and for it they always produce a better product. This could also happen in the areas that the government still has control over.
Privatizing education, for example, may be at first more expensive for parents, but it may also make the standards of schooling better, because suddenly there would be open competition. It would also allow for ideas that have merit (but have been suppressed) to be taught, because when goods and services are in demand, the demand will be met in a free economy (versus state schools, where boards of education have to impress the higher-ups in order to get more funding, and alter their curriculum accordingly). It may cost more at first, but if Americans weren’t paying taxes for schools, they may have more money in their pockets to be able to meet these expenses. Parochial schools do this already. And in this example, we wouldn’t have concerns about whether or not prayer is allowed in a school, because it is not state sponsored. And there would be no debate over whether uniforms are allowable -- you could pick the school of your choice to send your children to, and base your decisions on prayer, uniforms, and even ability to teach.


A Letter to our Political Leaders

After watching a few of our elections, I noticed that politicians were trying to warm up to the twenty-something crowd. It’s a wise decision: we’re a strong group of intelligent new voters. And, as a rule, we’re dissatisfied with the United States’ current political system. It’s a chance for either party to take a hold of a growing and promising voter group and insure additional votes in future elections.
It would help to know what this group is looking for, though, if there’s a dissatisfaction with our current parties. To understand this, it may help to learn a little more about this group. Although I’m not a spokesperson for all people aged 20-29, I can give you some insight into how I think, as a member of this “age group.”
I’m a twenty-something. But classifying us “twenty-somethings” or “generation x-ers” by our age is something I as an individual finds insulting. I know that we’re Americans, but I also know that we as a group have differing opinions, and we have a right to those opinions. We can have different views on our careers, or families, or music from each other. And that’s something I value -- but I feel like it’s constantly being taken away from us.
Other pressure groups may want you to pass laws telling them when a rapist moves into their neighborhood, but I know that just causes more red tape, and we financially pay for it through tax revenue and more dollars, when that information is made public. Besides, it’s not the government’s responsibility to inform, it’d the individual’s. Other pressure groups may want you to pass laws telling them that they need to wear their seat belts, but I know that in a Capitalistic society it’s not the government’s role to protect people from themselves, but from the force of others, and that is all. Other pressure groups may want you to pass all sorts of laws, but they are by and large laws that go beyond the jurisdiction of the American government. Other groups may want the government telling them what to do all the time, but I don’t.
Part of the twenty-something dissatisfaction (if I may speak for the group) with our current parties may be because neither party embodies a consistent set of values. Consider that our government-sponsored school systems teach students in general that philosophy is too difficult a subject for a single person to understand. And religion may not offer a practical solution for anyone that believes on the individual rights this country was founded on (I mean, Christianity telling people that the meek shall inherit the earth and that self-sacrifice for the benefit of others as good directly clashes with the idea that the individual has a brain and the right to use it, the right to claim what they have earned and even become successful). But young people, especially ones who still have a glimmer of hope that there is something out there that makes sense, when all their lives their schools and leaders have kept from them that their mind is the answer, young people at least still want their political parties to make sense to them. Currently, neither platform, whether Democratic or Republican -- is consistent or cohesive.
If a person believes that government intervention beyond the necessities -- police protection from the force of others, for example -- is wrong, neither political party supports them. Republicans believe in less government when it comes to leaving businesses alone -- economically the government should let businesses prosper -- but when it comes to personal parts of people’s lives -- choosing to have an abortion, whether consenting adults want to engage in sexual activities that are not what they consider “the norm,” the kinds of art work people make and see -- then Republicans know what’s best for us, and want to tell us what to do.
Democrats believe in less government intervention when it comes to these personal issues, but when it comes to businesses and the economy, Democrats want to be able to regulate industries because they’ll do business that can somehow be bad for people. They want to be able to tax businesses because big business is bad (Ask them why? No answer from them.), and they want to be able to take money away from people, via business regulations and taxation, in order to give it away to people who haven’t earned it (there’s no more realistic explanation of the welfare system, other than robbery from the people who produce in this country).
Republicans and Democrats both believe the government should stay out of their business, whatever their business may happen to be. What about other people’s business? They think: feel free to meddle.
Even on more specific subjects both parties split their decisions moralistically. The religious right, a Christian group of Republicans, as well as Republicans in general, will tell you that it’s horrible to kill an unborn child, but it’s okay to kill someone that’s already alive that has committed a crime like murder (what happened to “turn the other cheek”?). If life is so sacred, why do Republicans push capital punishment? With our current appeals system, some estimates say that it takes six times more money to kill someone as it does to keep them in jail for life. And who pays for it? We do, the individuals. The taxpayers. The producers.
But the one thing both parties have in common is that they want to take away at least some of our rights. That’s why we’re so disenchanted with the political parties we have today. Republicans want to take away our personal rights, Democrats want to take away our economic rights. Taxation, the Democrats’ answer (so that people on Welfare can still have goods and services while not working for them), is essentially taxation for anything other than the essentials, which is forcibly taking away what individuals have earned. It’s forcibly taking away people’s money. That’s the definition of robbery. And laws instilled by Republicans to protect our private lives, so that we are just like them -- but they are not only forcibly telling us how to live, but enacting laws causing paperwork, with costs to enforce them. How does the government pay for these things? By taxation, again, which means we, the individuals, pay for the government telling us what to do.
Every election, I’m sure a good number of people with intelligence, people using reason and logic to the best of their ability in making a decision, go to the polls subconsciously wondering, “Which rights am I willing to lose?”
Well, we shouldn’t be losing any of those rights. We should have less government intervention in all respects of our lives.
I’m a twenty-something. I’m a woman, but I don’t try to tell the government I need quotas to get a job, because I know that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” means just that -- it means I can pursue whatever I want. But it doesn’t mean the government should be handing it to me on a platter.
I’m a twenty-something. I’m intelligent, and I don’t need the government protecting me from myself. That’s not what I’m paying for it to do.
I’m a twenty-something. I’m looking for a political party that embodies not my beliefs, but the belief that people can have their own beliefs (whether or not people choose to live by logic and reason or not is not for the government to control). I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals can have their lives (that’s the “life” part of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”), they can have rights, like that no one has the right to take something that belongs to you, like taxation for the welfare state, like that no one has the right to try to take away your life, unlike what the government does to death-row prisoners, for instance). I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals have the right to pursue their own goals, without intervention from the government and without help from the government (that you can’t expect handouts, but you also can start a business to sustain your life without being burdened by over taxation and regulation).
I’m a twenty-something. I’m looking for a political party that embodies not my beliefs, but the belief that people can have their own beliefs. I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals can own their lives, they can have the right to keep their lives. I’m looking for a political party that knows that individuals have the right to pursue their own goals, without intervention from the government and without help from the government.
I’m a twenty-something, and I’m looking for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Can anyone give it to me?


(This is an old one, the dates can change, but I wrote this a while ago... - S)



The Illness of Volunteerism

When I opened up my copy of USA Today this morning, I saw a chart as the illustration for the lead story. The chart stated, “Volunteerism: How Strong is the Drive?” and then asked the question, “If your place of work gave its employees the chance to take paid time off of work to do community volunteer work, how likely are you to take the time off?” The results showed that 51 percent of people surveyed would in fact take the time off to volunteer.
The question asked: would you volunteer if someone still paid you. By definition, that’s not volunteering. Ask the same group of people if they’d be willing to put in the same amount of time and they were not being paid for it. I’m sure the results would be much, much lower.
People work for a living. They go to work in the morning, come home at night, and live off of what they’ve earned -- that’s Capitalism, and for the most part, that’s America (at least that’s what this country was founded on). I would guess that people, for the most part, don’t want to give away their labor -- or their money -- to people who haven’t earned it.
A summit to encourage people to come together to volunteer is another. Asking individuals to volunteer to help out the “less fortunate” is one thing. People have the right to choose what to do with their own time. But making it sound like volunteerism is the responsibility of individual companies is another, which is what authorities make individuals feel.
Businesses, by producing better goods and services, increase the standard of living for everyone in this country (consider that poor people can purchase televisions, have entertainment and “luxuries” that they couldn’t have afforded fifty years ago). Businesses are doing a service to the world as well as to themselves when they produce. They produce a product; competition brings better products; everyone wins. It is not the responsibility of businesses to lose their workers to regular volunteer times, because they don’t owe anything to “the community,” when their work produces “good” for the community in the first place.
“The community” consists of a group of individuals. This country was founded on individual rights. Expecting business owners to shell out money to employees for not working -- for volunteering -- is just another way of extracting money from the producers. Won’t that hurt the economy in the end, which affects the standard of living for all?
The article went on, stating that there were philosophical questions with wide-scale, imposed volunteerism: “How should the role of the government be balanced with the roles of companies, individuals and non-profit groups?”
It shouldn’t be balanced; the government shouldn’t be involved. Government intervention would mean more taxes and less freedom for individuals. Companies should not feel the need to volunteer themselves or their employees, as imposed by a government; if they want to help, they can, but should not be expected or forced to. They do enough by producing better goods and services for the individuals that purchase them.
“Is volunteerism a politically popular but lightweight response to the intractable social problems government leaders can’t, or won’t manage?” ... Now we’re getting somewhere. Volunteerism won’t solve a problem. If the individual you are helping doesn’t want to help themselves, or if they expect to be helped instead of working on finding their own solution, then nothing is solved. The government, when involved with other aspects of our lives, has made a very expensive tangled mess of red tape. Consider education, for example. Pressure groups have pulled funding back and forth for education, providing not the best education, but what the right people wanted. The result? a poor educational system that the government thinks more money will solve. When more money doesn’t help, add more money, and tax the people some more.
“Volunteerism is one of the great glories in America,” states Will Marshall of the Progressive Party Institute. No it isn’t. It’s a great glory to communism, where people are supposed to make sure everyone is equal and not be able to advance with their achievements, therefore giving them no incentive to achieve. It’s even a great glory to Christianity, because you’re not supposed to rise above everybody else. “The meek shall inherit the earth,” they say. No, it’s individual rights, and the right to own your accomplishments and achievements that is one of the great glories of America, and that directly opposes volunteerism. The right to produce and create and succeed is the American way, and it turned us into the greatest country in the world. But for years now, we’ve been told that we need to help others. Since we’ve heard that cry, our country has been slipping. General Colin Powell is working on the volunteerism summit, and he added that it is in individual’s best interests to look beyond their neighborhoods when volunteering. Why? How is it in any individual’s best interest to do work for free that doesn’t affect their lives? No answer.
Companies may be interested in participating in volunteering programs because it bolsters their image in their community, providing business; or it may give their employees a feeling that their company cares about others, which may reduce their turnover rate; or it may be a tax write-off. Either way, the only reasons a business should, in order to be an efficient business, explore volunteerism, is in order to help their own business out somehow. The CEO of Home Depot, Bernie Marcus, said, “We don’t do it (volunteerism) because it increases our business.” Well, then, your business isn’t running as efficiently as it should be. If a company wants its employees to volunteer, hoe do they make a profit? Probably by increasing the prices of the goods and services that company sells. When you don’t see a return on an investment, you lose.
In 1993 Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend “pushed through a controversial requirement that all her state’s public high school students must do 75 hours of community service before they graduate,” the article goes on to say. What does that teach students? That the government has the right to tell people how to spend their time, that the government can tell people what to do, that the government can force people to do things, whether or not they want to do it? It teaches students that volunteerism isn’t actually volunteer work, but a required activity. Does it teach them their achievements don’t matter, that other people matter more then they do? The problem is that a “requirement” to do “community service” is not volunteering.
At the end of the article, there was another chart with the results of a survey. It asked people, “Who should take the lead role in meeting the following goals (providing medical care for the poor, caring for the elderly, reducing homelessness, reducing hunger, helping illiterate adults learn to read, providing job training for the youths): the government, through programs and funding, or individuals and businesses, or through donations and volunteer work?”
Answers varied, but people thought that the government should help out in all of these areas. But how is the government going to do that? With your tax money, deciding how to spend it without conferring with you. If it were the responsibility of individuals and businesses, on a volunteer basis, at least you would know where your money was going.
But then it occurred to me: it’s not the government’s responsibility, and it’s not a business person’s or producing individual’s responsibility -- it’s the responsibility for those in need to do something with their lives, to satisfy that need and accomplish their own goals. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” means that people have a right to their lives, and the right to do what they want with their lives. They can’t infringe on other’s rights to help them.


final “Rights and Ownership” essay

We are so lucky that we have access to so much information. The Internet alone allows you to get information from reliable as well as a range of sources about topics that might not be covered in depth in the daily news. Look how powerful new news can be now, how there are a few cable channels and web sites that show only the news, all to make the world a more informed place.
In my own work, we have been able to use the power of the media on a number of topics related to AIDS and HIV research. I personally have been able to find information on the Internet alone about the relationships between different topics and combating AIDS, such as:

* shark liver oil
* mineral water
* meditation
* herbal treatments
* vitamin supplements
* exercise
* appetite changes
* therapy
* acupressure
* acupuncture
* oxygen therapy
* Tai Chi
* hypnosis
* yoga
* Chinese herbs
* diet additions
* building muscle mass in your body
* increasing protein
* keeping a positive outlook
* keeping working
* reaffirming religious connections

Since the release of Emivir, we have worked on not only trying to improve the effectiveness of Emivir but to also come up with an integrase inhibitor -- a third drug to be used in AIDS cocktails to deal a more severe blow to the HIV virus in the human body. Because we had worked on ways to alter natural cells with Emivir, we used previous tests and samples to come up with an effective integrase inhibitor -- more effective because it is not entirely synthetic, like its predecessors.
In other words, we used old research in new ways. This is why we are coming up with these new possibilities so quickly.
But I think that has already been reported in the general media. If not, medical journals have printed our findings. The information is out there.
More than that, I write this as a citizen. A citizen of the United States of America. You see, that is something I’m proud to say, because this is currently the greatest country in the world. It was this country that laid the groundwork for property rights. It was the idea of owning what you earn that gave people the incentive to produce and excel. It is because of these ideas that we have vastly improved our standard of living -- for all people, all over the world. It was our Founding Fathers that said that they wanted a fair and just government, ruled by the people, for the people. And these are the things I believe in.
That is why this is my favorite country in the whole world. Because I love my work. I love being one of those ’producers’. I love doing the research I do. I like using my mind, making something that people need and want. This country lets me work, knowing that it is mine, knowing that I earned it.
We have worked insanely long hours to accomplish what we have, and everyone that works with me should be commended for all of the accomplishments. But we didn’t do it for money, fame, or the recognition of our accomplishments by anyone. We didn’t even do it for the idea of the ’public good,’ although I have to admit, the work is that much more rewarding when it is so needed, making it such a demanded product. No, the reason why we put in the long hours, the reason why we do this very difficult work day in and day out, is because it’s who we are. It’s because we love the idea of doing something, making something, and having it be ours. Everyone has to admit that they like their work, but they like their work, they like seeing their name on the product, not because it gives them money or fame but because it is theirs. You deserve credit for the work you do. Every person out there deserves their credit, from the man at the car assembly line who checks the bolt for the left door of the sedan model on the line to the woman who sees her name on the sign in front of the house that has just been sold. Everyone out there who earns their work and their rewards loves their work. We like to see a job well done, and we like to know that we did it.
This is why plagiarism is illegal. This is why theft is illegal. Because in this country, you have a right to own what you produce.
I remember reading a few years ago about the national government’s intervention in the broadcasting industry. After pressure from the government as well as various organizations, major networks uniformly adopted a television rating system, like the current system the movie industry uses to regulate content and inform viewers of movies. However, since the enactment of this new system, groups have been complaining that the new rating system does not tell viewers enough about why the shows received the rating they have. Is there a rating because there is bad language? Is there sexual content? Is there violence? Groups have been pushing for an adoption of a plan similar to a system that lists more of a program’s content.
Then the government agreed that this change would be a good idea. So they asked the networks to come together and come up with a plan. But one network chose not to adopt the plan they immediately stated that they can tell people what the content of a given show is, but that they don’t want the government telling them to adopt a system. They also stated in press releases that they will be working on their own plan for a system that will help people understand what exactly is on the shows.
This network didn’t appease the first group loud enough to be heard. But I applaud the fact that they were willing to distance themselves from government regulation, and that they were willing to state this so explicitly.
When citizens find something they don’t like about the goods and services they receive, they should not make it the government’s job to try to remedy the situation. The government is there to protect individual citizens from the force of others -- not from television programming that one group of people or another might not like.
This network concisely pointed out that it is not that they don’t want to inform people about programming if that is what the public wants -- they do not want that authority to be placed in the hands of an already-too-powerful government. The press release stated that it has “-- consistently stated that, as a matter of principle, there is no place for government involvement in what people watch on television. Viewers, not politicians or special interest groups, should regulate the remote control”.
There is a song on the radio, one with lyrics that repeatedly mockingly comment on the average person’s willingness to conform to the media influences and the television, assuming it is how one should lead their life. One of the lines, in fact, uses the reference of having television help the viewers help themselves.

I embrace your legacy, the models and the apathy
I know the late-night network commonwealth is there to help me help myself

The media gives people an image of violence, waif-like models contribute to how the sexes should be viewed, and people seem to embrace it with open arms. This, however, is the decision of the people of the country it is not the decision of the government to impose or force standards on the people on how to view life or how to live their lives. As that one network noted, the government has a powerful hold on the people as it is, and it should not have a stronger stranglehold on how this country thinks.

Recently press releases from the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department note that Madison Pharmaceuticals and my staff have been working on integrase inhibitors at the same time as them.
This is very possible. The government press releases, however, have implied that their work had been too similar to be a coincidence.
And to this I ask them to show me proof.
The press releases from the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department state that they had been working on an integrase inhibitor for nearly a year, yet no research reports are published on it in any medical or scientific journal. It is possible that they might not have published anything about their research in the journals; but there was never even a mention of it in their almost daily press releases to the media in the past year as well.
This concerns me, because they seem to be having problems with our research without showing us (or proving to us) that they have even done any research in the same field in the first place.
Not a soul from Madison Pharmaceuticals has spoken with anyone from the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department, even though they claimed to have talked to people at Madison in one of their press releases. Apparently they visited my laboratory today, attempting to open cabinets and ask questions about our research for no reason.
This type of behavior from our government, our government, is not something that should be tolerated. This is supposed to be a government for the people, by the people. This is supposed to be your government. My government.
If the government has concerns about whether or not someone’s work coincided with theirs, they have to first prove that they were doing the work. If not, then there is an unacceptable amount of government intervention in the private market.
Madison Pharmaceuticals has repeatedly done an excellent job at creating a good, reliable product for people -- the fact that our product sells proves this. We want to continue to do our work. We want to continue to create better and better medicines for patients who need it. We want to continue to fill an urgent medical need. And we want to continue to work, knowing that no one will stop us from doing our best.
Madison and other research and drug corporations have all kept their computer clocks synchronized with the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, so that they could “time stamp” their work and have a verifiable record of their progress. The U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department has not shown any “time stamped” proof or evidence, though I hate to consider or post the theory that as a branch of the government they have the power to “doctor” their evidence.
This is supposed to be an organization that we can count on, and it is leading us to doubt. This is what happens when the government gets too much control over people.
Having pride in your work and what you own, this is the American way, the way it is supposed to be. This is my way. This is your way. This is the way of every person in this country who has pride in their work. We continue working because we love our work. It is our love of having the right to what we produce and what we earn.
Give a government some power, and they will eventually take more -- see any dictatorship or any form of communism or socialism as an example (even see the history of our own government -- we have been slowly losing more and more of our rights here in America). In a way, we should thank that network for understanding that the rights of individuals also include the rights of business people -- and those rights should not be given away so quickly.

A female friend of mine has fears -- a fear of flying is a perfect example of this. I tried to make it better for her when we went on a business trip together once, where she ended up meeting her husband for the weekend. During the flight, I cracked jokes, I made her laugh, and I tried to keep talking to her so she wouldn’t think about the fact that we were in the air. I even told her to order a beer on the airplane, that her husband wasn’t there to stop her. She had a great time flying, she loved the flight, and after we landed I had to tell her that everything went just fine and that she made it.
My friend didn’t like the idea of spending the weekend with her husband. He was another thing that she feared. She was afraid of him; he would threaten her and occasionally he hit her. This weekend was no exception. She called me in my hotel room crying telling me she intentionally left his wallet in another part of the hotel after they had started arguing. He had hit her a few times, she had broken his glasses in self-defense, and she was afraid to stay in the hotel room while he was getting his wallet and she was wondering if she could come to my hotel room.
Looking back, all I could think is that her rights were being taken away from her from someone she gave power to. I told her I would wait in the hall, so that when I saw her I would personally make sure he did not come near her. I didn’t want her to feel like she was powerless, how we can often feel if we let someone or something take too much power from us or take our rights away, so I wanted to do anything I could to help.
When she saw me in the hall she came running to me and I held her before I told her to come into my room. I saw that as she came into my room her husband turned the corner in the hallway looking for her.
I turned away and went into my room. I knew at that point where he was going next.
He knocked repeatedly at my room for the next hour before leaving. We had called the front desk of the hotel to have him removed from the hallway in front of my hotel room. She knew she would eventually have to go back to that room, though, and she knew that she would have to deal with him. I hope it was helpful to her that I was there for her, but I could not be there every time she was in trouble with her husband. She was later able to get a well-deserved divorce from him, so that she would be able to start her life over again.
In this case, I know that someone got married, and did not know that they would have to lose so many of their rights. Sometimes people don’t know their spouse will act that way after they are married, but sometimes they do, and in those cases they know that they are losing rights by stepping into marriage, because that is their choice. But the government shouldn’t take rights away from people, when they have no choice in the matter at all (you can’t just divorce the country you live in and leave when you’d leave your home, your job your family and friends).
I have also heard reports that a few counties in this country are interested in putting waiting periods on obtaining marriage licenses unless the couples go through premarital counseling. Divorce rates are high, these people claim, and it is our responsibility as the people who allow marriages to make sure couples know what they’re getting into. These defenders claim that divorces cause social stress as well as economic stress, and it is their responsibility to try to correct the problem.
Allow me to repeat a part of this. “it is our responsibility as the people who allow marriages...”
Who allows marriages? The government. And “divorces cause social stress?” Did they stop to think about the woman who has been beaten by her husband regularly, or raped by his family friend, when she was too afraid to press charges?
I will be the first to admit that I am not a counselor, and I do not work for any women’s rights groups, but I do know a woman who was in a marriage where the husband occasionally beat her, and made her feel like she was worth nothing. He kept money from her, and took her paychecks when she had a job, which allowed her to be away from their home.
Please allow me to point out that no studies have been conducted to test the effectiveness of putting waiting periods on marriages or marriage licenses. If a couple wants to get married, the decision in one county to wait on giving out a marriage license doesn’t stop an anxious couple from going to the next county to get a marriage license. This merely makes people not want to marry in that particular county. The couples can still hold out through the waiting period to get their marriage license, all without marriage counseling. Then the waiting period accomplishes nothing except irritating the couple and putting off what the couple wanted in the first place. And who decides what kinds of things need to be covered in these small counseling sessions? Is it the people running the sessions? Counselors? Therapists? Psychologists? The government? If not the government, then who pays for the counselors? The individuals who cannot afford the hundred-dollar-an-hour visits, or the government, oops, I mean, the general public, through taxes?
I know that personally I don’t want the government to have enough intervention in my life as to tell me how to be a good wife.
Some religions offer counseling to people who plan to get married. Catholicism, for instance, requires people to go through daylong seminars with their priest before that priest will marry them. Religious institutions have the right to do this, because people decide to be a part of an institution that imposes these restrictions. The United States government was designed with the rights of the individual in mind, and the idea of government-imposed counseling for couples that want to marry violates individual rights in two respects. One is that a couple should be able to get married without the government forcing them to wait (the government is not supposed to apply force except to protect its citizens from force). The other is that the government is forcing people to give up more of their money (in the form of additional taxes or direct pre-approved counseling, probably with a counselor pre--approved by the government).
The government is not our moral regulator, nor should it ever be. And economic problems, in a capitalistic society, should be the concern of the individuals within the society and not the government. This is why these defenders are wrong when they claim that it is their responsibility to try to correct the problems of social and economic stress form divorce. The government has no reason and no right to intervene in people’s private lives. This includes intervening with marriage and divorce. There may be a problem with divorce in America, but the government is not the group to solve it. We are.
This is a perfect example of why it is not a good idea that the government should be so involved with the actions of members of society, especially when they are acting in a way that can help other people and not hurt them. There are a number of examples of this. Giving preferential treatment to certain groups of people before who have gone through past hardships (which have no bearing on their abilities to work in present-day situations) is an example. Enforcing rigid speed limits in some areas of the country is another. These examples of broadcast intervention or marriage counseling are also good examples. This all relates to how the government should not be allowed to intervene with the work of companies on achieving the goals of people in the country -- and around the world.

A number of private companies have been working on integrase inhibitors over the past year and a half. And unlike the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department, the progress of private institutions is documented in press releases, news articles, medical journals and press conferences. And no one from any private organization has complained that our work was similar to theirs, not one private organization has asked to see our offices and expected us to comply. Only the government has the power to do this, if we choose to give it to them.
Our government exists to protect us from the force of others. But who protects us from the force of a government gone out of control?
There is no one to stop them but us. If we care about keeping what we produce and what we earn, then we are the ones that have to stand up for our rights.
I choose to not give our government that much power. The more power you give someone who doesn’t deserve it, the more power they will try to take.
I choose to continue doing my work, because it is mine. I speak for my staff when I say that this is our work, and we will not give it away to someone who hasn’t earned it, simply because they make a claim with no evidence to back it up.
I choose to let the government be accountable for what it does. Without evidence that their claims are true, there is no reason why we should answer to the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department.

- Sloane Emerson


He couldn’t believe what he was reading. He could see spots for changes and additions that could have been made, but otherwise parts of this could be used for an essay for the end of the book. Before he could be distracted by sentiment, Carter started writing on a scratch piece of paper,

A final note from the author
Or: finding the answers

Oh, wait, he thought, try a few more:

The key to the puzzle
The key to the mystery

Carter liked the idea of using the phrase “the key” in the letterhead, but he also thought he would have to bounce these ideas off Ellen.
Carter leaned back in his chair. He felt the cold of the metal of his chair along his back. He liked that feeling, making sure he wouldn’t move to disturb the sensation. Most everyone else would have thought it was more like pain, but at this point in the game Carter was used to the feeling, and it was something he was coming to expect.
He wanted pain to feel good again.
Carter knew for a fact that he had been in pain waiting for her, and he also knew that he needed to talk to Ellen as soon as possible about excerpts of these edited essays possibly being added to the end of the book. He looked up her home number from his Rolodex at the counter next to the table and dialed her number, expecting to get her answering machine. He didn’t expect an answer.
“Hello?” he heard from a tired female voice.
“Hello, is Ellen there?”
“This is she. May I ask who is calling?”
“Ellen, I am sorry to call you so late, it’s Carter, from Quentin.”
“Carter Donovan?” Ellen answered, as she was stunned by the call.
“Ellen, I am sorry to call --”
“Don’t worry. Did you need something? I can’t imagine this being a social call.”
“I was calling for business reasons first of all... There is potentially a new essay for the end of the book, and that might be hard to add when we are just about to send it off to the press. I don’t know how the pages are set up with the printer right now, and I know this essay will need some major editing and splicing from other pieces so it can all fit together somehow, but I was wondering if it could be done, so --”
“We have it set up so that there are blank pages for notes after every chapter so that the reader can add notes. And pages for printing have to be in sections of eight, so depending on how long the last ’essay’ or ’letter’ would be, we could just tack a few additional pages for notes after the letter, you know, for notes about the book and notes for their own experiences.”
“That’s fine. I don’t even know yet if it going to definitely be in the book, but I wanted to see if we could be able to add it as late as the end of next week.”
“It shouldn’t be a problem to add it, but we can check on it as soon as we get the chance to talk to the printers in Ohio, but for that we would have to wait until after they open tomorrow.”
“Ellen, do you have the number with you at home by any chance?”
“I have it in my files, so I can call them tomorrow morning.”
“Ellen, I’m sorry to call, but this is immensely helpful. You have no idea how good this is for me.”
“Mr. Donovan, it’s no problem. But was there anything else you needed?”
“Well... ” Carter thought for a split second before he continued, “Well, I would appreciate it if you called me Carter and not Mr. Donovan.”
“Saying your first name still even sounds, well, formal...”
“But it’s my name, and it makes me feel more comfortable if you’d call me by it.”
Carter waited for a moment before Ellen responded.
“Carter it is,” Ellen said. “Was there anything else?”
Ellen waited for a moment before Carter responded.
“You know, Ellen,” Carter started, “I think we could be more social together, maybe. You know, we could go to a club, or even a coffee shop to hang out and talk to each other.”
Ellen sounded confused and Carter could tell. “Excuse me?” she said.
“Well, just to do something together.”
“I’m sure you’re too busy to go out with the likes --”
“As a rule, I try to not be too social or go out with just anyone.”
“But I’m beginning to think you’re inviting me out as more than a friend.”
“Ellen, I was just trying to be nice. Sometimes I think I am not supposed to ever be with a woman, so... I don’t know what to say, but I wasn’t trying to make a move on you.”
“Mr. Donovan, you don’t say the ’right’ words to make a woman feel good.”
“I think you’re pretty, and I was just saying that I wasn’t hitting on you, and I thought it would be good to talk to you, and you can keep calling me Carter, not Mr. Donovan.”
Carter finished their conversation so they could say goodbye to each other. When he hung up the phone, he took the essay, along with the letter that was written to him, to his room. He thought for a moment about bringing the phone with him to the bedroom, to call her once he was in bed, to tell her about his reading the essay, but he thought that would be too much for him to do. He left the phone at the counter, turned off the lights, and took his paperwork into his bedroom.
Carter went to his bed, dropped the paperwork on the dresser next to it, took of his t-shirt, unbuttoned his pants and let them drop to the floor at his feet. He figured he would put them away when he woke up in the morning. He fell into the bed face down; he then looked at the letter from her as he rolled over and tried to go to sleep.


chapter 12

The Love Lost

Carter made sure that an eight-page addition to the book could be inserted last minute without a problem. He did everything he could to make sure that his editing and splicing on her essays was completed, so that he would be able to talk to her about using it as a possible epilogue.
Carter also made sure to talk to Ellen, because he wanted to have the chance to talk to someone else, so that he didn’t feel so alone. He liked Ellen, because he liked her intelligence, he liked the fact that he always saw her when she was working and thinking, and he wanted to make sure that she didn’t think he was trying to abuse his power as her potential superior. He was just trying to be a friend.

###

Sloane wasn’t used to having to wait in lines at the airport. By 6:00 in the morning she was already inside the airport, and had managed to bypass the baggage check-in by only bringing a carry-on bag. But at the gate she stood in a long line and waited for her seat assignment to be confirmed.
She finally got to the front of the line.
“Are there any seats left with extra leg room, like at the exit rows?”
The woman checked from behind the counter. “I’m sorry, ma’am, those seats have already been assigned.”
“Can I get an aisle seat toward the front?”
“Are you flying alone ma’am?”
“Yes.”
The woman behind the counter typed for ten seconds. “The best I can do is seat 13D, which is an aisle seat.”
“That’s fine,” pulling out her diver’s license for the woman to check for security purposes. She was then asked if she had any additional forms of identification, so she pulled out her passport and waited to see if they wanted to see a credit card with her name on it as well. She knew that in light of serious terrorist activities there was so much more security, but she didn’t know what else she had to prove so that she could go to another location to do her job.
Finding a seat at the terminal close to her gate, she read over her notes until her block of rows was called to board the plane. She noticed that people were so anxious to get on to the plane that they’d stand and wait so they could pounce on the woman taking the tickets as soon as their rows were called. She knew that people wanted to get on the plane quickly so they might have overhead baggage room, since so many people wanted to use it for all of their belongings that didn’t fit under the seat in front of them, but if that wasn’t the issue did they not realize that they’d have to wait for everyone else to get on the plane anyway?
When she managed to get onto the plane she found herself next to an older couple talking about their grandchildren. She tried to tune them out and listened to the hum of the engines starting up. She found it was much more difficult to enjoy the experience of flight in a cramped seat with people talking all around her and a child sitting in the seat behind her, kicking the back of her seat.
By the time her plane landed it was past eleven in the morning. As she walked out into the terminal she saw Carter standing with two other casually dressed gentlemen.
Confused to see the additional men but pleased to see Carter, she continued to walk toward them
All Carter could think was that he wanted his first words to her to be “I love you” -- and then he knew that he would then have to explain that he meant that he loved her essay -- but he knew that he wouldn’t have the chance to say anything like that to her when he had coworkers with him to catch her at the airport. He had to think of something more appropriate to say.
“My flight got in fifteen minutes before yours did,” Carter said as he reached out to shake her hand, “So Mark and Todd decided we should just wait for you so that we could come in together.”
Introduced to their tour guides from the printing plant, they then walked out of the airport in Columbus and approached the car.
The printing plant was clean and very large. They got a tour of the entire plant; Todd showed them where pages go for plating before final color checks were made, and then they finally walked toward the printers.
Before they entered the warehouse-sized room that housed the printing presses, they were each handed headphones to protect their ears from the loud noise of the running presses. Carter accidentally hit Sloane in the temple with his elbow as he was trying to put the headphones on his head.
“Ouch!”
Carter turned around instantly. “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you okay?” He reached his hand to her head and curled his fingers under her ear and touched her temple with his thumb. He wanted so badly to keep his hands there and tell her he would never want to hurt her, but he knew this was not the time or place and she would not be interested in him coming on to her. Carter finally asked, “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
Feeling his hand around the back of her neck, she instantly tensed up. “No, I’m fine really.” She tried not to think about Carter, but it was impossible for her. What she didn’t know is that they were both playing this game with each other; they were both playing this game with themselves, and they were both torturing themselves for the benefit of no one. She wasn’t used to being so cold around someone, and she didn’t know how else to act in situations like this. And she didn’t know how she was going to be able to handle the rest of the stay in Ohio.
And he didn’t know either.
They were guided into the large room where twenty sheet-fed presses and fifteen web printers were running. Giant rolls of paper were spinning at the top of each machine twenty feet in the air, and as they approached one press they could see the paper running first through a cyan blue printing, then up and around and down to where yellow was shot onto the pages, then over and through to a magenta printing, then down and around to where black ink was finally pressed on to the pages. She could see that for some papers, only certain colors were used; those papers wound around the top of the press until it reached back down for the ink color it needed.
A few men in jeans wearing headphones and goggles checked pages. Todd and Mark walked them over to the table the men were inspecting pages on.
“You see, the customer supplies a color proof for their pages, but if they can’t we print one for the customer to check and approve the color on before we continue. These gentlemen here are checking that the color is okay off the test page. If it’s not, they can stop the press and lighten or darken any of the inks we have. They also make sure that the plates once again are in good registration, so that if we need green and use it by mixing the cyan and yellow inks on our press, that the edges perfectly match up so that you don’t get a yellow highlight or a cyan shadow.” He showed the two of them a sample of a page with bad registration before they turned back toward the presses.
“Let me show you the bindery before we go to how your book will run, okay?” She nodded her head in agreement and they proceeded through the warehouse to a large door into another room.
Stacks of papers lined the hallways of the next room, and there were more large machines all around her. Some of the bundled stacks of papers were twenty feet tall and ten feet wide. “These bundled stacks of paper you see here,” Mark said, “these go to the recycling plant. We recycle everything here we can. That’s why such a small fraction of recycled goods is post-consumer waste -- industries produce a lot more waste than consumers do, and companies like us produce a ton of paper we would otherwise throw away as well. An industry’s recycled goods are cleaner and easier to use at recycling plants, too. Here we recycle our papers, our excess inks, the silver from our film making processes and our excess film.”
Mark and Todd walked them over to a machine that was guiding stapled magazines through a massive stapler. The magazines were split open on the slanted, v-shaped belt while a staple machine held the pages together and stapled the center of the belt. “Saddle-stitched books are easy to print,” Todd said. “After they get bound the edges are trimmed in this machine over here, and then they’re ready to go. Perfect-binding a book, like a hard cover or a paperback book, is harder. We’ll show you that after you check on how your upcoming book will run, okay?”
They agreed as they walked back through the large door to the main printing room. She was amazed at the huge machinery that was producing such large quantities of printed materials. Machines cut the reams of paper down, collated the pages, then bound them and trimmed them. It was fascinating to her that these gigantic machines guided reams of paper through, and combined cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks to produce a full-color page.
Walking through the press, she began to understand what Carter meant when he talked about how he loved to do a press check on his books. She continued to gaze, and Carter occasionally glanced over to her to see her eyes widen to view the machinery around her. He loved the fact that she found this fascinating, and he loved the fact that in a way he was able to give this to her.
They walked through the warehouse and she watched the workmen walking back and forth. They wore large gloves and periodically checked the output of one of the machines to make sure everything was in working order.
When they finally arrived at a press in the corner, she noticed that the large roll of paper at the end of the machine was bypassing all of the inks except black. She looked over at Carter.
“That is how your book will print too,” Todd said to them. “This is how most books of this size run through us. We’re printing the inside pages, which are all just black. The paperback cover and the hard cover jacket will be done another morning. Care to have some lunch before you look over sample inside pages and see what it is like?”
“Sure,” Carter answered. All she could do was gaze at the press move the rolls of paper through the large web of machinery until Todd touched her shoulder and gestured that they were leaving.
After lunch they spent the rest of the afternoon checking over pages and samples of one of Quentin’s books without the covers, as it was a normal policy to make sure the type was printing evenly on the pages and pages weren’t being printed on an angle, because it was easy enough to check when you had a rule at the header and footer of each page, which was common. When they had a break Sloane would just go over to the machines and watch the presses run.
Carter followed her to one of the machines once during the afternoon. He had to yell in order to be heard through the headphones over the other noises. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is,” she yelled back. “Now I know why you like this.”
As he started to walk away, Sloane had to yell to him, “I hate to ask this, but what did you think of my essays?”
Carter turned around and yelled back over the press noises. “Oh, you’ll get an earful from me when we get to talk after the press today. Couldn’t you pick a more quiet place to ask?”
She smiled at him and Carter smiled back before he walked over to the press check counter he was working from while she looked at the turning gears and the rolling paper.
Todd took them out to dinner at the end of the day and they discussed how they started on the book project.
“What else do you print, just books and magazines?”, she asked.
“Pretty much. Smaller projects like brochures and fleers are pointless to do here.”
In this small town three hours from Columbus, people didn’t worry about going to college, for if they wanted to live in their hometown they could just get an education for a job at the printing plant after they graduated from high school. If it wasn’t for the size of the plant and the jobs it provided, Todd explained, the town could have become a ghost town decades ago.
After dinner Todd drove them back to the hotel they were staying at and told then he would pick them up at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.
As she walked with Carter down the halls to their rooms next door to each other she had to ask him again about her writing. “I had to send a few essays to see if anything could be mixed together. But was the essay idea that bad?”
“I...” Carter said as he did what he was afraid to do earlier today at the airport and at the press. He put his hand at her neck and curled his thumb up along her cheek in front of her ear. “I wanted to tell you after I read your essay that I loved you.”
He instantly saw in her eyes a look of confusion. Her eyes turned to saucers, and Carter saw this as a sign that he made a huge mistake. “What I mean is that I loved your essay. I thought the essays were really strong. And I love the fact that it was you that wrote them. There were small details that could be changed, but I was really impressed with the way you were able to incorporate personal stories about government intervention into our lives and into the AIDS story; it made the story very personable.”
He had to pause at that point, he didn’t know if she was hearing him.
She finally spoke. “You thought my essays were personable?”
“Yes, I thought that last one was really personable. I also thought that it was very analytical at the same time, in a way that the rest of the book is, in a way that the subject material has to be.”
“Analytical?”
Carter had to quickly respond to her bewildered comments. “Now I don’t go around ascribing to any organizations, but I would say that was a very Objectivist essay of yours.”
“What is that?”
“Have you ever read Atlas Shrugged?”
“No.”
Carter thought for a moment, remembering that it was probably just his profession that allowed him to know so much about other writers. “How about The Fountainhead? That’s a better-known book.”
“Yes, I read that years ago.”
“Do you remember how the lead character in that book was an architect, and he wouldn’t give up his goals, or standards, which are his morals and values, and in the end he ended up building the tallest skyscraper?”
“Yes, but you have to admit that the book was a bit outdated.”
“Yes, but the idea wasn’t -- the idea was that someone driven by these standards, someone who had such high, direct, concrete standards, someone who had standards that were synonymous with their values as well as their morals -- those are ideas that do not fade in time.”
“That’s fine, but I don’t see -- wait, are you suggesting that I write like the author of that book?”
“Ayn Rand was her name, and I wouldn’t say that you are a dead ringer for her, I --”
“Why did you remember her name was Ayn Rand?”
“That is my job. To know these things.”
“Sorry...”
“I was just trying to say that it was very analytical, very logical, and very reasonable, like her writing was, but with your personal stories in there as well, it made it much more like a letter to someone, and not an essay that you would have to ’decree’ at a formal meeting in front of a group of people. Ayn Rand’s writing was very logical, but it gave you more reason to want to immerse yourself in her stories. Your personal stories in your essays -- you know, like the gas being turned off or your friend afraid of flying who was abused by her husband -- I thought it was a personal note that would make everything else that was said in the book seem that much more real. I think it would make a fitting ending for the book, even.”
Her eyes turned to round discs when she heard him say this. “What? We can’t do that! The book is about to start printing!”
Carter couldn’t help but think that he loved to see her eyes when they were that big and open, even if she was only having that reaction because of anger or fear. “Magazines print every month and they are usually late for some reason, so it could be made to fit at the end of the book. I checked with Ellen, and we could add another eight-page form to the back of the book, and the extra pages from after the essay could be additional notes space for the writer for information they need to keep,” Carter said. “I think it would make the book really helpful for people --”
“What, and make this seem like a more ’kind and caring book’?”
Carter didn’t know her adverse reaction of anything generally referred to as ’kind and caring’, because he did not see the struggles she had to go through with her work sometimes. Carter continued, “Well, that’s what we’re going for by producing the book in the first place. Moves like your press conferences and this book are going to help you continue to do your work.”
“Do you think I really need this much help to do my work?”
“Right now it seems like we all do. And if this helps, it can help Madison get more money as well, get more customer appreciation, and probably even get your department more funding to do more work that you need to do.”
They were standing in the hallway together, right by the elevator, and their rooms were at the other side of the building. They stood there in silence for a moment before she finally spoke again. “You’re spearheading the production of this book, even managing the editing, so I suppose you know best on this one. I’ll trust your judgment.”
Knowing that sometimes silence spoke louder than words, he put out his hand for hers. She took his hand and they turned to walk toward their rooms.
Carter finally spoke again. “I saw the look on your face when you were watching the presses running.”
“Yes?”
“I think you really are beginning to see what I see.”
This comment agitated her. She thought that she didn’t want to know the world through his eyes, because it would hurt her too much. She wanted to be a part of his life, but the pain of being near him and knowing she could not be with him was torturing her.
“It’s not as if it was your vision. People can look at a press and think it is an amazing piece of machinery without taking the idea from you.”
Carter seemed confused. “I know, I was just saying that it’s nice to have been able to show you how the presses made me feel.”
Sloane continued walking with him in silence. Carter decided not to say something else, lest it further aggravate her.
When they arrived at their doors, Carter spoke up again.
“Would you like to go somewhere? I don’t know where we could go to be social, but we could continue talking somewhere.”
“No, thank you,” she answered tersely. “I’m feeling tired. I should just get some sleep.”
Before Carter could ask her if something was wrong, she closed the door to her hotel room behind her.
Carter walked into his hotel room and paced the floor in front of the foot of his bed. He took his jacket off and hung it up in the closet, then removed his tie and hung it on the same hanger. He could just tell that something was wrong with her, but he did not know why she wouldn’t talk to him. Carter knew that she always talked to him, and she always seemed happy near him, and he didn’t know what to do. All he could keep thinking about the fact that Sloane was just on the other side of the wall, and that it seemed like she was miles away and that there was nothing that he could do.
For almost an hour he tried to work in his hotel room when he decided he had to give her a call.
“Hello?”
“It’s me.”
“Yes?”
He could tell she was being short with him.
“What is the matter?”
“Nothing.”
“Did I wake you?”
“No.”
“I thought you said you were tired.”
“I’m fine. Really, is that why you called?”
“Well, yes, I wanted to know if you were okay.”
“And I told you I’m fine.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Carter could hear her sharp inhale before her pause, as if his strength caught her off guard.
After gaining her composure and after him waiting for her to speak, she finally answered. “I guess that’s your problem, not mine.”
Carter didn’t know how to respond.
“Have I done something to upset you?”
“No, Carter, I just need some rest. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Before Carter had a chance to protest, She hung up the phone.
For a moment he felt like he was on a television show, where people were on the phone and people hung up on each other and people did not say goodbye to each other. He couldn’t believe he was going through all of this, and he knew he could not bring himself to call her back to try to talk to her, when it could just mean that he would make a fool of himself. For another hour he tried to get work done, but it was no use. All he could think of was Sloane, in the room right next to his, just beyond that wall. He wanted to be able to put his arms around her and make her problems disappear. He wanted to be able to feel her next to him. He wanted to hear her admit to him that she loved him as much as he loved her. He couldn’t concentrate on anything else.
At just before ten in the evening he heard a knock on his door. He sprung up from his chair and opened the door. Sloane was standing before him, wearing her blouse and skirt from earlier in the day; she was no longer wearing her jacket.
Looking up at Carter when he opened the door, she noticed the sleeves of his shirt rolled up and saw the light on over the small table in the corner.
“Have I interrupted your work? I can go.”
“Nonsense. Come in.”
Carter held the door open for her and she walked into his room. He sat down on the foot of his bed and she immediately proceeded to start pacing across the room, where he had paced just an hour ago himself.
Carter could see that she was still angry. She barely looked at him and barely spoke.
“Did you come in here to pace my floor?”
“Do you have to be so sarcastic all the time?”, she nearly snapped back.
“Look, I’ve been pacing here myself because I have had no idea what is wrong.” Sloane continued to pace and she didn’t speak. He continued. “So you have come here now, and I assume it is because you want to tell me. Will you tell me what you’re so angry about?”
“You want to know?” She raised her voice. “You want to know?” She was now shouting at him.
Carter looked up at her. He wasn’t used to her yelling. “I assumed you came here to tell me.” She stopped pacing and faced Carter, who was still sitting at the foot of his bed. He could see she was infuriated, but he didn’t know why.
“Are you angry with me?”
Her shoulders fell and she started to pace again, this time more slowly. “There’s no point in my not telling you, I feel like I’m destroying our friendship either way.”
“What? You know you’re not going to destroy our friendship. There’s nothing you could say that could. So... what’s the matter?”
“What’s the matter?” She took a breath before she said the rest of her thought. “I’ve had this little problem...”
She dropped her head. “I’m becoming one of them.”
Carter leaned back; he was confused by what she said. “What do you mean, you’re becoming one of them?”
“Remember talking about people choosing to think or not to think?”
“Yes.”
“Well, in one aspect of my life, I chose for the longest time to not think.”
“What do you mean?”
“There was something weighing on my mind, but it was something that frightened me, something I wanted that I knew wasn’t possible, and so I tried to repress my thoughts. I tried to avoid thinking... I tried to not think.”
Carter sat there, looking at her. He was slightly astonished. “So you’re trying to say that you know that you aren’t thinking. That requires thought, you know. Like if a person thinks they are crazy, then they are probably not, because they thought about it enough to think that something was wrong, which is proving that they weren’t crazy in the first place. And I’m not trying to say that you are or are not crazy, it just proves that you are thinking, and --”
“No, it’s not that I’m not thinking now. I just know that I wasn’t thinking before.”
“So you’ve thought about it now.” Carter was again confused.
“Yes, but I let myself down. I let myself down by trying to avoid it. And I let you down.”
“Why do you think you let me down?”
“Because you’re the only mind I know that wouldn’t tolerate not thinking.” She almost started crying after she said that, and did not know how to stop herself.
“Momentary lapses are completely understandable. We’re human. You were smart enough to realize what you were doing, that you were trying to repress something and you decided to face it, you decided to think about it. If you didn’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Stopping her pacing, she looked at him. Her voice suddenly sounded quiet. “So you don’t think I let you down?”
Carter listened to the sound of her voice as it changed, and thought she almost sounded like a little girl that needed someone to guide her and hold her hand, but then and there he didn’t know what he could actually do, because he didn’t want to make her angry again. He didn’t even know what she stopped herself from thinking about. “You didn’t let me down. You never do. But it’s not me you have to worry about. It’s you. Do you feel you let yourself down?”
Sloane looked at her shoes and started pacing again. “Yes.”
Carter waited a brief moment before answering. “But you’re facing up to it now.”
“Yes.”
“And how does that feel?”
After looking up at the ceiling, she answered, “Terrible.”
“But why?”
“Because I’m a woman of science, I figure out what I need and I do it.”
“And you’re on the right track now. You’ll find whatever you’re looking for.”
“No I won’t; that’s the problem.” She sped up her pacing.
Carter watched her walk back and forth. “Why won’t you find it?”
“Because I can’t control what people think.”
“Do you want to control what people think?”
“No.”
Carter stood up and walked right in front of her. Only looking straight forward, she stared into his neck; she couldn’t bear to look up and see his eyes.
“Tell me what you want.”
Other problems she was having with her research came rushing to her mind. She thought about the fact that AIDS may have been intentionally engineered to kill people. She thought about the fact that the government she is supposed to trust is keeping this killing virus alive and possibly potentially stopping her from working in the future. “I want this research to come along easier, I do not want any government agencies stopping me from doing my work, I don’t want to think that the government engineered this virus as some sort of population control, I want -- wait, why am I even telling you what I want?”
Carter noticed that she wasn’t looking at him and did not answer her question. He placed his hands on her shoulders. “You’re going to eventually tell me what you mean by the government engineering AIDS. But you didn’t tell me everything, young lady, and I know for a fact that you are the only woman I know who can get whatever she wants.”
“Carter, why do you think that?”
“You’re the only woman I know who wants only what she deserves.”
Sloane then slowly raised her head and looked up at him. She thought that she didn’t deserve him, but she wouldn’t dare say it. She started to slowly cry. Carter instinctively moved her close to him, just holding her and letting her cry. He leaned her head against his shirt and stroked her hair. “You know, I wanted to go over to your hotel room and just hold you when I thought you were so angry. But I didn’t because you didn’t want to talk to me.”
“There’s no point in my coming to you. There still isn’t. What I haven’t said to you, what I still have to face, it will destroy any friendship we have.”
Carter leaned back and looked at her. “But why?”
“Because what I’ve chosen not to face actually relates to you. And I’ve wanted to talk to you about problems in my life, and things that I’m facing right now, but I’ve felt like I can’t talk to you. And I want to. But I can’t.”
Carter knew it could not be about her feelings for him, as much as he wanted it to be. If it was, she could have come to him sooner. Maybe their being together wasn’t meant to be, he thought for a moment, before he spoke. “You must really hate what you had to come to terms with.”
Sloane tried to raise her head again, but gave up the effort and let it rest on his chest. “I don’t hate it. I just don’t know if I can live with it.”
“Maybe if you tell someone you’ll feel better. What is it?”
She jerked her head up, because she knew he still had no idea she was in love with him; she knew he had no idea that he was the only person in the entire world that could make her laugh, that could make her feel better. She knew she loved him wholly, she knew she loved him because of who he was, at the core, and that no one in the universe could exist like him. She knew she loved how he thought; that she loved the fact that he actually thought. She loved the fact that he demanded the same ideals of the people he cared about. And she knew for some reason that it was wrong that she loved him, that they were meant to live on opposite sides of the country, that they were only allowed to work together like this on occasions that came maybe once every decade or two, that they were meant to be friends and nothing else. They were too far away from each other. And he could find someone else, anyone else, and that she couldn’t be right for him.
And all this time she had been thinking these things and he had no idea.
It almost looked to her as if Carter wanted to cry with her, even though she was sure he seemed to have no idea why she was even crying. Infuriated again, she broke away from his arms and walked away, pacing. “Of course you don’t know, you could never figure it out!”
What Sloane didn’t know was that Carter wanted to hear those words come from her mouth, he wanted to hear her finally say that she loved him. He was just waiting for her to say those words; he wanted nothing else.
“Then why don’t you tell me,” Carter flatly said as he sat back down at the foot of the bed.
Unable to look at him, she continued pacing as she raised her voice. “Of course you would never know what I was going through! I haven’t even been able to tell you about my fears for my life because agents have told me secrets and given me information that I could not decipher, I could not even tell you because you mean that much to me. Every time you see me you think I’m some unsocial clod, someone who doesn’t know how to dress, or be feminine. You look at me, and you think, ’Oh, that poor fool, she’ll never find a husband, no one will be able to tolerate her.’ And you know what? You’re right! I can’t be all of the things that men would want from me. But the thing is, I wouldn’t want to be those things, not for someone who expected them from me. It’s like you said, I could be a housewife, I think, for someone I loved. But for someone who wanted me to be a housewife? I’d hate them for it. I don’t want anyone, no, I don’t want anyone. I had to go fall in love with you, someone who would never notice me, save having to study with my roommate our junior year in college. And I could never be all the things you need me to be, which are all the things every other man in the world would not want me to be, but I still can’t do it, I love my work too much, and now I’ve destroyed my relationship with my best friend because of it. And you probably didn’t even know I thought of you as my best friend, so there you have it, I have once again revealed too much about myself, and I still can’t do what I need to do, and I couldn’t hold it in anymore, and now look what I’ve done.”
Carter didn’t know how much time had passed before she had stopped speaking, or even if he had cut her off in her speaking, when he stood up. “What did you say?”
He watched her walk past him over and over again as she replied, “Oh, you heard me. What difference does it make if I say it now? I’ve had to back away from you for so long now I may as well not even be your friend. Why do you think I wouldn’t go into the Jacuzzi tub with you when you were in Seattle? And now I’ve gone and ruined our friendship because of this, but I’m sure I was ruining it anyway. Why do you think I tense up when you touch me? Why do you think I felt awkward when you tried to teach me how to use chopsticks? Why do you think I try to --”
“You love me?”
Sloane stopped pacing and looked at him. She walked up to him, to face him square on, and took a breath before she continued rambling again. “You know I do. You know I couldn’t help but love you, you know that there could be no one else I could ever love. You know that I admire your beliefs. You know that I admire not only the fact that you think, but also the way you think. You know that you are the only person that can make me happy. What you don’t know is that outside my work I can’t seem to be happy anymore unless I’m talking to you. You know that you embody to me what a man should be.” She started crying again. “And the more I see you, the more I’m sure of it, and the more it depresses me because --”
“Because why?”
Sloane looked at him squarely and stopped crying. She knew that this was the beginning of the end of their friendship. “Because you don’t love me.”
Carter waited for a moment before speaking. “Is that what you think?”
Surprised by his question, she asked, “Wouldn’t you have told me if you were in love with me?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“Because you wouldn’t have been ready to hear it.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you didn’t want to think about your feelings for me, how would you have reacted if I told you I loved you?”
Standing before him, she was confused and slightly stunned. “Well, it doesn’t matter.”
“Why doesn’t it?”
“... Because you don’t love me.”
After she said those words she turned around to leave the hotel room.
Carter grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her around before she could get away. He pulled her up to him and rushed his head down toward her; his lips met hers in an almost violent push. Her lips parted as he kissed her harder and harder; Carter slid his hands across her back to her neck and pulled her head back by her hair to kiss her cheeks and neck. Sloane threw her arms around his neck and held on to him with a fierce intensity and she pressed her mouth against his face. They kissed each other with an insurmountable urgency; all they felt was that they needed to be together that very moment.
Carter stopped kissing her long enough to put his head over her shoulder and hug her. She responded by doing the same.
“I’ve always loved you, Sloane,” Carter whispered.
She started laughing, almost uncontrollably, almost as a reaction to what had just happened. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Didn’t we just go over this? What would I have said? ’Hey, buddy, I want to spend my life with you.’ How would you have taken that?”
“So you were willing to risk never having me?”
“First of all, knowing you exist, knowing someone in the world existed that I could wholly love, that would be better for me than never finding you. If we weren’t meant to be, then I would face that -- but I also knew that at least I had the pleasure of knowing this remarkable woman that I could truly admire. Secondly, I couldn’t have you, unless you wanted to have me as well. I had to wait for you, to see if you loved me. When you visited me in New York, I knew by the way you acted and the way we were when we were together that you loved me, but you had to come to terms with it.”
“And you knew that, and you let me struggle?”
“I couldn’t tell you to think about it. You had to face it on your own.”
Sloane pulled back from their embrace to look at Carter. She realized that he was waiting for her to learn the things he had known. She thought she knew everything; this time someone was waiting for her to learn. The things she had been struggling with for the past months he had been struggling with as well. She reached her hands around and ran her fingers over the hair on the back of his head.
“Mr. Carter Donovan, I love you,” she said, as a declaration to the entire world, although she wondered if anyone in the world could possibly understand what love meant.
Carter leaned over and kissed the tear left on her cheek. He smiled and moved his arms to her waist. “Ms. Sloane Emerson, I love you.”
She started to laugh as Carter reached down and kissed her again, first slowly, then with more and more intensity. Responding like a dancer, she followed his lead. They stood kissing at the foot of Carter’s bed until Carter took a step and leaned forward, kneeling onto the foot of the bed, guiding Sloane to follow him. She stopped kissing him long enough to sit on the bed, and Carter leaned over her and guided her down to the pillows below them as he started to unbutton her blouse.
Sloane reached up for Carter and pulled him toward her.

At two-thirty in the morning Carter rolled over and saw Sloane in bed next to him, staring at the ceiling.
She didn’t notice that Carter woke up. Eventually she turned her head to look at him. She saw his eyes wide open in the darkness, and he was staring at her.
“How long have you been looking at me?”
“How long have you been awake, Sloane?”
Sloane turned her head back to the ceiling.
“Sloane?”
“Yes?”
“Do you regret what we did?”
She turned her head back to him. “God, no. Do you?”
Carter rolled over, touching her waist. “No. Never. But are you unhappy?”
Sloane leaned over and kissed him. “It’s not you. You’ve made me feel sane through all of this.”
“You never told me about the government and AIDS, like I asked. Is it work that is bothering you?”
She turned around and leaned against him in bed. “It’s more than that.”
“Well, let me see.” Carter kissed her head in between every sentence. “Your book about to print. Your integrase inhibitor is going through more tests and waiting for F.D.A. approval. You at least temporarily got the government off your back with that press conference; for the past few weeks they have left you alone. You now have time to work on vaccines for AIDS.”
He waited for her to speak. She said nothing. He leaned over and added, “And you’ve got me.”
She leaned her head back to see Carter’s eyes. “You know, you do make life make sense.”
“As do you for me, Sloane.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Carter started kissing her neck. “If I kiss you more, will your problems go away then?”
“They may. But you’d further satiate me if you did other things to me some more --” she said as she started laughing and Carter started kissing her neck and chest.

Sloane woke up before the wake up call. She turned to look at Carter. He was already awake and looking at her.
“What are you staring at?”
Carter smiled. “Good morning.”
“What time is it?”
“Just after six.”
They were to receive a wake up call at 7:30 in the morning. They were being picked up to go back to the printing plant at nine in the morning.
Knowing she had some time, she decided to talk.
“Carter?”
“Yes?”
“I have reason to believe that the U.S. government engineered AIDS and is using it for its own purposes. I have reason to believe that they also have a cure for it and are holding it from the public.”
Carter asked her about this before and didn’t get an answer, but hearing it still stunned him, and then he began to understand all that she had been going through in the past month. He propped himself up on one elbow and looked at her. “I’ll assume that this is what you were referring to before, when you were angry and pacing last night. So where did you get this information from?”
“A lot of things were making me angry and making me pace like that last night, but... but someone contacted me by e-mail and told me. They worked for the Department of Defense; previously they worked for the CIA. I met with them in Colorado Springs -- that was right before you came into Seattle to check on the book’s progress.”
“That was when you were disconnected...”
Confused with his remark, she responded, “What?”
“You said you were under a lot of stress. I didn’t know what it was. What exactly happened there?”
“I met with him, he gave me a long story and a few files with some information that might be able to help me in looking for the truth.”
“Files?”
“Yes. That’s what I gave you a copy of.”
“And that’s why you didn’t want to tell me about them.”
“Well, yes, because people who know too much could be hurt or killed, and now I want you to destroy them, because I don’t want any link with you and this. I don’t want to get you in any trouble.”
“Don’t worry about me.”
“Carter, you don’t understand. I’ve been working on this, and I haven’t had much regard for my own safety. But you -- I don’t want anything to happen to you. For once I feel like I have something on this planet worth fighting for, other than my work. And I don’t want to jeopardize that.”
“Well, maybe I have regard for your safety, and I will not let you do this to yourself --”
“What? You don’t understand -- you’re not going to stop me.”
“Then I’m not going to let you do this to yourself alone. And I don’t think you will be in any trouble because a man gave you files. Do you even know if they’re authentic? I mean, can you believe this guy?”
“After he was followed to our meeting he was hit by a car later that night and was killed. Police thought it was a hit and run accident, but I’m sure it was the man who works for the CIA that was following him while he met with me.”
Carter was stunned by every answer she gave him to every question of his. “You know a guy from the CIA was following him? How do you know that?”
“I went to the Seattle police, Kyle’s brother is a policeman, and I asked their sketch artist to come up with a drawing of the man who was watching us. That’s what I told them ... I found the match for the sketch in the CIA database.”
“How did you find a match for your sketch?”
“Well, this is the sort of illegal part.”
Carter sat up in bed. “Sort of the illegal part? What happened?”
“I went to my contact’s office after he died, posing as a friend that would clean up his personal belongings. I got onto his computer, guessed his password and was in the Department of Defense’s main system. This is why I knew he was legit, that he wasn’t feeding me a line. Then I was able to access the CIA employee databases from there, hence the match to my sketch I had of the follower. The only problem there is that my contact was dead already, so they have to know that someone hacked into their system. They just haven’t come to get me yet. And I don’t know why.”
Carter was beginning to feel like he was on a television show again, and that none of this could be real. He rubbed his head. It looked like he was making a physical effort to make sense of everything that was just told to him.
“And you think the U.S. government has a cure for AIDS.”
“My contact told me he had had AIDS and they cured him of it. There’s a vague paper trail of it in the files you have a copy of.”
“So... What are you going to try to do?”
“There was a contact name in the files, and I’ve left messages for him. And by the way, I like the fact that you just asked me what I was going to try to do, and not that you would be the type of guy that would want to quote-unquote take care of everything for me. But anyway, this contact, he left me one message on my machine after I repeatedly called him, telling me that he would get a hold of me when he needed me.”
“When he needed you?”
“I don’t know what it means, so don’t even ask me. But now I don’t know what to do. But as soon as this all happened I started feeling the additional pressure from the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department.”
“Are you jumping the gun with any assumptions on that one, or do you think those two things are related?”
Realizing she forgot to fill Carter in on all of the pieces to the puzzle, she continued. “I was also informed by my contact, before he died, that this would be the next step in stopping the success of AIDS drugs -- government intervention. Toby, my friend doing similar work at the University, has been having similar problems with government funding. Carter, I can’t help but think that it’s all related.” She sat up in the bed, holding the blankets up to her chest, and looked back at him.
All Carter could think was that she had been worrying about a book, an AIDS drug, work on a cure, vaccine research, and this. He was at a loss. He knew that her feelings for him fell short of her research problems, and all he could think about was the fact that she might be in danger.
“Don’t make things more difficult for yourself.”
“How? With making me work so hard for you?”
Carter smiled, but that was not what he was thinking. “That too...”
“All of this -- and you? It was worth it.”
Carter reached over and put his hands on her shoulders. “What can I do?”
She turned around and leaned up against him. “Could you either make love to me, or just hold me for a while?”
Carter wrapped his arms around her.
“I’m not used to leaning on someone. And I’m not used to asking for it,” Sloane whispered.
Carter gently tightened his grip. “When I get better at this, you won’t have to ask. And if you are not dumping this many problems on me all at once, I may be more inclined to turn around and make love to you without you having to ask. Hell, when I get better at this, hopefully I won’t be causing you any more grief.”
“You’re not causing me grief, Carter,” she said. “You’re my salvation.”
Carter smiled. “That sounds a little religious of you...” He jokingly said as he pushed the blankets out of the way so he could be next to her as he started kissing her again. They ignored the phone when it rang with their wake-up call a half hour later.

###

Sloane stayed in bed as Carter got up and walked to the washroom. She watched his figure move through the hotel room as he turned the corner and switched on the bathroom light. She heard the water start running out of the showerhead.
After sitting on the bed for a moment, she realized he wouldn’t be able to hear her under the pounding water of the showerhead. Suddenly she started laughing. For once she felt like she didn’t have to hide anything from someone. For this moment, alone in his hotel room bed, she couldn’t think about her work, or the government, or the fact that Carter lived on the other side of the country. All she could think was that he was there, that very moment, taking a shower, and that he loved her.
Instinctively, she got up and walked over to the washroom.
Not asking, she walked into the washroom and over to the shower curtain that separated her from Carter. She started to open the shower curtain and stood right outside of the bathtub to watch Carter for a brief moment, until he turned around to wash his hair under the showerhead. Then he saw her.
Carter smiled. “Are you going to stand there? Or are you coming in?”
Sloane bowed her head. “I’m shy.” She followed his lead and smiled. “I just wanted to look at you for a moment like this,” she said, “to see your shoulders. You really are gorgeous.”
Carter reached his hand out toward her. She took his hand and moved the shower curtain out of her way.
Carter pivoted so she could get under the water. She dropped her head back and leaned under the showerhead to get her hair wet. She could once again feel Carter staring at her. She pulled her head back and looked at him. He took a step closer and placed his wet lips on hers.

For a moment Carter even forgot that he was even in the shower to bathe in the first place. He told her that it would be fine if they were late. She agreed with him that they could be late; neither one of them had much interest in going to the press in the first place. She knew that the majority of her work there would entail looking over colors, and inks on pages.
Knowing her mind would be somewhere else, she didn’t know how much work she would be able to get done that day.
Their ride understood them being late for the press check. The second day of the press check was much more sedentary than the first, she thought. She checked the colors of sample book jacket sleeves, but otherwise didn’t do much as Carter checked individual pages of other books. Pressmen gave the Carter and Sloane seats at empty desks in an office to work. Carter checked pages while Sloane read. They each tried not to think about the fact that they would soon leave each other and go back to their lives on other sides of the country.


chapter 13

The Battle At Hand

Carter’s flight arrived late Wednesday night. He took a taxi home and did his best to not call her when he assumed she would be getting into her apartment. He remembered thinking that in past relationships he would make a point to not call back right away because he didn’t want to look like he was too interested in the woman he went on a date with, but he made a point to call back eventually, so that the woman would not think he forgot about her.
He knew this was different with Sloane, though, and he felt suddenly as if he was at a loss for ideas.
When he got into his home he dropped his baggage on to the floor and made his way to the liquor cabinet. He was fully aware that he wanted to do something to feel better, well, something, anything, now that she had gone back to Seattle for work. But he knew that liquor wouldn’t help him. He looked up at the glass cabinets on each side of his bar in the corner of his home, and thought for a moment of how he had a different wine for each kind of date he had been on in the past.
He had become quite the connoisseur of these things in his single days.
He thought temporarily about taking a random bottle of wine and throwing it at the wall. Not because he was angry, not because he wanted to show his revulsion for the life he had created, but because he could do it. Moments like that, where he felt flighty, he wanted some sort of physical evidence of the fact that he had played a role all of his life. And he did not even know how easy it had become for him to play that role. He knew that there was no use in breaking a wine bottle against the wall that would have to be cleaned up to remove stains on the carpeting or eliminate damage to the floor. He walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out a Paulaner Weiss beer from the door of the fridge. He turned to the drawer where he kept a bottle opener, decided to forgo a beer glass (which he would never normally do because he lifted the beer with a slice of lemon in the glass and its juice along the rim), and started drinking from the bottle. After the first sip, he decided that he needed the glass, because he really did prefer the taste of a better weiss beer with fresh lemon. Cutting a lemon from the fridge; he then managed to loosen his tie and unbutton the top button of his dress shirt while he kicked off his shoes. He dropped himself down in a chair that allowed him to lean back and look out his window and see the view from out his window of New York City.
While he drank his beer he thought about the fact that his place would look extremely clean, that it had not looked lived-in to the average person
Then he thought that he had ignored the average person’s standards all of his life, and he wouldn’t adhere to their standards now. He preferred to look at the view out his window instead of looking at trinkets he could have collected in his apartment. He leaned his head back in his chair, thought for a moment again about Sloane watching the fire in his fireplace at home, then thought about her running to the window when she saw the view. She thought it was just as beautiful as he thought it was. He thought about whether or not he should call her, and then tried to think about anything else.

###

When Sloane got home that evening, she pulled a note that had been taped to her door keyhole. She noted the stationery that her landlord used before she read as she read the note, pushing the key into the lock, turning it and opening her door.

Miss Emerson -
Someone asked us if they could get into your apartment to look for something they left there. Since you were out of town for only a few days, I told them to come back for their belongings when you got back. They didn’t give a name - they said they’d get a hold of you later.
- Beth

After she read that note she had no time to worry about Carter; she mentally and visually scoured her apartment to see if anything was changed since she left for Ohio. Everything was locked and everything seemed to be in the same place and she knew that she had distributed her only copies of the paperwork she had received from Shane in any place other than her apartment, but a part of her could not shake the fear.
Would she have to live like this forever now, worrying about her own safety?
And she also wondered what these visitors would do, knowing that her apartment was uninhabited since she was out of town. She immediately turned her computer and printer on to write a note to her neighbors and her landlord. She started with a note to the neighbors first.

“Hello”
no, wait, she thought... make it sound more personal. She scratched the idea of using ’hello’ and started typing again.

Hi, it is your neighbor in 122... I hope you don’t mind the typed letter, but I was wondering if you noticed anyone coming around my apartment, because I have been gone for a few days and I am wondering if anyone came by... If you could think of anything, please let me know. If you need to, you could call me at home at 555-9283, or call my work at 555-1918, extension 323, and thanks a lot -
- Sloane

Trying to put it out of her mind, she then typed a note to her landlord.


Beth -

Hi, It’s Sloane Emerson in 122, and I am really curious about this person who wanted something out of my apartment. You said in your note they did not leave a name, but could you possibly give a description, or tell me exactly when they came by my apartment? I ask because I don’t think I have anyone’s belongings here. Thanks for letting me know, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. If you want to write it in a note, that is fine, or you could call me at home at 555-9283, or call my work at 555-1918. Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing form you soon -

- Sloane


She printed the appropriate number of copies of the note for her neighbors and for her landlord so that she could slide them under doors as she left for work. She knew that she did not want to touch the clothes that she would have to eventually unpack that were still in her briefcase, so she went back to her computer, going over notes she hadn’t thought about that may be relevant for altering existing medications to help AIDS patients.
By the next morning she had slid notes under the doors of all of her neighbors, left the note for her landlord in through the slot at the office door, printed copies of her notes from the previous night for Kyle and Howard to go over with her, set up a schedule of who to leave messages for while she was at work (she also noted that she should call her father, Toby and Steve to make sure everything was okay with them), she added in her notes that she should contact Carter about any progress with the book to see if there was anything Quentin Publishing needed from her and ... and really, she was probably using her book as a cover to talk to Carter, but she would use any plausible excuse she could.
But there would be other things to tend to when she got into the office, like checking on any progress with Ellen’s medication; as she stepped into her office she looked around and noted again that she was the earliest person there.
Crossing the lab to her office, she carried her mail and her notes from office members in her hand with her briefcase. The first thing she noted was the flashing light on her answering machine next to her phone. She had been checking her messages while she was away, so she knew this had to be a recent message. She put her belongings down long enough to start the player, so she could organize her things again to get back to work. She had only one message.

Hello, it’s Mr. Donovan here, and I wanted to make sure you got in from your flight safely. I had some changes to the suffix you had added to the end of the book, so let us know when you could receive the fax and we could send it to you. Hope you enjoyed learning how a press works, and if you need anything, please let us know.

She thought it was adorable that Carter referred to himself as “Mr. Donovan.” A very small part of her was angry that he called before she came in early that morning for work, but she couldn’t help but like hearing his voice. She made a point to save the message and she played it once more and left a brief message at his office before getting to work in her office. Knowing that everyone she needed to call had answering machines at their desks, she figured it would be smartest to call them at this hour, so she would not get trapped in a long conversation.
She dialed the first number.

Hi, dad, it’s Sloane. I was out of town for a few days, but I thought I’d check to see how you’re doing... and just to let you know that I’m here, I guess, and that everything is okay with me. If you need anything, let me know. Bye.

Steve, hi, it’s Sloane, and I just got in from out of town and wanted to make sure that everything was okay with you. I know I gave you those papers last week, but I’m sure you put them in your safety deposit box... I was just checking with you to make sure everything was okay. If you need anything, let me know, and thanks.

Sloane realized at this point that she was calling the people who possessed a copy of her paperwork. She continued with leaving messages.

Hi, Toby, It’s Sloane, I knew you would not be in at this hour, but I wanted to see if you had made any progress with your research and solving any of the problems with samples being pulled... if you’re up for coffee or a chance to talk when we are not at the office, let me know, and thanks.

Intentionally deciding to wait until all of her other calls were made, she then called Carter. He picked up his phone, which she was not expecting.
“Carter Donovan.”
Sloane thought for a brief moment about the speed and efficiency he had in answering his phone that way. “Mr. Donovan, this is Ms. Emerson.” She then waited and noted the amount of time it took for Carter to respond to her greeting on the phone.
“I’m glad you’re on a private line.”
“And I like the fact that you left a message for me where you called yourself Mister Donovan, because it makes you sound so much more formal ... And I only have one line to take calls from, you know.”
“I’m sorry I’m used to private lines in this business, and I planned to leave you a message that way, darling. And I miss you desperately.”
“So you must realize that I am keeping that message so I can hear your voice at a moment’s notice. And I will guess from your last line that I am not the only one doing the missing?”
“I didn’t know you had a monopoly on missing. Do I have to pay royalties?”
“You make more money than I do, so maybe you should.”
“But you don’t do anything with your money, so you probably have more money saved than I do.”
“Probably. Keep in mind that I saw the place you lived in.”
“What, you don’t like it?”
“Actually, I love it, but you get to pay through the nose for it, and there’s no great view here in Seattle to gaze at... And just so it doesn’t look like we are spending too long on the phone together, I thought I’d call you back to tell you what time I could receive a fax of the corrections. You realize that I’ll probably accept your changes, but thank you for bouncing them off of me first.”
“I figured you would think the changes were fine, but I was just using this brazen excuse to hear your voice.”
“You’ll have to let me call you again at your private line Carter, and let me get your voice mail so you can have a recording of my voice if you want it, because right now that is about all I have of you.”
“Give it time, angel. You already possess more of me than my voice in one recording.”
“I know. And you the same.”
Sloane let a moment pass in silence before she spoke again. “I like the fact that we can just sit in silence like just now and not feel as if we have to fill the space with mindless chatter. And I also like the fact that you have given me a few nicknames in this phone conversation alone.”
“Like ’angel’?”
“You’ve used angel and darling, Carter.”
“You’re my darling angel, and yes, it is nice to not have to fill the phone lines with inane chatter. And I will send the changes off to you in a fax.”
“Then feel free to call me in a half hour so I can confirm the changes with you.”
Carter smiled as they said good-bye to each other. She walked toward the fax machine and waited for the fax coming through so she could look over the changes.
The rest of the week and the following week had operated in the same fashion as past weeks with Madison -- slow-moving progress, research on attempts to change the existing inhibitors, efforts to keep all data tracked so they could have proven records of all of their work, and the occasional argument session with Tyler about letting out the right images of Madison and not making any waves with people about the progress (or lack thereof) that Madison has. Minutes before an advised press conference the next Tuesday, Sloane, Kyle and Howard grouped together and met with Tyler. Sloane was the one doing the majority of the talking with Tyler, but Howard and Kyle occasionally interjected to calm her down and offer an air of calmness to their argument.
“So, Tyler, you think the press conference I did before was a complete failure because I did not listen to you and read your speech verbatim?”
“I --”
Without waiting for him to finish his sentence, she cut him off. “No one seemed to have a problem with what I said, and no one disagreed with Madison, and now everyone thinks that the U.S. government is trying to steal from us -- and withhold information from the people.”
“What, you want everyone to run around thinking that our government is after us?”
“They can start feeling the way I have been feeling.”
“I don’t even want to know why you have been feeling that way, but what you’re going to end up getting are a bunch of people with aluminum foil wrapped around their heads trying to get transmissions from aliens at night while everyone else is trying to sleep.”
“Aliens and AIDS research?” she asked.
“These people may be on to something,” Kyle interjected. “I mean, what if they have seen things and have had them suppressed by forces beyond their control? It might lead to more of what we deem as irrational behavior, but when you have no one else on your side --”
“Kyle,” Tyler started, “You’re starting to sound like that Mulder guy on that show ’The X Files’. Do you really have the time to watch television that much to know that show? And have you ever noticed the far-fetched ideas that he comes up with on that show?”
“And have you ever, in all of the time you obviously have to watch the show, have you ever seen his ideas disproved? He always has that girl there scientifically proving his theories as correct. So I suppose we’ve got Sloane as our girl providing science and reason and logic to our theories as we work... and why did you have to bring that show up in the first place?”
“Why are we even having this discussion?” she asked in an effort to stop their bickering. “We are going out there to speak today, we have your speeches and notes, and we will change them some -- and do not tell me that we can’t do that, because it has worked to our advantage in the past.”
“We won’t get rid of your notes altogether,” Howard stated. “You have very valid points in here, points that are well articulated that we had never thought of.”
“And we’re not even planning to change it much at all, so rest easy, Tyler,” she added.
Sloane turned to go to the conference room after she spoke, then stopped to wait for the rest of the gentlemen to catch up to her. She turned around hastily and asked Tyler, “Does my suit look okay?” She waited a moment before continuing, “Do I look like I represent a ’kind and caring company’?”
“I --”
“Do I look feminine enough?” She said, knowing how angry it would make him. Howard put his hand on her shoulder as he was about to walk around them to see the front of the conference area through the curtains, leaned his head toward hers, and said, “You look beautiful, Ms. Emerson.” She looked at Howard, smiled, and followed him toward the doorway to start their press conference.

At a point during the following week she was able to call Carter on business to ask him about changes to her essay. “I understand all of the changes that you had marked, and I hate to say this, but I was confused by the circle around the ’x’ and the capital p with two vertical lines at it. What are they?’
“Oh, I’m sorry, the ’p’ symbol is for where a paragraph should start or end, and the x and the circle are to signify a period. They are proofreading marks, and they are easier to see when other people are checking for changes.”
“I’m sorry I did not know that,’ Sloane answered.
“There is no reason why you should have known it,” Carter answered. “Sorry I didn’t explain it before. The changes should take place to finalize the design and editing of the book by the end of this week, if not by next Monday. I can send you a finished copy of the last essay for you to check over as well. So with the ’okay’ from Madison, the book can start to print at the end of next week.”
“Wonderful. We have been finishing changes to the vitamin supplements that will be released as a jar at the same time as the book. The production for it should coincide with the book beautifully.”
“Then everything is apparently taken care of,” Carter stated.
“You haven’t moved your plant to Seattle, so everything is not finished yet.”
“You think I can move Quentin to Seattle? What about your company?”
“You think I can move a pharmaceuticals company across the country?”
“Ms. Emerson, has there been a problem with working over the phone this way?”
“Definitely. ...Are you on a speaker phone?”
“No.”
“If you want to satiate your big clients, then you should be here holding my frail little hand through this whole messy printing process...”
“I didn’t know you were the type of woman that needed hand holding, Angel.”
“Are they your hands, Carter?”
Kyle walked into her room just as she finished that last sentence, so she had to say her farewells to Carter and tell him to contact her next Monday to let Madison know about the future production of the book. By the end of the day Carter called Sloane again, using the guise of details for the book as his cover.
“Ms. Emerson, I wanted to inform you in advance, if there were any problems with proof production in the future, that I will be attending a conference in New Orleans in a few months. I could give you the dates now, if you needed them for your records.”
“Mr. Donovan, are you on speaker phone?”
“No, why do you ask? And are you?”
“Carter, I never use speaker phone here, so you do not have to cover up for my deficit.”
“I wouldn’t share your voice with another soul, so I’m not ever putting you on a speaker phone.”
“So was New Orleans your excuse for calling me?”
“Basically...”
“I stayed there once, at a small apartment at Dumaine and Royal. Couldn’t leave my car there, though.”
“The company is covering the hotel for us on Peter Street, right by the convention center.” Carter changed his tone and said, “And you’ve been to New Orleans?”
“A friend of a friend was going to college there, and they offered a place for us to stay during Mardi Gras.”
You went to Mardi Gras?”
“I think the walk to and from Bourbon Street on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday was a chore in and of itself. But I have to admit, we knew people who had an apartment with a balcony on Bourbon Street, and being up there made it really entertaining, Carter... And I might even consider going to meet you in New Orleans for the Hell of it. But you know, if I was out by you, I would prefer going to Montreal.”
“The next time you’re out here, consider it done.” Carter reached over to his map of New York, eyeing the two feasible routes reaching up into Montreal as he continued. “It would only be about 5 or 6 hours by car; we’d just take 15 up to 10, then over the St. Lawrence to Sherbrooke. North on that for less than a mile and you’re in their China Town. And you’ve never been?”
“It is easier to visit when you are driving distance, so no.”
“We’ll keep it in mind. And we will get you there.”
“Let’s settle for getting the book started first...”

###

time: 11:47, E.S.T. Friday evening
location: New York City, just off Broadway, near 57th Street at Madison Square
premise: Carter walking home after socializing on 42nd Street

“Why did I even bother trying to go out?” Carter said as he crossed Broadway, just along 57th street, along the edge of Madison Square. Every third light hanging over into the parkway was out; there was a peculiar feel to the surroundings as he tried to find an available taxi. He guessed that at this hour he would have to be at the other side of the Square in order to be able to get a taxi. The ocean breeze happened to catch him as he was walking down the street. The wind almost drew a scream to him he heard just inside the Square.
The noise concerned him. He yelled toward the greens and sidewalks. “Hello?”
Nothing.
“Is anyone there?” He stepped away from the street, trying to look at the pathways when the lights were out. No response.
Carter looked at both sides of the street to see if there was anyone there that could help him while he looked to see if someone was hurt. Carter knew that a woman could potentially be attacked, even raped, and left in the bushes in New York. He also knew that strangers wouldn’t be willing to help only because Carter ’thought’ he heard a noise and needed assistance. He saw no one on the street for the mile stretch along 57th. No one responded to his call from inside the Square either. He wondered if no one was there at all, and made a few calls while he walked into a darkened part of the Square.
He heard a woman there scream, that was why he searched, he was looking for that someone in need, but once he started to look for them he realized he heard nothing at all, not even the sounds of birds or cars in the streets. Then all he felt was the large crack on the back of his head as he dropped to the ground.
Then everything went black to him.

###

The police responded to an anonymous call that a man had been attacked in the southwest corner of Madison Square. And ambulance came at about the same time as the police did. The man was wavering in and out of consciousness as the paramedics worked on him in the park.
“No broken bones, just strap him on the stretcher and get him to the ambulance.”
“Looks like there was just the one blow to the head,” the second paramedic said.
The two cops on the scene noted that he was fully clothed and had one of the paramedics pull his wallet from his pocket.
“Hey, this looks like a rich kid, Dave,” the first cop said. “And they didn’t even snag the wallet.”
“I’d guess the rich kid had drug problems, John,” Dave said, as he made sure he had a bag and his gloves on to pick up the needle laying next to the victim.
“Why?”
Dave held up the hypodermic needle for John to see. “The victim or assailant used this needle.”
John walked over to the paramedics before they left, gave them his card, and asked to be contacted when this guy got in -- and that a drug toxicology screen should be done on him.
The phone line to Madison Pharmaceuticals patched the call in to Sloane. Seattle time, it was just before eleven in the evening, and she happened to be in the office.
“Sloane Emerson.”
“Hello, Ms. Emerson, do you know a Mr. Carter Donovan?”
“Yes I do, may I ask who is calling?”
“This is John Will, from the New York Police Department, and I received your phone number from a business card in Mr. Donovan’s wallet.”
“Why do you have his wallet?”
“What is your relation to Mr. Donovan?”
Sloane was startled by this question. “Did something happen to him?”
“Ms. Emerson, Mr. Donovan was mugged today, and according to our records he was calling your name, and we got your number from his wallet.”
Immediately standing up, she demanded, “Where is he? Can I talk to him?”
“I’m afraid that wouldn’t be possible right now --”
“Where is he?” she repeated, almost yelling into the phone. After the police officer told her the hospital Carter was at, she gave her home phone number, begging him to call back at this number if there were any changes.
When she got off the phone with the New York Police, she ran to the front desk. There was no one left in the office, so no one questioned her frantic search as she rummaged through the files at the front desk to see if the plane was in use this weekend. She found the papers, found it was busy next weekend, but not this weekend.
Jim’s number was also on the sheet for her to take.
She frantically wrote a note of her using the plane Saturday morning, and left it with the front desk and ran back to her office.
She glanced at her watch as she ran back to her office and thought about calling Jim. She looked at her phone.
With no blinking lights on the phone for a message, she knew she received no calls while she was at the front of the building getting flight records and Jim’s phone number.
She looked at her phone again.
It wasn’t ringing.
Not knowing if she was waiting there for ten seconds or a half hour, she only knew that she had to see Carter, she had to know if he was okay. The police couldn’t even tell her Carter’s condition because she wasn’t related to him. She looked at Jim’s number on the paper on her desk. She picked up the phone and started dialing.
It was 11:03. A woman answered the phone.
“Hello?
“Hello, I’m sorry for calling so late, I was wondering if Jim was available.
“It’s not too late, I’ll get him, but may I ask who is calling?
“I’m sorry... This is Sloane Emerson from Madison Pharmaceuticals.
“Thank you. Hold on a moment please --”
The woman yelled out for Jim before he answered the phone. “Hello?
“Jim, I’m sorry to call, this is Sloane from Madison.
“Hi.”
“Hi... I noticed the plane was open this weekend, and is there any chance we could go in the plane could go to New York as soon as possible? There’s a problem with our book production...
“Not a problem -- I can check schedules at airports and make sure there’s enough gas to make it so we could take off early. I’m guessing you would like to get to New York as early as possible?”
“Our main contact there has just been injured, and may be severely injured, and he was calling my name. I need to know if he is okay.”
“I’ll do everything I can.”
“You need to sleep, too, though --”
“We’ll have people at the airport in Seattle check out the plane so I can get some sleep. Need a ride to the airport?”
“Only if I’m on the way, Jim.”
She gave Jim her address and they decided when he would pick her up. She had to interject that this could affect the production of Madison’s book, and this was why she had to get to the hospital.
She hoped that explanation was good enough.

###

When the plane took off she explained to Jim that she had contacted the police department and the hospital to tell them that she would be arriving in New York in the middle of the day and she would be looking for Mr. Donovan. The nurse at the hospital desk told her the room he was in, but that he could not take calls.
They also would not tell her his condition.
Begging and imploring the police department for help, she just wanted to know if he was okay. She was getting nothing.
“I have no idea how he’s going to be, Jim, and I don’t know if you know anyone in New York, but you are more than welcome to come with me while I find out.”
“If you don’t mind the company.”
“I’d appreciate it, Jim. And -- how much sleep did you get last night?”
“Almost six hours.”
“Oh, God, I hope that you are okay for flying.”
“I’ve been fine on three hours, so don’t worry. Now, do you need anything to rest? You seem really edgy.”
“I’m just insanely worried about Carter. I’ll be fine.”
“Carter?”
“Mr. Donovan; sorry, his first name is Carter. I just need to find out how he is.”
“Well, try to sit down and have some rest.”
The sitting down part of his advice was all she could take. She worked on her computer, starting on e-mails with Tyler, and informational memos to Kyle, Howard and Ellen. Then she remembered she would have to write something up for Colin, to explain her flight. So on she wrote. When she was exhausted with ideas on the news to Colin, she turned to her research papers, because she couldn’t bear looking at her computer monitor any longer. The remainder of the flight was spent trying to figure out the pieces she may have missed to solving any of her crises with her AIDS research.

After calling the police and the hospital from her new cellular phone she arrived at the hospital with Jim. The police told her that they would be there to talk to her when she arrived. Hospital attendants directed her to Carter’s room. She stopped before going into the room, turned to face Jim and said, “I need a breath before I find out.”
“People at the front desk can tell you before you go to the room.”
“Yeah ... I need to know what I should be ready for.”
Asking about Carter Donovan, they told her that he was hit while walking outside at night. He was drifting in and out of consciousness when the paramedics got to him last night, but he seems to be doing better now. They also told her that the police were here, if she needed to talk to them. As she turned around, there were two cops standing right in front of her.
“Ms. Emerson?” The first officer asked.
“Yes, I--”
“We’re here to let you know what happened” and the rest of the sentence was lost to her. She didn’t even catch their names. She asked to see Carter immediately, alone. They all walked to the doors and Jim pulled the door open for her.
She stepped inside.
Carter sat there, eyes wide open, as she walked across the room to his side. She had no emotion on her face at all; she looked as if she were an investigator trying to solve a case and that she had no personal relationship with the subject matter. She sat down and took his hand. “What happened to you.” She made a point to state her question as if it were a command, and that she would get and answer for it. Both Carter and Sloane knew there was no other way she could find any information out.
“The police can tell you, angel.”
“I want you to tell me. And don’t forget any details.”
“Okay... I was walking along 57th, just along the park edge, and I heard a scream, and --”
“What kind of scream.”
“Uh... A woman’s scream. So I called out for anyone, and I got no response. I called a few more times, and heard nothing. Then I thought I heard another scream, but I’m not sure. There weren’t even any cars on the street, and ... I don’t know if this matters, but I remember thinking that I didn’t even hear birds, or cars, or wind. It was totally silent.”
“Then...”
“I thought that a woman could have been attacked in the park, and I thought that so many lights were out along the walkway there, but I went in. And --”
“How far did you walk in.”
“Oh, God, probably 50 feet. Then I just felt something hit my head.”
“What was the ’something’.”
“Um... It was a blunt object, someone swung it, I guess.”
“Was it like a stick, or a rock.”
“Like a big piece of wood, I guess.”
“You didn’t hear anyone come up.”
“No. But that is all that happened. And you’re spooking me by asking all these questions like an FBI agent.”
“I’m looking for the truth, Carter. And I won’t ask in that tone again.” Sloane waited briefly, but had to speak again. “How do you feel?”
Carter started to smile. “My head hurts, but I’m okay. How did you find out about this?”
“The police found my number in your wallet and called me. They even said you called my name.”
“I did that?”
“Do you remember being in the ambulance?”
Sloane waited for his response. “It’s hard, but I remember the guys around me. I don’t remember much of what they were saying... I think it was medical talk.”
“Probably... But I’m glad they got to you and that you’re okay, Carter.”
“I can’t believe you came out here so quickly to see me...”
“They wouldn’t even tell me your condition, so I had to be here to find out -- or wait until Monday and call Quentin. Hey -- do they even know at Quentin?”
Carter groaned when he was forced to think about it. “No one there knows”, he said, “but hopefully they won’t bother trying to have a work party or give me a fruit basket or anything stupid like that...” making her laugh. They talked about other details when she eventually said she had to go talk to the policemen in the hall, and that she would be back. She walked out the door and Jim was standing there with the two policemen. She looked up at Jim and could tell from his face that the policemen told him nothing about Carter, so Sloane immediately asked, “So give me details. What happened to him?”
The policemen pretty much told her the same story from their perspective about what happened to Carter the night before. “The one thing that was strange, though,” the policeman John said, “is that there was a needle right by his body. The hospital is doing a drug toxicology screen on him, and he wasn’t diabetic, so we’re guessing it was the assailant’s.”
“You’re sure it was from Carter’s attack?” She asked.
The John nodded yes to answer her question.
Her eyes turned to saucers again and she stopped before coming up with the next sentence to speak. She was probably jumping to conclusions with no merit in her head, but she had to regain herself emotionally before she could ask. “We need to have him tested for HIV, even the dermis and epidermis where the puncture mark on his body is, because AIDS may not show up on blood immediately after he’s infected. We also need to test if there was any of the virus in that needle. Who still has the needle -- the police or the doctors?”
“The hospital does, Ms. Emerson, but --”
Sloane walked away and went straight to the nurse’s station so that tests could immediately be done on both Carter and the needle.
At this point, all she could do was stay in Carter’s room with him until a lab technician found her. They told her that her suspicions were confirmed on Mr. Donovan’s blood and on the needle found at the scene. She knew this was their way of telling Sloane the news without bluntly telling Carter.
Sloane leaned back in her chair, while still holding on to Carter’s hand. She knew what they did to her, and the police had already found that there were no prints on the needle before handing it over to the hospital for testing that morning.
“Was this my punishment?” she thought as she tried to remain happy-looking for Carter. “Are they punishing him for my crimes?” she thought again. She thought she would wait for a bit until it was necessary to tell Carter, so that he could have these moments where he felt like he was getting better.


chapter 14

The Fight Against aids

Like a commander of a military fleet, Sloane acted as if everyone there were working solely for her. When she was able to tear herself away from Carter, she made her way to the front nurse’s desk on the same floor, ready to strike.
Working out exactly what she would say on the way, she walked straight up to the front desk and said to the attendant, “Get me the head nurse,” and she used a conviction she did not even know she possessed.
The nurse came up and attempted to introduce herself, but Sloane had no time for introductions and started immediately.
“There is a gentleman here in room 2628, Mr. Carter Donovan, and I am watching over his medical records and doing everything possible to save him. He is about to be given a high dosage of AZT, because we need to make sure that his condition does not develop into full-blown AIDS. I need you to set a full equivalent dosage of Emivir ready so that he can take it home, and I need you to overload his bloodstream with it right now in the hopes that it can kill more of the virus in an initial injection.”
“But ma’am, Emivir is a prescription drug, and we can’t give it without a doctor’s --”
Sloane stopped her. “My name is Sloane Emerson, I am a doctor and I am the head of Research and development at Madison Pharmaceuticals.” She pulled her identification card from her wallet as she spoke. “I created this drug, and Carter is going to take it right now.”
The nurse looked at her I.D. for just a moment and was a bit awe-struck.
“Look, we don’t have time for you guessing, Carter’s health is in question because of it and I know this drug better than anyone in the country. Get him started on this right away. Like Dilantin for seizure patients, or like needles saved for cops and EMTs that are hit with a needle, taking an overdose of it immediately may help him battle this disease as it attempts to enter his system.”
The nurse attempted to speak, “But a dosage for him--”
“Knowing the amount of AZT you’re about to inject in him,” she began, “and knowing that there would be no adverse reactions to giving Emivir at the same time, I know that you can inject him with both medications at the same time. And knowing that Emivir is usually given to patients at 600 milligrams a day, there would be no problem to start him with a 3-week drip.”
All she could think was that sometimes dosages are sharply increased for potentially pregnant women to force their bodies to abort, but without knowing fully about any potential side-effects of overloading Carter’s body frightened her into not telling the nurse to give him a six-week dosage to potentially stop it from living in his body. There was no way that researchers could literally test these effects on humans, because no one would be willing to be a test subject. And all she could think of was the potential of a serious problem from giving him too high a dosage. Picking up her cell phone, she dialed Kyle at the office and realized he would be at home, but before pressing the speed dial for Kyle to ask him about any existing research that would explain potential threats.
The nurse learned quickly to not ask questions when Sloane was speaking, so when she was done giving orders the nurse went looking for lab technicians immediately and had other nurses there page people to call up technicians to start Carter on an initial dosage. “I can go with the Technician for the dosage amounts that would be best,” she said.
“Write the prescription amounts you’ve requested and I’ll have them take care of it if you need to be in the patient’s room.”
Suddenly Sloane heard the words “the patient’s room” echo in her mind. Carter was now a patient, and she was only thinking like a critical time-constrained chemist needing to accomplish a goal quickly. When she heard “the patient’s room”, she suddenly remembered that Carter was in there, waiting to hear when he could get out of the hospital. Sloane stopped for a split second and said, “Yes, I’ll be in Mr. Donovan’s room, and I can explain to him what is going on so he is ready when the drugs come in. Oh, and I am assuming that the drugs will be administered by an IV drip.”
“Yes, Miss,” the nurse said as she took the hand-written dosages from Sloane. She watched the nurse turn to rush medications for Carter and she could only stand there for a moment to think about all that had happened before she could try to see if she could get a hold of Kyle, before mustering the energy to walk to Carter’s room and tell him the worst.
Walking down the hall, Sloane pressed the speed dial number for Kyle. Elisa answered. “Hello?”
“Elisa, Hi, it’s Sloane, is Kyle there?”
Elisa’s voice changed when she heard that it was her. “Yes, hold on for just a moment.”
Listening to Elisa cover the end of the phone, she heard Kyle’s wife call for him. He finally made it to the phone.
“How are you?”
“Kyle, Hi, this is important, I--”
“Are you in the office?”
“No, I’m in New York, and I need to know something right now about Emivir, and I hope you can help me out from the research records.”
“Sure, chief, what do you need?”
“Well, someone has just contracted AIDS probably...” Sloane checked her watch, “eight or nine hours ago from a needle, and I have the nurses placing him on an initial shock of both Emivir and AZT.”
Kyle interrupted her. “Someone here?”
“Yes, and --”
“You’re in New York?”
She knew when he asked there would be more questions, but she just needed information quickly so she could work to save Carter. “Yes, New York.”
“It’s no one I know, is it?”
“Kyle, let me answer that after you help me, okay?”
Kyle’s stomach turned when he thought someone he knew was infected. “Okay, shoot.”
“Okay, I’ve just told them a three-week dosage of both Emivir and AZT, but I know that in pregnancy cases they can give a huge dosage of birth control sometimes to abort a pregnancy. I can’t think of any studies being done on this for AIDS, but if Emivir could have any chance to kill the virus off if it is immediately implanted in the body, I was wondering what would be the safest maximum dosage we could give a patient.” At this point Sloane stopped her walking and was standing in front of Carter’s door.
Kyle tried to think it through while he answered. “Well, there are no cases of that working, but --”
“But no one has ever tried it before,” Sloane said, finishing the sentence.
“Okay, okay, so we can’t prove it, I know you want it proven Sloane, but I think a dosage up to about twice what you’ve got Carter slated for would be safe for him.”
“Is it safe? ... And you said Carter, Kyle?”
“I’m trying to guess here. Am I wrong?”
All she was thinking about was getting the answer from him before she could respond to his assumption. “So you think I could double the dosage? I mean, is it safe?”
“Yeah, anything over eight week dosages would cause damage, but six weeks should be safe, especially if it is within twelve hours of infection.”
“Thanks.”
“Who is it?”
Having to answer now, she also knew she had to tell Carter that he had AIDS and could not stay on the phone. “Kyle, it is Carter, but I have to go into his room for treatment right now, so I promise I will call you in an hour with more information.”
“Oh my God...”
“I know Kyle --”
“Is he okay?”
“He seems fine. I’ll call you back. And Kyle...”
“Yes?”
“Thanks, Chief.”
Kyle smiled when he heard ’chief’. “No problem. Give him my best.”
Turning the button off, she shoved the phone into her pocket as she opened his door.

Carter heard the door open and looked up eagerly. Spotting her, he asked, “So when are they letting me out of here?” She tried force a smile while considering the possibility that she may have somehow had an effect on this happening to him. “You’re going to be in here for a little bit,” she said, as she walked over to his bed and took his hand before she continued speaking, “because they’ve got to take care of some work here and...”
“And?”
“And I’ve got to tell you some news. You’re not going to like it, and --”
“Tell me anyway. What’s the matter?”
Mentally preparing herself for the hardest speech she could make, she said, “Do you remember the mugging, or police saying anything in your presence?”
“Well, someone hit me over the head. I would have given money, but I was just hit. I know the police were talking about possible drug connections, because --”
“Because why?”
“They were probably talking about wanting drug money, but I thought I heard them saying something about a hypodermic needle at the scene, but I never saw one, and, well, no one talked about drugs when they mugged me.”
“The needle is the bad news, Carter.”
Carter could tell at this point that there was really something wrong, so he straightened up and thought more seriously and more clearly. “What is it?”
Sloane spoke almost under her breath. “Carter, I think my research might have done this to you.”
“Don’t say that, you don’t know --” Carter froze when he thought of what she’d just said, and he thought of the needle; this was when the pieces started to fall together.
“Carter, I love you more than life.”
“Well angel, I love you too --”
“That love didn’t change when we found out that the needle was contaminated with the HIV virus, and after I told them to look, they found a puncture wound in you from it.” Carter’s face started to sink and grow longer, looking more gaunt in the realization. “I am sorry,” was all that she could say as they both made the effort to hold each other. “I’ve got half the nursing staff on this floor starting you on a flood of Emivir, along with AZT, hoping that jolting your system with that much of it this early in your contamination could hold the virus off for longer. I know that they even give policemen a pack of an IV of cocktails like this in case a needle from an assailant hit them, so I’m hoping this will work. They will be coming in here to inject you with a big dose, and I know that it can itch or burn getting this much into your system at once, but it is good for you to get it all at once like this, you have to keep that in mind. And I’ll be working so hard to help you on this one, damnit, because if they thought they would do this to stop AIDS cure from working, well, they didn’t know it would only make me work harder, because it comes down to --”
The door swung open, and medical staff came in to get Carter ready for the Emivir and AZT, so she had to stop and pull away from him while they did their work.
Knowing she had to see the head nurse to get another Emivir dosage ready for him, she had to go to the nurse’s desk while the lab technicians started him on an injection.
“Carter, I’m sorry...”
It seemed that Carter couldn’t even speak. “Sloane?” he finally asked.
“Yes? I love you, and --”
“I love you.”
“Carter, I have to make sure they have the right dosage for you, so I have to go to the nurse’s office for a second.”
“I... I kind of want you to stay.”
That one tore her up inside when she heard it. “I don’t want to leave you, but I want to make sure you are well, too.”
One of the lab nurses with the lab technician interrupted. “Did you need to talk to someone, Miss Emerson?”
Her head whipped around to see where the voice was coming from. Her commanding, military voice resumed again. “Yes, please tell the head nurse she has approval to set up another three-week dosage of Emivir, we can start it within an hour after this is in his system so we don’t shock his body with it all at once.”
Carter looked up in amazement. “Will I --”
“Yes, ma’am,” the nurse said, turning around to walk to the nurse’s desk.
Sloane whipped her head back to Carter and answered him. “We think that there’s a chance that putting more into your system at once to make you better, so we’ll get this supply in you to see how you take it.”
They sat in silence while a few people set up needles and an I.V. for him.
“I don’t want to overshock your body by giving you too much at once, that’s why we’ll wait before putting more in you to see how you take it.”
Carter looked up at her, keeping his head down, looking more mournful than he had before.
She finally spoke. “I’ve got to get out of the way while they do this, you know. I’ll stay right here though.”
And it was hard for her to let go of his hand as she had to leave.

Slowly stepping backwards from his bed, people circled around him and checked his arms for injection points. It occurred to her that she had to call Kyle back and that she had to go outside to make sure Jim was okay. As she turned around, she slowly raised her hand up to gesture that she would be back in one moment.
When she pushed the door open she spotted Jim down the hall as she pulled her phone from her pocket to call Kyle back. Before dialing, Jim came up to her.
“Ms. Emerson, is everything okay?”
“... I don’t know.”
They stood in the hall in silence for a moment. “Is your friend okay?”
“They’re drugging him up right now, but hopefully he’ll be okay.”
“I’m sorry to hear about it.”
“Thanks.”
“Is this the guy you were visiting before?”
“Yes, he’s working on a book for us too.”
“And this is really getting to you...”
“I...”
“Are you okay?”
“I, um, I have to call a coworker about the drugs.”
“Okay. Do you want me to get you some coffee or something?”
“Oh, gosh no, but thank you. Just have a seat.”
“You sit down, too,” Jim said.
She smiled in appreciation of his consideration before she could look at her phone to call Kyle.
This time Kyle answered the phone. “Hello?”
“Hi, it’s me.”
“What’s going on?”
“Carter Donovan was attacked last night and an infected needle was shoved in him. He had my business card in his wallet, so they called me close to Midnight last night.”
“Wow.. Is he okay?”
“All things considered, I hope... Since I said I was his doctor and that I created Emivir, I got him the regular dosage. We’ll see if he’s okay with that much in him, so after maybe about an hour of the drugs, we’ll get him another dose.”
“That’s why you asked about possibly stopping AIDS in the body... But is this gonna hurt the book?”
“Kyle, What do you mean?”
“Is he supposed to be watching over it?”
“Quentin won’t even find out about this until tomorrow, and I can’t imagine someone stopping the book because of this. I think we’ll be fine with the Battle from the Inside.”
“You’re gonna be at work tomorrow then?”
“I’ll have to, I’ve got the company plane.”
“You flew there on Madison’s tab?”
“It was a company expense, I mean, this is about the health of someone orchestrating our book.”
“Okay, chief.”
“And I’ve got to get back to his room, kid, so let me go. I’ll tell you about it when I get the chance.”
“Got it. Just get some rest.”

For the next few hours Carter had Sloane at his side while he the I.V. stayed in his arm. Periodically he’d be checked on to make sure he was feeling okay, and besides the itching and slight burning from all of the medication in him, he was pulling through. Jim was even able to sit in the room for a short while.
Knowing she couldn’t say a word to argue with him, she listened to Carter as he talked about not understanding why he was mugged in the first place when barely anything was even taken from him. Because of the death of Shane Wilson and because of the existence of Adam Saunders, she was convinced that these allegations were true. The threats that would come to stop her from her work were becoming more and more apparent, and she did not know when they were going to stop.
She knew for a fact that this was no accident. Pieces started to fall together in her head. Shane’s hit-and-run car crash was no accident. The destruction of acres of Toby’s rain forest land was no accident, when it was a U.S. government-sponsored company that tore the trees down. The U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department making false claims about stolen research accomplishments without any proof, attempting to look through Madison’s files and records, was no accident.
This attack on the publisher of Madison’s book was no accident either. She was sure of it.

She studied her car by sight before she even got into her home. Internally, she wanted to make sure that no one had tampered with her car and that it was still in one piece.
After entering her apartment, she searched every corner to make sure that nothing had been touched since she had left. Her almost anal-retentive ritual began. Turn on all lights. Check all closets. Looked behind the couch. Open the shower curtain. Push her desk chair further under her desk. Remember that her robe wasn’t moved since she left. Neither was the dirty glass or plate in the kitchen. One cabinet door was slightly open, the way it was before she ran out of her home. She opened and shut all doors, checking behind them and looking in all dark corners. And lastly, she crawled on her hands and knees to check under the bed.
All seemed clear.
Living in fear now was not something that she could even think about, all she knew was that she had to do everything in her power to keep herself and her loved ones alive. Knowing that it would be too late to call everyone to make sure they were okay, she walked back toward the front of her home, scratching her head and trying to push her hair back. She threw her coat over a chair so she could take it to work in the morning.
She looked around.
No messages were on her machine.
There was no reason that she would be missed.
“Am I really that valueless to people?” she thought, as she wondered why she ever had an answering machine in the past.
“Mental note: call people tomorrow,” she thought before she turned off all the lights and walked straight to her bed. She knew she had to sleep.
But all Sloane could do was cry.
Everything suddenly seemed to fall apart for her, right then and there. She had found out there is a good chance the U.S. government is holding the cure to a virus that they created and spread. A friend and colleague lost opportunities to work because of government land destruction. A gentleman who gave her scraps of information about the government’s intervention with AIDS was killed. Her work was being taken away from Madison by the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department. She finally, finally admitted her love to her soul mate and he was almost immediately afterward given a prolonged death sentence.
She didn’t want to fall apart. She didn’t let herself fall apart. This couldn’t all be true, this couldn’t be happening to her, she couldn’t make sense out of anything in her life any longer, and she couldn’t stop herself from crying for over an hour and a half.

Forgetting about setting her alarm clock, Sloane woke up late for work, but wasn’t too concerned about it. She didn’t even bother to shower, she had worn the same clothes she wore the day before and grabbed her keys, briefcase, purse and coat as she opened her apartment door. Before it closed, she looked around her home once again, mentally memorizing where all her belongings were placed, so she could check them again to remember where everything exactly was when she came home that night.
Double-checking everything that was in her path was her only real option. She checked how the car sounded. She checked to make sure none of the mirrors in her car were moved. She made sure that the radio was set the same way as when she left it. She even looked at how everything was left in her car before she was able to leave and watch traffic.
The lab staff seemed a bit surprised when she arrived in the office at 9:45 Monday morning. Kyle did his best to push people out of the way so she wouldn’t have to answer to anyone. Julie walked over and opened her door, as she could tell that Sloane just wanted to go into her office to be alone.
Kyle told Julie that Sloane was on the other side of the country all day yesterday because of a potential health problem, so Julie should give Sloane some space and try to help her out. Julie didn’t know if the health problem was Sloane’s or someone else’s, but watched Sloane make a beeline for her office and then started to close her door for her, saying, “If you need anything at all, let me know.”
Kyle watched her walk into her office and Julie saw him as he slowly approached her door. He finally turned to look at Julie, noting that she didn’t know what to think or what to do.
“I figure I have to wait another minute before I go in there,” He finally said.
“Do you know what it is?” she finally asked.
“I think we’ll all knew in a few.”
Julie’s private line rang and assumed it was Ms. Emerson, so she held up her finger to answer her phone. Thirty seconds later she hung up the phone.
“Kyle, she just asked for me to find you. I think she wants to see you.”
Kyle nodded his head and thanked her before he turned to go knock on her door and enter her room.
“Are you okay? What happened?” Kyle asked as he walked to a chair to have a seat.
“Carter was mugged at about 10:00 or 10:30 our time, was brought to the hospital at 11:00 our time, and they found that nothing was really stolen from him. There was just a foreign hypodermic needle by his side. They called me in because he had my business card in his wallet, and I told them to look and they found a puncture mark, along with traces of HIV all over the needle. So I got him first on a three-week shock of Emivir and AZT, about an hour later he got another three-week load of Emivir. It was a little tough for Carter to take all the drugs, he kept saying his arm was itching like Hell. He even said he could feel it going up his arm in his blood, which was strange to hear ... um, he held up pretty well through it all, though. I think they’re going to hold him there in the hospital for another day or two. And I can’t think of anything else, really.” Sloane looked over at her phone and saw it beeping for voice mail. “and I even have voice mail, maybe it’s from the hospital or Carter.” She turned the speaker of her phone on to check her messages.
“I can go if you want to hear you --”
“No, stay, you’ll probably hear it from me if you don’t hear it now, so listen.” She turned the voice mail on to hear the one message left for her.

Ms. Emerson, this is Shelly Stempel from Quentin Publishing. We heard about Mr. Donovan, and we heard you were there as well. We hope your being there for medication really helps him right now. But Quentin wanted to let Madison know that Mr. Donovan will be on a temporary leave of absence and that I will be taking over his work on your book. We will give you a call at 10:00 a.m. your time to work out changes that will need to be done to help get your book printed through us, and I look forward to talking to you soon.

Kyle noticed that there was still a flash for one message on her machine, but that was the only new message. Keeping her elbow on the arm of her chair, she placed her hand over her mouth as she rested her head in her hand.
“Wow,” was all Kyle could say as he watched her and listened to the message. Looking at his watch, he saw that it was 9:52 in the morning and said “I guess she will be calling in the next ten minutes.”
She didn’t even look up at him to respond.
Kyle moved forward in his seat. “Really, are you okay?”
Sloane looked up at him without even moving her hands. She started to nod her head to let him know that she was okay.
“Is there anything at all I can get you?” he asked.
Letting some silence pass, she finally answered quietly, “Some Whiskey.”
Kyle smiled at her. “What?”
Sloane rolled her eyes. “Something to drink, I said.”
At this point Kyle had a wide grin on his face at her. “But why?”
“Oh, a colleague had trouble with work in Miami a month or two ago, and by wanting to escape he wanted to drink...”
Kyle started to stand, “Ah, Whiskey, the escape of choice...” he said as he walked toward the door.
“Well, I have to make some phone calls first. Then maybe after dealing with another contact for the book I’ll need that Whiskey.” She smiled at him as he made his way to the door.
Getting a hold of people was difficult at the time for her, everyone was away from their office desks. All she did was leave messages for everyone before a call from Shelly Stempel came to Madison..

Hey, dad, it’s Sloane, I just wanted to know how you were doing. I haven’t talked to anyone else in the family either, maybe we could get together for dinner some time this week. I hope all is well, and I love you guys, and call me when you get the chance.

Hi Toby, it’s Sloane. I hope all is going well for you. I just thought I’d touch base with you and see what you were up to. I hope the research is going well with you, but I also wanted to make sure you were doing well yourself, so please give me a call and maybe we could hang out or something. You’ve got my number, so give me a call, and I’ll talk to you soon.

At this point in the day she hoped it would be safe to call the New York hospital to check on Carter’s progress. The nurses there said he was shaky throughout the morning from the drugs, but the sweats had gone down for him and they could run blood work at the end of the day.
She didn’t even get to talk to Carter.
As her phone rang, so she glanced at the clock and saw that it was 10:05 in the morning.
“Ms. Emerson.”
“Ms. Emerson, hello, this is Shelly Stempel from Quentin Publishing. Did you get my message from this morning?”
“Yes I did, I was expecting your call, hello.”
“Hi, I wanted you to know in light of what has happened to Mr. Donovan there will be some slight restructuring of your book production.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mr. Donovan, after his hospital stay, is going to be on a short leave-of-absence from his position at Quentin, so I’m in charge of taking over current projects he had.”
The Battle from the Inside should be ready to go to press in a week or so. All should be finished with our book, so --”
“Ms. Emerson, with the reorganization of this branch now, we’ll have to have a staff go over the book separately from what Mr. Donovan did before we can let it go to press. So I’m sure it will take a little longer than that. But we’ll have a meeting here on it and we’ll have a few proofreaders and editors go over your copy this week before making changes to The Battle from the Inside before it does off to press.”
“It was ready to go to press before though, so there shouldn’t be any changes.”
“We can take care of all of that, but I just wanted to get the chance to meet you over the phone like this and let you know of changes. We can talk to you in the next day or two.” Ms. Stempel then hung up the phone without hearing an answer.
Leaning back in her chair after dealing with that call. she didn’t know what to do. Her phone rang again. Expecting it to be Ms. Stempel, she tried to prepare herself for asking more questions.
“Ms. Emerson.”
“It’s Toby, how are you?”
“You want to know the truth, awful.”
“Awful? Come on.”
“Absolutely awful.”
“You’re exaggerating...”
“No, no I’m not.”
“Why did you call? Did you want to talk?”
“Maybe, but you might just have to listen to me wallow.”
“You’ve done it for me, so let’s go out for lunch.”
“Okay ... can you stop by my office and we’ll go to a place around here?”
“It’s a deal. I’ll be later for lunch, like coming by at one or one-thirty though, if that’s cool with you.”
“Sure, I’ll see you then --”
When Sloane hung up the phone, she still didn’t know what to do.
Wait, she remembered the new book’s staff assignment. She picked up the phone and called Carter’s office. She got through to a receptionist.
“Hi. My name is Sloane Emerson, Mr. Donovan was working on a book for Madison Pharmaceuticals. I know about Mr. Donovan not being there right now, but I was wondering if someone there could do me a favor.”
“Yes, what can we help you with?”
“I was wondering if I could have a hard copy of the book The Battle from the Inside sent to us now. I know it’s not ready to go to press yet, but I would like a copy of the layout as well as a hard copy of our written materials.”
“I think we could have a package of that material put together and mailed to your office, unless you need it overnighted.”
“No, just mailing it would be great, and I really appreciate it.”
When she hung up the phone again, she thought she had to continue to make calls.
Feeling like the phone was going to be attached to her ear this morning, she dialed Steve’s number at his work.

Steve, Hi, it’s Sloane. This will sound really stupid, but I could use someone to talk to. I know it might be out of line for me to want to know how you’re doing, but I hope all is well with you. If you don’t mind, maybe we could talk. Give me a call, and thanks.

Thinking that people were probably wondering about how she was doing, she figured she should probably go for a walk to clear her head. As she opened her door to walk into the lab, almost half of the heads turned to see her. Howard and Kyle were on opposite sides of the room watching her, and she did not know what to do or how to respond.
Raising her voice, she asked, “Hey, do you want to get together for a little info on what’s going on?”
People nodded and she pointed toward an empty table where they should meet together to hear from her. When people got together, she walked toward the table, making sure to never tell a soul about what happened between her and Carter, found a stepladder to stand on and started to speak.
“Hi. I know everybody is wondering what is going on that could make me come in late, so I’ll try to make all of the stuff that has been going on as ’normal’ as possible... I received a call late Saturday night from New York because my business card was in Mr. Donovan’s wallet... Now wait, he is okay, but he was mugged, and so they called me and I went to the hospital he was at to get his condition. They ran some blood work and we got some absolutely awful news, and that was that... the news was that Mr. Donovan has HIV, infected from a needle from the attacker that night. And ... and that is terrible news, but I suppose it was a good thing I was there, because I was able to spearhead a very aggressive drug treatment probably about Eleven hours after he was infected.”
Everyone there seemed shocked by this news, so she paused to let everyone get it through their system for a minute.
“So... I got a call this morning from a Ms. Shelly Stempel, saying that in light of this weekend Mr. Donovan is on a temporary leave-of-absence, and that there will be a new staff, headed by Ms. Stempel going over the book in case any changes have to be made.”
Sloane stopped in what seemed like a dramatic pause before she finished. “So you know, there may be changes in the book that was originally supposed to go out to press at the end of this week. I don’t know what the changes will be, but I just called and asked them to send me the first-version copies of The Battle from the Inside ASAP, so we can see how much change this book will end up going through.”
Not being able to lean back while standing on the rung of a stepladder, she finished by saying, “Does anyone have any questions? Because I’ll tell you, I’m exhausted from flying to and from New York yesterday, and if I had the answers for anything, I’d let you know.” She looked around for one brief moment, and no one said a word.
Kyle walked toward her as she stepped down from the stepladder and she said to him, “Kyle, can I just look over what is going on with the vaccine testing? Because I don’t think I can handle doing too much new work right now.”
“Not a problem at all.” He then guided her over to a chair and they started to go over lab and test results.
At around 12:45, Julie let Ms. Emerson, know that she had a call. After she got into her office, she picked up the phone.
“Ms. Emerson.”
“Sloane?”
“Yes, hello?”
“It’s Steve.”
“Oh, hi.”
“You called?”
“Yes, hi, how are you doing?”
“Well, I’m fine, how are you? You sounded sad on the phone.”
She almost smiled when she heard him say that. “Hmm... I guess I’m, I guess I’m lonely.”
You? I can’t believe it.”
“I don’t know ... but I was wondering what you were doing tonight, Steve.”
“I had plans tonight, I --”
“Oh, I’m sorry, what are you doing?”
“I was planning on seeing you, girl.”
She started to smile at him.
“The only problem is that you didn’t tell me what time I was seeing you.”
“Steve, did you want to come over to my place, or did you want to go out somewhere?”
“How about I come to your place after dinner, say seven, and we can figure out what we want to do from there.”
“Great. And thanks, Steve.”
“It’s the least I can do. I’ll see you tonight.”
After getting off the phone with Steve, it was almost 1:00. She talked a few minutes with Kyle before Toby found her at the lab table. Toby tapped her shoulder while she was leaning over to rescan test results. She turned her head and saw Toby waiting for her.
“Hi Toby.”
“Hey, ready to go?”
“Sure. Let me get my coat.”
Toby walked toward her office as she turned to Kyle and said, “Okay, all I keep thinking is that we’re on the right track here, but the results seem to be not promising enough still. We’ve been attacking one part of the virus in the vaccine with these tests, but maybe there’s a way to get to it on more than one level, because I think that’s going to be the only way this vaccine can actually work on a wider basis like we’d need. We’ve got some archived records of earlier stages of discovering HIV, and I think that would be the direction that would get us a vaccine that would work for a larger number of possible mutations that HIV could go through... Now, I’m going to be out for a bit because I’m actually really starved, but we’ll talk more about what to do on this tomorrow, okay?”

###

Toby drove Sloane to a bar/restaurant that was right on the water’s edge, so that they could just sit and eat and talk to each other about what was going on in their lives.
They decided to eat at the bar because there was next to nobody there, and she asked the bartender for a Cookie Dough Martini.
“What’s that?” Toby asked as the bartender started to walk away.
“The sign says it has cookie dough liqueur and vodka and coffee liqueur, so I thought I’d try it.”
“Liquor while you’re at work? What’s up?”
“I’m not saying a word until you talk to me about what is going on with you.” Knowing that her talking would probably just shut Toby up if he wanted to talk, she begged Toby to go first.
Trying to think of the appropriate questions, she asked about progress in replicating the materials in the tree sap so that Toby could continue doing his work. “If nothing else,” Toby continued, “maybe we would know how to replicate parts of the original materials so that we could continue to do our research.”
“The best way to go about doing it,” trying to interject, “would be to see if there was any way you could replicate it with natural materials instead of more chemical ones, so that it would be easier to inject in the body.”
“Yeah, I know,” Toby said in agreement. “We’ve been trying to look at existing plants for any of the components of this material -- you know how they use different seeds and leaves from different plants herbs and stuff, we’re trying to see if we can use a ton of different plant sources to try to emulate this original plant material.”
“But you’ll want to be sure there are no side effects or allergic reactions to this new material you get together once you’ve made it. I know that some people have reactions to herbs like St. John’s wort or Kava Kava or stuff like that.”
“Yeah, we have to make sure we make something that people can actually take,” Toby said.
“It would be a real shame if you created a drug to help people, but no one could take it because most were allergic to it, Toby...”
“Yeah, but considering the effects that the existing drugs have on some people, they still take them, because it will help them out, so we have to make sure the effects at least won’t be too severe. And how do you know about herbs like that in the body in the first place? ... Is this stuff that’s going into your company’s new book I’ve read about?”
Sloane was just starting to get comfortable talking about a type of AIDS research that wasn’t something her team was working on, but this question threw a little jolt back into her and sent her back to reality.
“Yes, we’re doing a book for patients, called The Battle from the Inside.”
“So you’re trying to pull that off in addition to your research and test work?”
Unable to immediately answer him, she had to try to think of the right way to tell him about that had been going on. She was also feeling the first martini she ordered and was gesturing to the bartender to make her another one. “It has been a lot of work, but we’re trying...”
Toby leaned back after ordering a club sandwich; Sloane ordered another drink. “You want anything to eat?”
“Could I just eat some of your fries?”
“You could have them all if you want, I usually don’t like fries.”
As the bartender walked away with their order of a drink and a sandwich, Toby turned back to Sloane. “You amaze me.”
“Why?”
“You’ve got so much going on, and you always seem to be ahead of the game. How on earth do you do it?”
Grabbing her drink, she threw the last of it down her throat and pushed the glass forward. “I don’t know, Toby, I don’t know.”
Toby saw her getting sad as she answered him, and watched the bartender take her glass away and give her another martini. Knowing she doesn’t drink, and especially not during the day like this, he got more and more concerned. “You’ve always done it so well in the past... How do you keep so ahead of the game?
“For the most part, I don’t sleep much and I’m not social. Is that the answer you wanted?”
“And you don’t drink much either. So what’s happening?”
Not knowing how to answer, she took a slight pause. “Toby, sometimes the cards seem to stack up against you, and after a while you think...”
“What?”
“You think you’ve got a losing hand.”
“Oh, don’t talk like that.”
“But you have to keep playing, because it’s the only hand you’ve got... And you keep thinking, ’did I choose the wrong cards?’ or ’how do you fight when your opponent’s got such a good hand?’, or --”
“This is so not sounding like you. Really, what’s going on?”
At this point in the game she had to come clean and try to tell him about the run of problems that Madison has had to face in the past two weeks. The first on her list was discovering his problem, but then she went into the U.S. government trying to go through Madison’s files. Then she mentioned someone dying in a car accident that wanted to give her information about AIDS. The last thing on her list was that after they were ready to send the book to press, her contact at the press, one of her dearest friends from college, was attacked and hit with an HIV-infected needle.
Toby thought she was being too paranoid when she listed all of the problems, but when he heard the last item, he stopped in his tracks, because he had no idea of what to say to her at that point.
“Yes, Toby, that last one happened just before Midnight Saturday our time on the other side of the country, and I was called in due to my relationship with drugs and the book, so I was in New York all day yesterday trying to help my friend so that HIV might possibly be stopped. You know, before it turns into full-blown AIDS.”
They sat in silence while Sloane took a gulp of her drink.
“So yes, this is what I’ve been going through, Toby, and yes, if I ever needed to escape with alcohol, now would be the time.”
Before Toby could even have the chance to attempt to answer all of this, the bartender walked over to them and handed Toby a plate with his sandwich. The kitchen even put the fries on a separate plate, and since the bartender heard Toby tell her that she could have his fries, he put the plate of fries toward her. “Would you like catsup with your fries?” The bartender asked them, leaning slightly towards her.
Looking up, she answered, “Yes, please, thank you.”
The bartender turned and walked toward the back of the place to bring catsup and condiments to them.
Toby finally spoke after he had a bit of his food. “So this is a friend of yours from college ... was this when I went to school with you?”
Realizing that Toby might have thought he knew Carter, she had to jump in, “No, Toby, this was a friend that I met through my roommate in undergraduate. We’d been friends ever since, and he runs a new-clients branch of a New York book publishing company, and we struck a deal together for Madison’s book.”
“Holy shit,” was all Toby could get out. “So you drink now. I get it. And hey, they’re on me, too.”
Sloane was drinking as he said those words, so she tried to protest. “You’re buying? Why?”
“You went to Miami, so I figure I can do something for you with news like this.”
Smiling, she thanked him. “Cheaper than a flight across the country?”
“Shut up. But you know, if you need someone to bitch to about it at all, feel free to bug me. I really don’t mind being there for you if you need it.” He watched her drink more as he tried to continue. “I like you, and ... I don’t know, I can learn to shut up about my own problems sometimes...”
Once again, she laughed, as they then tried to get through their food.

The rest of the afternoon for her at Madison was a bit more of a blur than she was used to. Kyle bounced some ideas off her, but this time he became more of the instigator in ideas and conversation than Sloane. For once she felt like one of the followers, this time by choice, and she just soaked up information as ideas were handed to her.
By the end of the day she was anxious to get out of the office and get back to her place, another feeling that she seldom had when she worked. After checking with Julie and knowing there were no calls from Quentin and Ms. Stempel, she knew there was nothing more she could do. She ran through the list in her head:
Not about to work on the book,
not able to get a hold of Carter,
not able to work.
Beginning to wonder if all of her decisions now only caused harm to others or her work, she packed her belongings to go home.
“Wait,” she thought, “my dad never called back.” So she called him at home to see if he was there.
“Hello?”
“Dad, hi, it’s Sloane, did you get my --”
“Hi buttercup, I completely forgot to call you back. How are you?”
“Oh, I’m tired, a bit frazzled...”
“Are you okay? Are you not feeling well?”
“I feel fine, dad, it’s just that a bad things have been happening, so I am feeling a bit down.”
“Is that why you asked about seeing everyone?”
“Well, yes, I thought it would be a good idea to see how everyone was doing...”
“I’ll give the kids a call so we can plan a time to have dinner together. Can you make it in the next week or two?”
“I think so ... though I might have to go out of town on business this weekend. But let me know, and I’ll find a way to see you all. And things are okay with you?”
“Yep, still doing the same rock collection work for the University ... not much changes with my work, you know that.”
“I didn’t know if anything has been going on outside of work, dad.”
“Well, no one has given me a winning lottery ticket, and I’m not dating anyone -- you should know me by now.”
“I just like to check up on you, you know. Make sure you’re not doing anything your daughter wouldn’t approve of.”
“I can’t believe you!”
Sloane giggled as he continued.
“Let me check with the other kids and we’ll get back to you with dinner plans, okay?”
They agreed and said good-bye to each other
As she walked out of her office with her coat and her bags, Howard walked up to her before Kyle had the chance to check up on her.
“You know, I haven’t had the chance to see how you were doing, Sloane. You look really tired.”
Thinking for a moment that she might use this as an excuse to actually use a sick day, she answered, “I didn’t get much sleep yesterday, and I don’t know if it’s that or if I’m just not feeling well.”
“Well, take a sick day tomorrow if you need it,” Howard answered.
She managed to look up at him before she dropped her head. “Thanks. I’ll keep it in mind, and you guys have a good evening, too...” she said as she walked toward the exit doors.
Getting hungry on her way home, thinking of Toby’s lunch, she pulled over to a deli to get herself a sandwich to go. She even made a point to stop next door at the liquor store first to see if there was anything she would need at home, in case Steve wanted to just stay at her place.
After looking at the choices, she decided it would be best to go to the store with him to figure out what they needed to drink.
Her car reeked of the roast beef in her sandwich by the time she pulled up to her apartment complex, making her want to eat more. She eyed people as she got out of her car and crept toward her mailbox before unlocking her door to go inside. She made a scan of her home again, the way she did when she left in the morning, to see if anything had changed. She turned on all lights to check all rooms, and swung all doors wide open to make sure.
All seemed clear.
Remembering that she would have company coming over in less than two hours, she made a point to put her coat in the closet and move her briefcase to the floor under her desk. Cleaning up the apartment would come after she ate dinner. The refrigerator had a six-pack of beer in it, so she pulled out a can to have with her sandwich. She used her bag for a plate and she moved to the dining room table to try to shove food down her throat.
After she finished her roast beef sandwich she began cleaning. Having to create a checklist in her mind, she worked on her home like it was a ritual:
* Kitchen first. clean any dishes, put away garbage, put and clean dishes back into the cabinets, check the refrigerator to make sure it looks more organized, take out the glass cleaner and the scrubbing cleaners to clean off the counters, the stove, and the front of the refrigerator. She even checked the floor to make sure it didn’t need to be mopped. The final step was sweeping the floor.
* The bathroom next. Bring the cleaners into the bathroom, clean off the mirror, put the hairbrush away. Wipe down the sink, make sure the shower door is cleaned off, put the floor rugs in the right place and refold the towels.
* On to the living room. Put away the glass cleaners and bring out a rag for polishing. Stack what magazines that were out, place them in the magazine rack next to the couch. Stack any journals or medical books in a pile on the left-hand side of her desk. Fluff the two existing pillows and place them on the sides of the couch. Move the two candles and separate holders to the coffee table in front of the couch so she could clean the shelf off.
She forgot to move the candles and holders back, and without thinking about it, Steve would probably see them and think that Sloane was trying to be romantic, but didn’t have the time or energy to finish the look.
* Back to the bedroom. Make the bed. Why did she ever have to make the bed, she thought, because nobody ever came over that she had to impress her home with anyway. There was a second pair of shoes on the floor near the closet. After opening the closet door, she threw her shoes to an empty spot. When she closed the doors and checked to make sure everything was cleaned up in her last room, she noticed that her suitcase from her trip to New York was still closed, on the floor in the corner. Then it hit her again. She was trying not to think about it, she knew that there was nothing she could do about it, and all it took to remind her was this suitcase, still packed.
All she had the energy to do was sit on the floor in her bedroom, almost next to her suitcase. She had nothing other than her memories to remind her of what had just happened this weekend. Carter’s books sat on her nightstand, and all she had of photographs of him were small author photos on the backs of the books he had written. Sitting next to her bed, she turned her body so that she could lean on the side of it. She looked over at her suitcase on the floor, then she leaned her head back and craned her head to see Carter’s books on her nightstand.
Then she rolled her head to the side and closed her eyes.
Less than a minute later the doorbell rang, making her jerk up. She then jumped up and rushed to move the suitcase to the wall, standing it upright. She glanced at the room to make sure it was clean. The clock read 6:57; Steve was just early, and she ran out to the front door.
Leaning her head against the door she called, “Who is it?”
“It’s Steve.”
He sounded a little surprised to her when he responded, so she turned around and unlatched the door.
Steve heard the door creak open; he saw her head down. He could only see her black hair draping down, arching around her face, almost buried in shadow. These were moments he wanted to memorize an image, because this image was beautiful to him, and he wanted to be able to keep it forever.
He couldn’t talk; he wanted to wait for her to make the first move. Sloane slowly lifted her head. “Hi, Steve, come in.”
Steve walked in without saying a word.
“Thanks for coming by,” she said as he moved forward and turned around to watch her close the door.
“Not a problem at all,” Steve answered. “I’m a good listener, you know.”
“But I don’t want to be covered in your next column Steve...”
“You’ve got a deal.” Steve took his coat off as he was ready to put it on her coat rack by the door. “I know you’ve asked me about stuff like that before, and I wouldn’t say a word about it.”
“Would you like to stay here for something to drink, or would you like to go out for something?”
“Well, maybe we could go out for a bit and then come back...”
“Okay,” she said as she reached to the closet to get her own overcoat. “Have any places in mind, or should I pick something out?”
“I don’t know much around here, so I’ll go with your choice.”
Sloane decided they could go to the same bar/restaurant she was at for lunch with Toby. They got into the car, and she started to explain the place. “It’s just a place to hang out in, they serve sandwiches and French fries and stuff like that for meals, and they have appetizers, but they have a lot of drink choices too. I went there for a drink at lunch, and they had a really good martini.”
Steve was convinced with whatever she recommended and they arrived at the bar twenty minutes later.
As they walked in Steve had a good look at the place: there was a bar at the center and tables and booths all around the sides. Sloane asked, “Where would you like to sit?”
Steve saw that it was relatively empty because it was closer to the business district, so he said, “I think we’ll have no problems with service at a table.”
Someone asked if they would like a table, and Steve suggested to the maitre d’ to get them a booth, before they were escorted to a booth. Sloane looked up and asked if a waitress could come by right away.
Steve didn’t realize she wanted something to consume so quickly.
The waitress walked up right away. “Hi, my name is Janine, would you like to start off with a drink?”
“I’d like a cookies and cream martini.”
Steve stared at her as she spoke so quickly and efficiently until he realized that Janine was looking at him. “Um... I’d like a vodka and tonic, and we may only get appetizers tonight.”
“Gotcha,” they heard Janine say as she walked toward the bar.
Steve turned to Sloane immediately when the waitress left. “A cookies and cream martini?”
“Yeah, I tried that at lunch and it was really good.”
Steve looked down at the drinks portion of the menu. “Good mix of stuff in here ... and you drank this for lunch?”
“Steve, I’m at this point right now where I don’t feel like immersing myself in my work too much.”
“That doesn’t sound like what little I know of you.”
“Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you,” she said as she did her best to change the subject. “I didn’t get anything to drink for my place because I thought that if you wanted something, we could go to the store together and pick out stuff. If that’s okay with you.”
“That’s fine. We can get whatever you need too.”
“But that’s the thing, I don’t buy liquor, I don’t even know what I’d want.”
Steve looked over to the menu. “so you like this drink?”
“Yes...”
“Well, we could make sure we get these things and work on making it at home if you’d like.”
“You think you could make it up at my place? We don’t know how much of each liquor...”
“Well, we can keep fudging with it until we get it to your liking, then we’ll have your own recipe for it.”
“... Okay...””
“So why are you wanting to drink so much all of a sudden?” Steve asked.
Sloane took a deep breath before she began. “When a friend of mine who was doing research work for AIDS came into a huge spell of trouble, all he wanted to do was drink, to escape and wallow in misery. I thought he was making a wrong choice by escaping, but now that’s all I want to do.”
“You want to escape?”
“Steve, I swear, I can’t think of anything else that I can do to solve any of the problems that we’ve got right now.”
“And drinking will make it better?”
“... No, it won’t make it better, but it may allow me to stop thinking about it all for a little while.”
Steve knew he couldn’t really argue with that, but he also knew he could never argue with her opinions. “Looking for a little escapism tonight?”
Thinking about not understanding why people seem to want to drink so much in the past, and thinking about what she had to deal with now, she then answered, “Yes. I think that’s exactly what I want.”
“Okay, girl, so it’s my job to let you drink tonight.”
“Isn’t that what every man wants on a date?”
“I didn’t think you thought of this as a date, and all it means for me is that I get to be a baby-sitter for you in part...”
“Oh. Does that ... bother you?”
Steve hated it when she asked him questions that he couldn’t help but be painfully honest to. “Nothing you do can bother me.”
They let a few moments pass. Steve ordered chips and salsa, and imagined that he’d need her to have a vitamin, a painkiller, and a glass of water before she went to sleep tonight. Sloane ordered another drink, and Steve was stunned at how quickly she could go through one of their martinis.
“Hey girl, let me have a taste of your martini so I know what we’ll try to make for you later tonight.”
She slid her martini over to him so he could drink out of her glass. “Damn that’s sweet -- you only get a hint of the liquor in there.”
“Yeah, it’s good.”
“No wonder you’re going through them so fast.”
“Hmm. It’s a good thing that right now I don’t really care.”
“Okay, I can’t take it any more. Are you going to tell me what the problem is? Or is my job to just watch you drink?”
“You have to swear that none of this comes out, Steve, not in writing or talking.”
“Well ... sure... okay ... you’ve got my word.”
She didn’t know where to begin or what parts of the story would necessary to omit. “It seems that bit by bit, parts of my ability to work on AIDS research are being taken away.”
“Oh, come on --”
“No, really. I have just noticed it, piece by piece. The first thing was that a colleague of mine had rain forest land destroyed that he needed for research. Now, that is not my personal news, it’s just something I noticed as a problem with trying to get somewhere in getting good medication.”
Steve continued to listen to her speak. “Then I was told by someone that more things like this would happen to researchers, he couldn’t give me any more information about it, and the next thing I knew he was killed in a hit-and-run car accident. Then after that Madison was blamed for stealing materials from the U.S. government, and I had to run a press conference to make my own stand.”
The waitress came over with the chips and salsa and Steve responded. “But I saw your press conference. It was phenomenal! You seemed to do really well with that one.”
“Yes, I have to start playing with the media to get the government off our backs, instead of continue to do my job.”
“I think everyone is on your side though, after that first press conference.”
“The government isn’t, though. They went to our offices to look through files of ours and try to go into our computers. We knew they were coming, so we hid everything, and we made sure that we had all of our information documented, but then the CEO of Madison kept me in his office while the government people came in to look through all of our stuff.”
“He did that?”
“Yeah, he told them he was in a meeting and couldn’t be reached, and he had Madison tell the government people that I was not in the office. Can you believe that?”
“Oh my God. Did it end up working out for you guys though?”
“I really have no idea, because I wasn’t there, but we probably pissed off the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department people who were trying to check us out.”
“Did they have any reason to be checking you out in the first place?”
“No. They never showed any evidence that we did anything to them, and they never even had any reports or findings in the past year that they had even done similar research in the first place.”
They continued to talk about these topics while they ate chips. She washed down her food with more martinis. After they were there for almost two hours, Steve had to ask, “But I saw how you were working in those press conferences, and I know how people are reacting to your comments -- they love you and Madison. What do you have to worry about now?”
That’s when she shook her head. “Two things ... one is that I was told that the pressure on myself and researchers is only going to get worse, and --”
“This is the guy that died after he told you that?”
“Yeah, but worse has happened since these last things.”
“Like what? ... Wait, do you want to continue this talking at your place? We’ve been here long enough...”
“Sure, you’re probably right.”
Steve dropped cash down over the check and carried it all over to the front of the bar.
“What are you doing? What do I owe?”
“Look, girl, I don’t get the chance to hang out with you too much, so let me do this for you tonight.”
Steve left out his arm for Sloane to hold on to while he walked her to his car. He could tell that she needed a little help with walking as he unlocked her door and opened it for her.
When they arrived at a liquor store, Steve held the door open for her to walk in. “It’s very white in here,” she said.
“What?”
“It’s really bright in here.”
“It’s not a bar.”
“Why do bars have such low light?”
“I think it’s because everyone is trying to find a mate, and low light covers up people’s imperfections...”
“So low light is like beer-bottle glasses?”
“Oh, you make everything sound so beautiful...”
“It’s still bright in here, Steve.”
“You’ve got to see what you’re buying, and I think you were just getting too used to the low light of that bar.”
They walked around the store a few times, looking for Kahlua, cookies-and-cream liqueur and vodka. Sloane asked Steve if he wanted tonic water to have drinks with the vodka, so they picked up a few extra things so they could drink at her place. Steve even picked out a bottle of vodka that came in a box with martini glasses as a part of a set so that she could have a glass to drink from.
Steve still tried to play the role of the gentleman by trying to open the car door for her or carry what he had purchased into her place for her. Before he could even worry about getting his coat off, Steve brought the bag to the kitchen and asked, “I’m sure you don’t have a shaker for your drink, so have you got a good metal spoon?”
She found everything he needed for making drinks after she put her hands on his shoulders and gestured to take his coat for him so she could hang it up.
“I know you don’t need a blender,” she said.
“No, just ice to mix this all together with,” Steve answered.
“I’ve got this refrigerator that dispenses whole or crushed ice cubes, so you can have your choice.”
Steve made what he thought might work and brought it to her on the other side of the kitchen. “Let me know what you think.”
Taking a sip, she immediately responded, “too vodka-ish.” She handed the glass back to Steve and he tasted it. “Okay,” he said as he went back to work. The second round of testing worked out almost perfectly. Sloane had her drink and Steve mixed his vodka and tonic together to join her in the living room.
“You haven’t even sat down yet,” Steve said as he walked to meet up with her, standing in front of the couch. “Or would you like to toast before we sit?”
Looking at her glass, she then looked over to Steve. “I can’t image what to toast to.”
“If you’ve been having problems, then here is to the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Steve watched her smile as they clinked their glasses and drank.
“Wow, this is good,” She said after she drank.
“Well, I do what I can,” he said as he sat down with her.
Steve set his glass on the table and noticed the candles and holders she left there while cleaning on the cocktail table. “Hey, why don’t we light the candles?”
“Let me get the matches from the kitchen,” she said as Steve started to put the candles in the holders.
This was starting to kill Steve. He was standing in a darkened room putting candles in holders, alone with her after he made her a potent drink to have after the four she had drank at the bar. He still couldn’t believe he was here, with her, right at this moment, in this way. He knew he had to ask what else was going on with her, and he wanted to be there to listen to her, but...
Actually, he was surprised, because he wasn’t thinking about making love to her, but he was thinking about being able to hold her to make her feel better.
Steve didn’t want to believe she was actually getting to him. He even looked down at himself, checked himself out, and tried to make sure that he was Steve Errman, that this was the real world.
He reminded himself that this was real as soon as he heard her walk in with matches. Reaching out his hand, he said, “Let me do the honors...” and she handed the matches to him when she approached. Hearing her sit down on the couch, he lit a match to light the candles. They had a napkin on the table, so he placed the match he then blew out on the napkin and sat down next to her.
Noting that her glass was still on the table, he reached over and picked it up to give to her.
“So, what did you think of that toast?”
“I thought it was...”
“What?”
“I thought it was unreal, Steve.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“It means I’m afraid things are just going to be getting harder and harder until I can’t take it any longer.”
“You don’t believe in the light at the end of the tunnel?”
“I believe I’m in a tunnel with a fork, and I don’t know where that light is going to be coming from.”
“I have no idea what that means.”
“It means that I am afraid about continuing my research, for everything I value and for my own safety.”
Steve waited a moment before asking his next question. “You say this because this was the rest of what you had to tell me, isn’t it?”
“Okay... Have you heard about us working on a book?”
“Yes. Things aren’t going well with that?”
“That’s just a small part of the problem. Remember how I told you that I was informed that things will get more and more difficult for researchers to work on AIDS medications?”
“Yes...”
“Okay, I have to tell you how we got this book going in the first place for this to make sense. I had a long-time friend, a good friend, who worked at a high position at a New York publishing company. I talked things over with him -- Mr. Donovan -- and this is why we got this book on the road. The book seemed to be doing well, it’s supposed to go to the printer by the end of this week --”
“And? That sounds good...”
“Well, last weekend, Mr. Donovan was attacked at night, next to nothing was stolen from him, but he was injected with an HIV-infected needle.”
“He what?”
“He’s been given HIV.”
“And you --”
“And I happened to be called because my business card was in his wallet, so I went to New York for the day to see how he was doing ... it was a good thing that he had my number, because I noticed the needle and had the right toxicology screen done, which they wouldn’t have done, and I was then able to overload him with a ton of AZT and Emivir within twelve hours of him being infected. I can only hope that will make a difference for him.”
Steve was silent for a moment before he spoke. “I’m really sorry about your friend.”
She almost cried when she heard him say those words aloud to her. He’s not just a friend, but she couldn’t tell the world this, and she knew she couldn’t tell Steve. “I haven’t told this to anyone else, but he is one of my best friends in the world. I cried for hours last night, and I was not able to do anything at work today. I called family and friends, because all I can think is that this was done to stop research, I don’t know when it’s going to stop or what measures will be taken. I mean, I even went out for drinks at lunch on a workday with a colleague doing research on AIDS at the University.
“I haven’t even opened my suitcase to put away my clothes from yesterday. I haven’t even wanted to work. I haven’t even --” she almost started to cry.
“What?” Steve asked as he moved closer to her and put his arm around the back of the couch so he could hold her if she needed it.
“I ... I’ve just been wanting to ... I’ve...”
This was when she started crying, and Steve immediately moved his glass to the table and took her glass to place on the table. Steve moved toward her and instinctively put his arms around her. Placing his hand on her head to guide her to his chest to cry if she needed it.
“It’s okay, Sloane ... I’m here ... It’s okay ...”
“I’ve just been wanting to stop thinking, Steve. I’m so tired of thinking about all of this.”
“Shhh... Just relax...”
“It’s just... You know, I want to escape now.”
“Well, that’s what the drinking is for, honey...”
She knew it had started working, so she started giggling.
“What are you laughing for?”
“Steve, you called me honey.”
“Did that bother you?”
She still giggled. “Actually, no. It was cute.”
Steve began thinking through what she had said before. “You said before that there’s a fork in your tunnel, right, and you don’t know where the light is?”
“Yeah, I don’t know which way to go.”
“Well, you could dump your research. Do you want to do that?”
“No. Not at all. But I don’t want to lose anyone to my work.”
Steve waited a moment, then asked more. “What did you want to do when you were little?”
“I don’t know, actually. I thought for a while about being a computer science engineer. Wait, for a little while I even thought about being a singer in a band, but there was no chance for that --”
“Oh my gosh, let me go through this. Think about if you took another path in your life. Because I can see you now, business suit on, hair pulled back in a bun, people asking you computer-networking questions. How do you like that image?”
“Well...”
“Did you ever watch the show ’Cheers’? I’m totally seeing you as Lillith now, you know, barking like a dog, this frail little bossy thing,--”
Sloane started laughing.
“And she always had to be right, didn’t she?”
“Oh my God no!” he kept laughing.
“I like the path of being a singer. I’m confused now, would you be a grunge singer, looking like Curt Cobain from Nirvana, or would you come off as something more like Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, belting out one word with eighteen different chord changes?”
She couldn’t stop laughing at all the remarks.
“I like the look of ’Sloane the Nirvana Queen’, actually, torn up jeans and a flannel shirt... very sexy...”
“Oh stop it!”
“Don’t tell me you’d be a Bette Midler wannabe?”
He then felt Sloane roll over to the side of the couch away from him when she heard that one.
Steve reached over and grabbed both of their glasses, handing her the martini glass as he said, “You don’t actually sing, do you?”
Taking the glass, she said, “I did, I mean, I can.”
“I don’t believe you. Sing something.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know, just think of something.”
Taking a swig of her martini, she tried to think of something. After a moment she threw her head back to get her hair out of her eyes
“Um ... this one was written at the end of World War One, I think it’s a good song.

Once in khaki suits, gee, we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodle de Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
I was the kid with the drums.

Sloane let in a slight pause as she finished the chorus, noting that Steve was impressed with her singing. She started to feel more confident as she let out the last verse of the song, with more soul and energy.

Say, don’t you remember, they called me ’Al’,
It was ’Al’ all the time,
Say, don’t you remember, I’m your pal,
Brother, can you spare a dime.

“You have a beautiful voice.”
“Thanks, but really, what kind of money does a woman who likes to sing and has no training make?”
“You’ve never taken a class or anything?”
“No, I just like to sing and I can remember songs well.”
“Wow. But you’ve got to stop showing me all of these talents of yours, because I was envious enough of you already,” Steve said as he stood up to take her empty glass, since she just finished the glass after singing. “Want more?” he asked.
“Sure, thanks.”
“Are you going to be okay tomorrow?”
“Oh, I already decided I’m taking a sick day tomorrow. Someone even said I looked sick and suggested it to me today, so... Wait, so you have to work tomorrow?”
“I got ahead on my writing this week, so I won’t have to even go into the paper until Wednesday. Why do you ask?”
“You could just stay here if you needed to, that’s all.”
“I’ll see how I’m doing later, but thanks...” he said as he walked toward the kitchen to make her a drink.
Steve thought about it for a moment, about whether or not he should be strong, or if he would just hurt her. He knew that he didn’t want to destroy any sort of friendship they might now have; he thought about it until he placed their glasses on the counter. He then decided that he would have to try, so he left the glasses on the kitchen counter and walked back to the couch.
He saw Sloane looking up at him as he walked until he was standing right in front of her. He looked straight into her eyes and asked, “I’m about to do something, and I want to do it because I really care about you, but I don’t want to offend you.” His voice became stern as he asked her a question, without sounding like he was asking.
“So I’m going to do something, and I want you to be okay with it.”
She looked a bit confused, but answered. “Okay.”
He reached down and put his hand on the back of her neck and started to kiss her. He couldn’t believe this, she wasn’t fighting him, dear God, he didn’t want to stop, but he didn’t want to take too long and get her angry.
He felt her hand reach around and touch his cheek. When he felt her touch his face he knew he just had to stop, only because he didn’t want to take it too far. About one second later he started to pull away from her lips, and he slowly moved his head up to kiss her forehead. Then he turned around to go back to the kitchen to make their drinks.

As she watched him walk away, her mind raced, what did she just let him do, damn he felt good, what is going to happen to Carter, would Steve want more, what should she say.
Carter would have to understand that sometimes, well, sometimes a kiss is just a kiss, and sometimes she needs something there to make her feel human again, and it doesn’t change how she feels about him.
Maybe she was just trying to find a way to justify what happened, but in her mind she knew that the action was justified.

Once Steve got to the counter in front of her glasses, he rested his weight on both hands, leaning on her counter. After two seconds he moved one hand over his mouth; he still couldn’t believe what had just happened, he didn’t want to push her too hard, but damn, she felt so good, and she hadn’t stopped him. Was she drinking too much, and what if she ended up hating him for what he just did.
Oh God. Oh God, was all he could think. Just make her a drink and don’t take too long and try to make sure that everything works out okay. Knowing the right amount of each liqueur, he was able to make her martini easily, and he made a point to add extra crushed ice to it so it would be a bit more watered down. He threw his drink together with ease, put both glasses in his hands, then took a deep breath before walking back into the living room.
As he approached her and handed her the glass, Sloane turned around to look at him. She took it without saying a word. Steve walked around and sat next to her before he spoke. “Are you okay?”
She waited a second, then shook her head up and down. “Yes.”
“I hope I didn’t --”
“No, you didn’t.”
“You don’t even know what I was going to say to you.”
“Steve, I have the feeling that whatever you were going to say, my answer would have been the same.” She looked at him for a moment before she spoke again. “But I have to ask you something ... why did you just kiss me?”
“... Because you deserved it.”
She hadn’t expected that answer; it was a pleasant surprise. “Oh,” she answered. “Now I have one more question.
“Shoot. What is it?”
“Well, can I lean on you for a bit?”
He didn’t expect that question, and all he could do was move a little so she could lean on him and still be sitting on the couch. After she leaned on him and took a drink, he said, “I guess if I stay here tonight you don’t want me to sleep in your bed with you...”
“I suppose there’s no reason why you shouldn’t,” she answered. “You think you’ll need to crash here?”
“It might be easier, whenever we decide to call it a night.”
Steve’s mind was still thinking about everything that had happened so far. All he could think to say was, “What else would you like to talk about?”
“You know, I think I’ve heard enough out of my mouth tonight, and I think I need to hear about someone else’s stories.” Sloane took a sip from her glass and continued. “What has been going on with you?”
They talked on the couch for another hour and a half. Then Steve finally made her drink a glass of water with a multi-vitamin and an aspirin.
“Why are you making me take this?”
“A friend of mine said whenever he partied too much, he’d take this before he went to bed. And he never had a hangover. Seeing that we’ve drank a ton, it seems a smart idea...”
So Sloane brushed her teeth, drank her water and took Steve’s hangover cure before putting on her silk pajamas and getting into bed. Steve wore a pair of her sweat pants to bed, kept a water glass on her nightstand, and reached over to give her a small kiss good night on the forehead.


chapter 15

The publishing Battle

Steve rolled over in bed, kissing Sloane for a minute straight, before he looked at the clock. “You’re late for work, Angel,” he said.
“Isn’t it the weekend?” she asked.
“No, honey, it’s Thursday. I got my story in yesterday.”
“I’ll call in an tell them I’ll be late.”
“You know, I still feel bad that you’re not making it to Mr. Donovan’s funeral today.”
“It’s on the other side of the country, and I couldn’t afford the airfare to go over there for 45 minutes. I don’t even know, if we could afford the ticket for me, if I’d have time to see him before he’s buried.”
And as she heard herself say these words to Steve in bed, Sloane sprung up from her dream, panting.
Still having bad dreams, she held the blankets up to her chest. Steve felt her move in bed and sat up to see if something was wrong. “Sloane?” she heard Steve call out as he put his hands on her shoulders.
His springing up after her forced her to remember that she wasn’t alone. “I’m sorry, Steve, I had a bad dream.” She tried to run her hands through her hair to tuck hair behind her ears.
“Are you okay? What was it about?”
“Oh, it was...” She didn’t want to say a word about it to Steve, because she had no idea what she could say. “I ... I don’t really remember...” was all she could get out of her mouth, but Steve felt Sloane still shaking the bed as she tried to calm down.
“You’ve only been asleep for less than an hour, you must have dropped right into dream sleep. Are you feeling okay?”
“I suppose, I --”
“Come here,” Steve said as he guided her head to his chest to try to make her relax. “What do you need from me?”
“I ... I really have no idea...”
“Do you want some space, because I’m here for you if you want me here.”
Sloane had to decide in seconds what she wanted from him and what she needed right then and there. Her mind started running through thoughts:
* She knew it wasn’t a Thursday,
* She knew, or at least hoped, that Carter wasn’t dead,
* She dreamt Steve called her ’angel’ just like how Carter did,
* She needed to be held,
* She needed to know if Carter was okay,
* She needed Steve to start kissing her,
* She needed to try to calm down,
* She needed to work on a cure for AIDS,
* She needed sleep,
She knew there was more, but all she could do was lean on Steve’s shoulder and let him hold her. His hands almost fiercely grabbed her, as if he wanted to be sure he would never have to let her go. She finally looked up at him and he saw her eyes in the low light from her windows.
He reached his head down and started to kiss her. And she kissed back.

###

When she woke up hours later, she grabbed her head. She had to make another mental checklist of what had happened that night. She started by clawing at her pajamas to verify that she was not naked; she remembered kissing Steve for a while after her dream, but she thought she just fell asleep in his arms. Looking over, she noted that Steve was not in bed, so she suddenly had a minor panic attack: where did he go? Did he leave without saying good-bye? Is he in the washroom? She got out of bed, saw her sweat pants folded up on her nightstand, and saw his clothes missing.
She walked outside.
Hearing Steve in the kitchen cooking, she walked in and saw that he had cleaned too. “What are you doing?”
“Good morning.”
“Well, good morning to you, Steve. Did I make too much of a fool of myself last night?”
“Do you ever?”
“What time is it?” she asked, trying not to react to his question.
“Ten after nine. Why?”
“I have to call to tell them that I’m sick and not going to work today...” Sloane turned and walked toward the phone so she could make a call.
Kyle called her over the phone an hour after she called in sick. She told Julie to tell Kyle that she’d be able to get back on base with him when she returned on Wednesday, but Kyle wanted to make sure she was feeling okay, and was tempted to bounce ideas off of her that he was thinking about Monday night. She talked things over with Kyle a little; Kyle told her that a call from Shelly Stempel was forwarded to him because she was not in today. According to Ms. Stempel, it seemed The Battle from the Inside would have to go through a round of Quentin editorial scans again, now that Mr. Donovan’s team was no longer working on the book.
For the next month she would only have the deal with Shelly Stempel trying to change the book around, but all she could think about right now was checking on Carter’s progress. Managing to get a flight to New York for the weekend, she took half of the next Monday off before she left to visit him.
Only some people could manage to juggle more problems. Not knowing how they would have to say good-bye to each other that Tuesday, they seemed to slide into a long hug. Two days later, the day before she would have the chance to leave to check on Carter’s progress, Steve and Sloane met again, and she did her best to make it clear that she couldn’t let their relationship go any father than where it had already gone.
Steve tried to think of the right response. “Do you hate me because of what had happened?”
“No, Steve, it’s not that at all. With some of the things I told you about before, I seem to be having problems now with the production of The Battle from the Inside. And I couldn’t throw you into that mix right now, it just wouldn’t be right.”
“Why, you don’t think I could handle it?”
“Steve, you know it’s not that. Really, though, I’m even flattered that you’re pressing me this much on it... Shouldn’t you be more content with no strings attached from a girl?”
“I think that would only happen if we made love.”
This one took her aback; she had to think of the right response. “Sure, but this way you don’t deal with a girl that complains that she wants a more serious relationship with you, that she wants more of you around now that you’ve actually slept with her.”
“You’re not the average girl, though, are you?”
Having to smile, she finally said, “You keep catching me, don’t you... You’re getting to know me too well.”
“And I thought I didn’t know you enough.”
Hearing Steve say those words to her reminded her of Carter, and she though, no, Steve didn’t know her enough. Even though Carter barely saw her, she felt like they lived with each other and they knew what the other one was always thinking.
They said good-bye to each other the last time this week, and as they were hugging, Steve couldn’t stop himself from saying, “You know, how I feel about you is different.” His kissed her forehead and continued, “When I kiss you like this, I don’t mean it as some sort of ’lust’ thing, I just want to do it as some sort of sign of ... I don’t know ... admiration, I guess.”
They pulled away from each other as they were about to leave. “You’re such a smart cookie, girl,” he said, watching her smile.
“Why do you even tolerate me?”
“It’s not that and you know it...” were the last words out of his mouth as they left.
Having other things on her mind, she couldn’t worry about Steve, or even The Battle from the Inside. Now she head to get ready to fly to New York.

###

Walking into his home was one of the hardest things for her to do, when she finally made it in from the airport and the taxi to see Carter. Things had changed now; he wasn’t a friend that she’d see every once in a while, he wasn’t a friend who gave her a book contract for AIDS research, he wasn’t someone she fell in love with and couldn’t tell, he wasn’t her soul mate that loved her as much as she loved him. All she could think was that he was the man that she made sick, because of her research.
No, she didn’t do this to him, it was the U.S. government. She had to keep telling herself that, to make herself sane, to give herself something she could fight.
How could she fight the U.S. government?
There had to be a way, she had to find a way ... that was all she could think.
Carter thought what happened to him was a random act. Sloane didn’t. Suddenly everything was somehow coming back to haunt her; she thought her wires had been tapped. “This was their way of threatening me to leave the government alone,” was all she thought. But that wouldn’t stop her. “If they thought doing this would stop me from looking, then they don’t know me at all,” she continued thinking during the flight to see Carter. She needed them to give her the cure, for him, because she didn’t think she could do it in enough time to save him.
Ever since this attack on Carter following her hacking onto the CIA database and her press statement about not letting the government get in anyone’s way, Sloane kept thinking about the government’s ability to tap into her phones, watch her via cameras in her home, even photograph or videotape her voice or image to track everything she is doing. She started to keep windows closed all the time. She seldom talked on the phone already, but she made a conscious effort to not make calls at home, and to only make extremely short and vague calls while she was at work.
Her own privacy in jeopardy raced through her head as she walked into his building. When she got to his door, she imagined what Carter might now be like. She imagined him thinner, gaunt, sad and sallow. After reading over so many test cases of AIDS patients, she had only seen poorly dressed men with extremely short hair, all in blank rooms.
This couldn’t be the case with Carter. She was sure of it. She knew his clothes. She knew his home. It would be impossible for him to lose that much weight in less than a week. “All he had to do was keep was a positive attitude,” she thought as she rang his doorbell.
Expecting to see a nurse, Carter opened the door for her. He looked fantastic. He had just been released from the hospital the morning before, and he was dressed in khaki pants with a button-down white shirt, looking relaxed and comfortable. Her first impulse was to say ’you look phenomenal’, but she stopped herself long enough to first say, “I love you, Carter Donovan.”
Carter smiled. As he opened the door wider to let her in, he said, “And I love you, angel.”
“The hospital wouldn’t tell me how you were doing. And you look phenomenal. How are you doing?”
“I feel awake, I went through your book to tell me how to eat and what supplements to take, and --”
“But what are your stats?”
“Oh... Well, I guess it was a really good thing that you were called, because my T-cell count was still at normal levels. Right now my T-cell count is just over four hundred.”
“Just over four hundred? That’s completely normal! Usually AIDS patients in good health have a count of between two hundred and three hundred! This is amazing! So,” she asked the bottom line question she really needed the answer to, “have they been able to detect any HIV in your body?”
“Well, they can still see it in my bloodstream, but,”
Her face immediately started to fall; she was hoping the overdose of drugs would be enough for him.
“But the doctors and nurses are amazed at my condition, and I think it is entirely due to what you did.”
“Don’t give me that much credit. You were in great shape to begin with. And besides, do they know if it has blown from HIV to AIDS yet, I mean, is your immune system down?”
“Well, they had to medicate me from something I got in the hospital, but I suppose that--”
“That you have AIDS and not just HIV.” Her face dropped again. She did her best to remember all of the good news in all of this, holding her spirits up she listened to the bad news she kept hearing.
She finally spoke again. “So what do you need from me?
“I need to have my arms around you, if that’s okay,” he said as he walked toward her. “I don’t know if that is safe enough...”
“You know that you can only transmit this through blood or sex, so as long as you don’t bleed all over me, we should be just fine,” she said, starting to laugh, as she threw her arms up to hug him. In his arms, she mustered the energy to say, “And you know, as long as your gums aren’t bleeding, you could kiss me.”
“But we’d be exchanging body fluids...”
“Research states that individuals would have to exchange six gallons of saliva before AIDS could be transmitted, so the only way you could hurt me is to drool for a few weeks and force me to drink it all...” she said as she pulled back long enough to look at him.
“Wait, though,” Carter said as he pulled away. “Are you sure you’d want to do that?”
Sloane thought for a flash about spending the rest of her life with a man who had AIDS, then she corrected herself; she should be thinking about spending the rest of her life with Carter. “I’m sure. Why?”
“Because,” he said, “because I’d like to make this like a special occasion,” he finished as he pulled candles from the bookshelf and lit them both while they were still in his hands. He walked over to her and gave her one of them to hold.
“Are we the candleholders today, Carter?”
“Right now we are, yes.” He looked at her. “I love you.”
Smiling, she responded by saying she loved him too as they kissed.

###

The rest of her weekend was spent in his high-rise, working out possible solutions for helping him be physically strong through whatever AIDS might do to him. Taking all the right steps would also help the drugs work more effectively, she thought. She asked him to get records of chapters from The Battle from the Inside for her to go over, and she made a point to ask for two copies of the book as it stood to be overnighted to his home for her to go over them while she was there.
Sloane also thought this would be a good way for Carter to keep records of all of the changes Shelly Stempel was making to The Battle from the Inside, but she wouldn’t tell Carter that yet.
Knowing some of the avenues, she looked into clinics for acupuncture and acupressure for Carter to go to for sessions for AIDS patients. She also had a vague memory of reading e-mails about garlic, tomatoes and soy, so she made sure Carter had protein-filled meals while she was there, one of Italian food where garlic and tomatoes would prevail, and one of Asian food, where Soy and garlic could both be used.
“You’re going to make me reek of garlic!” Carter said on the second day.
“It’s good for you, and it tastes good too, doesn’t it? And what, you’re worried about offending people when you have to go out to deal with them all? You’re not even working right now.”
“Hopefully I can work some of the garlic smell out of me when I shower after working out,” Carter answered, knowing that working out to build muscle mass was also a good idea.
She also thought that if giving Carter that much medication helped his condition remain so good at this point, could taking more of the medications that quickly killed the virus altogether? They didn’t know that it might have actually killed the virus and been a cure if he were immediately injected. But this idea was too late to help Carter.

When Sloane was about to leave she reminded him that she would look for a master in his area that could help them with information on meditation and yoga.
She also tried to make her temporary leaving sound trivial. “I finally get my own bed to sleep in...”
“What, I’m sorry I don’t have an extra bed in my home!”
“I’m just teasing you and you know it. If I had to sleep on nails I’d be here.”
They saved one last good-bye kiss for her leaving to go back to her impending book troubles at her office in Seattle.

###

The next few weeks were filled with her attempts to keep The Battle from the Inside going to print on schedule, when the schedule kept being pushed farther and farther back. Getting a swami or a Chinese master to instruct Carter on forms of meditation, yoga or possibly Tai Chi, was bound to be an excellent idea for helping keep his condition strong. Sloane searched for a swami in New York that could help her find an instructor for Carter while she was visiting on a weekend to help his condition.
Someone would meet with her three weekends after she visited Carter the first time. She scribbled down in her note pad for their meeting:

Qigong/chi kong (pronounced chee goong)

All she was otherwise able to do was visit on the weekends, giving him instructions like a drill sergeant, about having to eat more yogurt, or stretch more when he wakes up in the mornings, but not to overextend himself and make him more susceptible to illness.
At the third weekend visit, the week before she was meeting with the Swami, she still couldn’t see a change in Carter’s physical external condition. “You know Carter, they really shouldn’t be holding you here.”
“I know, and I am getting half salary pay for just sitting here ... but it’s driving me crazy, sitting around here and seeing how they are destroying The Battle from the Inside.”
“At least you have a copy of the original in your files here.”
“It’s a good thing you had an extra copy overnighted to me when you were first here.”
“You know, I even asked them to send a copy to myself when this all started, so I have a copy of your files too.”
“Why?”
“Because I didn’t trust Stempel from the start...”
“You know I want to be back working. I think I would have the greatest joy if my first assignment when I got back was to finish The Battle from the Inside.”
“Hmm...”
“What does that mean?”
“Well...”
“You want to try to get me back somehow?”
“Who knows what I can come up with?”
“You’ve got gears spinning in your brain right now ... I don’t know if I should trust you then, or love you more....”
“Do I have to guess the answer to that myself?”
“You know I love you, angel, and thanks for the effort. Maybe we can get the book out together after all.”

When she was about to visit with Carter and the Swami three weeks later, all she could think of was all of the work she had to do to try to keep The Battle from the Inside alive. The amount of work and the number of memos alone was baffling. Dealing with inaccuracies and things that were inadequate, she shrugged her shoulders with disbelief. Quentin assumed everything would run smoothly with the transition of the book to Shelly Stempel, but after finding herself trying to put out fires that never should have been started, Sloane wondered if writing everything down in triplicate made any difference at all. All she could guess was that she was starting to sound like a wind bag trying to let off steam at every opportunity, but all she knew was that the book had been ready to go to press when Madison was working on the book when it was spearheaded by Carter. Now Shelly seemed to be dragging her feet.
It almost seemed to her like Shelly was making sure this book did not print.
Organized into piles, she didn’t bother sorting memos, but was still stunned by the amount of fruitless work she had to go through to defend her work and the book. She had memos to Tyler, Carter, Colin, Howard and Kyle. And she wondered what more she could be doing - other than producing the book herself - to get this book out on to the market.

Starting at the top of the first stack, she got the general idea of what he had written to Tyler.


To: Mr. Tyler Gillian, Pubic Relations Manager, Madison Pharmaceuticals
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Research Manager, Madison Pharmaceuticals
cc: Mr. Colin Madison, CEO, Madison Pharmaceuticals, Mr. Kyle Mackenzie, Research Associate Manager, Madison Pharmaceuticals, Mr. Howard Shindo, Research Associate Manager, Madison Pharmaceuticals, Ms. Ellen Thomas, Research Associate, Madison Pharmaceuticals, Mr. Carter Donovan, New Client Recruitment Vice President, Quentin Publishing, Ms. Shelly Stempel, New Client Editorial Department Chairperson, Quentin Publishing, Mr. Bryce Farrell, Marketing Chairman, Quentin Publishing

Mr. Gillian:

re: book flow of information

The book will go out for another round of changes Thursday evening, on schedule, after a series of late nights on the part of myself as well as Kyle, Ellen, Howard and other members of our staff (Kyle also worked both Friday and Saturday of our four-day holiday weekend). Despite this, about 25 pages of this month’s issue had to be redesigned on very short notice, for a number of reasons.
I believe we can work together with Quentin to make sure that some of these problems won’t happen again.
Problems included:
* A lack of communication between the editorial staff and the design staff. Disagreements would cause sections to be revamped. Often no suggestions were made, and stories would be returned from editorial to production with comments like “this is not what I had in mind.” One suggestion because of the tight schedule was to mail part of the book to the printer with a delay-hole; that is not economically feasible.
* As the Director and Research Manager, I hope that as our new staff gets accustomed to their positions I will be able to take more of a Director’s role and not have to play such an integral part of the actual production and correction of pages.
* Once again we were waiting on sections. Quentin extends their own deadlines, and as a result we have to catch up by working inexcusably long hours. We shouldn’t be expected to do so much extra work because everyone else is late.
* The day before the book is supposed to go out we receive large segments of the book to change. This created many hours of work for us, and many hours later of redesigning for Quentin.
We also need to set a cap on the number of rounds of editorial revisions the book gets before it is sent to press. I’m sure that there are other measures we could also take to make the production of this book run smoothly - if anyone has any ideas, questions or comments, please let me know. Also contact me if there is anything else I can do to help in that respect.

- Ms. S. Emerson


Glancing through the remainder of the memos to Tyler alone. At each memo she would scan it over to see what the problems were that afternoon.

* Time has been consumed by doing arbitrary editorial design changes, which are unnecessary. Quentin’s editorial is going beyond their jurisdiction in demanding these changes; they have been working inefficiently.
* been consumed by doing arbitrary editorial design changes, which are unnecessary. Copies should come in clean to production; it is drastically rewritten after it is designed. Stress & friction has continually escalated because of this conflict.
* There have been a larger number of corrections per page in the book since Mr. Donovan left this project.
* The book is late because of being needlessly reworked. It affects our mailing date and our image as a company.
This also didn’t happen in the first period of my working on the book, while Mr. Donovan was heading the project. Since he left, my hands have been tied behind my back. If I don’t do Shelly’s changes, which are demands from her and not suggestions or requests, the end result is repeated demands, yelling and badmouthing about me behind my back. If I do them, the book, honestly, turns out worse. And usually it has to change again, because even she notices that the result is bad with her suggestions.
The changes, which she improperly labeled as “corrections,” were another full round of changes that were not editorial in nature. She wanted a regular list changed to a bulleted line of items (which is what she originally asked for and it had changed once already, meaning she changed her mind back to what it originally was at Quentin). None of her changes had editorial concerns. She even said once to eliminate white space at the top of the page because “she doesn’t like it.”
The book is suffering because of all of these problems Shelly Stempel has caused.
Shelly is repeatedly rude, demanding and unprofessional at best. Please let me know what steps will be taken to correct this costly, long-running problem.

Each note she read, while still skipping a few each time, made her more and more angry.


Moving over to the stack of memos to Carter, she wondered if her only reason for writing these memos to him was to keep him aware of the fiasco their book had become.

To: Mr. Carter Donovan, Quentin Publishing
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Madison Pharmaceuticals

Note: please keep on file and forward to all who are necessary for record keeping at Quentin

Mr. Donovan:

I know we’ve gone over this before, but I just want to let you know when problems come up. Today Shelly Stempel, in front of myself, Kyle and Howard, badgered me with questions focusing on two minor problems.
Stempel insisted on work being done that jeopardized the integrity of the book. Her tone was more than condescending, it was flat out rude. If I were her secretary I would have been offended by the remarks that she “professionally” made to virtual strangers.
The demands she posed were trivial and out of her jurisdiction, and they were made to not a low-ranking member of the staff, but to her only connection to getting this book completed through Quentin, in front of the staff. Behavior like that is unprofessional and intolerable.
We have discussed and agreed that her behavior and attitude is a problem at Madison.

- S. Emerson


To: Mr. Carter Donovan, Quentin Publishing
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Madison Pharmaceuticals

Note: please keep on file and forward to all who are necessary for record keeping at Quentin

Mr. Donovan:

I have written repeated memos, had regular meetings and expressed an urgent concern about not only the meddling, but also the incompetence of Shelly Stempel that has proven to be detrimental to this book and to the production work of Madison Pharmaceuticals. I have demonstrated over and over again that I am a good, quick worker, even when regularly faced with late, incomplete and inconsistent work from her. I have documented repeatedly that her interference in our work has hurt our morale, has cost hours upon hours of time and additional money to both you and us, and has ultimately sacrificed the integrity of the book. I have outlined what a problem this is.
Her changes are entirely subjective, and they are exactly the kinds of remarks she is supposed to be refraining from.
I’ve had to replace one staff member from working on this book that quit because of her; I’ve had to remove one staff member from working on this book because they cannot stand working with her. The challenge of working well under difficult circumstances is not the problem; the challenge of “working well when inexperienced people are actively trying to stop you from doing a good job” is the problem. I can’t tell people they should work on this when it is getting to the point where I can’t even think of any reasons why I should continue to.
Something, apparently something drastic, must be done immediately. I genuinely do not know how much longer I can work with the current circumstances. Please let me know as soon as possible if we can implement these changes and if you have any other ideas on how to solve this problem.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Mr. Carter Donovan, Quentin Publishing
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Madison Pharmaceuticals

Please keep; forward to all necessary for record-keeping at Quentin

Mr. Donovan:

I would appreciate it if you would do your best to keep Shelly Stempel informed of all the notes I have had to forward to you. I am in no way trying to report problems to someone else; I have repeatedly communicated with her about these difficulties, and they have gotten us nowhere. I greatly appreciate your help in this, and if you need anything at all from me, please let me know.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Mr. Carter Donovan, Quentin Publishing
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Madison Pharmaceuticals

Please keep; forward to all necessary for record-keeping at Quentin

Mr. Donovan:

Personally, I would not recommend using the suggestions Stempel had for the book. I see a number of problems with it:
1. The image she chose for the cover will look weak, and “bitmapped”, as you noted
2. This will hold back the correction time of the book
3. She is making it less readable to the average reader
4. These seem to be attempts to make the book her creation, which is inappropriate
You said you’d look for other options, which is a good idea. I understand that you are looking for time to relax, but you seem to be the only one at Quentin I feel comfortable talking to about our concerns. Let me know if you come up with anything, and thanks.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Mr. Carter Donovan, Quentin Publishing
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Madison Pharmaceuticals
Note: please keep on file and forward to all who are necessary for record keeping at Quentin

Mr. Donovan:

I came across the drafts since Stempel took over this book in a pile at Kyle’s desk. I thumbed through them, and there were a lot of drafts and corrections I never saw - and a lot of the pages included unapproved changes made by Shelly Stempel. I won’t go into whether the changes were valid. The point is, there were a large number of changes made by Stempel. The changes were quite detailed, and she stepped over her bounds regularly in making these changes.
To Kyle, they weren’t comments to be considered, they were edicts; he was to follow Stempel’s commands begrudgingly, but he did follow them. If I had seen these rounds of changes, I would have treated the comments differently.
I have attached copies of some of the pages I am referring to. This problem is widespread. Just thought I’d keep you informed of what is going on. What are we going to do about this?

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Mr. Colin Madison, CEO, Madison Pharmaceuticals
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Research Manager

Mr. Madison:

Since some recent changes at Quentin Publishing and our inability to work directly with Mr. Donovan, Madison has been working with Shelly Stempel, along with some of the editors that started working on our book with us before Mr. Donovan took some time off from his work. In light of all of this, our situations have changed drastically - and with that comes an adjustment period until things flow smoothly again. However, we have been working for a long time on a project that should have already been completed, and I still see a great number of problems that I have only been partially successful at solving. Most stem from Quentin proofreading problems, such as: Shelly Stempel has consistently delayed our copy getting to press. We had a deadline for the book. We did not receive the majority of edited work until two weeks after it was due to the printer, knowing that it had to go through us again first. I received material late and worked all night on a few occasions for this book so Quentin would have more time; Shelly would not look at any text until the entire chapter was edited again, which also held up production of the book. She sends biweekly memos stating the editorial is on schedule and we will get changes on time, but in actuality we get changes for only a small fraction of the book on time.
I have informed Mr. Donovan and two other reps from Quentin Publishing of these problems, and they have all said that they were not aware that the copy was coming to me so late and that I should not be receiving it so late. I have no physical verification of whether anyone at Quentin is doing anything about this; the problem still hasn’t changed.
Also, not only do we need material earlier, but we also need all of the material. For example, the day the chapters were supposed to be completed, I received additional changes for more than one chapter. This created many hours of work for us.
* Ms. Stempel and the current workflow as it is now set up at Quentin without Mr. Donovan supervising, makes sure that the copy goes through many rounds of corrections, further holding up production. When Mr. Donovan ran the book, the book got one round of corrections - one editor writes it, and two editors correct it once. When changes are corrected the book would then be finished. With this new hierarchy of workflow at Quentin, a number of editors see copy more than once before it goes to us for approval. Even after their preliminary editing, after we look it over, it goes through another round of corrections.
* Ms. Stempel continually oversteps her boundaries by attempting to redefine the book. She tries to direct it differently than how Mr. Donovan and myself personally agreed on, yet often communicates her ideas poorly. Disagreements over the end product will cause sections to be revamped.
Ms. Stempel usually tries to go around me and have Kyle or Howard do work when I am the one who has final say and I am the one she should be talking to. Although she acknowledges that I am the contact person for this book, she regularly attempts to go around me or undermine my decisions.
Ms. Stempel’s implying that I am not doing my job is an insult. I have made great improvements on the book in addition to doing other work at this company. Yet she is out and out rude to us. It is one thing to be concerned about how the book turns out; it is another to do everything to get your way, and then be obnoxious if you don’t get it.
I have tried being diplomatic with her; I have bent over backwards to accommodate her since she started with our book.
I wanted to keep you informed of the situation. Hopefully they can work something out internally; we haven’t so far. Other people at Quentin, including Mr. Donovan, have noted to me that Ms. Stempel is difficult to work with and that it stems from her personality.

- Ms. S. Emerson

p.s.: I am attaching memos I have written to Mr. Carter Donovan about matters with Ms. Shelly Stempel, and I have repeatedly made an effort to communicate with her about these issues. I am trying to cover all bases at our end with resolving any potential problems with the book production. If you need anything, please let us know.


She knew at this point that her staff was putting in too many hours for the book, but she also knew that she would have to be making regular weekly flights to New York to see Carter. “There had to be a way to get more money in to her staff,” she thought. Being stretched too thin while working, she knew that now she had to cash in on all of her hard work and overtime so she could afford seeing Carter across the country. She had to do everything she could to help save his life, and if nothing else, she wanted to be by his side.

To: Mr. Colin Madison, CEO, Madison Pharmaceuticals
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Research Manager

note: Overtime Memo

Mr. Madison:

Over a three-month period, including regular hours and overtime, I have worked approximately 925 hours. At the very reasonable and often considered low freelance wage of $50/hour, I would make $41,250, which is closer to my salary for the year and not for the past few months of work.
In some industries and some professions, overtime is supposed to be compensated for by being able to take time off. Usually, however, we only take time off at a ratio of 1:4 or 1:3; If I work 60 hours of overtime in a given month, seldom do I have the opportunity, much less the permission, to take nearly four days off, which would be a 1:2 ratio, much less a week and a half off at a 1:1 ratio. Yet this is supposed to be my compensation for losing half of my spare time. I have had to repeatedly relinquish social and family obligations, as well as eliminate basic money-saving and necessary household chores in my life like grocery shopping because I have simply had no time to do the things that I should be doing. The sheer amount of time I have worked has also made me physically sick, and with more work always piling on, I do not have the chance to take the time off I need to get some rest and recover from illness. We have not been able to take any comp time for our hours worked (other than a day or two around the Christmas holiday).
I propose a method of compensation that can be used when it is not possible to take time off because of scheduling concerns. Considering how much money a designer could be making with their spare time, when there is no benefit to putting in all this extra work, it will continue to become more and more difficult to keep a production staff without valuing the extra work they put in.
Knowing how much I have given to this company, I feel I have not taken comp time off or been paid adequately for hours worked. Consider that during holidays, when most take vacation days and have paid holidays, our department still had to put in an average of 70 hours of overtime.

For additional projects I have taken on in the past, I have had to argue about even being paid for them. I have had to fight for these additional payments to be settled in advance so that I wasn’t paid unfairly after the fact. And for all other payments suggested for work done, they have been consistently about half of what national standards would suggest.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Mr. Colin Madison, CEO, Madison Pharmaceuticals
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Research Manager

note: Market Value and Hiring Memo

Mr. Madison:

Market Value of Current and New Employees

Attached Surveys Price Our Company Far Below Market Averages for Pay. The attached form outlines salary averages, and they list them at being between $10,000 and $20,000 higher than our own. The average bonus for work annually was nearly $6,000, and salary increases came at an average of over 11 percent. The surveys attached outline that the average salary for work in our field is for doing a portion of the work that we in fact do. Kyle, Howard, or other staff members here, have been aware of these figures.

A potential New Hire: Our first interview was an excellent candidate for the job, but seemed disappointed when we offered the available salary for work. Our most recent interview was less qualified and asked for a starting salary currently above my salary. Laura, another good candidate for the job, verified with us that we’d have to give her a larger dollar amount to pull her away from her current job. So far, all of them are looking for a consistently higher salary.
The market is calling for higher salaries in general. Also, all of the people that are now applying already have good-paying jobs, so we have to be able to lure them away with a competitive salary. Currently we’re not doing that.

Bonuses: Industry magazine estimates that people with the background and stature, as well as the ability, of Kyle, Howard and myself, receive bonuses on average of over $8,000 for the work. For a staff that has been overworked and is looking for some sign of gratitude, no bonus and a lunch instead of a party is insulting.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Mr. Colin Madison, CEO, Madison Pharmaceuticals
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Research Manager
cc: Howard S., Kyle M.

Mr. Madison:

I have had a number of concerns about payment for work done, additional work done, overtime work and salary increases. Some of these concerns are outlined below.

Payment for doing the work of people who recently left
If you hired someone to do the job of people who recently left at the same price as her salary, Madison would still save money because there would be no benefits to pay the freelancer. You know the numbers, Kyle, and any additional payments we are getting for compensation for lack-of-researchers to produce results at this end, well, any additional numbers are abysmal. They do not keep in consideration the benefits that would be paid out to new employees, and the way that any additional payments were being distributed to us is unfair at best. Letting you know, so you can know I am working on coming up with a solution to this as soon as I can.

Payment for production
If one person were to do the work of getting that book together, about $36,000 in salary would be dedicated to the production of that book. If the current staff is supposed to be doing this in addition to their regular jobs, then $36,000 should be split between the people working on it. Currently our estimates are below that figure. I have documentation of these salary estimates and am forwarding them throughout the hierarchy of people that need to analyze this data. If we hired a temp to do this work, our bills would easily climb above $40,000.

Prompt payment and agreements in advance for work done
For additional projects I have taken on in the past, I have had to argue about even being paid for them. I have had to fight for these additional payments to be settled in advance so that I wasn’t paid unfairly after the fact. And other than the hourly rate for projects that we have taken on, all other payments suggested have been consistently about half of what they should have been.
We have consistently worked far more overtime than one should, and consistently we have produced quality work. I have wondered when we’d get paid for the work we have done. I look around and see the sales staff making three to four times my salary, all while working a normal workweek (when not traveling around the globe). In short, I feel we don’t receive adequate compensation in most every front at this company.
Please let me know when we can discuss what we can do about this.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Howard Shindo
From: Sloane Emerson
cc: Kyle M., Colin M.

Howard -

I wanted to send you these notes, because I wanted you to know that you are entitled to benefits that other people get. According to national averages, averages for companies that produce at a slower rate and less efficiently, well, national averages give financial compensation for work given by the average employee, in the form of time off, bonuses or incentives, or pay raises.
I have been talking to Kyle about so many things as of late, and I want you to know that I personally value you both for the amount of work that you do here at Madison. I wrote memos to Kyle and cc’d you in them, but they could have been written directly to you as well. My point? I really want your opinions on these issues, I feel we deserve more, and I feel that we have every reason to ask for more. I have been researching these standards and looking into the returns and the profits that Madison has been getting as a direct result of our work. I feel that we are entitled to more adequate pay cycles for the work we do, and I wanted your opinions on this. I plan to talk to Colin more extensively about this in upcoming dates, because I believe Colin and I have a respect for each other and are very willing to hear each other out. So please, if you would like to be hands-on in any of this interaction with Colin, or if you have anything to add, please let me know. And thanks.
The Human Resources Department has a record of my taking two vacation days off in February and two vacation days off in March. I would like to be compensated for pay for the overtime I have put in, considering that I have not been able to take any vacation days off this year.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Howard Shindo
From: Sloane Emerson
cc: Kyle M., Colin M.

Howard -

This current project has not in the past been in the hands of our staff, but in the hands of Quentin.
And overall the book has struggled because of it. Consider, for example, the overwhelming success of our research recently. There is no editorial/corporate intervention in this. We are able to do their job, and the results speak for themselves.
It is my understanding that Colin is not pleased with the production of this project (although he has not told me, the Director at Madison).
Apparently, however, Colin has decided to change his mind on the views of this project, without telling me. It would be helpful to find out exactly what he is currently looking for, so that we may be able to actually enact some of the changes he now wants.
I have a concern that his changes may only be temporary and following them may make us look inconsistent.
This may be an option if we have support from Colin on it and he is prepared to make sure Quentin does not interfere with our work here. Currently we do not have this.
Let me know if there is a time when we should meet to discuss what should be done about this.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Howard Shindo
From: Sloane Emerson
cc: Kyle M., Colin M.

Howard -

I will forward this to Mr. Donovan at Quentin, but I do not know whom else to confer with about this. just so you know. And thank you.

I was talking to Ellen from Quentin today, and she said the reason that there are often so many changes to editorial after production has designed pages is because Shelly doesn’t even read copy before handing it over to production at Quentin. For example, Shelly said certain stories were done and ready for production Friday, but I was told that Shelly didn’t even edit them and didn’t plan to.
Ellen said she has had chapters edited and done for weeks that Shelly hasn’t looked at, so it’s not because of time constraints. She’s having Beth edit her stuff today, because she doesn’t want to give me chapters that no one else has looked at.
Are you aware that Shelly is doing this? It would probably save both editorial and production at Quentin a lot of re-work time if Shelly edited stories before they got to us to check over. I can talk to Shelly on the matter, because she has taken over this as if it were her own book, which it is not. Can you say something to Bryce or another person at Quentin about it?

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Howard Shindo
From: Sloane Emerson
cc: Kyle M., Colin M.

re: forwarded file from computer department memos

Howard -

Okay, this is the third time I have had to ask in written form for you to get files for me ... Thank you in advance. Did I mention that I’m still waiting on the other files, which I asked for a while ago? Thanks a lot -
P.S. Do I really have to ask this many times?

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Howard Shindo
From: Sloane Emerson
cc: Kyle M., Colin M.
re: inaccuracies

Howard -

Because of the high number of inaccuracies and falsehoods in the most recent memo, I feel I have to make a few corrections in some of the fallacies they made.
* According to the memo, “The book is late because there seemed to be an overwhelming amount of work for one production person.” Correct. However, that is Quentin’s problem; unless a new production team is going to be added to their staff, the only other solution I can see is giving their own staff an appropriate amount of time to get the work done.
* According to the memo, “According to Howard and Kyle, Ms. Emerson’s role on this is merely as an advisor.” False. I am the Director; I am Ellen’s supervisor in this book, as I also am of Howard and Kyle and the rest of the staff at Madison, and I have the final say in the end product of this book, in the same way that Shelly and Bryce are supervisors. They are referring to me as merely an advisor? To downplay my role in this book is offensive to myself and to this book as a whole.
* According to the memo, “Ms. Emerson did not meet with anyone on the editorial staff to discuss design, production or status of production after our initial planning meeting.” False. We actually had four meetings about the process of this book, two with members of Quentin. If you have had questions, you have all been more than free to ask me, but seldom do. If you’d like mid-meeting meetings, let me know; we can arrange them.
* According to the memo, “Time and time again, Quentin has addressed concern over Ms. Emerson’s role on the book, yet nothing has been done.” No one has addressed concern to me - about my book, that I alone have spearheaded and managed. How can Quentin call for more communication when they don’t even talk to me about these issues in the first place?
* According to the memo, “We worry that splitting staff results in Ellen not getting help when she needs it.” Ellen, Howard, Kyle and myself put in over 120 hours overtime in the past ten days to make sure things were done.
Three people in one department worked 120 hours overtime each to get as much done as possible. What does Quentin want us to do, work more overtime? Our overtime compensation is paltry and seldom used; simply put, there is too much work to be done. Overtime compensation is no incentive to work an extra 6-8 hours a day and full days on both days of the weekends for half of your career. I find it offensive that Quentin seems to think that our jobs are easy, or we’re not doing our jobs. What they don’t realize is that it’s not easy to do the job of a staff nearly twice our size.
I could continue through the rest of the memo, outlining inaccuracies and personal jabs. In our previous memo we tried to outline what went wrong - on all fronts - in getting the book out. And I worked on integrase inhibitors, vaccines for AIDS, strain theories for a cure, vitamin supplements to accompany the book as well as the actual book. There were additional projects for everyone on staff, including Internet work and press conferences and meetings with other dignitaries so that we could continue our work in these aspects. Quentin never questioned the status of the book. And too many editorial changes were made to physically be able to do with the time allowed.
I have been very professional on this project and at this company. I have had to revamp the book because of Ms. Stempel, and have worked on it longer than half the staff - and suddenly I’m to blame for all of the problems. In all honesty, the problems only started after the staff changes and Mr. Donovan’s leaving. I have felt as if I have had to defend my job here to Ms. Stempel, when I have bent over backwards to make sure this book was written well, looked good, saved money, and was on time. I think my track record here shows what we could be capable of. It is insulting that I have to defend myself for doing a good job.
Yes, if Quentin has a question or a concern, please ask. That is what I’m here for. However, I lose patience when I have to field repeated, documented cut-downs and jabs of whether or not I should be working here, when I am only excelling at my work. If anyone has any additional ideas on how we need to interact more, please get back to me with them.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Kyle Mackenzie
From: Sloane Emerson
cc: Howard S., Colin M.

Kyle -

On my desk, I saw work that is supposed to be done by Tuesday night. I can say with certainty that I will not be able to get to it today; the book is supposed to go out today, and my computer seems to be the only one fast enough to do these changes - both you and Howard have repeatedly complained of problems and have had to give work to me that your computers couldn’t do).
I’m having Howard work on some of the inhibitor research, but because of problems with him doing the corrections last month, I need you to check before they even get to me.
I plan on staying late today to get the book done, but problems usually occur with that book: I’m anticipating needing all day today for the book.
I’m telling you this because I want you to know that this book takes up about 80 percent of my time here, even if it shouldn’t. I have tried repeatedly to remedy this problem, but nothing has worked. Until a solution is reached, I’m going to have to devote this amount of time to the book. Hopefully you guys can pick up the slack. Thank you so much.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Kyle Mackenzie
From: Sloane Emerson
cc: Howard S., Colin M.

Kyle -

* Howard has asked repeatedly for bookwork.
* Howard has attempted repeatedly to get archived work, due to computer problems.
* I can remember a number of other times when both myself and Howard have asked for archived materials, and would have to ask repeatedly until it made us late.
* I have asked repeatedly about getting bonus checks, and about having meetings concerning those bonuses.
* I have repeatedly asked to have someone fix the matter concerning losing three vacation days, I have made written notices with requested deadlines; no one has met them.
* Often when people ask for assistance, people here can be not only terse, but also flat-out rude.
Some people have expressed concern about being under-represented in the company. I have tried to be a lifeline to Colin; people need to feel comfortable coming to any of us with complaints and concerns, because I feel that you and Howard are both vital to the production and research of this team. People wonder if we are more interested in saving Madison a few dollars than saving the sanity of the staff. Yes, Colin understands numbers, but he also understands that he needed three people to replace the last employee that left, for example, and is probably spending much more money than before to do the same job.
No one is good at spreading themselves as thin as the three of us. The only way Tyler got an assistant was after a colleague of his threatened Colin. He knows we will keep trying to do it all, but it’s costing not only the three of us, but also the entire department.

- Ms. S. Emerson


To: Kyle Mackenzie
From: Sloane Emerson
cc: Howard S., Colin M.

Kyle -

Wanted to give you a copy of this, because I am going into meetings with Colin about these issues. Any input you have on them would be extremely helpful. Thanks.
There are a number of things that I have asked for assistance on, and people have claimed to work on in recent months that have not been completed. Some of them include:
Calibrating equipment with our calibration hardware. We have discussed this for over two months, and we are prepared to either outsource getting this done ourselves, or learning how to do it ourselves.
Moving memory from one of the computers to my computer (you said the other machine doesn’t need that memory, and we agreed). We have discussed doing this for over a month and a half.
Colin had an idea for an incentive program for our department with trade dollars in the form of travel. This was discussed in the past, but I don’t think anyone has had a single conversation with him concerning it. I would like to know if the possibility for this program still exists, or if we could be reimbursed for our additional work in different ways.
I have pushed for a decision in hiring a new person for research; interviewing has been slow, Colin has waited on calling people and then scheduled additional and possibly unnecessary interviews when no one from our department have even seen any of the interviews. We have gone months now short-handed.
Please let me know the status of all of these things by the end of the week. I’ve brought up all of these things repeatedly and have been put off by assorted people in person because everyone is busy, but these things need to be taken care of. I’d like an update from you on all of these things by the end of the week. Thank you.

- Ms. S. Emerson


Looking around her, she noted the piles of what had rapidly became wastes of paper. She then got to her Internet connection so that she could get phone numbers of other publishing companies to harbor quotes and interests.
There was a lot of interest.
This was the beginning of a new Sloane Emerson. She saw how much she would have to fight to battle the AIDS virus. This was a battle where she was not going to let anyone step on her again. When she wanted something, she would use whatever resources she had to get it.
She started with a written and rewritten memo to all concerned.

To: Mr. Colin Madison, CEO, Madison Pharmaceuticals
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson, Research Manager,
Madison Pharmaceuticals
cc: from Quentin: Mr. David French, CEO, Quentin Publishing Company, Mr. Carter Donovan, Ms. Shelly Stempel, Mr. Bryce Farrell. From Madison: Mr. Kyle Mackenzie, Mr. Howard Shindo, Ms. Ellen Thomas, Research Associate

Mr. Madison:

Because you are so aware of production problems with The Battle from the Inside, and because you have expressed concern to me about getting the book to press efficiently, I have tried to work with the new editorial department to solve their problems with the production of an otherwise completed book before Ms. Shelly Stempel got on board for this book at Quentin Publishing.
My attempts with Quentin Publishing have been to no avail; it seems that the more I try to speed things along with them, the more heels apparently are dragged there, stopping us from creating an otherwise successful product.
There is only so much we can take, especially when our vitamin supplement line is already in production and we cannot wait for months with a product we have created and needs to sell in conjunction with the book. Attached please find quotes from ten other national book-publishing agencies. Each of these companies attached have expressed interest in producing and marketing this book for us. There is a good chance that the book can succeed in printing without difficulty if we make the decision to move to another publishing company.
The staff at Quentin knows our opinion of the book production both before and after Mr. Carter Donovan worked with The Battle from the Inside (which Ms. Stempel even suggested changing the name of, after going through three rounds of editorial corrections and changing the design twice).
Both Madison and Mr. Donovan possess copies of the book, as it was, before the new staff made all of their changes to The Battle from the Inside. I believe we could go to press still with the book, as it was ready to go to press before, if Mr. Donovan was working on the book again.
I honestly believe we could work with Quentin Publishing Company if they allowed Mr. Donovan to return to his post with our book and complete the project. From what I can tell, Mr. Donovan has produced alarmingly successful books without the assistance of the replacement editorial department, and I know the abilities Quentin Publishing Company has in marketing our book so more people can have access to it.
I look forward to hearing your opinion on this, because we could send the manuscript to a new publishing company in a week’s time if you would like to move ahead with an altered plan. Also, if Quentin Publishing Company would like to reinstate Mr. Carter Donovan on The Battle from the Inside, we could move forward immediately with this book and soon have it on the shelves, helping people everywhere. Thank you very much.

- Ms. S. Emerson

enclosed:
quotes from ten additional publishing companies


Sloane loved the fact that she was beginning to take charge of something again, but she hoped that this note would be enough - at least for this battle.


chapter 16

The Transformation

A meticulously crafted and carefully maintained business suit hung on a padded hanger just outside her closet door when she woke up that Monday morning, ready to close the debate on the book.
Walking into the lab with the confidence of the leader of a pack of wild animals, Sloane only dropped off her coat and briefcase in her office before she turned around and left to confer with people about the upcoming book choices. She didn’t even listen to the one voice mail message waiting for her.
Both Kyle and Howard saw her walking into the lab and started walking in the same direction. Neither one of them said a word before they both simultaneously reached her.
Howard spoke first. “Have you talked to Mr. Madison?”
“Are we going to actually change publishers?” Kyle followed.
“Hello, boys,” Sloane said in response.
“What is the word?” Howard asked, as Ellen caught them talking and stood up to walk over.
“There is a message on my voice mail, and I’m sure it’s from Colin. I feel like making him wait for a few minutes before I respond, you know, give him a little more time on his own to think about our options.”
“You’re pushing him -- but are you going to push him too far?” Kyle asked.
“I think I’ve learned how far I can push him, and I’m hell-bent on getting Carter back on with Quentin for publishing our book, and I am going to convince them that I’m serious today.”
She walked over to where Kyle was working, leaving them all behind. She finally turned around and said for half the room to hear, “Is anyone getting to work? Kyle should be telling me about the new lab test results.”
The three of them stood there with their eyes wide open, before Kyle almost ran to where she was standing.
“I’m sorry, chief... The tests were okay, but I think there’s going to be too much of an issue with allergic reactions to this --” Kyle pointed to a particular spot at a diagram of the base compound, “part of the drug.”
“What was the word on Ellen’s drug?”
“It was sent to the F.D.A. for approval a while ago, but we haven’t heard anything from them either way. I know they can drag their feet, but I don’t know how long they’ll take.”
Kyle could see the slight look of disappointment in her face, but he also sensed that she wasn’t going to let anything stop her. “Okay, then back to the allergic reaction possibility in the drug. What sort of possible reactions are we talking about here?”
“Depending on the base we pulled this from, it will either be moodiness or a slight non-itchy rash on the hands.”
“That’s not too severe, considering what people have to go through if they contract AIDS. The rash or mood swings wouldn’t be permanent, would they?”
“I don’t think so. I think it would last until the body acclimated itself to the drug, which would be less than a week.”
“That’s a relief, because I don’t think people would want to live with a rash for a vaccine they may never need...”
“Good point...”
After Kyle agreed with her, she looked at the clock on the wall, which read 9:26. “This seems like a good time to check my voice mail and start something with Colin, don’t you think?”
“Are you just looking for a fight?”
No,” she responded as she walked toward her office. “A solution.”
“She’s pushing for it,” Kyle said under his breath as he collected his notes from the vaccine results.
After clicking on her voice mail to receive her messages, she heard only one:

This is Colin. I just read your message after I got a voice mail from David French at Quentin. I have talked to Mr. French and I’d like to discuss some changes, meet me in my office at 10:00 a.m.

Colin was fully prepared to have his secretary go to her lab and get her if she didn’t report to him, but Sloane thought she’d call to confirm the meeting.
“Colin Madison’s office.”
“Yes, hello, this is Sloane Emerson.”
“Hello, you have a scheduled --”
“I have a meeting scheduled with Colin, and I am calling to confirm it.”
“You will be here then?”
“Yes. I’ll see you then.”
“Thank you, Ms. Emerson.”
After hanging up the phone, she saw that she’d have to be there in less than twenty minutes.
Still feeling like she was a warrior on a conquest, she walked to Kyle’s seat at the lab table and started talking. “Kyle, check to see which herb that extra part to the compound came from, and see what effects this herb currently has on other people. If these effects are not as strong as what you’re suggesting, see if the there are any additional features in the herb that negate the side effect you’re afraid of. We could be using a larger part of the herb in question if that will make the compound better. Also, we need to do some testing for effects if you think the result may be a rash, because that is something we could do more animal tests on to verify the human reaction.”
Starting to walk away, she continued, almost as if she didn’t need to breathe to keep speaking. “I have to meet with Colin about the book now, but right now you need to look for additional aspects of what could be deactivated with the virus in order to make it usable for humans. I’ve been doing research on how flu vaccines are created as off-shoots of the virus in question, and I think you could get that same information off the Internet and come up with ideas of what we should be doing for the HIV vaccine.”
Kyle was stunned and attempted to take notes as she left the room for Colin’s office. Julie was also ten feet behind him, guessing that she would be doing some of the Internet collecting for Kyle.
By the time she walked up to Colin’s front entranceway with his secretary sitting at a desk before his door, ut was 9:56 in the morning. She was once again early and was ready to either (1) take her punishment, or (2) tell him how everything is going to done. She was hoping she wouldn’t hear option (3) that nothing can be done and that Madison Pharmaceuticals would either delay this book or throw it away altogether.
“Excuse me, I’m here to see Mr. Madison.”
“Just one moment please,” the receptionist said, as she pressed a button one her phone to call Colin.
Sloane walked away as she heard him speaking in the background. When she heard the receptionist press more buttons, she turned around to hear whether or not she would have to wait.
“You may go in,” the receptionist told her.
Running her hand down the front of her fitted jacket to make sure it was straight and knowing her hair was in place, she turned the handle of his door with her free hand. Knowing the door would start to close on its own once she opened it, she confidently strode into his office, right up to his desk. She remained silent until she was at his desk with her right hand stretched out to shake his hand. “Mr. Madison,” she confidently said.
“Sloane,” Colin said, shaking her hand, “please sit down.”
As She sat at the chair in front of his desk, Colin began to confront her. He picked up the memo and threw it down at the front edge of his desk so she could see it and said, “Care to explain this to me?”
“I wrote this memo to make something change so Madison wouldn’t continue to stagnate in this project. So, you called me here to either reprimand me,” and Sloane started to smirk as she finished her sentence, “or you brought me here to tell me what will change. Which is it?”
She leaned back when she finished her statement and prepared herself to hold the same expression on her face if he would fire her for what she had done.
“You know I was irate when I read your last memo,” Colin started. “But before I jumped to conclusions, I had to agree with the fact that this book needs to get out if we are producing the vitamin supplements right now. Sot I looked through recent memos from you, ones from the past three weeks, and then I started to see the disgusting number of problems you have had with Quentin.”
“Quentin is not the problem, sir.”
“I wouldn’t have looked into that topic if you hadn’t put it in your memo to me today. I scanned back and noticed that there were no memos to Mr. Donovan about problems with getting the book done, and after I called you for a 10:00 meeting, I looked through the memos, I saw that the problems that you discovered seemed to stem from Shelly Stempel. Now, I can’t say Ms. Stempel is the problem entirely, but I can see that the book was ready to go with Mr. Donovan, and I trust your statements that the books he has spearheaded in the past have been successful. So...”
Turning her head down slightly, she almost coyly asked, “Yes?”
“So there was a voice mail waiting for me when I got into the office. Along with your memo I had a message from Mr. French at Quentin, and he seemed more interested in keeping us than he did in seeing what the problem was with Ms. Stempel. He stressed to me that placing Ms. Stempel in Mr. Donovan’s position was only temporary, but he hoped he could explain to me why Mr. Donovan was put on leave in the first place.”
“I could understand his compassion, sir, but was he aware that I personally went to New York to help Mr. Donovan remain in almost perfect condition despite the attack?”
“Yes, I let him know. Now, do you really think Mr. Donovan can do this in his present condition?”
“Seeing that I have made a personal and professional decision to check on his activities since he has been given initial injections, and yes, I have even flown there weekly on my strapped budget to make sure he was doing everything he could to make himself remain well, I am certain of it.”
Sloane stopped to adjust her position in the chair and lean forward before she finished her thought. “I think working would even put him in better health by keeping his mind off of personal matters.” She leaned back. “And we can’t say this publicly, but he is a perfect case of what following the book’s guideline can do for a person.”
Closing her hands over her lap, she waited for Colin’s last words.
“Do you know what I hate about you?”
“Hmm ... let me think ... there are so many choices...”
“I hate the fact that you’re usually right in your arguments. You don’t make rash decisions, and everything you do is planned. It’s almost like arguing with a computer...”
“Is that a compliment, or should I be offended at coming off as inhuman?”
“Oh, it’s just that you remind me of what I should be looking for.”
“You know Colin, you sounded like you were coming to a conclusion about this book before.”
Colin leaned back to finish his speech. “What I was going to tell you is this: it may only be for this one book, but Mr. French is getting Mr. Donovan back to complete it for us.”
She didn’t move, but only smirked, without parting her lips. “Fantastic. Has the staff in the offices at Quentin been told?”
“They should have been told this morning.”
“Has Mr. Donovan been informed?”
“I think Mr. French was going to have someone contact him at home, leave a message if he wasn’t there, but he should have been informed.”
“Splendid.” Sloane couldn’t think of any other words to show her joy, making it look more like relief. “I’ll have to contact Mr. Donovan this afternoon to see what steps need to be taken to send the completed book to press.” She rose to leave. “Is there anything else you need?”
“No, just send me a report of the printing of the book.”
“I will sir, and thank you.”
She then turned around and walked toward his door. Just as she was about to turn the handle to open the door to leave, she heard,
“Oh, Sloane?”
Turning around, she answered, “Yes?”
“Stop looking so cocky.”
Grinning, she turned around in silence and left his office. She had to keep herself from grinning until then, because she wanted to hear his answer and leave his office before she reacted. She almost sprinted back to her lab through the hallways, attempting to unbutton the blazer she had been wearing tightly all morning. As she got to the lab, she first had to check her office desk to see if she could contact Carter. Spotting and then closing her list of Carter’s weekly condition list and reminding herself that his T-Cell count was increasing again sine the first week, she also spotted one message on her voice mail, and so she listened to it.

I don’t know what you did, angel, but if you don’t know it yet, I am back on force with your book. And I’ll make sure the thing can go to press this Sunday, so we don’t waste another minute. And oh, if you’re interested, I’ll print up a copy of all the stuff Shelly tried to pull over on you with the book, you know, for some hysterical keepsake. Well, it’ll be great to work with you again, so call me when you get this message.

Laughing while she listened to the message, she decided to call him back from within the lab, after she told everyone the news. Storming out into the lab, she grabbed a cordless phone and ran to an empty table, telling everyone to get together. Using a stool to step up onto the table, she got on the table and waited for everyone to gather around her.
“I know, I know, I’m standing on a table, but I had one question for you all: what are you doing this evening? Because I just found out that Mr. Donovan is back on for completing The Battle from the Inside, so the book will actually get done quickly!”
Most of the technicians started clapping when they heard the news. Kyle and Howard -- and even Ellen and Julie -- were grinning with joy at the news.
“So... I can’t afford to pull off a party like our boss, but would everyone like to stop for a drink after work and I could buy a round?”
About half of the people said they could make it, and everyone was extremely pleased with the news. Kyle’s phone started to ring, and he ran over to take the call. Sloane could only hear the tail end of him talking.
“Steve, hi! ... You won’t believe the news ... we’re going out tonight because the book is going to get done ... yeah, Sloane over here sent a raging memo and it apparently worked--”
At this point Sloane ran up to the phone and took it out of Kyle’s hands.
“Hey, it’s Sloane. Is it you, Steve?”
“Yeah, hi, is the news true?”
Kyle only heard the end of their conversation.
“You know my friend who was working on the book but got pulled because of the attack? ... And then all of the delays we have had with the new freak on the job? ... Yeah, you heard me, she was a freak ... Well, I just sent a ’raging memo’, as Kyle put it, and the head of Quentin saw it too, and he said that for at least this book Mr. Donovan could complete it! ... Yeah, I haven’t even called him to check out information, but hey, we’re going to go to that place we went to for drinks and that cookies-and-cream martini, so show up there and celebrate with us! ... Okay, call later, or show up here, I’ll give you back to Kyle...”
She handed Kyle the phone back, giggling.
Sloane went to the cordless phone in her hand and immediately dialed Carter’s house, knowing the number by heart.
“Hello?”
“Mister Cater Donovan you may want to start answering your phone like it’s your business line, seeing that this is the second business call you’ve received at home today...”
“Hello, Ms. Sloane Emerson, are you on speaker phone, because I can hear a lot of noise in the background.”
“No, I’m on a cordless phone in the lab because I just found out and I just told everyone that you’re back on with the book. ...And how do you feel about this?”
“It’s phenomenal and you know it... How did you pull it off?”
“I threatened to move our book to another printing company unless you came back. I even got quotes from ten other companies.”
“You’re kidding me...”
“You know I’m a woman who gets her way, Carter.”
“Well, girl, I don’t know what to say.”
Say you’ll call me back with a schedule of when the book will print and when we’ll see the book -- is it going to be off of the original version we had with you?”
“Of course it will be, and I’ll guess we’ll have it to press by next Sunday or Monday.”
She was walking back to her office so she could finish the conversation without anyone hearing. “Since I am meeting with the swami about martial arts for AIDS patients, we could even swing having Quentin carting me to you, and then we’ll go together to Ohio ... Please tell me we can do that...”
“I’ll do what I can to make it happen, and thank you.”
“Thank you, Carter. And wait, one more thing.”
“Yes?”
“I love you.”
“Did you just say that in front of everyone in the lab?”
“I walked back into my office, silly. Now get some rest before you work on our book. I’ll talk to you soon --”
This is how they hurriedly said good-bye to each other as they planned for the rest of the day.
Through the afternoon, Kyle and Sloane worked on solutions of the potential vaccine problem Kyle had pointed out. Carter called her office at the end of the New York business day and told her that the press printing would start this Sunday if they would have a finished book by that date. She said that they should get copies of materials over to us for a final check, and his people should look over the original manuscript to see if any changes needed to be made.
“You know Carter, maybe changes Stempel made should be checked against original copy, to see which is better.”
“You’re not suggesting that we should change our minds on how the book is written -- or worse yet, how it looks?”
“I was just saying it was a way to check to see if anything else was better...”
“Got it then, girl. You should have our completed copy by Wednesday morning. I’ll send a package if the layout has changed from what we had by then, and you’ll get a copy then too. Can you go over it and return it to us with changes Friday by the end of our day here?”
“We can make it happen. I was planning on getting a flight to New York to see the rep for martial arts education this Saturday. How can we pull this off?”
“I think your company can pull off you coming to check pages at our offices this weekend before Quentin flies you to the press check Sunday, okay? I’ll make sure of it, and I’ll even see if we can get you to come to New York a day early to check colors on pages.”
Knowing she could be checking page colors in Ohio at the press, she said, “Don’t tell them I could check colors in Ohio when I show up, so we can pull it off.”
“Of course, angel. I’ll call you or leave a voice mail to let you know in the next day. Otherwise, check Madison’s flight schedule in case Quentin can’t pull it off for you.”

Spending the remaining day working with Kyle, she was surprised that she was suddenly so open to new ideas and was suddenly so strong in assisting in getting this vaccine done. The end of the day approached, and Sloane told people to just bug her at the bar for a drink and she’d make sure a drink would be put on her tab.
Half of the staff arrived at the bar/restaurant by 5:30 and Sloane instantly ordered her drink of choice, the cookies-and-cream martini. Before she was even ready to take the glass from the bar to have a drink, Kyle watched as Steve walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, saying to the bartender, “This martini of hers is on me.”
Turning around to see Steve was unnecessary when she recognized his voice. “That wasn’t necessary, you know...”
“But I know that you wanted to get this book done, and I’m hoping the news has something to do with the condition of your friend.”
“Mr. Donovan, you mean?” Kyle said, and then remained silent, as he was still stunned that Steve was holding Sloane and she was not protesting. She whipped around, breaking from Steve, to look him in the eye and tell him, “That’s the good news, Steve. Mr. Donovan is doing so well that I pretty much forced my president’s hand and sent info to the head of Quentin, and they’re letting Mr. Donovan finish our book.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, and I’ve been checking on his condition, I think it was because he was paying attention of our book we were publishing, and he is in such great shape that work would be good for him and we could finally get the book out.”
“I heard you were there though to help him that first day...”
“My business card was in his wallet, so they called me. I even called Kyle here,” she glanced at Kyle while she was finishing her statement, “to see about shocking Mr. Donovan’s system with an overload of the drugs. Though it didn’t kill the virus in his system, it seems to have had a great effect and he is doing remarkably well now because of it.”
“That’s remarkable, I’m thrilled for you,” Steve said as he hugged her, then kissing her cheek and forehead. Kyle still couldn’t believe what he was seeing, and with every moment it got more shocking to him.
Catching his look of disbelief, she looked over and tried to glance at him to let him know that everything was okay. A Few minutes later Kyle was able to approach her separately and drill her.
“What was that all about?”
“We get along now. I’ve been able to talk to him, and that’s really cool.”
“But you’re acting like a little tramp when you’re around him.”
“Kyle, I would have to be sleeping with him if I was a tramp...”
Kyle’s face went blank. “You’re not sleeping with him, are you?”
“I look like a tramp, huh? ... Remember that it might be possible to get along with Steve without having to sleep with him,” she said, smiling, as someone else approached and started talking to her. Her remark still didn’t tell him that she hadn’t had sex with Steve, so Kyle was still both curious and confused.
She even turned toward him and added. “This good news today has let me focus on my work, and I think we’ve been doing well because of it. Maybe I’m looking flirty because something is going right for us ... And I can be this way.”
The next few days were laced with confirmations of Quentin paying for Sloane to come into New York on Saturday to look over pages before the book was printed. Her flight arrived in New York Saturday mid-morning, but they wouldn’t cover her hotel, so she chose to sleep on Carter’s couch the night she was in town.
They seemed to be making great progress with the vaccine that week, but Sloane had to leave that weekend for New York before heading to Ohio. She even checked with Carter to see if they should have another staff member for Madison show up at the press run, and Carter was trying to swing it if Kyle could come for a day He would only hear Saturday about Kyle, so they checked with Kyle if he would be free, in case they were only able to get him to come that late.
Once she was in the airport early Saturday morning, she realized she still felt waves of panic and being watched, but she noticed it especially when she was either entirely alone in the dark or in an airport when there were security guards checking people at every hallway. She felt this panic again, but tried to keep herself in check, keep her head high, and walk with confidence when she walked through all gates and checkpoints. On the plane she felt a bit more relaxed, because she knew there was no reason for anyone to stop her, and she knew she would see Carter in just a few hours. Checking herself in the bathroom mirror twice for misplaced hairs, and trying to adjust what little make-up she had on, she still couldn’t help but fidget through the entire flight. All she could do was go through her notes for things to help Carter:

Diet changes
Addition of soy, garlic, tomatoes
Additional protein
Red meats, cut the fat from them
No alcohol
Vitamin pills
Multi, additional B complex, C, D, E
Exercise
Weights
Small repetitions of slight calisthenics
Relaxation
Focus on single point to relax
Talk to swami about martial arts and yoga
Work - get back in workplace)
6 hours a day max for being able to work (Do not overextend)

All she could do to keep herself from trying to tuck her hair behind her ears was to concentrate solely on her work, so that she wouldn’t have to check her looks again before she got off the airplane.
Walking down the jet way with the other passengers, Sloane felt a rush of emotions: she didn’t know whether she should feel confidence of performing a job well and accomplishing a goal, or concern and desire to make Carter feel better. For a split second it didn’t even cross her mind that she wanted to see the man she loved, all that consumed for was making him feel better.

Carter stood in the back of a crowd at LaGuardia National Airport. He knew he couldn’t wait by the terminal she was being released from; without a ticket himself he could only stand before the security point. He felt like Hell, standing there by himself, sheepishly waiting for a girl to come into town, but he couldn’t stand the wait for his chance to see her again, even if only for business and even if he could only hold her hand and kiss her in passing.
Lifting his head to see people coming through the gateway in a wave, he didn’t see her. “That must be from a different flight,” he thought, as he dropped his head again. He didn’t see Sloane coming through behind the tall group of men walking in front of her, but she spotted him and went right up to him before he had the chance to lift his head.
“I don’t want to kiss you, because then I’d have to close my eyes. And I don’t want to stop looking at you.”
Smiling at his comments, she said, “How do you come up with the things you say?”
“I don’t know ... I just say what I feel. But either way, we have to worry about going to meet the swami today.”
“What time are we supposed to meet?”
“In about an hour, but he’s on the other side of town, and it will take forever to get there.” They started walking together toward the baggage claim. “I’ve also got materials to collect for the Ohio printing, but I can take care of that later. And you’re already packed for it, so you’re beating me on this one.”
“We just have to figure out what questions we should be asking and what information we could get that might help you out today.”
They waited at the baggage claim waiting for her one bag, and he asked, “What is this guy’s name anyway?”
“I wrote it in my notes, it was ’Nuan’ or something. I’ll get it out of my briefcase when we get into the car.”
They were about to arrive at the offices. Upon going to the front desk, they asked for Mr. Xiao and were given a paper he wanted them to have.
Looking at the paper, they hoped there would be some information to help them out.


Swami Nuanchan Joko Xiao

Qigong (also known as chi kong)

This is an Asian martial art dealing with the healing of the body through maintaining the proper balance of qi. There are two types of qi - fire and water. Water qi is what everyone is born with while we get fire qi from what we take into our body.
Reducing stress is one of the key benefits realized by practicing qigong. Stress is reduced through meditation and exercise. Meditation is performed in the conventional understanding of what meditation is - sitting or lying while trying to clear one’s mind. The physical exercise is an extension of the stationary meditation and is comprised of performing various breathing exercises. Additionally, forms (prearranged movements designed to use all parts of the body) are performed to energize the body and help maintain clear qi channels.
One of the most basic teachings is breathing properly. Most Americans do not take deep breaths while breathing and are therefore not using their entire lung capacity. This shallow breathing is also thought to diminish the body’s ability to cleanse itself of excessive fire qi. This imbalance is believed to be the root of many stress related illnesses and also contributes to inhibiting the body’s immune system.

Meditation

The human qi must also be maintained in harmony with the earth’s magnetic fields. This requires that while meditating in the sitting or standing position it is important that one be facing north. While lying and meditating, or while sleeping, it is important that ones head be at the north end in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere all directions are reversed. Also, as prescribed by a doctor, meditating facing a particular direction may be necessary to address a specific physical or mental ailment. In all cases meditation is best performed in a sitting position with ones back erect, legs folded either under the body or cross-legged, chin up and pulled in, mouth slightly open and eyes closed. A humming noise can be made to stimulate a relaxation response. Also, meditation should be performed in a quiet room, if noise is desired do not select loud or rhythmic music. Light music with a soft syncopated sound is better as it does not distract the mind from its journey but helps to guide it along its course to understanding what is to be done or to allow it to perform the work it must.
When starting out with meditation, it is a difficult concept to understand, you are attempting to “do” nothing. Doing nothing is not to be confused with idly watching television or sleeping. In sleeping and television viewing you are an inactive participant in the former and a passive spectator in the latter. In meditating you are actively “doing nothing.” That is to say you have chosen to perform this specific activity for a given period of time to achieve a specific result.
In more advanced meditation one can begin to control physiological functions of the body including but not limited to, controlling ones body temperature, controlling ones heartbeat, controlling ones rate of healing.
When one is cleansing the body of that which is causing it problems: this is termed bone and marrow washing. It does not mean that the bone and marrow is the target of the meditation but that the body has something in it the must be eliminated. It is intriguing to note that the term “bone and marrow washing” was in use thousands of years before humans knew through western scientific methods that the bones and more specifically the marrow is where our white blood cells come from and that the white blood cells are the main line of defense against illness and disease.


“Hello,” the swami said, seeing the two people waiting at the front.
They both stood. Sloane was closer, so she extended her hand to shake hands. “Hello, it is nice to meet you.”
“I hear you have some questions, so maybe we could go into my office and talk about what might be most helpful.”
The swami, Nuanchan Joko Xiao, turned around and guided them toward the back of the building to an empty conference room with shelves of books and a large table.
“We haven’t met before. My name is Nuanchan, it is very nice to meet you.”
“Hello. My name is Carter Donovan, and this is Sloane Emerson.”
“Yes, I believe I spoke to a woman before.”
“That was me,” Sloane said.
“I believe you wanted to learn about meditation for work you are doing for people with diseases.”
“Actually, it was for AIDS patients specifically, and yes.”
“Have you read the sheet I saved for you?”
“Yes,” Carter answered.
“If you noted, we do use methods to cleanse the body, but we do not necessarily have therapies for all illnesses.” Nuanchan said. “Using the practice of ’bone and marrow washing’ may possibly help if the patient is truly understanding of the practices and truly believes in the philosophies that this world stems from.”
Sloane started saying, “The patients we are interested in supporting want to learn about any method at all to help them. They are doing remarkably well right now, but they would like to learn about anything possible they can do to help themselves.”
“Many people look at our practices, however, and think they can sit in a corner and not pay attention to anything, and call that meditation. These people have no idea what it involves, and you don’t know if your patients would be that interested in these studies”
“I can check right now about their opinion,” she said.
“I am sure they would like to learn anything that would help them,” Carter said immediately after she spoke, answering her question about whether or not Carter would really want to go through this.
Carter turned back toward Nuanchan and spoke directly to him. “I personally would be very interested in learning everything I can about what to do for a patient. I would be willing to go through all of the necessary training for any techniques that can help a patient.”
“It is easier to teach these things to the patient directly, though.”
Carter looked at her, and then back to Nuanchan. “I am the patient.”
Nuanchan looked at her, then to Carter, then finally spoke. “This lady was correct in stating that her patient looks remarkably well.”
“I was just diagnosed four weeks ago, ten hours after I was infected by a mugging where an attacker injected a needle into my arm. I have been extremely lucky with western medications that I have received, I have been able to work again, and I have altered my diet and exercise accordingly. But I would like to work on any and all methods to help my body to physically get through this virus, and I truly believe that this may be an effective method.”
Sloane interjected, “So we were interested in knowing about how Yoga and meditation would help a patient.”
“Alright,” Nuanchan stated. “Yoga is a difficult practice to understand. It is an art of positioning and holding your body in various ways, ways that may possibly be physically difficult for you, but it is an art of having your mind convince your body that it can do these things. It is like exercise, but not cardiovascular, it is basically a repeated seminar on how to train your body to behave the way your mind tells it to.”
“That sounds like it relates to the way meditation is your mind controlling your body, according to this sheet you gave us,” she said.
“Okay then ... What do you know about meditation already?”
She sat back and fell silent, only quietly taking notes, while the rest of the discussion followed between Carter and Nuanchan.
“Actually, I am afraid that I do not know much at all about it,” Carter started. “I knew before I walked in here that meditation should be done when sitting, with your back straight, your surroundings should be silent, your legs crossed, lotus position being better than merely cross-legged, and resting your hands with you palm facing-up on your legs. I have heard about having your fingers in a certain position, but I don’t know what it is, and it looks a bit silly, especially when I don’t know why it should be that way.”
“... And?”
“And ... and you close your eyes, and somehow do everything in your power to think about nothing. I don’t know how to do that, because my mind always darts from one thing to the next, even if I have no reason to think about these things, but that is what it does. And that lasts about twenty minutes.”
“Oh.”
“That’s pretty much all I know. Am I wrong?”
“You seem to have a pretty good idea of how to meditate. But I can instruct you on what measures you can take to clear your head so you can properly meditate.”
“Oh, I forgot to mention, I do believe the human mind has power over its own body, and I can attest to it with one experience I’ve had. I know that when I want to relax, I create this story, it will sound strange, and”
Carter completely forgot that Sloane was in the room as he started talking.
“This is something I would do that would relax me when I wanted to fall asleep. I imagined that I was in a bed the size of an elevator, and I had no idea what the surroundings looked like, that was never the point, but the elevator would go down ten floors, and each floor would be an instruction to let another part of my body relax. It would start from the feet, then calves, then thighs, and then the pelvis. Then it would move to stomach, chest, arms, shoulders, neck, then head. Those were the ten floors the elevator would move down, and basically I could stay as long as I needed to achieve the relaxation on that part of my body before I would move on.”
“That’s very interesting,” Nuanchan said.
Sloane scribbled violently.
“I would invariably fall asleep by the time I reached my calves, so I know it was effectively relaxing me. The thing I remember most though is that when I would start with my feet, they would become so relaxed that, well, I don’t know how to explain it, but the blood would tingle.”
“You moved your blood to that part of your body.”
“And that somehow relaxed me?”
“That is one way your mind can focus energy on a certain part of the body - by drawing heat to it, which often comes as blood.”
“And the thing was, when I moved from one part of my body to the next, like up to my calves, the tingling feeling would stay on my feet and then it would just more or less grow to the next part of my body. I’ve only made it up so far as my neck or head maybe twice in my life, but I know that while doing this, I would check to see if the rest of me was relaxed, and it seemed to need me to check by thinking about that part of my body again for the tingling to become stronger.”
“The human mind can’t focus energy on all parts of your body at once by giving more blood to all parts of your body when all of your body needs blood, but deciding to check on another part of your body, made your mind force your energies to move there, making blood levels change.”
Sloane loved hearing these conversations, but had to interject to help them stay on track. “Excuse me, but I don’t understand how this works in attempting to help the body overcome illnesses.”
“Part of the understanding,” Nuanchan answered, “is being able to understand that your mind does have control over your physical body. If you are unable to do that, then you may be unable to let you body work on healing your injuries.”
Nuanchan continued talking to both Carter and Sloane. “If you would like, we could go try to see is we can effectively meditate now.”
“That would be wonderful,” Carter said. All she could think was that she had never been able to clear her mind, so she didn’t think she could do it.
A half hour later, both Sloane and Carter were sitting on the floor lotus style, both had their hands open, and both were breathing deeply. Carter had his eyes closed and was able to meditate, while Sloane could not stop thinking about things -- anything at all, anything from the book production to helping Carter feel better to stopping the government from hurting people with this virus to coming up with medication, a vaccine, or a cure for AIDS.
She couldn’t clear her mind and Nuanchan knew this as well.
Just as Carter sat there on the floor in the room, Nuanchan quietly stood. Sloane heard him and opened her eyes. He made a gesture to leave and she quietly followed on his lead. He quietly walked her into the next room and then started to speak. “I know you were having a difficult time working to consciously not think about anything, so I had an idea of a step that may help you get to that point. Read this sheet and tell me what you think.”
Nuanchan handed her a sheet with information on how she should imagine a perfect scene; it would be a scene that only she would be in, and she would be able to relax in her surroundings with no one to disturb her. She thought about what that scene would be for her, but she didn’t know why she needed to imagine this. It told her in the reading that while she is at that scene, there is a possibility that she could imagine someone else coming up to her; but if they appeared they would be there to tell her something.
At this point she was fascinated, and she wanted to know who this potential mystery person would be. Nuanchan knew it was her soul, and it would be appearing before her to tell her what she needed to know. But she had to be able to get to that, where she could talk to her soul until her soul told her what she needed.
“Okay,” she said to Nuanchan, “what do I do?”
“Alright, imagine your place. It could be your dream house, or a boat, or a beach, or even the top of a skyscraper. Now get comfortable in your place, image yourself in a bathtub at your house, or at your desk in the high rise, and just get comfortable there. Relax and feel all of your surroundings. Feel the water from the wind in the boat, or the wood grain on the railing in your home, and just feel everything about it. Get used to the feeling and just relax in the place you want to be.”
“And a person may come along?”
“In the future, there may be a chance someone will come along. But you have to envision that person, you don’t know who it is, and it won’t be someone you know. Don’t worry about that until you have come to this place a few times, because there’s a good chance they may not come around right away.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t know, maybe they’re shy, but when they get comfortable with you in this place, they may come to visit you.”
Nuanchan stood up and motioned to her to leave the room with him. “Now, I’ll turn the lights off so you can imagine your scene better. You don’t need to tell anyone about your place, because it’s yours, and just relax. If it’s not working for you, just open the door and I’ll be in this next room, otherwise I’ll open the door after a half hour.”
With those words Nuanchan turned the lights off and left the room.
Alone in the dark, she felt for a place to lie down. She thought it would be best to lie down if she wanted to relax. She had to work on a scene that she wanted to go to, and all she could think of was a beach. She started to get the picture in her mind: the sand was not white, but beige, there were occasional remains of coral and shells from long dead creatures at the side of the beach where the waves had thrown them toward the land. The one side of land was covered in tall bushes and foliage, so no one could see in or out of her area. The ground was otherwise clear of debris, and the water was making a beautiful crashing noise, though the tide was not coming too close to her. The sun was setting over the water. All she felt was the warmth of the sun setting and a slight breeze coming from off the ocean. Her skin was touching the sand, and it felt rough, but beautifully tiny and smooth as each grain of sand ran along her skin when she moved. The gentle breeze carried the humidity of the water to her; all she had to do was lay there and enjoy the beach, enjoy the water, the sun, the air and the sand. It felt exquisite to her.
Deciding to lift her head up in her imagination, she looked down the beach and saw that the beach never ended. In the distance was a pier, but there were no boats and no people at the pier. After thinking about it, she only occasionally heard the call and circle of a bird, but none that ever got too close to her for her to even notice. Looking behind her, she only saw more beach, with one set of large rocks imbedded into the shape of a pier in the distance. Otherwise everything was clear, and this was her space.
And she liked it.
She lay there and enjoyed the scene. All she thought about was having this space to herself, and not having to answer to anyone here. There were no phone calls, no computers, no tables, and no people.
She decided this was a good place to go.
Sloane stood up at her scene and walked slowly toward the water. She got as far as the water’s edge; she wasn’t wearing shoes so she stepped into the wet sand, felt the wet sand getting between her toes, and stepped into the lapping water at the shoreline. It felt a little cold, but it felt good, like it was a new sensation for her to enjoy. Kicking the inch of water with her foot, she stepped out of the water and sat back down to look out at the ocean.
I needed this, she thought.
Forgetting how long she was at the beach, the door opened. Nuanchan said, “Hello?”
Sloane jerked up from her reclined position. “Yes?”
“Carter is finished meditating and you have been in here a half hour.”
She immediately got up and straightening her clothes. She had no idea she had been in the room so long.

###

Nuanchan explained to Carter methods of yoga that would induce relaxation and mind/body harmony. After they finished these techniques, and after they had gone through a stack of brochures that Nuanchan copied and explained to them, they thought that they were ready to move on. They thanked him profusely, and went back to Carter’s home.
In the car, Sloane started scribbling notes again.
“You think you might forget something?” Carter asked.
“I just want to make sure I’ve got everything down that could possibly be needed or remembered. What did you think of the meditation and yoga?”
“I thought it was remarkable, actually. The exercises for bone and marrow washing, if I can do them properly, might actually do me some good.”
“I’m really think it will, darling,” she answered, because if thinking it will help is half the battle, then he is on the right track.

###

Sunday morning Carter and Sloane left together for the airport for Ohio. On the afternoon flight, Sloane was able to sit next to Carter, and for most of the flight he held her hand.
“You know, she whispered, “this feels wonderful, not even speaking to each other, but just holding each other’s hands while we’re on this plane.”
“It’s almost like we need to be holding hands...”
“What, like we’re aliens, sucking on each other’s life blood?”
Carter started laughing under his breath. “Yeah, well, I was just thinking it was nice to sit here, feeling your hand, like it makes everything better.”
She smiled and leaned her head on his shoulder in response.

Though the presses aren’t usually open on a Sunday, they did open long enough to check cover colors while Sloane was there. “All of the pages are set up like your books usually run,” one of the tech reps said to Carter, “so it should be no problem at all to have it run.” Carter figured they could get sample pages of the entire book printed while Sloane was there for her to look over. He knew they wouldn’t be able to trim or bind any samples on the first day, but she would be able to see all of the forms and how they fit together, including her final essay on keeping your rights when you as a patient fight for your health.
Sunday night she had to ask, “I know that the book is about to print, but do you think, if there are notes pages at the end of every chapter, that we could scribble in a page at the end of the ’meditation, yoga and Asian cultures’ chapter that mentions anything about what we’ve learned this weekend?”
“You’re trying to kill me on this one, aren’t you?” Carter asked.
“If it’s not possible, fine, I was just curious.”
“The thing of it is that I know it’s a good idea. Let me see how many pages are at the end of that chapter tomorrow and we’ll see if we can add an addendum page to it, about bone and marrow washing. I mean, you could possibly use any of the notes from the sheets Nuanchan gave us to help you come up with the page for it.”
They agreed that if there was more than one page at the end of that chapter for notes, they could pull one of those notes pages to use it for practices such as the general practice of qigong or chi kong, potential healing practices such as bone and marrow washing, or using relaxation as a form of meditation to be able to remove stress from your life.

Monday and Tuesday were both spent at the press for both of them, and Sloane would leave Tuesday night to return to Seattle. She was able to send a fax to Kyle from the press during that time, telling him that there was no urgent need for him to have been there, but that they were also going to try to add a page by removing one of the notes pages after the chapter on meditation/yoga/Asian Cultures on new information that may be helpful to the reader. All of the pages and the general look of the book were approved, and her looking over work was seamless and simple.
It got to the point where they had to count their days together. Saturday, then Sunday. Monday would be the last night. And though she slept on the couch when she was at Carter’s, they made a point to sleep in their separate hotel rooms in Ohio the first night. They didn’t know who they were kidding by the last night, and they stayed in bed together. Even though they were fully clothed, they made spoons out of their bodies and held each other half the night together as they slept.
The one thing Carter dreaded, though, was saying good-bye to Sloane again. “This isn’t fair,” he said to her as he dropped her off at the airport. “You shouldn’t show up so many times making me say good-bye to you so often.”
“You shouldn’t live so far away, young man...”
“I need to keep the job right now, so don’t ask me--”
“I wouldn’t.
They actually cried when they held each other, saying good-bye, as she had to get to the airport to leave him again.

The plane ride wasn’t so bad, airlines were having a hard time getting people to fly as often as they did before the 2001 terrorist airplane crashes, and Sloane had a row with one lady, and they talked about anything from Pearl Harbor to hair styles to playing card games. It was a good way to distract her from leaving Carter, even though she felt she had gone though a transformation after being about to get The Battle from the Inside to press, and was strong enough again to be able to battle her work stagnation, or the government intervention, which seemed to subside since the representatives from the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department snooped around their offices.
The 6:15 p.m. EST flight from Ohio left late and arrived in Seattle at almost 8:00 Pacific Time. Having to take a taxi in from the airport to her apartment, it was approaching 9:30 when she got home. Opting to not bother going to work with her computer notes that evening, she unpacked and slept before heading into work again.
A fresh start was a good idea.
Arriving at work early to log in her computer notes and forward messages to Kyle and the rest of the staff on the book progress, she saw a few papers on the floor in the hallway before she turned the corner to her lab. Seeing that it was right around 7:00 in the morning, she knew she was probably the first person arriving in her lab that morning, so she didn’t know why there were papers on the ground when a cleaning staff would have removed the loose pages. Turning a corner to see her lab door she saw the window at the front door cracked open, with a hole large enough to unlock the door.
Running to the entranceway and being careful to not slip on glass, she did her best to look through the destroyed window, which only showed a black void. Knowing this had to have occurred late last night, she turned around and ran to the next available workstation where she could call the emergency access number for Madison’s security department.
Knowing she couldn’t go into the lab until security investigated the scene, she paced the hallway around the corner from the lab and waited eight minutes until security guards showed up. Sloane immediately started yelling at the representatives, though no one could give her a single answer.
“How did this happen? Why didn’t anyone notice this was going on? ... Did you check for fingerprints? ... I know there are a lot of lab technicians that work here, but you can test us against existing ones ... What do you mean too many prints on the scene? ... You people have video cameras around here, right? Then can’t you check for any activity last night so we can see who did this?”
All she could do was yell and get no answers as lab technicians started filtering in during the next hour and a half. Seeing that trying to get answers from the security guards was doing no good, Sloane decided to run to Colin’s office herself to at least tell him or his receptionist in person that their lab had been destroyed, by someone, she doesn’t know who, she doesn’t know how, but it was trashed.
And also that the staff would do everything in their power to find out not only if any data was missing, but also how long it would take to clean up and how much it would cost to replace any of the destroyed equipment.
Right now she couldn’t implicate anyone and she had no proof that there was any wrongdoing by the government, even though she had a sinking feeling that this was the next step the government would take to stop Madison from succeeding at their work.
Knowing the transformation she had gone through, and knowing full well of what she could be capable of, she would fight to the death, to make sure that justice was somehow served.
But she has no evidence. So ... what would she do?


chapter17

The Implications

Warrior Sloane Emerson. That should be the title on her business cards, she thought; but then again, if she were at war with someone they wouldn’t get the chance to see her card. Ms. Emerson had to now be on a mission, because she needed to use every resource she could to fight back at her unseen, almost omnipotent enemy, if she had any chance of coming out alive.
The rest of the day would consist of cleaning the mess left behind by the ’vandals’, as some members of the staff assumed they were. “Well-paid vandals,” she thought. “We pay them with our tax dollars.” She could only say this to herself, still knowing that she had no proof to explain her beliefs. It seemed at this point that she didn’t even need any more evidence.
The staff worked for most of the week to clean up lab; when cleaning they kept records of which files and folders were missing. The office at the front lab with the nameplate “S. Emerson” was in complete chaos and many files had been opened and sorted through, if not stolen altogether. It infuriated her that on the first full day she was back from New York and Ohio, all she could do was attempt to sort through the mess left in her office from attackers. She wanted to be able to tell the staff that the book was printing wonderfully and fill Kyle in on the details about how the press runs work -- so that he could work with her or work in her place with any books in the future -- but she never had the chance.
When she was able to get to her phone, she noticed that she had voice mails waiting for her, and there was one from Tuesday afternoon, during the day before the attack, where she heard the voice of Clint Saunders.

You know who this is. My advice to you is that you should clean your work belongings immediately, Trust me, because things are going to get worse, Keep your work files at home tonight.

Being out of town meant that she was not working on anything new at the times and that she cleaned her office out before she left, but she didn’t know what general files were available in her office for the taking. She knew at this point that he knew something, but he didn’t say what and he wouldn’t speak his name on her voice mail.
Clint would not condone her contacting him again, so she couldn’t ask him anything about what is going on. These ’vandals’ were not just petty thieves or robbers, she knew this even more now because of the Saunders phone message, but were after destroying information. “These may have been government plans to clear the lab out of information,” she thought, so she searched for ideas on how she could work to solve this.
The security center of the office would have videotapes of that night; they had to, because there were monitors planted around the lab and around hallways in the building. Telling people in the lab she just needed to take a break from cleaning up the office, she pushed her way through the office hallways until she got to the security center offices. Storming in, she demanded that they play the tapes from that evening of the lab areas for her in her presence.
“We’ve already gone through the tapes, Ms. There’s nothing to see,” the head security officer told her.
She looked at his uniform and read his badge. “Jack, right?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Well, Jack, please appease the head of the lab by playing me those tapes.”
“Those tapes will take a long time to play, and there’s nothing to see.”
“I said appease me, and ... there should be something on those tapes, though. Did the tapes not catch anyone in the lab?”
“Well, they did, ma’am, but the cameras were covered up.”
“Covered up? By whom?”
“Well, we’re handing the tapes over to the police so they can find that out.”
“So you can see people in the tapes?”
“Briefly, but--”
“I’d like to see if I recognize any of these people in the tape, if you’ll let me look at them.”
Jack seemed to hem and haw over having to do this additional work, but he pulled out the files for her. As they started to play, in timed footage that was before the perpetrators entered the area, she had to ask, “Why is there no sound?”
“Oh, these monitors don’t detect sound, they’re just for images.”
She nodded in understanding, looking back at the monitor.
“Now you see, ma’am,” Jack said as he tried to fast forward the footage, “we have the time displayed on these video clips so we always know exactly what time the events occurred. We figure that the time it happened was at about 2:43 in the morning,” he said, trying to advance it to just the right point. “Now you see, it’s coming up right here.”
Staring intently at the screen, she watched as a blur of motion came over the viewing range of the screen from the right-hand side. The monitor images were a bit dark, but she could still make out the room. The images were black and white. But she could see that there were two Caucasian men at first. They were wearing all black and both had short dark hair, moving confidently through her lab.
“Wait -- there’s a third man,” she finally said aloud. She watched the third man walk swiftly across the viewing screen, then straight to the camera. The third man leaned up toward the camera and started using a can of black spray paint over the lens of the monitor.”
As soon as she learned this, she turned around. “There’s a second monitor, right?”
“Yes, but they did the same thing to it.”
Turning back to the monitor, she asked, “Could you play this again?”
Jack rewound the digital tape and played the recording for her again.
“How good is the resolution on these cameras?” she asked.
“Well, the images we can pull off this camera are about 2400 dots per inch.
“Wow, that’s impressive.”
“It’s designed for enlarging frames for police footage. That’s why Madison hired us.”
“So you think you could blow up any of these frames so I could have a copy of them?”
“Sure, but it will take a little time, and what do you need them for? This is all going to the police department?”
The only thing racing through her mind was that these frames were at a 2400 dpi image, so they could be blown up a lot without losing quality. She asked for the largest clearest prints of each of the men. She was sure they would do this for the police anyway.
“I want to have these images to show the staff to see if anyone saw these people here,” she answered.
Placing an immediate order for which frames she would need, they told her they would drop them in her work mailbox in two days. She honestly didn’t know what she would use them for, because her only chance to match these images up with any federal employee databases disappeared when her contact in Colorado Springs was killed. But she had to keep these images, just in case, for some reason, for any reason.
She didn’t know what she’d need them for, but she would want to look in government databases to see if these assailants were in them, and in what department. She broke into the CIA databases once, but she didn’t have opportunity or access to the databases again, so she didn’t know what her next step would be.
All of this new information was further evidence to her that this attack was well planned, because average people wouldn’t have known the lab, and wouldn’t have known to cover the lenses with paint the way they did.

So she made a decision. She decided consciously to become the warrior. Madison had a small gym in it, so she would take a break from work (which couldn’t be a problem because she was there 6 hours a day overtime anyway, and if people could take cigarette smoke breaks she could take workout breaks) every day to use some of the equipment there. There was a bag there, hanging from the ceiling, so she would practice her boxing and even her kicking, then she would go to the treadmill instead of the stair stepping machine, because she wanted to be able to run and move quickly.
She would do this during the day, but in the evenings she would leave work by 7:30 so she could get to the gun range to practice shooting. She was able to improve her reaction time using just one hand. She practiced not only from laying on the floor, but also with barely opening here eyes so she could be able to approximate a sight while barely seeing it.

She remembered the way that Clint told her to stop attempting to contact him, but at this point she couldn’t stop herself. Because Clint Saunders gave her that message the week before, she left him a message stating that one person’s land was destroyed from a company owned by the government, and after working on a book with a publishing company the main contact was attacked and given AIDS. She felt she had no choice in giving him a voice mail message.

Clint, this is Sloane Emerson. I was out of town when you attempted to communicate with me over a week ago. I’ll try to make this short, but I wanted to let you know that since I have been in contact with someone, I have had a colleague’s equipment destroyed for their work, I’ve had the U.S. Scientific Research Department claim we were stealing from them and lie in print about even talking with us, I’ve had the same department attempt to go through our files in our presence to obtain information, and most importantly, a very close friend who is in charge of our researcher’s book has been attacked and injected with an AIDS-infected hypodermic needle. I was out of town and did not get your message, which led to the destruction of our offices. If nothing else can be done, please, please tell me how I can help my friend who has been intentionally given AIDS. Please contact me as soon as possible.

Sloane could only state that she did not know if she could single-handedly stop the government from the rampant and illegal actions they did with the virus, but she needed to at least save Carter.
Sloane heard this message Wednesday afternoon and left a message for Clint in response. It surprised her, as she cleaned up her files that same afternoon, to receive a call in response from Clint’s office.
“Ms. Emerson,” she answered.
“Hello, Ms. Emerson.” She recognized the voice as Clint’s.
“Hello, I’m sorry to have called you, I know that --”
“I have some idea of what you have gone through.”
“And?”
“You said you had problems with many aspects of your work -- did you mention that there were problems with your printing?”
“No, I didn’t, but --”
“Did you have problems with your printing of the book?”
“Not with the printing, but through the publishing company I did, after the one gentleman was attacked they changed the staff around and stopped the book from going to press. Why? That wasn’t government related.”
“No, but connections from the government got through to one of the staff members.”
She wondered about the slowness of Shelly Stempel. “You think Ms. Stempel had government connections that held the book back?”
“Whether or not this was the ’one person’ or not I couldn’t tell you, but I can tell you that somewhere along the line there was some sort of interference holding the book back.”
She couldn’t believe that even Quentin Publishing could have people that were swayed by the government. Then her mind flashed to Carter telling her that he lived in an office filled with people who didn’t want to work and who would sap off of anyone. Knowing this appeared to be how the government worked, she mustered up the ability to ask more questions. “So you think the delaying of the book had something to do with the government too?”
“Nothing can be guaranteed,” Mr. Saunders told her, “but nothing certain people here would do surprises me.”
The thought was going through her head that she wouldn’t put anything past the government any longer.
Clint Saunders continued. “Did anything else happen that is worthy of mention? ... The only thing that surprises me is that they made a colleague contract AIDS and not a loved one.”
Hearing a slight gasp in her voice, he asked, “Or was it a loved one?”
Having no idea of how to answer, because she was sure they made no references to a relationship outside of that hotel room, she then wondered if they had mentioned anything about it over the phone and their phone lines were tapped and recorded. She started to panic. “No...” refusing to believe that they could have been found out, “but what I haven’t even told coworkers here is that Mr. Carter Donovan, who contracted the virus, has been a very good friend of mine for years ... Is that enough of a connection?”
“It may have been...” Clint answered. “But I returned your call because it seems they have stepped up their thwarting of you, and it will probably only get worse.”
“You know what will happen next to us?”
“I have an idea of what will happen.”
“Look, I want to be able to stop this, and I’m pretty damn sure that I’m not going to able to do it single-handedly. I don’t want to be one of these rebels that gets nowhere when battling the government, I’m sorry, but the one thing I am interested in doing more than anything right now is saving Carter’s life.”
“Is ’Carter the --”
“Yes, Mr. Donovan, the gentleman that was attacked.”
“Ms. Emerson, I don’t know if I --”
She did the honors for once in cutting him off. “Look, you contacted me when I told you about this problem, so I would think that you could help me.”
There was a slight change in his breath. Three seconds passed before he answered. “Well ... The only thing I could tell you is that if you’re going to be coming to Washington D.C., the best thing to do is eat at this little diner, great sandwiches and pretty good soups, just north of Constitution on Seventh.”
“There’s a diner worth going to in D.C.?” Sloane was confused, but was trying to figure out if he was trying to tell her some sort of clue.
“Yes, there’s the best food at Leona’s Diner, it’s between Constitution and Pennsylvania, it’s on the East side of the street. It is the best place to go for lunch on Sunday mornings, because the place is emptier there than it is during the week. You did say you’d be around there then, right? That’s why I brought it up.”
Finally, she understood that he could only talk to her if they met somewhere, and this was his way of telling her when and where. She did her damnedest to remember the information and started writing down the name and location of the diner to meet him at Sunday. “Yes, I was thinking of being somewhere around there, so I think I’ll have to try the food. Thanks for letting me know.”
In order to get any more information from her contact again, she would have to meet him in Washington, DC; she would see him while visiting Carter to check his progress, because she had no money for these additional traveling visits. This way she could justify the flight on Madison’s plane even, as long as it was available.
Clint replied, “The best I can tell you is good luck in your search, and I hope the cleanup of your offices doesn’t stop your staff from doing its work.”
“Thank you. Good-bye,” she said, and after hanging up the phone she realized she never told him about her office being attacked, that he must have just known that they would do this to her office without having to ask.
Looking at the clock on her wall, she knew it would be late in New York, but she would have to call Carter to tell him she would be visiting him this weekend with a mid-trip excursion to Washington, DC.
“Hello?” She heard his voice and started to feel a bit better already, considering what had happened since she had been home.
“Mr. Donovan, hello, it’s Ms. Emerson.”
Carter was a bit taken by her referring to them both by their last names only. “Well, hello, angel, I didn’t expect to hear from you this quickly after the press visit.”
“Yes, well, I wanted to let you know that I planned a visit, as long as the Madison plane isn’t taken, to check on your condition this weekend. I have some additional business to do in that part of the country this Sunday, so I thought this would be a good chance to check on your health.”
“I’m doing fine, but I guess...”
“I guess it would be in Madison’s best interests to check on how you are doing when you are a perfect example of what following the steps our book outlines along with taking the medication can do for a patient. So I wanted to confirm with you that it would be alright to see you and check on your progress.”
“Yes, that would be fine, I should be working and exercising here all weekend, so just let me know when you’re coming in to town, so I can pick you up from the airport.”
“I’ll check on the plane schedule and I’ll get back to you. Thank you, and I’ll talk to you soon.”
With that they placed the receivers on the telephones and Sloane decided she had to make her way to the front office to check on the schedule for the plane.
With seeing Carter in a few days on her mind, she felt more comfortable and more confident. As soon as she walked out of her office, she saw the mess the lab was still in, and all of her fears and angers came rushing back to her. She saw Kyle and said from ten feet away, “Is everything going okay today? Is the clean-up okay? How bad is it for you?”
“Actually, most of it is just rearranging piles of paper. Most of our stuff was in locked cabinets, and no cabinets were crow-barred open, so it’s just a paperwork mess.”
“Not a lot of broken glass or anything?”
“Not really,” Ellen chimed in as she walked by. “It just looks a lot messier than it is...”
“Good then,” she answered. “Just make sure everyone keeps a record of exactly what was taken, even if it was one page out of many in a notes or test page. And I’ll get back to you in a bit...” she said as she started to walk out the door to go to the front desk for plane information.
“You know, Sloane’s office was the worst in all of this,” Howard said to anyone around him, including both Kyle and Ellen.
“Yeah, she’ll probably be cleaning up at least into next week,” Kyle answered.
Almost jogging, she got to the front office in nearly record time. Walking right up to the receptionist at the front desk, she didn’t want another minute to get what she wanted. “May I see the schedule for the airplane?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the woman said before she got the file folder from under the desk for Sloane to look over.
Staring over the sheet, she saw an opening and filled in her name for that weekend for the plane.
Thursday morning, while she was at work, still cleaning up her office and checking to see how everyone was doing with cleaning their spaces and collecting lists of what materials were missing and needed to be replaced, she received yet another phone call.
“Sloane Emerson.”
“Hi, it’s Steve. How are you?”
She always wondered in the back of her mind if he thought there was something more to their relationship because they had kissed, or if he felt she would be at his beck and call whenever he wanted. So even though she liked being around him, she tried to figure out the appropriate way to act and the right thing to say when she spoke with him. “Hi, Steve, it’s been a while, a lot has been going on.”
“I didn’t get a chance to talk to Kyle, but I saw everyone from your work just over a week ago and you were going for the press check. How did that go?”
“The press run was great, Steve.”
“And your friend?”
“Carter’s fine too,” she answered. “But we ran into a new problem when I got back from the press check.”
“What’s going on?”
“Our offices ... hey, don’t be a reporter and write about this, please.”
“Sure, but I’d guess if it was newsworthy it would have already been reported. What happened?”
“Our offices were broken into and our lab was sort of trashed.”
“Oh my God! Is everyone okay?”
“Yes, it appears that it happened at two or three in the morning last Tuesday night. No one was here.”
“Wow ... So, you’re cleaning up stuff now? Or was a lot taken?”
“We have to finish tabulating how much was destroyed or taken, so we don’t have dollar amounts. But we’ll get it done -- it should be done by the end of this week.”
“Do you always have something filling up your time like this?”
“No, I just seem to be special this month...”
Steve laughed. “Do you need to take a break from your work tonight? I’ve tried to prove before that I’m a good listening post.”
“Maybe, if you want to meet at nine o’clock.”
“That late?”
“I have to work out and go out for a practice session tonight, so I’ll look like a mess, but that’s when I’ll be back.”
“You don’t want to go anywhere?”
“No, I’ve sworn off drinking right now.”
“Why? Did you drink too much when you were with me?”
“It’s not that, I’m just trying to get in shape, so I’m not going to drink.”
“Got it. So you want me to come by at 9:30 tonight so you have time when you get home?”
“Okay. I’ll see you then.”
She knew she had to take care of her office and the lab, work out, and eventually go to the gun range to practice. She even had to make sure that she kept everything locked away so that if anything like this ever happened again, the information wouldn’t be stolen as well. During lunch the newfound routine was completed, to the gym for an hour-long work out. Boxing first, then kicking the heavy bag, and then running on the treadmill. Quick shower; hose head off, then back to the office.
Still cleaning and organizing, Sloane made sure to keep everything of hers locked whenever she was not there -- even if it was only for lunch. The staff even received a memo and an e-mail note from her about this.

To: Madison Lab Staff
From: Ms. Sloane Emerson
Security in the Lab

To Everyone:

Hi. I just wanted to send a note asking that we take heightened security measures with our lab work. We don’t know who did this to us, but we can try our best so that it never happens again. I’d strongly recommend that all of our lab work, notes, test results, memos, everything, be placed in storage whenever we leave the office. We have locks for the main lockers in the lab; they should be filled and locked at the end of every day.
I’m going to make sure I do the same within my office every day, and I may even lock everything up when I leave the office for lunch. I can make sure that things are locked when I leave late, but I need everyone’s help so we can make sure that our work remains just that - our work.

- Ms. S. Emerson

She even made a point to make the similar message sound strong in voice mail that was forwarded to everyone that worked in the lab.
At 4:00 in the evening, shortly before she left for the day Thursday, she received yet another personal phone call.
“Ms. Emerson.”
“Hi, it’s your dad.”
“Hi dad, how are you doing?” She noticed that she was once again more pleased than usual to hear from family and friends because she knew then that they were okay.
“I’m fine. How’s my little buttercup?” It was cute how her father still called her that.
“I’ve got a lot going on, but I always seem to.”
“You’re not used to that by now, dear?”
“I think I’m starting to get used to it, but ... why did you call? I know Eric canceled when we had dinner plans before because he had work to do at the post office, but is someone canceling again?”
“No, I was just calling to make sure that you still had next Monday open for meeting with everyone for dinner.”
“I’ve got it, and I’ll be there.”

###

Leaving the safety of the holstered gun on in her purse, she had no problem carrying it around with her. Her hands were getting a bit rougher, either from boxing and working out in the day or from holding the gun and regularly practicing in the evenings. By the time she came home it was 8:45, and Steve was bound to be coming by soon.

Looking at his eyes in the rear-view mirror of his car in the middle of his ride to her house, Steve still wanted to make sure he looked just right. He knew that there was technically nothing between them, but he still made a point to wear the jacket over to her home, even though he didn’t even need to wear it for work that day. All that he knew was that he had been able to kiss her, and all he could think about right then and there was kissing her over and over again.
“She said she didn’t want to drink,” Steve thought, “but maybe she’ll change her mind.” Or maybe she didn’t want liquor clouding her judgment when she was near him, so she could choose to be with him without blaming the alcohol. There was a world of excuses she could have had, but he thought that there was still a chance he could be with her.
“I have done everything right,” he thought, “I haven’t been too forward, and I haven’t done anything to get her angry. She kissed me back, and she asked me to stay in bed with her the night I was over. I have been a perfect gentleman; I even got her water and painkillers and vitamins so she would feel better. I could have so taken advantage of her, but there is no way I would have spoiled my chances and done that to her...”
“I have to keep his head and he had to pay attention to the road,” he thought. The streets had frequent curves in this part of town, and there were quite a few hills. There were even people straggling around through the perimeter of the Fish Market.
He had a lot on his mind.
Steve pulled into a florist shop before he came home, not knowing of anything else he could bring her. Not knowing if red roses would be too pretentious to assume he could give to her, he thought of white roses for friendship, but thought that message would never be enough. “Sprinkle the whites and the reds, six of each ... Yeah, mix them together so it doesn’t look like you shoved six whites in front of six reds ... no, I don’t want any pink ones...”
Not knowing if he was going to spend the night or not, Steve parked close to the front doors for her apartment complex. Steve ran his hand over his jacket again just after knocking; he even ran his hand through his hair to make sure it looked good.
“Who is it?” he heard from behind the door.
“It’s me, Steve,” he answered.
The door opened; all he could see was her hair, still a little wet from being outside.
“I didn’t know if I should present the flowers in front of me to come in or not,” Steve said as he started to come in and she closed the door.
“What are the flowers for?”
Steve looked down and started to smile. “I don’t know ... I just figured you deserve them.” He handed her the flowers wrapped in paper and continued. “Besides, you never give yourself any credit for all you do and all you put up with, so I figure someone should...”
Sloane opened the flowers and saw the roses. “Roses? Well, thank you so much. You really didn’t have to.”
“I know,” was all Steve answered.
“Have a seat while I put these in a vase,” she said. “Do you need anything to drink?”
“What do you have ... and what are you having?”
“I just thought I’d make myself some tea, but you can raid the fridge for something.”
Steve wasn’t expecting her to have tea, and he didn’t want to have anything more than what she had. “Tea is good with me,” he said as he sat down on the couch.
She walked into the kitchen with a vase from the shelf to put the flowers in. She already had a pot on the stove with enough water for a few cups of tea. After she put the flowers in a vase with water, she set up the two mugs with bags for steeping; she tried to analyze the flowers, she couldn’t help but do anything else, it was in her nature. “Roses, a dozen roses ... I know they’re not all red roses, but some of them are ... And he came here again this late at night to see me ... and he’s wearing a suit jacket, this late at night, why ... and I’m sure he doesn’t drink tea regularly...”
Walking out of the kitchen, Sloane tried to speak to fill the space. “The flowers are beautiful. Why the different colors?” As soon as she said it, she couldn’t believe she was so tactless to ask that.
“I don’t know, I thought red was really pretty, but I thought I should add some white ones, you know, for you being my friend.” Would she believe that, Steve worried.
“I’ll grab the tea for us too ... did you need any honey or sweeteners to go with it?”
“I hear honey in tea is good if you’re getting a cold, so maybe I should have a little honey.”
“Okay, I’ll be back in a minute...” she said, walking back into the kitchen, impressed that Steve even knew that honey in hot tea was good for your throat.
“Want to talk about what’s been going on at work?” Steve asked as she walked back into the living room and gave Steve his tea before sitting down next to him.
“What do you want to know? We’re still cleaning up a little, checking our lists of destroyed and missing paperwork and merchandise --”
“Did these guys break a lot of stuff, or was it all just stolen?”
“It looks like there was very little stolen, it just seems like a few papers are missing.”
“Are they important ones?”
“They look mostly like lab test results, but we have more intricate copies of them on our computers. Why do you ask?”
“Just wondering if someone was trying to steal your secrets in your research...”
“You make it sound like we’re at war here...”
“You do keep that kind of data secret, though, don’t you? You keep the formulas for your drugs secret, right?”
“As we’re making them, yes, because if we are successful with our test work those compounds will be trademarked, but it looks like what was stolen was not enough to be able to create anything from.”
“Why was stuff stolen then?”
“I don’t know...”
Not being able to say a word about this to Steve, she wondered if it was government people filtering through their work, and they just tried to steal enough so that the formulas would not exist in their entire form there again.
“Well...” Steve struggled to think of what to say to get her mind off of her work. “What have you been doing other than work?”
“Not much, really... I was at the press run and met with a swami who is a master of yoga and meditation --”
“Are you thinking of taking them up?”
“No, it was to learn about ways to help AIDS patients, which I guess was related to work.”
Steve knew at this point she was still stuck on a work track. “And your friend from the book is doing well over there?” He didn’t realize that this could have been the most wrong thing he could have said if he wanted to have any chance with her.
“He’s doing really well,” she answered. “We were really lucky that he had my business card in his wallet, because I even called Kyle from New York to verify the amount of Emivir we could safely shock his system with, and he seems to be in near-perfect health now. I am starting to go there semi-regularly now to check on his progress and make sure he is following everything that the book he’s publishing for us outlines.”
“That kind of makes it like he’s a post-book-publishing case study of how these things work...”
“We ran month-long test studies to see how people reacted to doing these things when they had AIDS to begin with, that’s why we felt more confident about writing the book, but I think there are two things to learn from this. One is that patients making positive choices for themselves give them a sense of control over their condition, which helps them toward feeling better. The other is that we caught Carter right when he was diagnosed, just less than twelve hours since he was infected from a needle. So it is good, but it’s also a different case study, I guess.”
“But how are you holding up through all of this?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you’re talking about healing all the sick, little miss Mother Teresa, but you never look into how you are doing. That’s why I got you the roses.”
“I’m fine.”
She waited a minute before saying anything else.
“I’m always fine.”
“You’re lying.”
“What?”
“Don’t make me repeat myself.”
“What did that mean?”
“I saw you fall apart when your friend was first infected. Is it just that time has passed, making it okay for you? Things seem to keep hitting you, though. You’ve had all those other problems you talked to me about before, and then your lab was ransacked by someone.”
“And?”
“And ... And I don’t know, but I just think that there’s only so much that anyone can take of all the stuff that you’re going through.”
“I don’t have a choice.”
“Well you could let it out once in a while.”
“What good will that do me?”
Steve was stunned by all of her responses, like it was natural to just go through this. “Do you not have any emotions?”
“What?”
“You’re asking ’what’ a lot.”
“Your questions don’t make sense a lot.”
This one got Steve. He thought he was getting better at countering her remarks.
The entire night the two of them just talked, and although this bothered Steve immensely, they didn’t even bother kissing. Steve knew that it just had to be because she had too much on her mind. Steve wanted to be the journalist and get the scoop with her; she told him that she had been trying to work so that everything might be able to fall into place and they might get the answers to their problems.
“I don’t want you to have to go home too late, Steve.”
“I can stay here as long as you need me to.”
“Well, I...”
“Do you want me to go? I’ve crashed here before.” Steve was really enjoying being close to her and sometimes holding her as they talked and he was searching for any opportunity to stay with her.
Steve wasn’t the only one that enjoyed it, but she had work to do and she needed to rest before working, then flying to New York. “Steve, I do like being with you, but I do have to pack for a flight after work tomorrow, and ... well ... I have to go to work early in the morning.”
Steve curled his hand around her cheek and jawbone. “I know I should learn my lesson and take a hint...”
She liked feeling his hand on her skin, but she knew she had work to do and she couldn’t fall into a trap that he was probably too capable of setting. “You don’t make this easy, Steve, but maybe I shouldn’t bother making it a hint.”
“What do you mean?”
“Maybe it’s not a hint, but maybe I should flat out state that it is getting late and you should go.”
Steve battled with whether or not he should ask to kiss her, but he knew that would be the most obnoxious thing to do. He ran his hand along her jawbone until his fingertips passed over her chin. He got up first, saying, “Why do I have to like you so much?”
She followed him to get his coat at the front door. “I don’t know ... to remind you that you have a soul, maybe...”
“Do you make cracks like that to keep me in line or piss me off?”
“Which does it do?” Sloane asked.
Hearing her say those words made it sound like an open invitation to Steve so he couldn’t help but hold her head with his two hands and slowly kiss her forehead. “I think you say it to keep me in line,” he said, as he moved his head over to her left check, “but I don’t know if it works,” he said as he kissed her left cheek and moved to her right check to kiss her face again before he left for the evening.

That night Sloane lay in bed, thinking of what she could do to attempt to relax. Nothing could calm her down; her mind was still reeling. “Wait, I talked today about Nuanchan,” she thought. “I haven’t even been able to think about going to that place and looking for that person.” With that she lay in bed and tried to imagine the place she had seen before.
The image came to her easily. She was half sitting, half laying down on the beach, with no one around her. It was sunset and there was a slight breeze that drifted over the sand and her body; she could feel the sea air and smell the salt in the water moving gently 10 feet away. Every once in a while she heard a sea gull crying as it flew overhead. She looked over at the water, then suddenly remembered that someone should be meeting her there, she remembered that she had been told someone should come up to her here.
“Where is this person?” she then thought. She was beginning to get antsy sitting there on the beach; she kept thinking that something was supposed to happen. There was supposed to be someone here, that is what she’d been told, someone should be here that she could talk to, and all she wanted to know was: who is taking over my space? “This is supposed to be my space”, she thought, “and I thought no one was supposed to be here.” Thinking about this got her more and more angry.
“I’ll just wait here, then.” She stormed to the water, got her feet wet, realized it was really warm water, and sat down right at the edge of the ocean, pushing her feet into the water. It felt like a bath to her, and she just thought that she would enjoy the warmth of the water while she waited for this person to show up and try to take over her space.
She waited for a long time.
Sloane fell asleep while sitting at the beach, waiting for her answers.

###

Luggage was sitting at her front door in the early morning, packed and ready to go with her to work so she would be ready to go to New York via the Madison plane immediately at 2:45 in the afternoon, getting her to New York at almost eleven in the evening Eastern Standard Time. And deciding to work out and not drink, and even go to the gun range to practice and make the conscious decision to do something to save her life, maybe all of these things helped her work with a greater speed and efficiency than she imagined. Her office was cleaned out and entirely reorganized by Friday at noon, where she had all of her work locked in padlocked and key-locked cabinets, a safe and a fire proof filing cabinet safe. Her reports of all missing data, files and equipment were prepared and given to Julie before most everyone else’s was later in the same afternoon. She then was able to work our for a full hour over her early lunch, practicing intensely on boxing punches, then violent kicking, then nearly running on the treadmill.
Taking a shower afterward, she had to scrub her skin down with gels and loofah sponges and brushes for minutes and attack her hair with two different types of shampoo and a conditioner to try to clean herself of everything that was around her, so she could be ready for her journey to see Carter again. She even had to just stand under the shower head for a minute, letting the water beat her flesh; she wanted to cleanse her body the way she wanted to clear her mind of the problems she continually faced.
Throughout the afternoon Kyle worked almost exclusively with her on theories about changes for potential vaccines. They stayed in the lab so she would be available if anyone needed to ask anything, but she had to leave for the airport for her business trip to check on the status of one of their book publishing contacts.
Being on the private plane was something she had almost gotten used to, which gate would she have to go to, what security checkpoints she would have to go through, what doorway would she have to step through so she would walk out on the runway to get to the Madison plane, where she usually ran into Jim. He saw her this time and thought things looked different.
“Ms. Emerson, something seems different about you, if you don’t mind my saying...”
“I mind you calling me Ms. Emerson, but I don’t know what you’re talking about with things being different.”
“We’ll talk on the plane,” Jim said as he pointed to his ears; it was so loud on the runway because motors were already started all around them.
After the plane took off, Sloane heard the intercom make a noise telling her to come to the cockpit. She moved to the door and went in.
“I forget how amazing it looks up here,” she said. “There are so many different lighted controls and switches here, and the window view is just phenomenal. This is really a beautiful sight.”
“It’s funny to hear someone say that all of these controls are beautiful. I see them all the time.”
“But all these lights mean something you have to watch so that we can be in the air like we are now. It’s really amazing.”
Jim had forgotten about how other people were amazed at the view. “I didn’t ask you here to look at the view, I wanted to ask you a question.”
“What?”
“I don’t know how to put it without sounding strange, but what has changed?”
“What do you mean?”
“You look really different than you ever had. You seem more energized, maybe. Or more ... more determined.”
Sloane smiled.
“I would even guess that you look more alive. Does that make sense? So, what has changed?”
“Jim, so much has changed, but none of it is good...”
“Tell it to me in fifty words or less and I’ll be pleased.”
“Okay... A colleague’s research was destroyed. We completed a Madison book. I fell in love with a wonderful man that was later attacked and infected with AIDS. The book was then held back. Um, a contact about AIDS research was killed by a car. Our lab was trashed and files were stolen... Was that enough?”
“That’s impressive.”
“What?”
“It’s impressive that if you remove the ’Um’, you have fifty words exactly.”
“Did you even hear what I said?”
“Yes. And it sounds you like needed more than fifty words.”
“And all that ’stuff’ makes me look more alive?”
“Hmm, I don’t know if everything that has happened to you makes you more alive, or if it is the way you deal with everything.”
“What?” She was still confused and a bit irritated by his comments.
“You fell in love with a man who got AIDS.”
“...Yes.”
“How does that make you feel?”
Sloane slunk back when he asked her that. “How ... do you think it makes me feel?”
“So what are you doing now?”
“Trying to keep him alive. And why did you ask about that and not about my contact being killed or research being lost or my lab being raided?”
“Because I thought you were in love when I saw you before. Is it the same man I thought it was then?”
“Well, yes, actually, but I don’t understand where you’re going with this.”
“His problem is part of all of the other problems, all related to your work on AIDS, correct?”
“Yes.”
“Are you doing anything about all of this?”
She hesitated before answering. “Yes.”
“Are you being lazy or nonchalant about doing anything about this?”
Sloane almost yelled, “No.”
“Why not?”
“Because I care too much about this, and I want to save Carter, and I --” and when she said these words she understood that he was witnessing a vigor in her he had not seen before.
“And you could see that in me? Did I need to be pushed this hard before?”
“I don’t think so. You just look ... a bit more obvious about your determination now.”
“Well ... I suppose I am. Why? Should I not be this way to help save his life?”
“No, I think this is exactly how you should be.” Jim said, smiling, almost laughing, as he flew them to New York.

Carter was waiting at the airport, as he had before, the way he was used to waiting. He enjoyed this wait though, because he knew that by the end of his wait the woman he loved would come walking out of the terminal to be there for him. He knew when she should be arriving, and it wasn’t in conjunction with a commercial jet arrival schedule, so there would not be a flock of people rushing toward him at once. He would just see her.
Walking past the entrance gate all alone, she saw him at the end of the hallway, and didn’t now how to act. But she came up with a plan on the fly, and walked right up to him, looking very determined, and started poking on his chest.
“Mister Carter Donovan...”
“Yes?”
“I have something very important to tell you...”
“Yes?” he responded, not knowing whether he should laugh at her hitting his chest or be genuinely concerned.
“I love you more than life.” She kept hitting his chest until he wrapped his arms around her in the middle of the airport and held her tightly.
“You’re carrying your luggage on you?”
“Of course,” she answered.
“You’re lucky, angel,” he said as he wrapped his arm around her. “Now that I’m back with Quentin I’ve got the car.”
“It’s better than paying the insanely high fees for a taxi...”
“And we can actually be near each other in the car,” he responded as they made their way out of the airport to get to the company car for Carter.
When they got back to his place, he asked the now normal question, “What would you like to do this evening?”
“I usually feel like staying here, so that is fine with me again. I need to save money too, seeing that I have had to get so many weekend flights here to see you before I could use the Madison plane.”
“It can’t be that bad for you...”
“Well, I’m seeing about getting a raise from Colin at Madison now, because of all of the additional work I have been doing and all of the revenue it will get him, so we’ll see if that works out.”
“Do you have any food in the fridge?” Sloane asked him once she got her belongings out of her carry-on case.
“Sure, but what are you looking for?”
“Oh, I just thought I could make you some meals tomorrow. Why? Are you hungry now?”
“No, angel, it’s late -- but you’re three hours ahead of me right now. Do you need any food?”
“Do you have a piece of fruit? I’d be fine with that.”
“I think I’ve only got strawberries now, I hope that’s enough for you.”
“Only if you feed them to me,” she responded.
“Oh, you’re so cruel... Let me get the food for you.”
“Let’s just get to a couch, I’ll get the food and drink. Do you need any juice or water to drink?”
“The water would probably be best for me,” Carter answered. “You sure you want to get it yourself?”
“Sit down and warm up a space for me.”
She turned around and filled two glasses with water, then rinsed the strawberries he had left and brought them in a bowl out to his living room. It seemed natural for her to just drop everything on the table and place herself in the crook of his arm. She started to eat with the bowl of berries right next to them on the couch, and they could reach their water at the table right next to where they were sitting.
Before she could eat too much, she decided to talk. “Carter, I wanted to tell you something, and I don’t know if you’re going to like it, but I’m going to tell you anyway.”
This confused Carter. “Okay... tell me.”
“I’ve made friends with someone who is a friend of a coworker, remember Kyle?”
“Yes...”
“Well, this friend of his, I met him before we said anything to each other, and I got the really strong impression that he liked me, but you know, nothing happened between us.”
“Okay...”
“Actually, he kissed me then once, and it was atrocious...”
“So where is this going, angel?”
“Well, I can talk to him as a friend, and after I came back from taking care of you after you were attacked and I was helping them treat you ... well ... I was in a bad way that day. I tried to go to work that Monday and I couldn’t sleep that night, and I started calling anyone I could to make sure everyone was okay, because if my work did this to you --”
“You have no reason to believe this was because of you.”
“Yes, I do. But right now that doesn’t matter. I wanted to contact my family, and I talked to my friend Toby, the guy I saw the day before I visited you the first time this year.”
“The one that drank like a sieve in Miami?”
“You remember well. Yes, that was him. We met up for lunch at a bar, and I just drank through the meal.”
“You?”
“Yeah. Cookies and Cream Martinis. I had three or four.”
“Oh my God. So okay, you drank a lot at work. Is that what you needed to tell me?”
“No, this friend of Kyle’s called me back and said he’s take me out when I said I had some awful news. So he came to my place and I suggested that same bar to go to and we went there and he bought me those martinis again, and he even tasted one so he could figure out the right proportions to make it at home. We then went to a liquor store and bought liquor, then we went back to my place and we made drinks.”
They both sat in silence after she said that. “There is more to the story, though,” Carter said, starting to think that she had sex with this guy.
“Yeah, and don’t think this was because I drank too much, because I know I did, but I think I was just so sad and lonely because of everything that had just happened.”
Carter couldn’t help but tense up, but he wanted to hear the words come out of her mouth. “So what happened.”
“Well, he ended up kissing me because I had gone through so much. And ... and I kissed him back.”
“Then what happened.” He found himself asking questions like he was from the military, almost the same way Sloane asked questions of him when she first knew he had AIDS in the hospital.
“I think I just passed out...”
“That was all?”
“Well, he was in bed with me because he helped me to bed, and I woke up from a bad dream again, and he held me to make me feel better. And we kissed each other again.”
“That’s what happened?”
“Yes, but I --”
“You didn’t have sex with him?”
“... No ... what would make ... Oh, you thought I was going to say that.”
“That was what I thought you were going to tell me.”
“I thought it was bad enough that I kissed him.”
That made Carter think for a minute before he responded. “Then why did you kiss him?”
“Because ... because I wanted to feel that love and attention I feel when I am with you, I suppose.”
“Did it work?”
“For the time, yes.”
“Have you wanted to kiss him again?”
“Well...” she had to think of her real answer. “No, no I didn’t. I liked the idea of a man that cares about me being close to me, but I didn’t want to kiss him. Actually, he came over to talk to me last night if I needed it, and he brought me a dozen white and red roses, and he wanted to stay the night. But I told him no, that he needed to leave so I could pack and go to work early in the morning, and then he kissed my forehead and checks when he said good-bye. It was strange. Should I have not even kissed him in the first place?”
“Does he know about me?”
“I can’t tell anyone about you, because you’re someone that got us the book. But I told Steve that you’re my best friend, and this kills me that you’ve contracted AIDS in this attack.”
“His name is Steve?”
“... Oh, yes. That’s his name.”
“...And he thinks I’m a friend.”
“The problem is, you are, you’re my best friend.”
More silence fell before Sloane broke the silence. “I just wanted to tell you that, and I don’t know how you’re taking it...”
Carter sat there for a moment. It took him a while before he could answer. “I don’t like the thought of you in another man’s arms, you know that. I ... I suppose I can try to understand you needing someone to be there after leaving me here ... You have no one else to talk to in Seattle, do you?”
“Not really, no. I’m not good at making friends, I guess.”
“Just don’t let anyone take advantage of that.”
“Of my having no friends?”
“Of needing someone and being all alone.”
“I don’t want to be alone, Carter. I don’t want either one of us to be alone.”
Carter waited a minute before speaking again. “Do you love me?”
Quickly turning around, she got on her knees on the couch as soon as she heard him say that. “Oh my God, yes, I love you. I love you more than anything, you have to know that. I love you so much.” She didn’t know if she should hold him at this point, because she didn’t know how angry he was.
“I love you too. If you need someone to hold you, I will be here. Hell, I’ll fly out to see you every weekend so I’ll be around to hold you.”
“No Carter, I think I should be doing the holding,” she said as she tried to gesture him to move around so she could hold him. Carter started to accommodate her gesture and she continued. “It’s my fault that I was falling apart when this happened to you. I had to be strong the entire time I was around you when I heard. I even had to break the news to you, I had to prescribe the proper dosages, and then I had to fly across the country by myself and take over my stagnant job. I lost it, and that is my fault. I --”
“It’s not your fault that you had to do so much. You were amazing.”
“But I’m sorry that I needed someone there to comfort me after all of that. The thing is, you’re the one who needs it, not me. I’ve been a selfish pig in --”
“A selfish pig?”
“Okay, you get the idea, though... My point is that you need that comforting too, a lot more than I do. So if you forgive me, please, let me somehow make it up to you.”
Putting his head to her chest as she held him for at least ten minutes, he finally said, “You didn’t even have to tell me about it, you know. Why did you bother?”
“I didn’t want to keep anything from you,” she answered.
“Well,” Carter then asked, “was he a better kisser?”
Laughing, she replied, “No, no, definitely not...”
She leaned her head down toward his when she answered him and he then leaned his head up so she could kiss him.

###

After they both worked out Saturday morning, they went back to Carter’s home and she demanded to cook something for his dinner. She had researched what she thought would be the healthiest ingredients for him, to make him soup, a salad, and a stir-fry main course. She subconsciously examined his eating habits and available foods. “He’s doing pretty well,” she thought, as she noticed him moving her purse and her holstered, safety-latched handgun after dinner.
“What’s this?” Carter said as he picked up her purse and was holding the gun to slide it back into her purse.
“You know what it is.”
“How did you even get through the airport secusity with it?”
“I didn’t have to go through the public terminals to go on the private plane; if I flew on a commercial jet I couldn’t take it with me, but no one stopped me.”
“Why do you have it?”
“Because ... because I don’t feel safe.”
“Why not?”
She knew at this point she would have to explain everything she had heard and what she knew about the possible conspiracy and AIDS to Carter.
“Carter, come here, sit down,” she said she guided him to the couch.
“Why, is this going to explain the gun to me?”
“Yeah, let me start telling you things, and let me know when you understand my desire for security.”
Carter looked at her, at first cynically, then more credulously as she spoke.
“Now remember when I first saw my friend Toby, whose rain forest land was destroyed?”
“Yes...”
“Now, I looked into who bought the land, and it was a cover company owned by the government to use the land for something else, and I know that records can be overlooked sometimes with the government, but think of the rest of the story and then see how it ties in.”
“Okay...”
“Shortly afterward a government agent contacted me, telling me some information about the government’s involvement with the HIV virus.”
“But they don’t have any contact with the virus ... other than the agency that you were battling with...”
“That what I have believed too, but this guy gave me some paperwork that said he was a spy using the virus.”
Using the virus? How? I don’t get it.”
“I don’t know if this guy was entirely right or not, but there were three things I remember from meeting with him in Colorado. One was that the government was going to start putting a stranglehold on companies like mine to stop us from succeeding at coming up with medicines for AIDS patients. Another was that he said we were being watched, and I looked out the window from where we were and saw a man in a suit watching us.”
“This is a little far-fetched, angel. And that was only two things.”
“The third was that he actually was given AIDS from a hooker given to him for the night from an agent in another country when he was in a meeting.”
“Sure. Did he look like he had AIDS?”
“Carter, the U.S. government gave him a medication which actually cured him.”
“Oh God, are you serious?” Carter started laughing.
“I didn’t believe any of this until I saw his medical reports from before and after that said period of time when he was given the cure. He also gave me records that he was unconscious for a few days, as he said the cure medication would do to him, in a hotel in another country.”
Carter still didn’t believe her. “You have this evidence?”
“I do, and ... so do you.”
“Where? I...” Carter then remembered that she gave him a sealed file folder to keep in a safety deposit box and not open. “Is it in the sealed envelope you gave me to hold for you and not open?”
“I gave copies to a number of people to hold, in case something gets worse.”
Carter was beginning to see that there may be truth in any of this. “But what else has happened?” still not believing that she should be reacting this way.
“He said worse would happen, and a day or two later unjustified claims were made from the U.S. Scientific Research Advancement Department saying that Madison stole from the government, when they had no proof that they were even working on the same thing ... That and they later wanted to go through our offices, we made sure in the lab that everything was locked away and everyone said they couldn’t open up any locked cabinets and we had no computers on to the network, but when they came by they tried to open cabinets and look into our computers. You know, all claiming to do this and be ’friendly’.”
“Really...” Carter was only beginning to see the picture, but he was beginning to understand why Sloane was being so argumentative with the government in her essays he read to splice into the back of the book.
“Wait, there’s more. The agent who told me the information, gave me another contact name, then was killed in what they reported as a ’hit and run accident’. But I knew for a fact that it wasn’t an accident.”
“This is something you were telling me about before. You said someone gave you information and you illegally went into his computer after he was dead ... This is all coming back to me now, you told me about this when we got together the first time, you were all shaken up, I’ve had so much going on, I didn’t even remember.”
“Yeah, well that’s what those files I gave you were. And I talked to his ’connection’ who works in DC, and he said that the mess with the rain forest and Toby was part of their plan. He even said he wouldn’t be surprised if I had trouble getting my book out.”
“Well, the book is at press, and --”
“And as soon as you were diagnosed they kicked you out of your department and sent a bunch of lackeys who only stopped the book from printing. Are you not seeing more pieces fitting together?”
“So he’s saying there are patsies in my company for the government?”
“He didn’t say that, he implied that they could easily convince people in your company to hold the book back because it’s not a good idea to publish it.”
Carter tried to think of how easily it would be to sway some of the people in his company. He tried to let all of this register in his head before he could answer. Finally, he spoke. “This contact you’re talking to now... Wait, I remember that he said he’d contact you when he needed you, right?”
“Yes, he did, but I called him and begged for help after you were diagnosed. And he said that was one of their tactics, but they must be speeding up their plan to use something so drastic to stop us.”
Carter leaned back on the couch, let his jaw hang open and couldn’t speak right away.
“And if you don’t believe me, think of this: the contact only contacted me this Tuesday, leaving a short message on my voice mail, telling me to clean up all of my belongings right away, and that evening the lab was attacked and we’re missing files and papers. I called him back the next day and begged for his help because of what they did to you, and only then did he call me back right away. He even told me to meet him tomorrow in DC so he could tell me more.”
“So... that’s why you’re going to DC tomorrow. And if this is all right, then I’m going to die because they want to stop your work?”
When she heard his words, this one hit Sloane as well. She leaned back and started to shake, like she was about to cry, as she continued to try to speak. “He knew about the attack before it happened to the lab, he knew of the existence of what happened to Toby, and even the slowness of the book production... I think I surprised him with the information about you, and that is why he told me to meet him.”
Carter still tried to think of everything he was just told, and tried to think of his original question. “And so you got a gun...”
“I got the gun after I found out my contact in Colorado Springs was killed. I didn’t use it much, but now I have been going to a range daily with it so I feel comfortable with it and can use it quickly, or single-handedly, or without much time to spend narrowing my shot.”
“You’ve been doing that and cleaning up the lab?”
“That and working out ferociously. I have been taking an hour a day to box, then practice my kicking, then run on the treadmill so I can make sure I am in good shape in case I need to be.”
“You’ve been doing all of this ... and you haven’t even told me.”
“Why did you need to know? You have enough on your mind.”
“You wouldn’t have told me if I didn’t see your gun, even.”
“I said, it didn’t seem right to get more people in danger by telling them.”
“You gave me the files, doesn’t that put me in danger?”
“Not if you don’t know you have them and you don’t know what they are.”
“Jesus Christ,” she heard him say under his breath while he was still leaning back. He kept repeating the phrase, and that almost made her laugh. “Have you even had any time to work? I mean, you’re doing all of this, you’re juggling all of this...”
“Once I decided to take back my work, really take it back, I threatened and successfully got you back at Quentin, and then I decided to exercise and practice at the range with my shooting, I have felt stronger and more in control than I have in a while... When I did all of that, I was even able to focus on my work more and come up with ideas for a vaccine better.”
...“It’s just amazing.”
“What is, Carter?”
“I don’t know, you’ve had all this going on and you haven’t told me, and it seems you’ve become stronger because of it...”
“I don’t know what the government was thinking when they pulled all of this,” she said. “Either they wanted to make me give up --”
“or they thought all of this happening would weaken your spirit to make you unable to do your job well.”
“You think that was one of their options?”
“A more believable one,” Carter said. “I’m just surprised it had the opposite effect from what they intended.”
And so it did, as she was ready to fight harder than she ever thought she could to keep Carter alive, and to keep her dream alive about what America was still supposed to be.

Early Sunday morning, before dawn, she was ready to leave at the airport to fly to Washington, DC. Jim flew her there, and she asked him in this puddle jumper if he would go to the cafe to get something to eat at lunch, but not necessarily be there with her, so he would know when she was ready to leave.
“Like we did in Colorado Springs?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You wanted me to be at the coffee shop with you then, too. I can eat at this diner as well...”
“Thanks a lot.”
Otherwise she remained silent during their flight, trying to figure out exactly what she’ll need to say to make their visit more believable at Leona’s Diner.
Trying to find this place by walking around in the heart of Washington DC’s political district, she arrived just after noon. Jim stayed behind her and looked at the sights, making a point to arrive about fifteen minutes later so they didn’t look like they were together. Sloane walked in and looked around the room, noticing that there were only two tables filled, and they each had two people in them. “Couldn’t be Clint,” she thought, as she tried to look across the room at the menu behind the counter written in chalk on the wall. After standing there about two minutes looking at food choices, she heard the bell on the door ring as it swung open. She intentionally made a point to not look at whomever came in behind her. After a few moments, the older gentleman walked up behind her and said, “It’s not Philadelphia, but their Cheese Steak here is pretty good.”
“Is it?” she responded.
“Whatever you do, don’t get the gazpacho soup”, he answered, as he looked directly at her while standing behind her and almost resting his head on her shoulder.
“I’ve never been here before,” she answered, wondering if this was Clint, “I just heard very little information about this place.”
“Well, it sounds like you need more information,” the man left in a very slight pause before he continued, “about this place.”
“Yes, I probably do.”
“Let me tell you what, I’ll pick something out for you, just pick a seat and I’ll bring it to you. You look like you’re from the other side of this country, like Seattle. It’s a good thing you came here for the food, but I’ll pick out something good for you to eat.”
Sloane nodded in agreement, knowing at this point it had to be Clint, and moved over to a corner table.
Clint showed up five minutes later to her corner table with food for the both of them.
“Is this just minestrone soup?” she asked.
“I figured this would make you full.”
“What if I want everything I can get here,” she asked, trying to use this food as an apparent metaphor for her getting information for her AIDS searches.
“Having too much food might make you sick.”
“What if I’ll take my chances.”
Clint paused. “If you can’t take some for carry out, maybe some could even be delivered to your door.”
She had no idea of what that phrase meant to her, so she thought she’d leave it alone and let him sit to eat.
“You look like you’re here from work. You usually carry your paperwork around with you?”
“I usually carry a copy of my work with me, in case I need it.”
“Do you need it now?”
“I don’t know, Clint, I might.” She thought she was pressing her luck by saying his name, but this would clear up any doubt in her mind.
“Well, what are you working on?” he asked.
Knowing then that she was with the right person, she pulled the images from the single frames of the looters that broke into her lab. “I was looking for evidence of who these men were, or more importantly, where the came from. I am sure they are with some agency, I just don’t know which one.”
“These people are just goons, you realize that.”
“But that doesn’t tell me where they are from. Their names may mean nothing, but knowing what agency they are from might let me know where this all started.”
When she said this he then knew that she was not fooling around. “Just flashing around these pictures to strangers is going to get you nowhere, though.”
“Do you know if I can find out who they work for?”
Clint waited a moment before answering, as he put his hand out to take the images. “Of course.”
She handed the image copies over to him.
“Is this what you came here looking for?”
“No.”
“Then what? You couldn’t be looking for who these goons were.”
“I was looking for --”
“Knowing where they came from couldn’t be it wither, because really, what are you going to do with that information?”
“Then why am I here?”
“I know these agencies, and I know you are one person. You’re not going to have any luck changing the world.”
Sloane saw Jim walk into the diner, He spotted her and walked up to the counter to order a sandwich for himself.
“Actually,” she said, “I was looking for a vial.”
“A what? Of what?”
“Medicine.” She watched the change in his face when she said that word. “I am a researcher, and I need to save a life.”
“Just one?”
Clint’s question caught her. “I’ll settle for one if I can’t save the world.”
“How noble of you.”
“What?”
“Wanting to save the world.”
“Well I don’t want people sick and dying. But if I had to, I’ll settle for one vial, for one person.”
“It means that much to you?”
“It’s my life.”
“Your research?”
“That’s my job. Someone tried to mix the two, so now it is much more than my work.”
They sat in silence and Sloane had finished her soup. Clint still had some of his chili in his bowl. Sloane reached over with her spoon, without asking, and said, “I’m taking some of yours.”
Clint saw that she had gone through all of her food and was looking for more. He didn’t stop her, because he knew that she wanted help too desperately. “You can have it -- I’m done eating.”
Clint got up to leave. “Do you need my business card to send me the image data?”
“No, I have the information, and you won’t need to contact me. I have your information,” he said as he walked out of the diner.
Hearing those words made her know that she should not call him or try to e-mail or write him. but she did not know what additional information she got from meeting with him. She glanced up at Jim, who was looking at her. She leaned back, trying to figure out what the next step was, or what she could possibly do.
After a few minutes to collect her thoughts, she leaned over to make sure everything in her briefcase was neatly put away. Jim saw this and stood up to put the rest of his sandwich in the bag it came in; he still had his coat on, so when Sloane was putting her coat on Jim started to walk toward the front door. He beat her to the font door, so he was a gentleman and offered to hold the door open for a stranger. They walked out, their separate ways, the way they did when they came to the diner, knowing where to meet minutes later so he could fly her across the country again, back to Seattle and her her home.

###

Back home that evening, she couldn’t do much to focus on any work, but she had nothing to focus on with her search for AIDS cure information. She tried to get a full night’s sleep so she could get to work in the morning.
Monday morning she arrived early at work to work out, and got into the office right after Kyle can in. He threw his newspaper down on the table next to Sloane to start working with her, and she saw half of a headline.
“Kyle, can I see your paper?”
“Don’t you get a paper yourself?” he jokingly said as he reached over to grab the paper to toss it over to her. She read the story headline that caught her eye.


Department of Defense Agent Clint Saunders Killed in Terrorist Activity

(WASHINGTON, DC) Special Agent Clint Saunders, a member of the Department of Defense for 26 years, was shot late last night by an Al Quieda sympathizer because of actions the U.S. government is taking against terrorist activity, sources say.


She didn’t read more of the article; she knew that was not why he died.
Dropping Kyle’s paper back at his desk after asking for the article, she walked straight to Julie’s desk. “Julie, I know I ask favors of you all the time, but it would really help if you could find any information anywhere about the death of Clint Saunders late last night. If there’s anything about causes of death, when he was found, who did the autopsy, anything, I’d appreciate it.”
Surprised and slightly confused by the request, Julie looked at her a little blankly, but said, “Sure. I can get that for you this morning.”
By ten in the morning, packges were dropped off; there was an overnight package that was sent to Sloane. Julie saw the name on the package was Clint Saunders, so she walked it over to Sloane and handed her the envelope.
“Ms. Emerson? I thought you could use this, since you asked for information on him.” She handed her the envelope.
“Thank you.” she said as Julie walked away. She saw the package was from Clint himself. Turning pale as a ghost as she read the label, she asked Kyle to excuse her, so she went into her office to open the package and read its contents.

to: Ms. Sloane Emerson
Research Manager, Madison Pharmaceuticals

Ms. Emerson:

I couldn’t tell you anything in person, and I saw your resolve. I hope this can help your friend.
There are a military bases on the East side of Pennsylvania, and what you are looking for it at a building at the Stenford Military base, north of Philadelphia, past Bethlehem.
In the base there are a series of buildings there that look like warehouses. All are under strict military supervision. The vials you are looking for would be only there. There should be more than one sample there, as this is the storage place for the reproduction of the materials.
I cannot get you into the site or to the buildings. All I can say is that it is made to appear as a low-security area because the military does not want it to look like there is anything secretive going on there. They do not have motion sensers to detect criminals, but they have regular circulating lights and men as guards every thirty feet, unless there is a tower nearby, where there will be more guards.
Late night would be the best time to see the site. Knowing that weekly guard changes occur every Thursday, where Thursday night guards will be new to the terrain, the best I can tell you is that guard changes occur at 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.
I hope this information meets you well, And God’s speed.

Mr. Saunders

The moment of truth had come for her here. She knew she had to go there and try to get to the warehouse in the middle of the night that Thursday. Since an airplane would be too traceable for her to go there with she opted to drive. Immediately turning to a road atlas at a shelf behind her, she started pinpointing her routes to get there on time. She started thinking and taking notes at the same time. “I’ll rent a car, leave at dawn Tuesday morning, take I90 through Montana because there is no speed limit, cut down through Wyoming to I80 at Cheyenne. If I need to I can sleep in Nebraska, but otherwise take I80 through all the way ... I’ll have to sleep in Illinois or Indiana, but I’ll be able to make it to Pennsylvania from there by Thursday. The military site I’ve got to go is south of I80 near the edge of Pennsylvania, but I think that would be the best way to go...”
She looked over at her calendar before calling the front desk to tell them she’ll be taking an emergency vacation week off, noting that she had to go to dinner with her family tonight. “Oh, shit,” she thought, though she wouldn’t back out, because before dinner she had to get the rental car and after dinner she had to pack to go on a trip where she might even be able to do something to save someone’s life.


chapter18

The Journey to the End

First thing on the list: make a car reservation. Finding a car rental agency walking distance to her home, she called and they said they have a few compact cars available. Figuring this would be good for better gas mileage on her trip, she took what she thought was the most fuel-efficient car.
“We’re open until nine tonight,” the woman at the rental agency said. Sloane was hoping she could get the car after dinner, but she figured her sister would want to keep her for longer than she should stay, so she planned to get the car before she left for dinner. She even called to confirm with her dad that they were meeting for dinner at Dimitri’s at six in the evening.
Second on the list: get food you’ll need to bring on the trip. This one seemed a little easier to handle before dinner, because before she got the rental car she could go to the grocery store to purchase protein bars and juice meals, so that she would be able to eat well and continue driving, saving time.
Next on the list: when she gets home she has to pack for a few days and make sure the cooler is clean. Get the cooler from the back of the pantry closet, she thought. Get the suitcase from under the bed in the bedroom. She began writing a physical list of what she needed would help:

underwear and socks
black pants
black sport bra and tank top
black t-shirt
dark green long-sleeved shirt
khaki sweater
brown overcoat and rain jacket
running shoes
---
food packed in cooler
handgun
map for directions in car
small flashlight
sunglasses and visor
phone numbers

Calling the front desk was the first thing she had to take care of at Madison before she could go out in the lab and tell people she would be out of town.
The receptionist answered at the front desk, “Madison Pharmaceuticals.”
“Hi, this is Sloane Emerson in research, I needed to log in a last-minute need for taking the rest of this week off as vacation time.”
“Alright, just one moment please...”
She listened to the woman file paperwork; the woman finally got back to the phone, “You don’t usually take time off, do you?”
“No, why?”
“I’d remember your name for vacation time requests, that’s all. I’m sure you have the time, so feel free, and thanks for letting me know.”
Seeing things starting to come into place, Sloane was ready to step out into the lab and tell people she would be gone for the rest of the week.
“What’s the occasion?” Howard asked. Sloane told Kyle and Howard. Julie walked over to find out what was going on.
“I need to get some work done, I don’t know if it will help our research or not, so I am just taking it off as vacation time.”
“You need that much time for it?” Kyle asked.
“I’ll be stopping at a few places, so I’ll probably need all that time. I know I have to be somewhere far from here both Thursday and Friday, so we’ll see how I can get to all of these places.”
“Well, good luck,” Julie said from behind her.
“Thanks. I was just coming out to tell people I’d be going.”
“When did you plan this?” one of them asked.
“Just now, so don’t think I don’t tell you what is going on when, I just found this out myself.”
“Does this have anything to do with the paperwork you asked me to find on the man that just died?” Julie asked.
She had completely forgotten asking her about it. “Not really, but a little, I guess. Were you able to come up with anything?”
“It will take a little time to get all of that information...”
“Just lock it up in one of my lockers when you get it, and leave me a voice mail about where it is so I can go through it when I get back, and thank you so much.”
“No problem, Ms. Emerson,” she answered as Sloane turned to go to her office, then realized that she had nothing to do there and turned back toward Kyle. “I, I think I have everything as in order as I can while I’m here, so if you need me for vaccine work, I can help.”
Kyle saw how disconnected she appeared to be “Are you sure you’re okay for work right now?”
“...Maybe if there is more mindless work I can help with, like filling out forms for duplicates or something, I can be doing that...”
“Sure, chief, just go to that table and I’ll get stuff together for you.” After she started to walk to the table, Kyle turned toward Howard and they both gave each other looks like they had never seen her act so lost before.

Working like a colloquial monkey-at-a-typewriter, Sloane didn’t have anything of substance to offer to help with vaccine research and worked on plugging numbers and filling out forms for half of the afternoon. Everyone at the lab found out she would be gone for the week, and she told everyone that if they had anything to ask, bug her while she was working in the lab before she left for the day.
When the clock read 3:00 p.m., Sloane turned to Kyle and said, “Am I doing okay?”
“You got a lot more done than I thought would even get done today, so thanks. Why?”
“I was just thinking that since I came in two hours early today, that maybe I would leave early today, so I can get ready for my trip.”
“Oh ... okay ... are you taking the Madison plane to wherever you’re going for work?”
Knowing that she didn’t want anyone to know where she was going and that she had pulled more than $1,000 out of her checking account to pay for the car, hotels, food and gas, she said “No, I don’t need it. But I’ll call you if I need anything.”
“You bringing your computer with you so you can get on to the net?”
“Yeah, so I could e-mail you as well, so don’t worry...” She got up to start cleaning up her belongings and was able to pack everything away in her office and say good-bye to everyone by 3:30, so she could start on one of the longest journeys of her life.

###

Before leaving the office, her hands slammed on her keyboard in her office to go to any web site that would give for information about what the uniform colors would be of the men guarding the warehouse site. Finding a few pages with sample outfits for possible uniforms guards could be wearing, she analyzed her closet and clothing choices in her mind to see if she had clothes that would be good camouflage as well as help her blend in with other people there.
First thing on the list that evening, after she got home from work: go to the grocery store. Investigate choices for protein drinks and diet shakes that contain protein, vitamins and minerals. Pick up some vitamin tablets. Look for protein bars, and try to find filler foods to make the stomach full if the diet shakes aren’t enough.
Next thing to do: get out the suitcase and cooler for the foods. Clean the cooler out. Pack. Remember what you’ll wear in the car; make sure you have bandages and a small first aid kit in case it is needed. Pack the flashlight in a carry-on. Pack the bullets in the case, and remember to bring the make-up paint. Remember hairbrush, toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, rubber band for hair. Get sunglasses and sun visor in car as well. Leave the computer and phone lists in briefcase next to front door to take along.
Counting the cash in her wallet, she tried to remember if there was anything else she had forgotten if she had everything. The dried food was packed in the cooler. Check. The maps were in the car, behind the driver’s seat. Check. The luggage had everything she needed, and her coat with her suitcase. Check.
All seemed to be in order.
Time to look at the watch, 5:35. Might as well leave to get to the restaurant a little early, she thought. She knew she should see her family, but she knew she ouldn’t tell them anything about what she was about to do. Sloane always felt an eerie silence when she met up with her siblings, now she knew she had a specific reason to feel that way.
She tried to shake it off, and made her way to her car.
Checking her watch as she drove into a parking space at Dimitri’s. She read 5:52 on her watch. Her father’s car was already there. Trying to think of what she could say about her life to fill up the time, she got out and locked her car before walking into the restaurant.
Dad was sitting at the bar, waiting for others to show up. “Dad?” she called as she walked toward him into the bar.
Her father turned around. “Sloane!” he reached around to hug her. “How’s my little buttercup?”
Sloane smiled at the nickname. “I’ve had a lot going on, but I’m okay. How is your work?” She tried to come up with a reason to not talk about her life and to get others to talk about theirs to fill the space.
“Why don’t we wait until Dan and Andrea come in to talk about that?”
“Are their families coming?” she asked, wondering if she would have to deal with children as well this evening.
“I think Andrea has a baby sitter for the night, but Bob can’t make it because he will be late from work.”
Sloane liked talking to Andrea’s husband and thought it was a shame that he wasn’t coming. “Well, that’s okay,” Sloane said as Dan came in straight from work to the bar they were sitting at.
“Hi dad!” Dan said. “And Sloane! I didn’t think I’d ever see you again!”
“Hi, Dan,” she responded. “Yes, I’m still on the face of the earth, I just work too much.”
“Busy saving the world from diseases, I think...” her father answered.
She turned around to gesture that they should get a table. “Should we tell them we’d like to be seated? Andrea can meet us.”
They started to go toward the hostess’ table when Sloane finally said, “I’m not trying to save the world, I’m just trying to help...”
Dan looked at her, knowing that she was trying hard to do her job right.
Just as they were seated Andrea walked in and found them at their table. “Hi everyone!” Andrea called out. She even turned to Sloane and said afterward, “And how are you? I haven’t seem you for a while.”
“I know, I’ve been so trapped in my work that I just haven’t been able to get away...”
“You know, you should really take some time off, relax.”
“I’m going out of town this week,” she answered, realizing as soon as she said it that she would get a barrage of questions about where she was going and for how long.
“Where are you going?” her dad asked.
“Just to visit a friend, we don’t know how long I’ll be...” She saw that they wanted to know more and she was just trying to think of something to distract them enough from the story. “A friend of mine agreed that I spend too much time at the office, so we just decided to take a little break.”
“That’s nice to hear,” Dan said.
“Yeah, I get to go with Bob and the little one.”
“How’s little Bob doing?”
“Oh, he’s just great. He’s going to go to preschool next year.”
“That will give you a little more time to yourselves...”
“But you know, I am going to miss my little tiger.”
Sloane tried to smile more at people talking, so she would fit in more with their conversstion. “So what has been going on with your work, dad?”
“We’ve just been doing more research on the rock samples that came from the rain forests up north.”
“I’d really like to take some time to go through some of the forest up there,” she said. “I hear it’s beautiful.”
“There are certain patches of land that hadn’t been really explored, but we knew that only certain plants would grow around there, so we were able to get more land samples to see what naturally exists there.”
Thinking that extraction studies would be good to learn about, she did her best to pay attention to the stories as the meal at Dimitri’s trailed on. After almost an hour and a half, Sloane had to announce that she had to call it a night. “Hey everyone, I’ve really liked hanging out with you all again, but to go on this trip, we planned to leave early tomorrow morning, and I still have to pack, so I should probably go so I can get a full night’s sleep.” She realized then that slipping that she was going out of town was a good excuse to have her leave early for her journey.
“We’ll miss you,” Andrea said.
“We always do, buttercup,” her dad said, as he got up to say good-bye. He hugged her and said in her ear, “I’ve got your dinner, too, so don’t worry about it.”
“Are you sure?” she whispered back.
“Just have a good trip.”
Sloane leaned away from her dad to say to all three of them, “I love you all.”
“Have a safe trip” Dan said.
“And we’ll talk to you soon,” Andrea said.
With that she turned around with her coat and purse to leave Dimitri’s and start her quest. When she got home, she packed her belongings in her rental car and tried to get as much sleep as she could so she could leave before dawn.

###

Sitting in her rental at 4:45 on Tuesday morning, Sloane looked over her map again, guessing the length of time it would take before she would get to a destination where she could rest for the night.
“It’s over four hundred miles before I get to I15, but Montana has no speed limit, so I should get a break there. Then I’ll take I15 for almost the same amount of time before I get to I80. Take that east and see how far I can go on it before I ... collapse,” she thought as she closed the map. “One quick check before I go: clothes, food, numbers, map and directions to the Pennsylvania military site, flashlight, make-up cover, gun, ammo, computer, cash. I think I’m fine,” she said as she remembered that she had locked and cleaned out her apartment and started the car to drive away.
Thinking briefly about Saunders mailing her information, she wondered in a flash as she drove toward the exits for the expressways and highways what happened to him when he died. Was he shot? Who shot him? Did anyone say anything to him before they shot him to death? Did he live long once shot?
Was he shot because he had talked to her?
Suddenly her fear of being a reason why people were getting killed from the military was getting to her. She began to think that if she had to shoot someone when she was at the site in self-defense, she wouldn’t feel as bad about it, if they were able to kill people with impunity for telling the truth.

“Sloane had been acting strange lately,” Howard said to Kyle as they were having lunch Tuesday.
“I don’t know if she’s been having too much going on in her life, or what,” Kyle said as he tried to eat. No one knew why Sloane Emerson took off on the spur of the moment, and no one could explain why she wanted to leave when she never wanted to take vacation days because she loved her work so much.
It was all a mystery to them, and they wondered if they would ever get the answers from her.

Making a point to stop every two hours to stretch her legs at a rest stop, Sloane was making excellent time on her first day of the trip. She was even impressed at how far she was able to get into Nebraska before she had to get a place to stay for the night, because she was able to go far enough into the state that the Nebraska hotels were incredibly cheap for only a bed for the night. Even though she brought a portable alarm clock, she asked for a wake-up call at four in the morning. Before she went to bed, she checked her belongings again; she was impressed by how little food she actually went though and was still feeling fine. She stretched a little and practiced high kicks and punches to move her body some before stretching more right in front of her twin-sized bed. She got to sleep a few hours before midnight.
Early Wednesday morning she left to work her way across the country, and seeing that it would only take eight hours to get from Omaha to I80 just south of Chicago, she thought it would be a good idea to stay in Chicago and see what the city was like. She got through Nebraska, then Iowa, then worked her way into Illinois. Guessing that gas prices would be higher the closer she got to Chicago, she filled her gas tank again so that she would have no problem getting in and out of the city Thursday morning before dawn to go to Pennsylvania.
She took I55, the first main highway, north to the city. Having a city map in her atlas, she saw that she should go to somewhere in the north side of the city to see what the town was like. And looking at a price hotel map, she actually found a place for less money. “They’ve got Holiday Inns, but they’re so much ... There’s actually a place, it says off of ’Southport’ north of ’Belmont’ ... It’s a good thing this town is set up like a grid, or I’d never find the place.”
Getting a room for just over sixty dollars for the night, she left her rental in their small lot for the night. Although the parking spots were small, they at least weren’t on hills, like in other western states. She walked up the street and passed a few bars and a grocery store, stopping briefly to get some celery and fresh fruit before she left again to sit in a place and meet some people. Seeing that there was nothing north of the street just under a mile north of her hotel, she stopped in a corner bar at around eight o’clock. She sat at the bar and a tall gentleman with black hair asked her what she’d like.
“Um, just a ... what kinds of soda do you have?”
“Coke, Sprite and Ginger Ale.”
“I’ll have the Ginger Ale please.”
An overweight woman came up to her. “Is that all you’re getting?”
Sloane didn’t understand. “Why, what are you having?”
“Budweiser, in a bottle.”
Checking to see and noting that they have Budweiser on tap, Sloane asked, “Does it taste better in a bottle, because they have it on tap.”
“Nah, I get it for running the show here. You’re here for it, right?”
“No, what is it?”
“It’s an open mike that I’ve run here for years. I thought you’d have something to read. You could at least stop back there with the mike and listen, cutie.”
Sloane thought it was strange that she was called ’cutie’; then she understood that this lady was probably being hit on her. “Well, maybe, I can’t stay here all night, though.”
“Why, you gotta be somewhere else tonight?”
“No, I --”
“Don’t even tell me you have to work early. I have to work in a far West suburb tomorrow morning.”
“Actually, I do. I leave to get out of town by four in the morning.”
“Well, cutie, try to stop back there, okay?”
Sloane smiled. “Okay, I’ll try...”
Over the course of her evening there she got hit on by a man who told her that he had a novel published, until she found out from someone else that he published it himself. “Interesting break,” she thought, as she left after being there for an hour and going to a bar for some water where the old men hung out, that was right next to a closed comic book store.
The clock next to her bed in her hotel room read 10:46 when she decided to close her eyes and try to get five hours of sleep before the hotel gave her a wake-up call at four in the morning.

That night Sloane lay in bed, trying to remember what Nuanchan told her about going to her place to try to relax. She needed to unwind after meeting the strange crowd at two bars in Chicago.
The beach appeared to her as plain as day; she was alone; it was sunset; there was a slight breeze along her body; she smelled the salt in the water and she felt the sand under her toes. The ocean waves crashed a few yards away. She looked over at the water, thinking about how calm it was, to finally have a space for herself where no one bothered her.
She started to relax.
After a few minutes, she heard some more water splashing in the distance. Not thinking of it at first, she knew it had to be some birds or some people playing in the water.
“Wait, there’s no one here”, she thought.
She sat up and opened her eyes, trying to guess where the noise came from.
She realized it was the sound of feet splashing in water, about fifty feet away. The sun was setting, but she tried to make out the image. There was one person there, she could tell that much; she saw a long-sleeved shirt, maybe beige, with rolled up white pants and bare feet kicking the water right at the edge of the shore. Black hair, she could spot that. Beyond that she couldn’t make out a thing about the person.
And the person was staying over there, not bothering her at all.
She figured that if the person stayed over there and minded their own business, she wouldn’t mind. She would still be here and it would still be like her own ’turf’, with no one bothering her.
Sloane fell asleep while sitting at the beach, waiting for her nothing.

After she received the wake-up call, she hopped in the shower at 4:03. Quickly dressing herself, she had everything packed. She was out the door by 4:17 in the morning, hoping that she would miss any morning traffic by leaving so early to go through the city.
This was the first time she saw what they called the ’loop’, and she was awe-struck by the architecture. She watched the high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, when she wasn’t looking at the ornate work on the sides of the churches.
Forty-five minutes after she left her hotel she was getting on I80 again, and at this point she just had a lot of straight driving to do. “Oh, shit, there are tolls past Chicago on I80,” she said under her breath as she pulled up to the first station in Indiana to take a card that would define how much she owed at the end of the state, as she would have to do all the way until she got to Pennsylvania. “The maps say it should take me about thirteen hours from here,” she said under her breath as she started on another long stretch of road, before her journey reached its end.
Seven hours had passed when she saw that it was noon, so she hoped she could get to a hotel near the military site by dinnertime.
She exited I80 by going south on 33, and she knew she was close to the site. When she passed military site signs, she then knew that she needed to find a hotel north of the military site, so that she would be able to get to I80 easily again, which would lead her close to New York if she was able to get enough medication for Carter.
Getting there early enough, she had time to get a hotel and pay with cash. Considering her choices for the evening, she started her list of things to do: First, call Carter to possibly say good-bye to him, then stretch, then try to rest for a few hours, then stretch and work out to make muscles flexible again, then stretch again to end the workout.
All this time in organizing she had been delaying her phone call. Looking at the rates of a call in the hotel, she thought she’d try to make a collect call. Carter’s phone rang.
“Hello?”
“Will you accept a collect call from...” the operator let a small amount of time pass before she said what she was told to say, “your soul mate?”
Carter thought for a split second. “Yes.”
“Thank you,” and they both heard the click of the operator getting off the line. Sloane started first. “Carter?”
“Why didn’t you use your name?”
“It’s a long story, but I don’t want people to know where I am.”
“Why not?”
“Because I’ve driven across the country by myself, and --”
“You’ve what?”
“I had to do this, and I’m not going to tell you what I’m doing, but --”
“But what?”
“But what I’m doing is illegal. I don’t know if I’ll be okay through it.”
“Where are you?”
“If I come out okay from this, I’ll be coming to your place.”
“Why?”
“I’ll hopefully have something for you if I’m successful.”
“What would you have for me that’s ... wait a minute...”
“I wanted to just tell you something before I go, though.”
“Are you doing what I think you might be doing?”
“Carter, I wanted to tell you that I love you more than life.” She had to stop because she started to cry. “And... And if anything happens to me, just know that I died trying to make you live, because ... because there is no point to my living in a world without you, because ... well, because your existence has given my life meaning. It didn’t really have any before, and you gave me that.”
Carter knew she didn’t want him to say her name, and he had to collect his thoughts and stop himself from crying after hearing her words. “You know that you are the only meaning in my life, angel. Really, you are my angel. But... I have to ask. Are you going to try to --” Carter remembered that Sloane didn’t want anyone to know where she was, so he tried to speak using crucial words to try to still get his point across. “Try to get me medication?”
“Carter, I gave this to you, so if this --”
“You didn’t do anything to hurt me, you’ve been saving me through all of this. You know that.”
Fearing that this would be too much information to say over the phone, she knew she had no choice and said it anyway. “Carter, someone else that gave me information was killed.”
“I ... I don’t think that --”
“Carter, if they’re not out to get everyone, they then sure the Hell seem to be out to get ME.”
“Don’t say that.” Carter wondered with everything that had happened to her that maybe she was correct.
“Look at everything that has happened to me! The book, my colleague, the two people with information being killed, you, they had to go do this to you, and how much more are they going to do to me?”
“This is the work you do. What choice do you have?”
“I have the choice in what I am doing now.”
“The choice you won’t tell me about?”
“Carter, I’m not telling you any more. I think I should go now, just to make sure. Please, Carter, just know that I am doing this for you, and that I love you.”
“Angel, I love you too. More than life.” Carter knew he had to say something that would make her stronger for whatever she had to do. “Hey, I know you, and I know that you are pretty much capable of moving mountains and tall buildings, and maybe even parting the sea ... so all I can say is don’t hurt anyone when you get what you want.”
“Parting the sea, eh?”
Carter laughed when she said that. “You have always been capable of everything, so I know you can accomplish anything now.”
Sloane smiled as they sat there for a moment in silence. Carter finally spoke. “I will see you tomorrow.”
“Yes, you will.”
“I love you more than life, angel.”
“I love you, Carter.”
After listening to his receiver click as he hung up the phone, she then hung the phone up, then started crying.

At this point all she could do was stay on her mission, because, like he said, she always accomplished her goals. She had to keep on schedule, so she walked over to start stretching on the floor. She asked the hotel clerk if they could give her a wake-up call in a few hours.
Needing to fall asleep quickly but not knowing how, Sloane decided she would imagine her place to relax. Almost immediately, the beach appeared to her. There was nothing around her to disturb her, it was sunset, and she felt a slight breeze along her body. Smelling the seawater, she felt the sand under her feet. Listening to the ocean waves crashing nearby, she looked over at the calm water. This was a space to herself where no one bothered her.
Staying away from the water, she remained seated and looked at the pier in the distance. Suddenly she heard a noise behind her; she turned her head and saw the person she had seen before, this time a little closer. Doing her best to turn her body around, she sprung up as quickly as she could and shouted to the other person, “Who are you?” and received no reply. “Wait -- I want to talk to you --” came out of her mouth and she started to move closer to the person. The person started to move away, but then the black-haired person suddenly turned around, and she could only see that it was a man, and the person moved his hands down, as a signal for her to sit. She stood there, not knowing if that was his command or if she should do what he suggested. She took a step forward and he turned around to leave, so she stopped. When this person turned around to see she stopped, he signaled again for her to sit in the sand -- so she did, to wait for his next move.
Sloane fell asleep while sitting at the beach, waiting.
Dreaming about the same place a few hours later, she was at the water again and this person came up to her. He was two feet away, though she could not even describe what he looked like. When this man in her dream finally approached her, she asked, “Who are you?”
Never hearing this man’s voice before, he answered, “You’re asking the wrong questions.” When he said those words he started to walk into the water.
This infuriated her, she did not know what that meant, so she decided to go after him. Getting up from sitting in the sand, she started to run into the water after him, but the water was ice cold and it woke her up from her dream immediately.
After she woke and the alarm clock later rang, she was surprised by the alarm clock and it made her determined, so she stretched and worked out just enough to make her muscles flexible again. She finished by stretching again to end her workout.
She knew she was about to do the most frightening thing she had ever done, so she didn’t know if how she felt was due to excitement, nervousness, getting in shape the past few weeks -- or all three. But checking how she felt, she knew she was right, because she still had a ton of energy to achieve her goal.

For this confrontation and escape, she pulled the right clothes out, dressing in dark army greens, layered with a few light beige colors and browns for camouflage, with stretch slacks in dark browns and blacks so she could try to infiltrate the military site. In pockets she also packed a small flashlight; she kept her gun in a holster at her hip. One pocket was stocked up with a small set of bullets. She kept her clothing and belonging well packed, and she made a point to not bring more cash than what she would need for one meal, or any ID, because she didn’t want anyone to be able to identify her quickly. After putting make-up paint on her face and arms to smudge on her skin, she hoped she wouldn’t be as noticeable in the dark. All that was then left for her to do was throw away the make-up paint because she wouldn’t need it again.
“Mental note,” she thought, “drop the make-up colors in assorted places so they wouldn’t all be together for her to be caught with.”
Working only from a small copy of the map that she could get of the area, she arrived at an available check-point at 3:32, knowing that the new guard switches and a new guard for the week will come in at 4:00 a.m. their time. Intentionally getting there early because she assumed it would be best to investigate the surroundings for escape routes, she looked at the foliage, trees, bush and tree lines, the military works all around her, and even the amount of dew on the surroundings so she would know whether or not it would be easy to slip as she was running. “Can’t climb the Pines,” she thought as she looked at the assortment of trees around her. Some of them had good foliage for cover, so she would be able to hide easily in the dark with them. There were empty barracks, but there were fences everywhere with barbed wire along the tops,. The only saving grace to her was a hole in the bottom of one of the fences at one point near a guardhouse. It was a small hole, she thought, but she would be able to fit through it if she needed to, and it would be more difficult for soldiers when covered in uniforms and body armor, with weapons, a canteen and radios to manage through with. Trying to canvas the site from the map, she also saw the tower, and saw that there were fewer guards around the tower, trying to consider that it might be a good idea to go near the tower to move because their lights flash far away from itself and there are fewer guards there, but then she realized that they could see her directly below and radio to anyone to come over to stop her. After looking at her surrounding so that she would know where, when and how it was safe to travel, she also tried to watch the pattern of the light motion from the tower, so that she knew when to run to escape the light in the dead of night.
Trying to eye everything up, she saw some well-lit warehouses with no guards; she knew these couldn’t be the ones with the cure because they wouldn’t leave it so well exposed. Seeing many signs for land mine zones, she still eyed the ton of barbed wire, making it impossible to cross at the top of the fence. The ground was her only chance, and the one hole she spotted was her only chance, and it was relatively close to what she thought was the building she had to go to. Finally spotting a building where there were many guards patrolling and it was dark, she wondered if she was looking at just the right area in the right direction. There were a few signs around it and on the doors for one warehouse; they were too far away for her to read, but she thought this had to be the place.
Reading her watch, it said 3:58 a.m., she patted her flashlight and her gun, then patted the ammo she stored in a third pocket. Four minutes later, guards were changing at 4:02 a.m., and then she saw an opportunity to move in because everyone was facing only one direction, opposite her.
“This is the end of the line,” she thought. She had worked out and practiced aerobics, motion, and yoga exercises for only a few weeks, but she hoped it was enough to help her through this.


chapter 19

The Survival of the Fittest

Going over her drilled moves in her head and knowing to only move when the tower light was pointed farthest away from her location so that it was as dark as possible when she moved, Sloane started to bolt to her next hiding place; she quietly but swiftly darted to the next set of bushes by ducking and rolling to the bushes. She performed a similar move when the lights were low to get behind a set of barrels that were near the building; she successfully got in through a side door of the warehouse when the guards were changing.
She had no idea if she was in the right place. But now that she was inside, she knew she had to stay quiet in the darkened halls so as not to be found. She tried to look around her in the dark. Because she had not been in the light for so long and her vision was adjusting to the darkness, she saw rows of aisles in the main center of the warehouse. The halls had tall walls and she couldn’t see past them well enough to see what was in the next space. Most of the aisles were filled with shelves, mostly with glass containers; she had no idea what was in any of the containers or what she was sneaking past. And she still had no idea if she was in the right building.
She tried to remember to control her breathing to get more air but didn’t make too much noise by breathing heavily. Also, as a result of her yoga and exercise program, she could easily crouch down so she was not in other people’s line of sight.
Only once she was well inside aisles with shelves did she feel safe enough to flash her light on and off on the ground in front of her very quickly so she could get any bearings to see where she might have to go. Thinking she spotted something from a small light source at the end of one hallway, she approached it in the dark, trying to not make any noise or alarm anyone outside the warehouse. Spotting test tubes along the shelves as she walked toward the small light source, she knew she had to be at a medical storage site, though she didn’t know why these materials were here or why they did not need to be refrigerated. Trying to read any of the signs and labels as she walked through the hall, she was able to scan tags enough to read records from patient’s names, though she could not tell what they were records from. Numbers followed the names, and she gathered that all of the last four digits out of eight on the first line of numbers were years. She began to wonder if the first row of numbers were birth and death years and the second row of numbers would be for their social security numbers. If so, most of the people she saw had death dates in the early 1980s.
Fear filled her, because if her guesses were true, these records filed and listed deaths, and she didn’t know why these files set up in this one warehouse. If they were medical records, then what for? What happened to all of these people?
Still having no answers to her hypothetical questions, Sloane got to the end of the hall and was three feet from sliding glass doors with faint light emanating from under them. She looked through the doors. The cabinets housed a lit interior of rows of vials, cased and labeled. Scanning the containers, each case had vials filled with a solution, but there was a vast array of containers of vials, each labeled with something different. Trying to read any of the labels of the vials or the cases before she opened the sliding glass door, she scratched her head in amazement at everything there. The bottom shelf had containers filled with vials, but she read that each container of vials was labeled with the flu and what year it apparently was a vaccine for. She glanced over the set of vials.

“Flu 1988”, “Flu 1989”, “Flu 1990”, “Flu 1991”

And so on.
She was stunned when she deduced that these were records of vaccines for past illnesses, they were vaccines that needed to be kept and refrigerated, probably for future research. She jerked her head up higher. She saw cases with listings for anything from small pox to hepatitis to herpes.
She didn’t know whether she should be amazed or stunned by these vials sitting there, full of vaccines and cures.
To the back and in the corner of the center shelf, she saw one rack of vials, with the label

“HIV ANTIDOTE 1982.
Mastered from original virus”

She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She had found it. Tucked away amongst a slew of other medications and cures, almost hidden away so you wouldn’t see it unless you were looking.
She was stunned.
Her heart raced.
Her breathing changed.

Standing there for she didn’t know how long, and after the shock wore off that she had found the cure, she opened the glass door so she would have access to the set of sealed vials in the container.
Somehow, when she was about to grab the HIV antidote, she realized that she apparently tripped an alarm. She heard two or three sets of footsteps echoing around her in the warehouse getting closer to where she was.
“Was it when I opened the door to this case?” she wondered.
But she had no time to wonder.
This was her only chance to grab the cure, if she’d even be able to take it with her.
Making a violent rush to grab at the case of sealed vials labeled “HIV ANTIDOTE”, she heard gunshots fired in her direction. She grabbed what she could from the container and started to run.
Thinking she saw feet at the end of a hall when she crouched down to look and not knowing if people saw her leaving the case, she realized that the shelf by the glass doors she was at was lit, so she started running. There was an occasional gunshot, but in the dark no one seemed to be able to find her, much less hit her. She tried to listen to the footsteps or guess where people were, because when a gun was fired the sound echoing throughout the warehouse made it impossible to know where it came from.
Trying to remember the way she got in and trying to take her steps in reverse order, she took a turn and someone was in the aisle she was about to go down. Guessing that it was a Marine or a member of the Army, she tried to move out of the aisle instantly.
The man drew a weapon.
She did the same in record time.
“This is what I trained for,” she thought. Since she practiced firing one-handed, and without being able to take time or focus quickly, she fired back in the dark, but she didn’t know if she hit anyone. All she thought was not to fire too much because the sound of her gun would let them know where she was. She took off again after firing two shots.
Then she remembered how gun shot noises echoed, so she thought that maybe other people didn’t know where she was located.
When she got to the end of the aisle, another set of boots walked in front of her and a man knocked her over. When she fell, she had to make sure that the vial in her hand didn’t hit the ground, because all that was on her mind was saving the one vial she had been able to get from the container on the glass shelf. She lay on the ground, not knowing what other move she could make. The men thought she was unconscious, so they slowly walked to her. Thinking quickly about how to get away, she started to roll. In the dark it surprised the man in the boots. As she twisted she turned her gun toward the dark object and fired once more. The body went down, but he was not dead; he grabbed at her arm and started to twist. She could hear him yell as he tried to ram her arm along the metal at the side if the aisle, but she kept trying to get away. She believed at that moment that nothing could stop her.
Breaking free and moving around the corner of the aisle, she knew that nothing would stop her.

She didn’t have time to think, and she couldn’t believe everything she had just gone through. Her arms were killing her from fighting people, and she was using them with her legs to hold herself up while she ran.
Now all she was able to think of was getting free, as quickly and as easily as she possibly could.
“Everything is right now, girl,” she said to herself. “You can do anything.”
She took another deep breath. The word “Go!” raced through her mind.

Looking around, she searched for any chance to escape. Spotting an opened window, she shoved the vial along her waist under her clothes, because it could fall out of a loose pocket. She hoped the vial wouldn’t break while she tried to escape.
Her heart was beating a mile a minute; she couldn’t believe how loud her beating heart was.
She spotted the open window; she scanned hallways, looking under the bottoms of shelves by crouching low to see if anyone was around so she could make her move.
She hoped.
Remembering how Carter told her that she could do anything, she decided to quickly make a run for the window. Avoiding rays of light from inside the warehouse, she ran, attempting then to dive through the window.
After cutting her left arm on the glass she broke in getting through the half-open window, she actually dove through the window, rolled on the ground, straightened herself up as quickly as she could in her dive-roll to save her life, and then ran to the closest bush so she would be hidden. She was about twenty yards from that window.
Sloane didn’t know if they had seen her leave. Shaking her clothes once she was behind the bushes, she saw scraps of glass fall to the ground around her, either from when she dove or when she rolled on the broken glass to escape.
Unsure if she would be able to get to the perimeter, she had to decide on the spot if it was safe for her to move out of that area. Making the decision to try to run in safely covered areas, she darted to and then along the perimeter, still looking for any sign that she’d been spotted. Then she tried to see if she could somehow get free. About two miles from where she started running at the perimeter, she finally saw a mailbox at the other side of a street.
This was her first sign of freedom in her struggle. Quickly, she darted across the street, hoping at this point everything was safe.
Walking down that road for about two miles, Sloane, exhausted, scraped and bloody, found a gas station in her attempts to get cleaned up before she got back to her hotel. They had a bathroom at the side of the building, so she went into the washroom first, removed some of her clothes so she wasn’t covered in dark colors. Also, she worked to smudge as much of the make-up off as she could. Effectively getting it off at the sink with the white liquid soap in the dispenser attached to the wall, she knew that she was a filthy mess, but tried to make herself look better.
Moving her pants to see that the vial was still there, she was able to grab it from the seam, still sealed. She was still angry with herself that she was only able to get just one vial, when she thought that she could’ve somehow gotten more. Assuming the alarm that alerted the men to her was in the glass door that sealed the vials, she thought that if she knew about the alarm she would she would have grabbed more vials instantly, stuffed them inside leg pockets, then grabbed her gun and ran like Hell.
Reminding herself that she did the best she could, she went into the gas station to grab a cup of coffee and a plain muffin so she could try to remain in one piece before she got to the hotel -- if there was no one waiting there to arrest her and take what she had just taken from the government.
Trudging three miles past the gas station, she got to the hotel. Wondering if she actually got away with everything, she threw her clothes into a garbage bag to bring along to wash, because she didn’t feel safe leaving a clothing trail that might lead back to her if the military found it.
Showering first, she then looked at her packed bags and comfortable clothes for the drive to New York, if she was not stopped for what she did. Looking at the single vial, she thought about the choice she would have to make: save the drug to possibly replicate it or save Carter. She thought that she didn’t know for sure if it could be replicated, and if anyone tried to take it from her in transport back to Seattle, no one would get this cure at all.
She knew what her choice would be. When she thought of the options, her choice then seemed obvious to her. Give it to Carter, but hope the trace amounts from the vial could be used to duplicate the cure for the rest of the world.

She had survived; now it was Carter’s turn. Maybe in the process she could help the rest of the word survive too.

###

While showering she did her best to gingerly clean out the scrapes on her arms and hands. She was surprised that she had scraped knees and was bloody at her thighs under her clothes from when she was so violently trying to get away from military agents. When she got out of the shower she pulled out the hydrogen peroxide to clean cuts on her body: all bubbled repeatedly, but none hurt except when she attempted to put it on the cuts in her arm. Her next step was to attempt to put the Mycetracin on the cuts and scrapes to help them heal faster without infection; once again it hurt like Hell to try to help her arm, but she knew she had to do this to make herself better without going to a hospital for stitches.
With her other clothes already packed, she got dressed with a tank top so she could leave her bloodied arm open, because she wanted to be able to bandage it. Using paper towels from the front desk, she covered the cut with bandages from her first aid kit to cover the bleeding.
Then she had to brush her hair and try to make herself look presentable for her drive to New York. It had occurred to her that she had not contacted Carter since she left the night before for her mission, she figured that she better call him to have him look for a nurse to be able to watch him and get a needle for the injection. She knew she had some money left, so she dialed from her room and would pay the amount when she checked out a few minutes later.
“Hello?”
She loved to hear Carter’s voice on the phone. “Carter, it’s me.”
“Are you alright?”
“Barely...”
“I love you.”
“I love you too. I’m coming to see you.”
“You are? Where are you?” He was hoping he could get her to tell him where she was located, because he was dying of curiosity.
“I’m not too far ... but I need you to do me a favor.”
“What do you need?”
“Remember that nurse that helped you when you first got out of the hospital and you were diagnosed?”
“Yeah, she was a nice lady ... why?”
“I need to have someone be there for you when I come to your place, and they need to have a regular hypodermic needle with them.”
“Why?”
“For the medication I have for you, I need it, and I don’t have one. Can you get someone, we can pay them, to be able to come to your place?”
“I suppose.”
“You don’t sound pleased.”
“I’m getting concerned.”
“Don’t worry about it, Carter.”
“I worry, angel, that’s my job.”
“Well, you shouldn’t.”
“You don’t know how worried I was after I got that call from you yesterday.”
“Well, okay, on that one you should have been. But I don’t think you should worry now.”
“You scare me sometimes girl, that’s all.”
“I think we’re at the end of having to worry, so just call for a nurse to be there within the next few hours.”
“With a hypodermic needle?”
“Yes.”
“They can’t just carry that around.”
“What if they’re doing it for your doctor that traveled across the country to give you the medication? See if the nurse can somehow pick it up for me, please, please, please...”
“...I’ll somehow get it done. And angel?”
“Yes?”
“Please be safe.”
“I try to. I love you, and I’ll talk to you soon.”
“I love you too.”

Sloane hung up the phone, and got ready to pay for the phone call and check out of the hotel, to make her way to the next state to try to save Carter.


Not sleeping before she left because of her adrenaline rush but still exhausted from not getting a full night’s sleep, she was able to make her way to Carter’s place in her rental by the afternoon. The attendants for the building took her car to park it in the basement garage and she took the elevator with the vial and laundry to get to Carter’s front door.
Knowing she should be excited when she got there, Sloane was still too exhausted and barely let out a knock on his front door. She didn’t realize blood loss from the gash in her arm would affect her, but it may have been the exhaustion of running for her life and living on a liquid diet for days. Carter opened the door because he thought he heard her and was too excited to see her.
“How are --” he then saw the bruises and scratches and the impromptu bandage on her arm and changed his question to “what happened to you?” He started to try to hug her but was afraid he was going to hurt her.
“I’m ... alive,” she said, “and as long as you don’t hit my arm” she said as he started to pull away “nothing really hurts on me.”
“What did you do? Get in here! Wait...” He then reached down and picked her up to carry her into the living room so she could rest on the couch.
“I’m trying to outdo you with the injuries and afflictions, I think...” she responded.
“Don’t say that.”
“I can laugh anything off now.”
“Seriously though, what happened?”
Seeing the nurse there out of the corner of her eye, she couldn’t explain the story to him. “It’s a long story, I wouldn’t want to bother you all...”
When Carter heard her say ’you all’, he knew the she didn’t want to tell him and anyone else, so Carter relented.
“Does anyone need anything?” Sloane asked.
The nurse got up. “It looks like you need something,” she said, walking over to Sloane. “Let me see what happened to you. What is this bandage for?”
“I was cut and I didn’t have anything for the bleeding while driving here.”
“Let me check the cut ... When did you cut yourself?”
“I think it was four or five this morning.”
“Oh,” the nurse said as she peeled the paper off to look at the injury. “It has been too long, but it should have had stitches.”
“What should be done for it then?” she asked.
The nurse looked over to Carter. “Where did you put my nursing bag?”
“It’s over in the washroom.”
“Let me get some creams for it and I’ll try to clean it out for you,” the nurse said as she got up to leave for the washroom.
Carter walked over to Sloane as the nurse left the room. Crouching down, Carter talked quietly and quickly. “Okay, what happened?”
“I broke into a military warehouse to get this vial of medication to cure AIDS patients.”
“Just the one?” Carter asked as the nurse started walking down the hall back to the living room, so she and Carter would have to cloud their conversation so the nurse wouldn’t know what they were talking about.
“Yes, just one.”
“What are you doing with it?”
“Giving it to you, Carter. That’s what I needed the needle for.”
“You can’t just give the one away.”
“I’m hoping for trace amounts from the vial to be enough to replicate it.”
“But --”
“Carter, I could be stopped anywhere and it could be taken from me, so I am going to do this so that at least someone benefits from my work.”
“I just feel strange that you’ll --”
“Ouch!” Sloane exclaimed when the nurse probed too deeply into the cut on her arm
“Miss, I’m sorry if this hurts you. Hold a pillow if it hurts you too much, but we’ve got to clean this thing out.”
Carter walked to the couch to be on her other side. “Here, hold my hand.”
“I’m not going to hold your hand for the pain.”
“You’re not going to hurt me, so just do it.”
She looked at him and realized that she didn’t have to fight him, the way she had been fighting everyone to do what she knew was right. The nurse watched her take Carter’s forearm with her right hand and she then was able to continue cleaning her gash.
“Whatever you did, you should be more careful,” the nurse finally said aloud. Carter looked away while she watched the nine-inch long metal tweezers the nurse used. The tweezers looked more like forceps as she tried to remove the dirt and scraps out of her arm. “You’ve even got a lot of glass in her, miss.”
“I know.” Carter stared at her while she explained this one to the nurse. “I fell and my hand went through a glass window, and a piece of the glass must have gone into my arm.”
She hoped she didn’t need to explain any more.
“Any small pieces of glass would be shards from the glass first breaking, wouldn’t it?”
“Probably,” the nurse answered. “You should just be more careful.”
“I’ll try,” she said, as she had to grab Carter’s arm again to hold back her reaction to the pain. Carter was even surprised at how much she was hurting him when she grabbed his arm. Even though he was in pain and wanted to pull away, he knew he couldn’t do that to her right now.
After about twenty-five minutes of her arm being cleaned and bandaged, the nurse finally spoke. “Remember to get the bandaging changed every few days, you can probably do it at home if you have the right bandaging. Now, on to why I was called here ... I’m sure I wasn’t called here for this, especially when I was asked to bring a syringe for a doctor.”
“No,” she said as she got up from the couch, checking to see if she could still move comfortably with her arm. “I’m the doctor and researcher of medicines for Carter, I was just injured on my way here.”
“What did you need me for?”
“Well, we needed your help for the next few days, and don’t worry, you’ll be paid generously for this. We really appreciate your assistance.”
The nurse was starting to get confused, not knowing what she needed to do. “Well, what do you need me for?”
Sloane took a deep breath to try to explain what they would need, because Carter didn’t even know. “I brought a medication that needs to be given to Mr. Donovan here, but it is a single injection. That’s why we needed the syringe to give him the medicine, because I couldn’t get it from where I got the medication.”
“Is this for his condition?”
“Yes, hopefully it will really help him. But it is a strong drug, and he will need more than this single injection.”
The nurse waited and checked herself before she spoke again. “...What more will he need?”
“This drug is an extremely powerful drug, it goes through every blood cell in his body, and it will probably be a slow process. But it has to do that so it can attack the virus-infected cells throughout the body. So ... because it is so strong and so long-lasting in his body ... it will probably make him unconscious for a few days.”
“It what?” Carter butted in.
“It has worked in a case study before in this same way, I am sure I already told you. You even have a copy of the case files, but I’m sure you haven’t gone over the case file too intently.” Sloane hoped this would be enough of an explanation to remind Carter that Shane, the first Agent, was given this medication and was unconscious for a few days because of it.
The nurse also looked confused. “Don’t worry, Nurse Miles,” she said, trying to appease her. “This has been used before and these are expected results. This is why I needed you here, and Carter will need a glucose I.V. if he is going to be out for more than a day.” She again glanced over to the nurse and to Carter to see if they were feeling any better with this idea, and then she continued. “I know a glucose I.V. can stay in a person for up to four days, and I think he’ll be okay before then. We just need someone to give the injection and the I.V. when he slips out of consciousness.”
“I’m not going to give him an injection when I don’t know what it is.”
“Fine, I can do that,” she answered. “But he’ll probably slip out within an hour. He’ll need something in him for the remaining time he’s out.”
“...What happens if he is unconscious longer than that? I’m afraid to watch an unconscious man when I don’t know what’s in him.”
“I can understand that. If day four comes and he is still under,” she pulled a business card out of her wallet then continued, “I’d suggest putting a food supplement into his I.V. to make sure he’s okay, then you can call me at my office and I can fly into town to see him immediately. I’ll take over anything from there.” The nurse seemed to be calming down with this idea, but Sloane could tell that she still seemed uneasy, she added, “And none of this is anything you have to worry about. I’m sure nothing will go wrong, but on the off-chance that something does, it won’t be your fault, it is just a request to give him the I.V. and make sure every once in a while that he is okay.”
“That’s all you need from me?”
“Yes.” she answered. She looked over to Carter to see if this was okay with him.
“And cash,” Carter finally said. “We’d pay you in cash up front.”
Since Carter paid her before Sloane arrived, the nurse accepted the offer. “You’re doing the injection though, right?”
“Yes.”
Nurse Miles went to get the syringe and Sloane turned to Carter. “I’m afraid as Hell I’m going to hurt you, Carter. And I’m sure I won’t be able to hit a vein.” She held and opened his arm to have a vein be more visible for plunging a needle in. “If I do this wrong, I could be working for a half -- wait -- how do I know if I even hit a vein? Or do I even need to hit a vein?”
“Here you go, Doctor,” the nurse said as she started to walk back in the room. Taking the syringe, Sloane tried to think of how to ask additional favors of her.
“I have two more favors to ask of you, nurse.”
“Yes?”
“The first is that I need this case overnighted to a coworker of mine, Mr. Kyle Mackenzie, because I think I’ll have trouble with getting the object on the plane. I was wondering if you could put your name on the package as the sender. We’ll pay for it, but I just want to make sure that it gets to him without it being taken away.”
“Sure I can do that, I guess. What was the other thing?”
“Well, I have been a bit shaky since I cut my arm open, and that is the arm I would use for getting the needle in Mr. Donovan. I know you don’t want to inject him, I could press the drug plunger once the needle is in, but it would be really helpful if you could get the needle into his vein so I can get the drug in him easily.”
“Yes, doctor, I know what your arm has been through, so I can understand why you’re shaky. I can take care of that. Let me set everything up with Mr. Donovan, and then you can get the drug into him.”
“Thank you so much. As soon as it’s in him, I can go with you once Carter’s unconscious to have the bottle overnighted to Mr. Mackenzie.”
“Sure,” Nurse Miles said as she turned around to start setting the syringe.
Carter immediately wanted to talk to Sloane, but he knew he didn’t have the time right at that moment, because she picked up her phone and speed dialed Kyle at Madison.
“This is Kyle at Madison. Who is this?”
“Kyle, it’s Sloane.”
“Hi! How are you? We’ve been wondering --”
“Kyle, I’m sorry, I don’t have the time to talk, but I have a huge request. Can you get to work tomorrow?”
“Sure, why?”
“I’ll meet you there, but there should be an overnight package coming to you tomorrow from a nurse in New York. It’s Mr. Donovan’s nurse, and there will be an empty drug container in it, and any trace amounts from what is in this container will help us in looking for a cure for AIDS.”
“You’re serious,” Kyle said jokingly to her.
“Kyle, I’m serious. And please don’t tell anyone I’ve called. We need to be able to pull anything from the container to work. There is medicine in the container that may help our research on AIDS. I had it sent in the nurse’s name to you from New York so someone tracking my name wouldn’t stop it. I’m in New York now, but I am going to try to get an immediate flight back to Seattle.”
“You think that hiding your name is necessary?”
“Don’t ask why, but yes.”
“Okay. But if you’re in New York you should check, because I think Mr. Madison is supposed to be in New York tonight for something, maybe you could get a flight back with him if you can get a hold of him.”
Sloane couldn’t believe this was a possibility. “Thank you for the news. Do you have my phone number at home and my cell number?”
“Sure do.”
“Then you have to call me tomorrow and we’ll meet up to work on this. And thank you.”
“You’re welcome.”
“I mean thank you thank you thank you.”
Kyle laughed. “And you’re welcome ... cubed.”
“Is everyone locking things up?”
“Yep...”
“Okay ... Can you get the front desk so I can check the plane schedule?”
“Got it chief. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Sloane listened to the phone line patch her over to the front desk. “Madison Pharmaceuticals. How may I direct your call?”
“Hi, this is Sloane Emerson, from Research.”
“Hello, Ms. Emerson.”
“I’m in New York returning some business materials, and I heard that Mr. Madison may be here with the plane, and I was wondering --”
“Mr. Madison should have arrived in New York right about now, and he should be there for a reception and returning this evening. Why do you ask?”
“I was wondering if there was any way I could get a hold of Mr. Madison or the pilot.”
“The pilot has a cellular phone when he flies with Mr. Madison, I could give you that.”
“Thank you very much. I’ve got a pen and paper.”
Carter watched Sloane as she jotted down Jim’s cell phone number and hung up the phone. She then furiously dialed Jim’s number to try to contact either one of them.
“Jim Anderson, Madison Pharmaceuticals.”
“Jim, it’s Sloane Emerson, hi.”
“Ms. Emerson, how are you?”
“I’m okay, but I need to know where you are and if Mr. Madison is still with you.”
“We just got off the plane, but we’re in New York. Did you need to talk to Mr. Madison?”
“Yes, if possible, and thank you so much.”
She heard the phone change hands. “Colin Madison.”
“Colin, hi, it’s Sloane.”
“Sloane darling, how is your week off?”
Sloane had to be frank. “I looked for AIDS research this week, and I almost died early this morning.”
“...Are you okay?”
“Yes, thank you, but now I’m stuck in New York because I was going to check on Mr. Donovan before I bought a ticket to go back to Seattle.”
“Don’t be silly, come with us -- as long as you’re willing to wait until the end of the night for me. I just got here.”
“Mr. Madison, that’s not a problem at all to wait, and thank you very much,” she said, and for the first time she was grinning widely. “Should I find a place and time to meet you?”
They decided to meet at the terminal Sloane and Jim usually left from in LaGuardia at eleven o’clock that evening, and they got off the phone. Knowing it was 4:00 in Seattle, she looked at the wall clock to verify that it was just before 8:00 in the evening. She had three hours left in New York before she had to go back home.
“I know there’s my car rental place across the street as well, but I have to catch a taxi to the airport after all of this happens, and we’ve got to get this vial to the carrier for overnighting it to Seattle.”
“But Doctor Emerson,” the nurse started, “Why don’t you take it on the plane with you?”
“I’m concerned they’ll take it from me at the airport,” she responded, looking to Carter for support. “This is why I was asking you to send it out.”
“I can send it as soon as the drug is in Mr. Donovan,” the nurse finally said.
Although she didn’t like not being there to make sure the drug container went in the package to Kyle, she thought it would be a smart idea if she was nowhere in sight when the nurse sent the package.
“Alright,” she said. “And thank you.” She walked over to the container and drained it into the syringe that could be pressed down once the needle was put in Carter’s arm.
“Carter, while she’s getting everything, I’m going to return the rental and bring my things back up here. I’m sure it’ll be tough to bring everything on the plane --”
“You can leave anything here, because I will visit you in Seattle in a week or two and I can bring it along...”
Sloane smiled and thanked him as she left his home and raced to return the rental across the street. She then came back with her suitcase, bag of dirty clothes and cooler that Carter said he was going to keep. “I’ll repack this so that I just have the cooler to bring with me,” she said as the nurse turned to her and said she was about to put the needle in his arm, leaving her enough time to send the container to Kyle in Seattle. Giving her a business card with Kyle’s name on it, she asked her to not write Carter’s name or Sloane’s on the package.
Then she waited for the nurse and sat next to Carter.
“This is what I need, right?” Carter said to her. She could only hope that it was what he needed; all she knew she could say was, “Yes,” She then put her arm out for Carter to squeeze her if the needle hurt when it was inserted into one of his veins.
Carter moved slightly and his breathing changed when the needle went in. “It’s in, Doctor Emerson,” the nurse said as she went over and grabbed the container and the business card.
“Ask for a written verification from the person that you give this to that the bottle is in the container, please, and keep the receipt. They can bill the company.”
“I will, and I’ll be back,” Nurse Miles said as she left Carter’s home.

“This is it this time,” she said.
“Yeah, I hope so,” he responded.
“I’d stay with you if I never got this vial.”
“... I know,” he answered.
“I love you, Mister Carter Donovan.”
“I love you, miss Sloane Emerson.”
And as she heard those words she slid the plunger down slowly so all of the medicine went into his bloodstream.

###

She worked to make sure everything was out of the tube and into his arm while he asked, “Was that how much I was supposed to have?”
“Thanks for asking now, but the amount measured in the vial was the same amount that was listed in Shane’s records when they injected him.”
“So ... now I just wait to pass out?”
“Carter, I’m sorry, I don’t know --”
“How long does it take me?”
“I don’t know.”
“And we can only guess how long I’ll be out.”
“Depending on the strain you had, it may take longer, even though you were battling it well. So I couldn’t guess.”
“And ... this is the right thing to do.”
She could hear the hesitation in his voice. “It was the only thing we could do.”
“I didn’t really feel sick.”
“Did you have to change your diet?”
“Yes,”
“Did you have to stop drinking?”
“Yes.”
“Did you lose your ability to work unless I threatened leaving Quentin?”
“Yeah...”
“Do you want to make love to me?”
“You’re being cruel, I get it.”
“Carter, I want you to live, and I don’t want you to have to settle.”
“I didn’t want you to take all of the cure to save just me.”
“I might not have been able to replicate the serum. And it probably would have been taken away from me if I kept it. This way I know at least someone can be saved.”
She could tell Cater was getting groggy already, and she said, “I want to see you as soon as you get out of this.”
“I know what I’m doing as soon as I get out of this.”
“You’re going to the doctor to be tested.”
“I know that...”
“Repeatedly.”
“I know, angel...”
“It doesn’t matter what you’re doing after that.”
“I’m seeing you.”
“Don’t worry about then. Think about right now.”
“I’m ... really ... tired...”
Sensing his drowsy numbness, she could only think of one thing he should do before he went under. “I love you, Carter,” she said as she reached down to give him a kiss. She held this kiss with him for about twenty seconds, until she could feel his lips no longer responding to hers.

###

Leaving her work phone and cellular number in Seattle for the nurse, Sloane got the written verification and the receipt for the package. In packing a few of her necessary belongings into the cooler instead of bringing the suitcase, she even found a way to wrap the syringe well, throwing the needle away from Carter’s injection. “Maybe there would be enough to run tests off of it,” she thought as she finished her packing, before glancing over to Carter and saying good-bye to the nurse.

###

Ahead of the game by saving money on a trip back. Sloane felt a bit better that the private plane was in New York for the evening. All she had to carry on was a cooler, her briefcase and her purse.
Things were starting to look good.
Walking toward the carry-on x-ray checkpoint, she thought that this was the checkpoint she had to go through before she would be in the clear, but at least she had gotten Carter the medication that would hopefully save his life. She made a point to not bring the needle from the syringe to the airport, so she should be set. Walking up to drop her belonging off on the revolving belt, a uniformed man walked up form the side of the room to watch the people checking the merchandise. As soon as her material got under the x-ray, the security agent in charge of the x-ray machine asked, “Is this your merchandise?”
Sloane could feel the weight of a rock drop in her stomach when she heard them ask. “Um, yes.”
“Come over here, miss,” she responded as they walked to a corner table and she was expected to follow.
’Oh God, oh God, oh God’ was all that raced through her mind as they pulled her to the side with all of her belongings. She knew she didn’t have any metal on her, because she even left her gun at Carter’s because she couldn’t carry it in the airport if they were checking. Her mind raced to remember what she brought: her ammunition was at Carter’s place with the gun, so was the flashlight, all blades were left at her home in Seattle, her computer was emptied out of any data anyone might need, and there were no weapons in any of her cases.
“Come here, ma’am,” the uniformed male officer said to her.
“Yes?” she answered, still having no idea of what they called her for and having no idea of what they were looking for.
“We found a container in this box,” the uniformed man said to her, pointing to the cooler. “Could you open it for us?”
Sloane opened the cooler.
“Toward your corner there was a container. Could you pull it out for us?”
She started to reach in her cooler and realized they must have seen the cure container, she hoped that couldn’t have been it, so she responded as she was reaching, “What was it, sir?”
“It was a circular container. It looked like a medicine container or something that would hold a needle. Could you pull it out for us?”
At this point she would have to start coming up with any reason as to why she needed the container. “Sir, I am a doctor, a researcher of medical products for a prominent pharmaceutical company, and I --”
“Ma’am, we need to look over the product you’re carrying. We believe it will be a security risk. Please remove it and hand it to us.”
“Sir,” she attempted to say as she was still fishing through her clothing to delay removing the syringe to give away, “my company needs the materials in this case for work at our laboratories.” She pulled out the syringe as she completed her sentence.
“If your company needed these materials, you would have paperwork to safely transport them on an airplane,” the uniformed officer said to her, reaching for the container. “And if this container had medical purposes, it would have to have been refrigerated. A cooler wouldn’t keep it cold enough.” He then tugged at the syringe and ripped it from her hands. The gentleman then said as he was turning around to walk away, “And if you wanted the container, I am sure they sell them at all medical supply stores.”
The uniformed officer then walked to the trashcan to throw it away, throwing an old coffee cup filled with coffee on top of it in the trash.
Sloane just stood there, staring at what he had done. The female security checkpoint guard then said to her, “Thank you. You can go now.”
Wanting to cry, she then tried to get her remaining belongings back into the cooler so she could go to the Madison plane. Sloane knew this had been planned. So she decided that even though she lost the syringe, there’s a chance the container is okay because it was shipped. It was a good thing she decided to use the drug on Carter, because it would have been taken away from her anyway. When she finally walked down to the right door to get to the Madison plane, she thought enough about what had happened and realized that if they wanted proof that the cure was in that sample, they would have kept the syringe container to test the remaining contents.
“But if they wanted to remove any evidence of their proof, they would take the syringe container,” she thought, while she waited for Jim and Colin to appear at the plane that was just moved there. Her mind kept going from one cover-up to another. “I can’t implicate anyone and I have no proof that there was any wrongdoing by the government here. Both of the agents died with cause, because of a car crash and in the line of fire, the government made explanations for these deaths and covered the truth up. Claiming that it was a mugging was the legal way they could try to kill the man I love. The security officer at the airport even claimed the ’security risk’ excuse to pull my proof from me.”
Then she tried to remember as she stood in front of the plane that even though there were all these excuses and cover ups the government used to conceal their lies, for once she was able to exploit them just for one moment, with information and skill to get something back from them.
It almost cost her life, but she was able to do it.
If what she injected into Carter was actually the cure.
Now she started to worry again. What if she gave him sugar water? What if she gave him a toxin? Why would the government place these cures together in a bin in the middle of a warehouse in Pennsylvania?
“Sloane!” she heard from behind her. She recognized Colin Madison’s voice as he continued. “I’m in such a good mood, we can celebrate on the flight back to --”
Colin Madison just then walked around her and saw her bruises and her bandaged arm.
“What happened to you?”
“Mr. Madison, it’s -- hi Jim,” she said as she saw the pilot walking up behind Colin.
Colin asked again. “Were you in an accident? What happened to you?”
She never once even thought about what to tell anyone about her injuries. “I ... I ... It’s just been a long week.”
“Well, my dear, I thought having you on this plane would be a good excuse to have a bottle of champagne, so maybe I’ll break it open for your recovery.”
“Thanks ... I think I could use it tonight,” she answered.
Jim glanced at her as Colin walked toward the plane first. “Are you okay, Ms. Emerson?”
All she did was wink to Jim to get him to lead the way so they could go back to their homes.

Colin gave Sloane a ride to her apartment complex in his limo after drinking champagne with her the entire flight back home. Hearing him laugh made her laugh too, and after holding back on drinking for such a short amount of time, the drinking helped too. Drinking with her boss on the flight, she felt like she was giggling like a schoolgirl, and she completely forgot about the pain in her arm or the scratches on her arms, legs and cheek.
She arrived at her home close to midnight when Colin’s limo brought her home. She stumbled into her apartment and tried to look to see if anything had changed. Everything seemed in order, she thought, but then again, she didn’t much care anymore if anything was changed. Emptying her cooler’s collection of clothes, she just started stripping for sleep, being cautious of the bandages on her arm.
She intentionally dropped herself back first onto her bed. Not knowing how to quickly fall asleep, she decided to think about the place Nuanchan told her about. Immediately the beach came to her mind, and this time she was laying entirely in the water, and she had only a piece of light gauze covering her body. She felt perfectly relaxed. The water felt beautiful and the breeze hit her so softly that she felt perfect. Lifting her head from touching the water over the sand, she looked over to the ocean where the sun had almost completely set.
No birds were flying overhead, but she did hear sand being kicked a short distance from her. She turned her head to see what the noise was from, and she saw the same person walking by the water. It was a man, she could tell from his hair and his pants were rolled up and he was just standing in the middle of the sand kicking it around.
After watching him for a minute, she finally thought she should find out why he was there.
“Hey!” she yelled toward him. He looked up. “Come here.” she half-shouted to make sure he could hear her over the tide coming up the shore.
The person started walking over to her, and just then she realized she didn’t know what she was wearing. Feeling like she was wearing nothing, she looking down to see that she was covered in a light fabric and that nothing was exposed. Looking back at this person, he came up to about 5 feet from her; he then stopped, not speaking.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“Just felt like walking,” he answered.
“But ... you weren’t invited,” she said to him.
“Yes I was,” he said.
This confused her. She turned her head to think about what he could have meant by that, and after less than ten seconds she turned her head again to ask him another question. He decided to start walking away.
And that didn’t bother her, and she sat there, in the water, until she fell asleep in the real world, so she could go to work the next morning.

###

When she was ready to leave for work at 8:00 in the morning Saturday, she knew that the package wouldn’t arrive at Madison before 10:00, so she thought she’d try to drive by Kyle’s house to see if she saw lights on or if he was home. Driving by his house at around 8:30, she saw his car and lights on downstairs, so she walked to the front door and gently tapped on it. Kyle opened the door.
“Hi Kyle, it’s me.”
“What are you doing here? And what happened to you?”
“I almost died this week, and I figured it would be too early for a package to come, so I thought I’d see if you wanted breakfast.”
“It’s nice to see you’re flippant about almost dying. I want to know what really happened, and you’re having breakfast here. Come in.”
As she walked in, she whispered to Kyle that she didn’t really want to talk about her injuries to his family, if he wanted to tell them that would be fine, but she was not up for telling strangers. He understood. The kids were at sports practices and Elisa was about to leave for her mall job, so they would be alone in a few minutes. Elisa was going to help clean up breakfast when she saw Sloane.
“Hi, how are --” then Elisa saw her when she turned around, “what happened to you?”
“Ran my hand through some glass and cut it. Otherwise I’ll live. How are you? Are you going to work now?”
“I figured that if Kyle can work so much, I should start working too,” She said, grinning.
“Let me help with dishes then.”
“No, I’m just about done.” She turned to Kyle to finish her conversation. “You’ll have to clean your mess yourselves,” she said, grinning as she wiped her hands on a towel before walking away.
Kyle demanded that Sloane sit, then poured some coffee for the both of them. “So what the Hell happened to you?”
“I fell into a window, the glass broke and sliced my arm.”
“You’re a dog. Did the glass scrape your jawbone, hands and arms too?”
“Don’t forget my knees.”
“I can’t see your knees, I’m sorry I forgot that part.”
They both smiled as Sloane drank her coffee.
“So really, that’s tricky glass there, managing to get you all scraped like that.”
“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Yes I would.”
“What if I said aliens attacked me?”
“Then I’d know you were lying ... and a dog.”
“What if I said the government did this to me?”
“Then you’d sound more realistic, but I’d still think you were nuts.”
“So why would I tell you anything; you wouldn’t even believe my alien story...”
“Seriously, do you want to tell me about this package I’m supposed to be getting this morning?”
“Yeah ... but give me your phone.”
“Why?”
“Because I want their delivery people to know that we are waiting there for this package, so they better deliver it.” She started dialing the number. She even pulled out the receipt so she could verify the tracking number for the package they were supposed to receive.
Kyle wanted to know why she was injured, but5 he also wanted to know what the package contained. After she got off the phone to confirm the package delivery he asked, “So you gonna tell me?”
“So you going to give me breakfast?”
“What, you want me to cook for you?”
“I suggested going out to eat and you made me stay here.”
Grumbling, Kyle got up and said, “What do you want?”
“I’ll settle for some toast, mister ’Kyle I-don’t-want-to-cook Mackenzie.”
“I’ve got glazed biscuits and a doughnut or two too if you’d like.”
“Ah, you have kids, Kyle.”
“What does that mean?”
“That means you’d only have that in your house if you had kids.”
“Don’t give me Hell...”
“Yeah, I hear giving kids things with a ton of sugar makes them tired and puts them to sleep at night...”
“They burn the energy at that age, and I don’t want to hear it from you.” Kyle said before he brought the breads to the table. “So are you going to tell me what the story is about the past week?”
“I went a bit of a distance because I heard of a place with medication for AIDS patients.”
“Like the billion places you saw on the net?”
“Well, this one was unconventional, and I think it was more effective. I see you looking at me, don’t ask me why I know this about this source, just trust me. So, I had to get a sample of it so I could learn from it.”
“So did you just buy a sample?”
“The makers there said they wouldn’t give it to me, and when I tried to take it, they got angry.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean they didn’t want me to take it, so they tried to hurt me to stop me.”
“... You’re kidding me, right?”
“No. This is why I look bad. I got scraped up.”
“So you got some of this medicine? That’s the package coming to me?”
“It’s the container inside the package, actually.”
“What?”
“There’s next to nothing in there, but I’m hoping there’s enough there so we can run tests from it to figure out a solution to any of the AIDS problems.”
“I hope you think it’ll help us, ’cause I’m thinking...”
“I’m thinking that I was attacked for what I got here, so I’m really hoping we can get something out of this too. And more importantly --”
“More importantly what?”
“More importantly I think I’m going to have such a sugar buzz from all these glazed Danish rolls that I’ll never get to sleep tonight...” she said, trying to change the subject so she wouldn’t have to explain her uncertainty or the potential possibilities.

After picking up the package at 10:30 in the morning from the front of their office complex, the two of them headed straight back to the lab to start working on it. She tried to keep the container away from Kyle to confirm that it was just in a plain steel container and that there was no U.S. government label on it to give anything away to him. She first started calling New York to see if there were any changes to Carter’s condition, but was only able to get a hold of nurse Miles an hour after she called and she only verified that his health condition was very stable, for whatever drug she gave him.
They extracted as much as they could and tried to run tests on the medication, and she tried to gear Kyle in any direction possible toward looking for traces that this medication could be a cure, or at least a vaccine.
“I hate to break this to you...”
“What, Kyle?”
“I think it was supposed to remain refrigerated or something, because it seems that some of the parts of the compounds that even stil exist here are entirely dead.”
“Oh. ...Well, there has to be something different in this, or usable.”
“I don’t even know what I’m looking at,” he answered. “None of this makes much sense to look at.”
She wondered if it not being refrigerated destroyed the cure, and if too much time had passed from when she pulled it from the refrigerated bin after getting it to Carter, and the drug needed to be kept cool to remain active. A side of her internally became hysterical, because she didn’t want to force Carter to slip into a coma that wouldn’t cure him and he would never get out of. “Wait, Kyle, let me see this,” she said, fuming internally as she tried to make sense of the news she’d just received.
It then occurred to her: it would stand to reason that he wouldn’t have been knocked unconscious if the medication didn’t work effectively, so it must have still been okay. Only when she realized this was she able to look in the microscope to investigate what she was able to view. “What is this?”
“I don’t know. It looks like this, but it doesn’t make sense...”
Hearing Kyle scribbling, she turned around to see that he was writing diagrams on a piece of paper to show her what he saw. “You see,” he told her, “these atoms were locked together, and I guess they could work to counteract the one part of the virus, but I don’t understand why this part is apparently dead over here.” He pointed over to the lame part of the sample he had attempted to draw.
“But wait... Kyle...” she looked back into the microscope to check out what she was seeing, “there’s another part to it that you’re not drawing. That’s a part ... come here and look at this...”
Kyle reached over and leaned in front of her so he could see through the microscope again. “Wait, that’s a part of the virus. What’s the point...”
She could see that there was not enough information there to be able to generate a cure again, because it was probably destroyed by it not being refrigerated and shipped across the country. But maybe there was another part of this drug that she could use for their AIDS research.
Kyle thought the same thing and he came to a similar conclusion and said it aloud first. “If that’s a part of the virus, the way these atoms are attached to it knocked out the possibility of it becoming viable and something that can spread in the body, maybe this is something that we could somehow adapt for vaccine research.”
“The way this point is attached here --” Sloane said as she pointed at Kyle’s drawings, “that’s something we never thought of before.”
“I don’t think we ever would have thought of it.”
“Maybe we could...”
“Maybe we could generate a spectrum of samples based on this compound hierarchy; maybe then we could have a workable test group for a vaccine.”
“Wow.”
“What?”
“It just seems...”
“It just seems that we’re on to something.” Kyle turned around and started making rough drawings to see what other elements could work with their old research.
“And Kyle, the part of the virus they have inactivated, it’s a part --”
“A part we’ve never tried before?”
“Right, but it’s a part that all of the mutations of the virus have in common, and it’s something we never picked up on.”
“Considering that HIV was an original strain and has developed into so many mutations, there would have to be a base.”
“But Kyle, why did we never look into this part of the virus to come up with a solution?”
“I don’t know ... I guess we just weren’t looking in the right places.”
“Well, I almost died getting this information, but maybe this is the only way we’d be able to open those doors.”

###

Sunday morning she rested. But Monday she came into work, with her arm in a sling and new bandages on it. Everyone had questions about how she had been hurt, and she split her story. To the men she told that her love affair with a man got abusive, and when they got concerned she’d told them to be her alias if anyone she dated is reported dead, because then they’d know she was just pulling their leg. To the women she said she got drunk at a party at a bar in Chicago and fell through a glass window, and that was why her arm was cut.
She figured that with the women she would put some truth, somehow, into the story.
But once everyone was in, Kyle and Sloane had generated test runs for a few more verifiable compounds for animal testing for a possible vaccine. People were amazed with their results, and right after lunch they had workable samples that they could have generated in three days to test on assorted animals for how much they would react to the virus after the fact.
With this news, people wanted to celebrate.
Amidst all of this good news, Sloane gave a call and left a message at Carter’s answering machine for the nurse to call her back if there were any problems with Carter’s condition, because she hadn’t heard anything and she would come to his home Tuesday if there was still a problem.
Nurse Miles and Carter sat there, listening to her message when she called. Carter had already gotten dressed and just got back from a doctor’s appointment, where his health appeared close to perfect and there were no traces of HIV in his system. He made the deal with Nurse Miles to not tell Sloane that he was conscious yet, because he had already scheduled a visit to Seattle to surprise her on his recovery and celebrate with her.
Having his luggage already packed and a plane ticket to leave for Seattle in about three hours, Carter made the deal with the nurse to have her call Sloane from his place and tell her that his vitals appear to be strong and he was starting to move at this stage, so she felt he would be regaining consciousness shortly so Sloane doesn’t need to come by. “Stress to Ms. Emerson that you will call her when I come to,” Carter implored of her, and she readily agreed, because she liked the idea of her patient romantically surprising Sloane.
What Sloane didn’t know was that Carter copied her key when he visited her as a friend, so he could surprise her now when she came home from work.
As soon as she hung up from calling Carter and his line was free, he called Madison’s front office.
“Madison Pharmaceuticals. How may I direct your call?”
“Hello, I am a friend of Sloane Emerson’s, and I know she just took some time off, but I didn’t know how much vacation time she had left.”
“Three weeks sir, but she was injured when she came to work today.”
Carter then realized that she might just be able to take a sick day instead of vacation time. “Okay, I was just checking. Thank you very much.”
“Did you want to leave a --” the receptionist stopped herself when she realized that the caller had hung up the phone.
Carter hoped that if she couldn’t take a sick day she could take another vacation day, if she wanted to spend any more time with him, now that he was back.

###

Colin got a phone call in the morning from Sloane once she was hopeful about the drug finds.
“Colin, I can’t say it’s a guarantee, but there seems to be a really good chance with this.”
“You developed this today?”
“Well, it wasn’t all me --”
“You did this on your week off?”
“I never said that...”
“You talk a lot when you’re drinking...”
“I didn’t say I found this, Colin.”
“Then what did you say?”
“I was saying that Kyle and I looked into a compound with a new aspect of the virus to detach for use with a virus, so we’re going to run tests almost immediately on possible vaccines.”
“So you didn’t create this?”
“Colin, with the vaccines, Kyle and I were both working on this, And for the original plans, a lot of the staff helped come up with phenomenal ideas.”
“That sounds great. Now how is your arm doing? I know you were pampering that thing on the flight back.”
“It’s hard, attempting to shower when your arm can’t be near water, but I’ll see how it goes. Thanks for asking.”
“I just hope you’re feeling better, and the vaccine possibilities is good news. Don’t make me have to have another party at my house for you guys...”
“Don’t make us work so hard to be pampered by you...”
They both felt better by the phone call and Colin immediately asked his receptionist to have deli sandwiches sent to the lab for their accomplishments.
In the middle of their delivered impromptu lunch from Colin, and after Carter had left for his surprise visit to Sloane, Ms. Emerson received a phone call from Nurse Miles.
“Sloane Emerson.”
“Ms. Emerson, it’s Nurse Miles, I’m returning your call.”
“Hello, I was wondering if there was any report on Mr. Donovan.”
“I know you’d be growing concerned because tomorrow evening would be four days, but I wanted to let you know that although Mr. Donovan has not regained total consciousness yet, I have noticed his motion though.”
“What do you mean?”
“Usually when someone is unconscious they are also motionless. I have detected in the past few hours when I have come to check on him, that his arms are moving and I see his legs move under the blankets sometimes. This is a very positive sign, Ms. Emerson, because it will probably mean he’ll be up within the next twenty-four hours.”
“That’s a good sign...”
“Yes it is. And I wanted to let you know that as soon as Mr. Donovan gets out of it and I remove the I.V. from him, I’ll call you to let you know.”
“Thank you, Nurse Miles.”
“No problem, Ms. Emerson. And I’ll call you soon.”
They both hung up their phones, and Nurse Miles smiled after she let the receiver hang up, proud of herself at how convincing she must have sounded.


chapter 20

The Denouement

Kyle received a phone call from the medical laboratories on the other side of the complex and he was able to report the news to Sloane in person.
“I wanted to tell you, I just got a call from the medical engineering lab at the other side of the complex, and they said they’d be able to generate the list of compounds in less than a day.”
“Really? That’s great. Do we have test subjects?”
“Yeah, they finished research on some for other drugs the company still had to test for weeks and the subjects are still fine, so we could use them. And I hope I didn’t overstep my boundaries, but I told the engineers to start generating samples of all of the compounds we handed off to them before.”
“Wow, that’s great, Kyle, and no, I’m not mad. You know how I think and sometimes you know more about what we should be doing around here. Thanks a lot.”
“No problem...”
“You know, I’ve got to let Mr. Madison know that you do so much more around here, so maybe we’ll give you more credit for our work...”
“I learn half the stuff from you...”
“You know the stuff now, though, and you take charge of a lot of this too. I think you were saying things about this potential virus just as I was starting to only think them, so you’re taking a lot of this in your own hands too.”
Kyle smiled. “I just don’t want you saying anything that’s not true to anyone.”
“Do you think I’d do that to anyone?”
“No, I know...”
“Then if you know what to do about this, take the next steps to start tests for the samples. I’ll get to work on ... whatever I can do with a bum arm...” She turned around to work on cleaning up files and meeting with people while Kyle started to hear the testing process for the potential vaccines.
In her office after an hour, Julie rang her.
“Ms. Emerson, Tyler Gillian is here to see you.”
Thinking that she really didn’t have a reason to not see him, she thanked Julie and told her to let Tyler in.
“Hey tiger, how are -- what did you do to you arm?”
“I fell on my week off, and hi.”
“Yeah, I hear you took time off, where did you go?”
“I went out with a friend to get away. What did you stop in for?”
“... I just figured that I hadn’t see you in a few weeks and I should just stop by and say hello, I know you had to be missing me by now...”
“You’re a funny man, Tyler. No, I’m fine, and it’s nice to know that the lobby groups haven’t shred you in the week I haven’t seen you... And wait -- I just thought of something -- the book should be back from the printer this week, I think it will be on the shelves around the country this Friday. Is that something you want to hype?”
“You know tiger, I was actually going to mention it to you. Think we can run a press conference about it this Thursday, the day before it’s released?”
“Sure. Let me know what you want said, and I’ll be able to do it”
“Thanks, kid...” Tyler said as he was turning around to leave. Before he left her room, he said, “Are you doing okay?”
“I guess, but why?”
“You’re looking a little beat from your time off. Wasn’t your vacation supposed to be relaxing for you?”
“It must have been except for my arm, but thanks for asking.”
With that Tyler left the room and Julie knocked shortly afterward, and Sloane told her to come in.
“You actually took a visit from Tyler?”
“Hard to believe but yes, I did.”
“Did he have any fires for ’Ms. Emerson the Fireman’ to put out?”
“No ... he mentioned the book release this week and asked if I’d do a press release about it Thursday, the day before it’s release.”
“Are you doing it?”
“Of course. It needs press coverage for it to sell. I even told Tyler to send what I should say at it.”
“Are you going to say what P.R. wrote?”
“I don’t see why not ... this is his ball game, so I can be the right ’puppet’ for him...”
Julie laughed and as she was leaving to close the door, and she told her to leave the door open in case anyone wanted to come by to talk to her.
But very shortly after Tyler came by at 3:00, she received a call from someone at The Renaissance Hotel.
“Sloane Emerson.”
“Ms. Emerson, this is Edward Rogers from The Renaissance Hotel. We needed to give you a message to come to the Hotel here, because we have some news and something to give you.”
“What is it?”
“We can’t disclose the information to you over the phone, we were just told to tell you to come here.”
Sloane was once again visibly upset. “I’ll be there as soon as I can get off of work, thank you very much.”
“Thank you, Ms. Emerson.”
Looking at her watch, she saw that it was only 3:45, and she usually stayed until after dinner. She was afraid to find out what was at the hotel, but she needed to know immediately, so she started working on a plan to get her out of work a few minutes early. She packed everything up in her office so she would be ready to move as soon as she cleared her way with the rest of the lab.
Walking out of her office and feeling distraught, she made a point to look more disheveled. Julie was the first to see her.
“Are you okay, Ms. Emerson?”
“I ... I think so.”
“Maybe you’re hurt more than you think, you still have all these cuts and scrapes and a bandaged arm.” Howard walked toward them as Julie was trying to help her.
“Yeah, I guess I was just trying to work through everything...”
“Like you always do,” Howard chimed in.
Kyle walked over when he saw the gathering. “You came in here all day Saturday, just get out of here now and get some rest.”
“...Maybe I will. Thank you. And Kyle, if you need anything for the vaccine, just go ahead and do it, because I’m sure you’d do the same things I would.” When she finished her words she curled her arm more tightly into her torso and turned to get her belongings from her office so she could leave.

Carter sat in a room at The Renaissance Hotel, after paying someone from the hotel to call him to tell him that Sloane Emerson had arrived at the hotel. He gave them instructions that when Sloane came in and gave her name they were to give her a key to the room he had reserved for the evening. Figuring that she never used the bathtub with jets when she stayed there before, this would be a good place to surprise her so she could know that he was fine. “A week ago, I couldn’t drink this,” he thought as he leaned back on the couch with the bottle of champagne he bought in a bucket with ice from the community ice machine. He held the champagne glasses he brought from New York, waiting for her to come to him.

Sloane sped to The Renaissance Hotel in record time; her anxiety was taking over and she was getting more nervous and more scared with every passing light she had to go through to get there. Parking in the edge of the visitor parking, she almost ran into the hotel and went straight to the main lobby desk.
“Hello, excuse me my name is Sloane Emerson, I was told there was something for me here and I had to come here.”
The gentleman behind the counter said, “Yes, ma’am, just one moment please.” He then went to the back wall to get a hotel card for her. Walking back, he handed her the card.
“What ... what is this for?”
“It’s for room 323 here. You need to go there.”
She stared at him blankly for a minute. The man behind the counter finally said, “If there is a problem, you can call from your room.”
Stepping backwards for a moment, she had no idea what was supposed to be in this room. All she was able to think was that someone had died, but she didn’t know why she had to meet in a hotel room to hear it. She went to the nearest elevator, hit the button for the third floor, and waited until the elevator stopped moving up and the doors opened to her floor. Walking out, she found a gold sign on the wall that told her which direction to go to find her room.
Carter received a phone call from the front desk, per his request, when Sloane Emerson took the key. He tried to decide what he should do, remain seated or stand there waiting for her. After two minutes he made sure he had the ice bucket of champagne on the table alone, he placed the glasses down around it, and almost held one of the glasses until he heard the plastic key slide through the lock.
Not seeing anything in the front hall, she walked forward until she saw Carter standing on the opposite site of the room with the champagne.
Carter could see her eyes turn to saucers, but for once in the past few months it was for a good reason. She stood silently and her mouth started to open, amazed that he was standing right there, in the same room as her.
Carter finally quietly said, “Hi.”
He could see her, eyes still wide open, starting to smile and almost laugh. “Hi...?” she answered.
“I told you the first thing I’d do is come and see you,” he said as he made one step forward, leaving the glass he was holding on the table.
Sloane almost ran toward him and threw her good arm around him. He grabbed her to hold her.
“Ouch,” she said silently until Carter leaned back and saw he had to be careful of her cut arm, still bandaged. He pulled away far enough to grab her shoulders, then leaned in to kiss her.
Trying to get words in while they were kissing, she managed to ask, “When did you wake up?”
“About dawn.”
“I called the nurse...”
“Nurse Miles tested me; I was tested again at the hospital. Nothing is in me. And Nurse Miles knew I was coming so she said that I was still out, so that I could surprise you. We were even there listening to your call today when you left the message.”
Laughing harder now and overwhelmed that he had come through with a clean bill of health and surprised her, Carter kept kissing her, working his way around each side of her neck, trying to unbutton her blouse.
“Why didn’t you just come to my place?”
“I figured that you needed a little honeymoon too...”
“Carter, we’re not married.”
“But in spirit ... aren’t we already?”
Sloane could only laugh when she heard every answer he had for her.
“Besides, I wanted you to be able to take a bath when I was here before, but you refused, so now you have all the space in the world.”
“It’s a deal...”
“Now you said you hurt your knees to get the antidote. Let me see.”
“What, you want me to take --”
“Yes...”
“Carter,” she started to answer, “You’re supposed to be removing my pants yourself.”
Carter unbuttoned her pants and started to slide them off of her as he pushed her to the bed. “Now, I have one question for you,” he asked.
“What’s that?”
“What should we do first, have champagne or make love?”
“What? Um ... I --”
“We’ll do both,” he said as he got up to uncork the champagne. She heard a loud pop and some of the champagne started coming out of the top, and Carter moved the bottle over her stomach, so it started spilling on her waist.
“Ah, that’s cold! What are you --”
She had to stop herself when Carter got on his knees on the bed and started licking the champagne off of her. “I have one request for you.”
“What?”
“Would you keep talking to me when we’re making love?”
“What?”
“I know --”
“That’s strange, why?”
“Because I want to hear your voice. It’s beautiful.”
“...What should I talk about? Michael Jordan and our basketball team”
“I don’t care, I just love your voice... Michael Jordan? You don’t know anything about sports, how did you know about that?”
“It’s everywhere in the news, Carter, I couldn’t not know it. But what are you going to be saying?” she asked, trying to get Carter to talk as well.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to, I’ll be too busy kissing you and biting you.”
“Biting me?”
“You are very edible, you know...”
Carter started kissing her lips and she locked onto him.

###

An hour later, Carter had to ask. “Should I start a bath now?”
“You’re killing me.”
“You know, clean us off, make us presentable.”
“Why, are we going somewhere?”
“You’re not leaving until I check out of here near noon tomorrow.”
“Carter, I’ve got to go to work.”
“You can take a sick day.”
She thought for a moment about how she left early because she didn’t look well, and people were worried about her arm. “Well, I...”
“Do you ever take a sick day?”
“I hate you, Carter.”
“No you don’t.”
“I know. And yes, I’ll probably call in sick tomorrow; I can get away with it. But I can’t get my arm wet in the tub.”
“No problem. I’ll get a pulley from the front desk to hold your arm up.”
Starting to laugh again, she had to answer, “But really, I also need to replace the bandages.”
“Do we do that tomorrow or today?”
“I can do it tomorrow...”
“Then you’ll do it on your way home at lunch,” he said as he got up to start the bath water.

They spent the evening together drinking champagne and sitting in the bathtub, and after they both slept the night through Carter woke up first and had a chance to watch her sleep. She started to open her eyes and suddenly got nervous and looked over to Carter.
“What’s wrong, angel?”
“It’s seven-thirty -- so I can call work to tell Madison I’m going to be sick today.”
“Yes, and you might want to tell them you turned the ringer off in your home so you haven’t heard any calls coming and you don’t plan to take calls.”
“Good idea. But I’ll call a little later, when people might actually be there to take my call...”
“Okay. How are you feeling this morning?”
“Great. It was wonderful to sleep. What do you want to do today?”
“I thought we’d look for homes.”
“What? What for?”
“You probably need to look for a place where your monthly rent actually goes toward you owning something.”
“But I don’t know if I can afford...”
“It doesn’t hurt to look around, does it?”
“...I suppose not.”
They spent the afternoon looking at homes from real estate guides. The best place they found was a large condo by the water on the tenth floor. “I really like the place, Carter, but --”
“But it’s really close for a commute for you to work. You wouldn’t even need to drive half the year because you could walk along the water.”
“Yeah, I’m not arguing the place, I really like it, the view is great too, and I love the water here. I can’t afford it though.”
“It’s just something to look at though, so you have an idea of what you’re looking for whenever you can afford a place.”
Carter still had more devious plans in mind, because he had meetings planned with supervisors a few days this week for him to take over the philosophical books section and possibly be their west coast connection for their corporation. Because he had been paying a hefty mortgage on his flat in New York, he would have about a hundred thousand dollars when the place was sold that he could dump into a home for the two of them
He didn’t know if it would all work out at Quentin, and he didn’t know if she would like the idea of them living together. He knew he had plans to marry the woman, but he had to make sure everything would work out for him first.

###

That Tuesday afternoon, Carter had to say good-bye to her yet again. They stood at the drop-off area at the airport, and Although Sloane felt miserable, all Carter could say to her was, “Don’t worry angel. The worst is over, and the government hasn’t bugged you, so I’m sure they don’t even know it was you there. The book is done and out this week, and I’m sure Quentin will want me to come out this way for other business.”
“Carter, I hear that my boss wants to have a little party this Saturday for the lab and the chemical engineering department to celebrate the book. Is there any chance Quentin could use this excuse for you to come out to Madison for it?”
“Have your boss send me a memo and a phone call about it, and we’ll see if I can ’extract’ the trip from Quentin.”
“...Why is it that you always make me happy? I can’t be with you and not be in a good mood.”
“I don’t know angel, but you do the same to me ... I love you.” Carter started to walk away with his bag. “Tell your boss to contact us about it if the party is going to take place.”
“Got it ... I love you...” she said as Carter walked in the gate for his flight back to New York.

Knowing that leaving her arm bent as it healed would cause the skin to be tight there, she tried to use her left arm more over the week when she was back at work. The lab also got verification about the press conference Thursday Sloane, Howard and Kyle would speak at, and they found out about the Saturday night party. Making sure Colin set phone and e-mail requests for Carter to attend the book and vaccine party Saturday was enough for Quentin to get Carter a flight to Seattle for the weekend.
What she didn’t know was that Carter had been meeting with supervisors and bosses all week to find out if they would be pleased if he was to reposition in Seattle and represent the Northern West coast for the company and specialize in education and philosophical book releases, while stepping back from the lead position in new writers. Carter thought that for the slight pay difference he would receive, he would still be able to live extremely well, seeing that mortgage payments for his home would be so much lower than it was in New York. He also deduced that if he was with Sloane they could share one car for a while. Carter would work out of his home and not need to commute, because he could rely on a private T1 line for his Internet and Quentin network connections.
Now all he had to do was get the okay from Sloane.
He spent the latter half of the week setting up his flight and getting a hotel room that Quentin would pay for at The Renaissance Hotel, as well as covering taxi fares with a receipt. He even called to make sure Sloane would be there.
“I’m going to Seattle for the party this Saturday,” he told her. “And I’m bashful at this...”
“At what?”
“I was wondering if you would be my date for the party.”
“Are you asking me on a date?”
“I’ll even bring a boutonniere.”
Laughing, she said, “I’d love a date. And I’d prefer the wrist corsage ... I’ll see you Friday night at the airport, okay?”
“Great. I’d like to take you out to dinner when I get into town. To celebrate.”
“What are we celebrating?”
“A lot, I hope. So is it a deal?”
“Wow, two dates in one weekend, I’m overwhelmed.”
Carter started laughing before her and she finished her thought.
“I’ll pick you up from your flight at 6:30 Friday evening.”

Everything began falling into place that week for them. The book samples were mailed to Madison Pharmaceuticals, and everyone in the lab was thrilled with the results. They even received a box of one hundred books as a gift to the lab staff, so everyone in the lab got a copy or two for their records, and everyone at the press conference had a copy of the book to use to illustrate while they were at the stand talking. Sloane even went home to look at the book before she went to bed, and for the night she kept a copy of The Battle from the Inside with all of the books Carter had published on her nightstand.
Wednesday, when Toby called Sloane with a concern about the drug he was searching for from the rain forest trees, she didn’t even seen phased.
“Toby, I don’t know if there’s much more you can get from your samples.”
“Yeah, but check this out. You’re always checking into these things, so I did some searching into the company that bought the land in South America. It said it was an orange grove company, but I did a little more web searching and the only web data I could find was that it was owned by our government.”
“Toby, I thought we found that out.”
“Yeah, but this is the deal, Sloane -- the company was started by someone who works for the DOD, I even got the records on the owner and they have nothing to do with growing oranges. Their web site had nothing, and when I checked tax records from a three-year-old company I found out they made nothing and had no product to sell.”
“And they’re still in business...”
“Yeah, that’s the deal -- no company can exist without a profit for more than three years, and they have no real base of plans for growth. This is a total shell company they’ve got here.”
“So what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that they did know I was looking for data and they intentionally stopped me.”
“So ... Do you think there is anything at all you can get from your samples still?”
“I don’t know. I just want to let people know that this is what the government is doing to people who try to help.”
Sloane thought for a moment about trying to get the word out to people. “I don’t know if I can help out on this one, buy my friend Steve works at the paper and might be able to get an investigative reporter to snoop around to find anything out, and I’d think they’d want to run lots of news coverage on it too.”
“Wow, if you think you can help, that would be great.”
“Toby, you did all the work here. I just have a friend that might help.”
They said goodbye to each other before she called and left a message at Steve’s work to ask him if he could start a ball rolling, hoping that there would be enough of an interest in AIDS medications to make them want to push to get this news out there to people.

Thursday morning Carter made his final decision on a wedding ring and engagement ring set. Knowing she wouldn’t want a large, clunky ring to get in her way, he still wanted to give her an extraordinary set, so for the engagement ring there was a single large emerald-cut diamond set in a round gold band, and the wedding ring was a round gold band with three horizontally-placed low emerald-cut diamonds running along the band, at the same width of the band. He picked up the set Thursday afternoon and hoped this would be what she wanted if she decided to spend the rest of her life with him.
Thursday afternoon Kyle told Sloane about the luck with the vaccine tests right before they were about to leave for the press conference an hour later that day. The two of them were thrilled that two of the compounds seemed to work perfectly with some of the animals, so they opted to test them on a few different kinds of animals before they would think of testing them on any humans.
“We have to celebrate, Kyle,” she said.
“That’s what Saturday is for at Mr. Madison’s,” Kyle responded.
They walked together to Tyler’s office so they could all go to the press conference and discuss their book.
The three of them performed Tyler’s script perfectly at the speech, and Tyler even took them all out for a drink.
Friday they worked seamlessly throughout the day and found a new set of different animals for additional testing. Sloane left work and headed straight to the airport to pick Carter up.
Standing in the back of the group waiting past the gates for passengers coming off of Carter’s flight, she spotted him in an instant, because she just thought he stood out in her mind and she could see him in a flash. Leaning on the back wall, she had to remain there just so she could watch him living on his own, acting the way he was the way because she was in love with him. Carter finally saw her and held onto his bag over his shoulder and quickened his pace to get to her quicker. Carter walked right up to her, picked her up and twirled her around before he put her down to kiss her.
Getting his luggage from the baggage claim, she brought him to her car where she drove him to The Renaissance Hotel again for his stay.
“We’re eating here, so go home and get ready and come back here, okay?”
“Sure. It will probably take me about an hour with traffic, but maybe less. I’ll see you soon.”
He didn’t tell her how nicely to dress, but she decided to go all out anyways because she never got the chance to see him regularly. She slid on a twenties-style dress with spaghetti-straps that stopped above the knees with satiny fringe at the bottom. Adding pearls for a necklace and post earrings, she brushed her hair through again before working on her make-up, making sure she looked perfect before she put on a pair of high heels to show off her calves.
“With this stole I’m ready,” Sloane thought.
Carter made sure they had a private corner in their dining room, with curtains separating them from the rest of the room. He stood in the lobby, dressed in a full black suit, looking out the front door window to see when she arrived. When she drove up, Carter moved toward the back of the front lobby, with his single red rose in hand for her.
He watched her come in from outside and he had to stop himself for a moment because he thought she looked so beautiful. She walked in slowly, starting to approach the elevators, and he then turned a corner to meet her. She felt just about as stunned as he did when she saw him come out to meet her.
“You ... you look amazing,” she told him.
“Words can’t do you justice,” he responded.
“I hoped the stole would cover my bandage.”
“The bandage looks smaller,” Carter answered.
“I can wear a smaller one now. It has been long enough, so it is okay.”
After waiting a moment to speak again, he said, “This is for you,” and handed her the rose.
“You didn’t have to,” she said.
“You’re right ... I should have given you more.”
“Carter...”
“But I didn’t think you’d want a hundred roses filling up your apartment,” Carter said, as he smiled at her smiling at his remark. “There’s a table waiting for us,” Carter added and offered his arm to Sloane to escort her into dinner.
They had an incredible dinner together; she loved the location of their table and they both loved the food and wine. At the end of the meal the waiter brought a bottle of champagne and poured two glasses for them. Sloane watched the waiter walk away, and there was enough time for Carter to drop her engagement ring in her glass.
“A wonderful wine with the food, and now champagne? I thought you’d be trying to take me to your place and have your way with me.”
“Is that the way dates normally go for you?”
“Honestly, they usually stay away because they’re too frightened of me...”
“You can scare people, angel.”
“If people don’t like strength, then --”
“Then they shouldn’t tread on the water.”
“And you come stomping in.”
“Does it bother you?”
Drinking another sip of her champagne, she answered, “No; you’re the only person who could do it to me.”
Carter knew this was the moment to start with his speech he had rehearsed in his head a thousand times, but he still had trouble saying it because he was so nervous. “Do you know what it’s like to feel alone?”
“Yes, I suppose.”
“To feel like nothing or no one in the world understood you and you’d have to forge through life alone? Even if you had friends you could talk to, you’d never tell them everything because they wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh yes, I know that. That’s how I live.”
“Do you still?”
She smiled when he asked that. “If you lived here I’d answer no.”
They sat in silence for a moment and she took another sip of her champagne. She was just over half through with her glass and she still hadn’t seen the ring in her glass.
“It doesn’t help, even if I am far away?”
“...I don’t feel alone, but I don’t feel whole.”
This one got to Carter. “I thought about that, and I thought that knowing you, even if I could never be with you, made me feel like I was starting to live again. But you know what I wanted to feel?”
“What?”
Carter lifted up his glass to make Sloane follow his lead. “I wanted to feel alive.” He then drank, and she took a sip of hers as well. As she was drinking she saw something in her glass. She tried to get a better look at it as Carter then said, “I wanted to feel alive with you.”
It looked to him like her eyes popped out of her head when she saw there was a ring in her glass, so she drank the last of her champagne and tilted the glass to get the ring out. She stared at the ring, amazed and speechless. There was an extra dish of water on the table, so Carter took her hand to put the ring in the water to clean it off. He then took the ring, got out of his chair and went down on one knee and asked, “Will you marry me?”
Sloane put her hand on her chest to try to stop her breathing from becoming a pant. “Yes...”
Carter then got up to walk to her side, got on one knee, and placed the ring on her hand. He then stood up and kissed her.
When he stood to go back to his seat, the waiter was already approaching to refill their glasses, because they knew to refill if it looked like she accepted and took the ring. As they were finishing pouring the champagne and about to leave, she asked, “So we’re going to be married across the country?”
“No.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, you said you couldn’t move Madison, so I tried to move Quentin.”
“I’m sure your huge company isn’t moving...”
“True, but they thought they needed a rep in charge of their educational and philosophical books on the Northwest coast.”
She started to lean back, listening to him, knowing there was more.
“So they said they’d set me up with a T1 line for a network and Internet connection, so I figured I had to come here to start looking for a place. I really liked one on the tenth floor at the water, and after I sell the place I’m paying a mortgage on I’ll probably have about a hundred grand, which will cover a down payment, but I didn’t know how much spending money I’d have after I pay the monthly mortgage on it.”
“You made me go looking for a place for myself under false pretenses?”
“Do you forgive me?”
“... I suppose...”
“I hope you like the engagement ring, I knew you didn’t want something sticking out on your hand, but I wanted to give you something big and gaudy anyway... I hope this is a fair mix of the two.”
“Carter, I love it!”
“The wedding ring in the set is excellent too, that’s why I picked it out.”
“I can’t believe you.”
“So, getting back to that place. You said before that you liked it but you couldn’t afford it.”
“I did.”
“It was close to your work, had a great view and was on the water.”
“Yeah, I can’t believe you.”
“Why not?”
“What, did you go buy the place without telling me too?”
“No, I figured I’d get your approval on that one first...”
Sloane started laughing again.
“It’s hard for me to find a place to live if I’m going to be living with my wife over here,” Carter finally said. “I’ve tried to do things here, and I’m going to be taking another trip out on Quentin’s dollar to make final plans, but that is the other reason they let me out here this weekend. So in another month or two, depending on terms for getting a home, I’ll relocate here.”
At this point Sloane was just grinning widely.
“What?”
“I’m just...” She turned her ring to look at it, and then turned her hand to show it off to Carter. “Look at this ring!” she said as she started giggling again.
“What, too small?” He kept going as she kept laughing at every question he asked. “Too gaudy? What, you wanted a round stone? Don’t like diamonds?”
“I don’t want a big wedding.”
“You’re thinking about the wedding already?”
“You’re right.”
“Think about the book.”
“Oh yeah...”
“Think about your work progress.”
“The cure couldn’t be developed from the samples left from your medicine bottle because it wasn’t kept cool in transport, but I think we’ve got a vaccine from it, which is excellent.”
“Think about your party tomorrow at your boss’ house.”
“Oh my God, I’m going to have to tell them about your illness tomorrow.”
“And our engagement.”
“I’ll have to tell everyone we’ve been friends for years, that’s how I got the contract so fast through Quentin.”
“We’ll find a way to tell them”
“We have to let people enjoy the vaccine news for a while, Carter.”
“We’ll celebrate our own news tonight.”
They looked at each other and raised their glasses to toast their news, and celebrate together while they were alone tonight.

Saturday during the day the two of them looked at homes together, but still liked the loft on the tenth floor on the water closer to her work. By the time the evening came, they had to get ready for their drive to Colin’s house.
“I hope this is okay, Carter. I didn’t want to get too dressy.”
“That looks great,” Carter said as he watched her walk in the room, wearing a white turtleneck with black pants and a black stole. “Did you do okay getting the turtleneck over your bandage?”
“Yes. I figured that it wasn’t bleeding any more, and the white turtleneck goes with the white bandage underneath...”
“No one should see it, and you look great.”
“Do you think we’re ready for this?” she asked Carter.
“Do we have much of a choice?” Carter said as he started laughing.
“Oh, Carter, one thing.”
“Yes?”
“Just don’t kiss me until we say the news.”
“Can I escort you in the house or get your drink?”
“You know what I mean with the kiss.”
“We came together, we just shouldn’t be showy.”
“That’s all I was thinking.”
“Got it.”
“Carter, they don’t even know you don’t have AIDS.”
“Well, there’s an announcement right there.”
“But we can’t just tell them you’re cured, ’hi, I stole the cure from the government, and no, there wasn’t enough to make for everyone, and yes, I was selfish and gave it to this acquaintance of yours, but with scraps of the cure we generated a vaccine this quickly...’ we can’t do that.”
“Do we tell them anything?”
“We can’t not tell them. I’ll come up with something. An original bad reading and you don’t have AIDS, or something.”
“That sounds good...”
“No, wait, I can’t tell them that, Carter... I’ll be roasted for traveling to see you so often if you weren’t sick.”
“Then what do we tell them?”
Um ... We could ... There are a bunch of options here. We could tell them that it could have been because the injection in you wasn’t potent enough to actually infect you because the hospital detected the HIV in your dermis from an injection but it may not have gotten into your system.”
“Okay...”
“Or there is a chance that flooding your system with an overdose of the cocktail may have eventually helped you, but we can’t guarantee that...”
“That’s true as well. That’s a good one, too.”
“The thing is, we made sure you did anything possible to keep you in good health at the same time, so that may have been a contributing factor...”
“You’re saying a bunch of good points.”
“Well Carter, maybe that’s what I’ll have to tell.”
“Tell them all of it?”
“I’ll tell them that we can’t be sure of why you’re better precisely because there are so many factors in play.”
“I can tell that we’re engaged.”
“Carter, I have to tell them first that I knew you as a friend before the book, that’s how I got the contract so quickly.”
“If we’re telling them we’re engaged, I’ll be telling them I’m moving to Seattle. But I have to tell them that I’ll still be their rep for book publishing if Madison ever wants to do more.”
“Are you trying to sell more books to us?” she asked, smiling, as she kept driving to Colin’s house. They made a point to be dressed for the party, and they did everything in their power to arrive in style.
“I can’t believe we’re going to do this,” she said to Carter as she held his arm and they walked to the front door together.
Colin found them after Carter and Sloane walked into his front hallway. “Colin, did you ever meet Mr. Carter Donovan?”
“No, I don’t believe I did. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Donovan.”
“Likewise, Mr. Madison. The honor is mine.”
“Who else is here, Colin?” she asked.
“Most everyone, dear. Everyone’s been wondering how you were when you took a sick day this week.”
“I’ll introduce him to those who don’t remember. Thanks for everything.”
Colin led the way into the main room and both of them followed, while Carter still held her arm. Half of the group that knew her was stunned to see her with a man, and people who knew Carter were a bit surprised to see him holding her arm. She leaned over and whispered to Carter, “Wow, I didn’t imagine the looks I’d get by you holding my arm...”
Carter smiled; it was the only way he could respond when twenty people were looking at them.
“Nice look everyone is giving us, no?” he whispered to her. She chuckled with him before she had to make her presentation of him to people who didn’t know him. Sloane raised her voice to everyone looking at them and said, “If anyone hasn’t met him, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Carter Donovan,” she said as she then moved her hands away from him to present him to people. “This is the man who spearheaded the production of The Battle from the Inside and the printing. He came into town for our celebration party.”
People started to mingle toward Carter and say hello, both Kyle and Howard came to him to give him a more proper greeting.
“Carter Donovan, remember me? I’m Kyle Mackenzie, I helped you with the editing of the book.”
“Hi. I heard Sloane say you two worked on a possible vaccine this week.”
“When did she tell you that?”
“I have been in town this weekend, and she was giving me the tour and prepping me on things around here. While she was checking on me in New York she got to see a little of New York, so now I’m seeing a little of Seattle.”
“Really?”
“Yes, and I really like it here ... There are flowers everywhere, it’s great.”
“We’ve got the rainfall for it,” Kyle said, and they both laughed.
“While touring I think I heard more about her work than the town.”
Kyle said, continuing laughing, “That sounds like Sloane.”
Howard butted in. “Have you seen how she has been doing? She has been under the weather, and we’ve been worried.”
“Actually, it looks like she she’s doing pretty well...” Carter said as he pointed to Sloane talking to a few other coworkers from the lab, cracking jokes and putting her good arm on someone else while they were laughing. “And speaking of, I should get her something to drink. Where is --”
“The bar is in that corner,” Howard said. “Do you know what she wants?”
“I think she’s in such a good mood,” Carter said, “that she’ll tolerate whatever I get her.” He then turned to Kyle and started to smile before he went to get drinks. Kyle then turned to Howard and raised his eyebrows at Carter’s actions, and then they both laughed at whatever was happening.
Carter walked over to Sloane with two glasses of wine. “I hope this is good for you.”
“This is fine. Thanks. But Carter,” she said as she leaned her head back and lowered her voice, “over there” she said, nodding her head over to Tyler, “is Tyler Gillian. The yellow patterned tie.”
“Oh, lovely fellow, I like his fake tan. That and the blonde hair really hides the fact that he’s losing a bit of his hair.”
She started openly laughing in response to Carter’s cracks and Tyler saw Sloane and decided to come by. “Hey, tiger!” he exclaimed as he smacked her back and she almost spilled her wine.
“Where did the ’tiger’ come from?” Carter said under his breath as Sloane responded with “Thanks for almost spilling my red wine on my white shirt. You’re the best.”
“I think the speech for the book went really well...”
“I think you should meet Mr. Donovan, Tyler, this is the man who --”
“Printed the book, I heard! Mr. Donovan, I’m Tyler Gillian, the head of P.R. and Marketing here at Madison.”
“What an ornate title. Nice to meet you.”
“Ornate?”
“Ornate, intricate, elaborative, exhaustive, you know what I mean.”
Sloane started laughing and turned around to head to other people because Carter seemed to be doing a phenomenal job of cutting Tyler down right to his face without even trying.
The evening at Colin’s was working out perfectly. Carter and Sloane would meet up occasionally, Carter seemed to always see when Sloane was running low on a drink and he would bring her a refill. Occasionally people would ask why they came in together, and they would both respond that Carter didn’t have a car when he was in town and Sloane was showing him the town, so she gave him a ride to the party.
When it was just around 10:00, Carter leaned toward Sloane and whispered, asking if they should see if they could announce anything here. She said she’d check with Colin to see if it was possible.
“Colin, I know this is a get-together for the book, but I’d like to mention new news that both Mr. Donovan and I had to share -- I could even bring up our vaccine findings. I was just wondering if it would be okay.”
“Sure ... to get people to listen, would you like me to get their attention and ’introduce’ you?”
She thought that was very generous of him, and Colin made a call out and everyone stopped talked to hear what he had to say.
“Everyone, thanks for coming tonight. This evening is to celebrate the printing of our book, The Battle from the Inside. Let’s give a round of applause for everyone who contributed to the book - from P.R. to the writers.”
They waited while the applause to end; Carter applauded Sloane because she was one of the writers. Colin then continued.
“We should also be thankful for the speediness in producing the book at the printers, and we’re lucky enough to have the head of new clients from Quentin Publishing here, Mr. Carter Donovan.” Everyone started applauding him without Colin even having to ask for it. Now it was her turn to clap. “But the two people who were probably most instrumental in getting this book out. Sloane Emerson here and Mr. Donovan, wanted to tell you some news...”
Colin stepped away from where he was speaking; Sloane and Carter walked to the empty space together, and Sloane started talking first.
“Hi. We’ve got a lot of news to tell, but I first wanted to mention to everyone that Kyle and I were working this weekend and we think we’ve found compounds that could eventually be used for ... for a vaccine.” Everyone seemed to catch their breath in unison. “We don’t know for sure, but please, Kyle needs some applause too...”
They listened to the applause for the both of them for this potential vaccine, and when the applause settled, Sloane started on their news.
“Now here comes the string of news. Some of you know that there was a hold-up in the production of the book because Carter Donovan here was mugged and blood test results stated that he tested positing for HIV.” Some of the group didn’t know and started looking at him to see if he looked sick. “A hypodermic needle was found at the attack scene, and there were traces of the virus in the needle and in Carter’s dermis, near a puncture mark. Some of you knew, but I wanted to tell you that Carter just went in for a string of blood tests again, and I don’t know why, but Carter Donovan is clear of AIDS or HIV in his body. He’s actually perfectly healthy.” With that statement there was a huge round of applause. “We don’t know exactly why this has happened. There may have been a glitch in the old blood tests. The tests on Carter’s skin may have shown it at only his skin and it never entered his body. Kyle knows that I was called in hours after he was found and attacked because my card was on him, and we overdosed him with Emivir and AZT. Maybe it was all of these things, but he was also following everything in the book to a ’t’, which may have helped, but that might be why he’s in such good health now. We can’t prove anything, but we can see that something worked, and Carter here is living proof of it.” She said this in celebration of his successes until the applause quieted down.
She then tried to take a deep breath for the remaining part of her speech. “But what none of you know is that we got this contract so easily because I have known Carter for years, we went to undergraduate school together, and we have been friends for nearly a decade. We’ve been the best of friends, even when we were on opposite side of the country.”
Carter leaned over to Sloane and whispered that he’ll take over, because in his mind he was sure he’d say their news with ease and grace. “But what Sloane wanted to say,” Carter said, “was two things. One was that I’ll be your rep for any future books, if you ever want to do any...” and everyone started to laugh, “but it will be easier to do because I am moving to Seattle to work as a Northwest publishing agent for Quentin.”
People started to clap when they heard the news. “But that wasn’t all,” he said, to make sure they would calm down so he could finish the story. “In this time in working together, and with me moving to Seattle, we’ve decided to see each other, and we’ve fallen in love, and we’re engaged.”
This one caught people off guard, Kyle was right near them and he stared at Sloane. She suddenly got extremely embarrassed and ducked her head down, sticking her hand out to show the ring. Suddenly everyone was fascinated with the news.
Sloane had to say aloud, “When we thought Carter was injected with the virus, I was working on helping him get better, I wasn’t trying to escape to just be with him. We only found out about his condition being normal at the beginning of this week.”
“So did you become more militant?” Howard asked.
“Maybe more scatterbrained,” she said, turned toward Kyle, “but also more militant,” he said to the group.
“Were you in love all this time?” Ellen asked.
“I think so,” Carter answered to Ellen on behalf of both of them.
“When did you get engaged?” someone asked.
“Yesterday,” she answered, and more people came to her to look at her ring and give them a hug to congratulate them.
Carter leaned over to Sloane and asked before kissing her cheek, “How do you think we’re doing?”
“...I think we’re doing pretty well...”


chapter 21

The One-Year Mark

They moved into their new loft on the water a month and a half after they announced their engagement; Carter moved his furniture to their home. They hosted a small housewarming party, but they promised everyone they would have a better gathering after their honeymoon. They planned to get married ten months after they moved in together, with time to prepare for their wedding, reception and honeymoon.
Her entire family was also thrilled that Sloane was finally moving into a home and found someone to be with, because they wondered if she would ever have the time to find someone she could love. “People usually get married at a younger age,” her brother Bob said to his sister, who married when she graduated high school and she had just turned eighteen.
Her sister Andrea wondered when she studied for so long and worked so hard on her own for so many years, “Does she even date anyone?”
“Can she even find a boyfriend?” Andrea’s husband asked.
“I don’t even know if she looks for one,” she answered.
They didn’t know that for her it would take someone truly singular and unique to her for her to be happy, and she found that in Carter.

Things ended up working phenomenally well with their vaccine test results; both Mr. Mackenzie and Ms. Emerson were able to produce a vaccine in record time for Madison Pharmaceuticals. The vaccine was slated for release to the market just under a year after it was first conceived. Both of the creators received hefty bonuses and a pay raise for their work on the vaccine.
With the raise and hefty bonus she received from the vaccine, along with the salary Carter made through Quentin when he was still working at home, they were doing quite comfortably. Carter got a T1 line from Quentin so he was able to work with speed electronically in their network, and being at home instead of in their offices allowed him to have more control over what jobs he would take on and how quickly books would be produced. She was able to work online while she was at home as well, so she was able to do some of her work at home, allowing her to spend more time near her husband.
“You know, I like the fact that we can work together this way,” Carter said to her. “Even if we’re not talking, it’s --”
“It’s nice to know that you’re in the same room, isn’t it, Carter?” she said, finishing his sentence for him, because she knew just what he was thinking; sometimes they didn’t even need to talk to understand each other.

The week before their wedding, Julie approached Sloane with directories on their network for assorted e-mails.
“I know you wanted me to go through e-mails responding to your AIDS questions, I am almost done with going through them all for responses --”
“I have been going through some of them already, and thank you.”
“Good ... But I thought you’d like to see the letters we got from a few patients who are currently on Emivir. They’re something I get the feeling you’d like to read,” she said as she handed her a piece of paper with directions on where the e-mails were saved. She went to her office to go over the original AIDS testimony files, she wondered if there could possibly be a connection between Emivir and helping people with other diseases.
After Sloane read the e-mails, still leaving the last e-mail on her screen, she got up and went to the font of her office again to talk to Julie.


From: [email protected]
Date: Friday, 5:15 p.m.
Subject: medication and Diabetes
I’ve been on Emivir for the past four years. My health has been great, and I’ve been taking the medication religiously. But when I wanted to say was that I have been a Diabetic for ten years, and I have needed less insulin in injections since I have been taking Emivir.
I also know you’ll kick my ass for this, but since I had my insurance covering some of the cost of the drugs, I gave a few samples to Emivir to another friend of mine, who doesn’t have AIDS but has been Diabetic since he was five. This friend of mine, after taking the Emivir for a few days, still had to take insulin a few times a day like he did before, but he said he gave himself less in his injections. He also carried a roll of Life Savers around with him all the time if he needed a sugar fix around the time of his insulin hits because of sugar in his diet, but he told me he didn’t need to take any sugar to help him out when he was taking the Emivir samples.
I don’t know if there’s a correlation with these things, and I know you’re probably angry that I gave the samples to my friend, but I think it helped us out for our Diabetes some. Oh, I should also tell you that my friend never tested his blood-sugar levels, the way we regularly have to for keeping us in line, he just seemed so used to knowing when he needed sugar or insulin that he didn’t bother. But he noticed a difference in how he felt and when he needed insulin, so maybe he knew something. His e-mail address is [email protected] if you need to ask him anything. Is there a relationship between Emivir and Diabetes? Let me know, and thanks a lot.

She stormed out of her office, on what seemed like she was on her usual quest again. “Julie, I need you.”
“I do what I can, Ms. Emerson. What is it?”
“Have we received anything else like these three Diabetes-related e-mails?”
“Madison has received a few e-mails over the months about Emivir patients having less of a need for their usual quantities of insulin when they had Diabetes while being on Emivir. Why ... do you ask?” Julie could see that something was brewing in her head.
“Julie, I want you to collect anything you can for me on Diabetes, and anything on any types of medications that have ever been shown to help patients with the release of insulin in their body.”
“Ms. Emerson, you’re getting married next weekend.”
“I know, I know ... Just see if you can get that together while I’m gone, see if Howard can help out because Kyle is strapped with vaccine work.”
Scott, another lab agent, came by and heard scraps of their conversion. “Hi, can I help with something?” he asked.
“Um, I don’t know,” Julie said when he tried to explain why he asked.
“I’m sorry, but I heard Diabetes mentioned, and my brother has Diabetes, so I just automatically tuned in. Is there something you need?”
Sloane picked up her head more confidently when she heard that someone in the lab knew something of Diabetes personally. “Hi,” she said as she extended her hand to shake his. “I asked Julie here to get some information for me about Diabetes, because I’m thinking that there is a slim chance that there might be something in Emivir that helps Diabetic people with the amount of Insulin they have to go through. If you could work with Julie at all on collecting anything, that would be great,” she said as she kept moving her head between both Scott and Julie.
“There’s someone else in the lab that had a Diabetic family member die from a heart attack when he was young, probably because of his illness, maybe he can help you out too.”
“Yeah, get him in on this as well; we’re going to need all the help we can get on learning about this. And thanks.”

Carter and Sloane planned everything for their wedding in record time, and did everything they could to make it a wedding that was one of the most wonderful experiences they could imagine. Their wedding was held in the Art Museum when it was closed on a Sunday, and they had a string quartet playing music during their ceremony. The wedding reception was in a hall that had a large balcony right on the water, so anyone who wanted to hear the music to dance and also be at the water could. They even both agreed that their song would be the one song they danced to together before, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”

Right before their marriage, they asked Kyle to take the compact disc the Disc Jockeys were producing of slow songs from their wedding, including the song they danced to together.
“My friend Steve even had the music from the ceremony recorded for a CD for you,” he told Carter, “so I could get that as well.”
“Thanks a lot, man. And if possible, I’ve got one more favor to ask, but I think you and your wife might like it...” Carter then proposed this deal with Kyle. Carter would give Kyle and his wife Elisa keys to their flat, asking them to hold the keys on one condition: Carter turned the power and water off for their honeymoon, but Kyle and Elisa could have Friday in their home together, the day before they come back from their honeymoon, to themselves in their place, as long as they would please turn heat back up for their return. Carter would like to come back to a home that was already heated and have running water from their honeymoon.
Kyle offered to pick then up at the airport on their way home to save the cab fare, and he also liked this chance to have some time with his wife. Kyle willingly complied, telling his wife that the kids could stay either at Elisa’s parent’s house, or her parents could stay with the kids in their house for the evening. Kyle offered to decorate somehow for their return, so Carter gave him strands of white Italian lights and a number of long tab curtains. Carter told Kyle that there are high beams that the curtains and lights could hang from, and there were extension cords with it all, if Kyle cared to do anything.
She was already gone to her father’s house to get ready for their wedding, but Carter looked back in their home together before he would get ready and leave for their wedding. There was an empty large silver frame, mostly chrome with space in the center for a small picture hanging for their wedding photo on the wall in their living room. He looked at the empty frame on the wall and smiled before he got ready to get married, as Sloane was getting ready for her wedding at her father’s house, where she grew up.

A week after their wedding and while they were still on their honeymoon, Ellen brought photos she took from the wedding to the office and showed then to everyone at the lab and at Madison. When Howard asked he about giving photos to the married couple, she said, adding “I got doubles so the ’happily married couple’ could have the other set.”
They even laughed that her friend Toby caught the garter belt and a friend of her dad’s got the bouquet. “Did you see the look on Toby’s face when he had to take pictures with this middle-aged woman?” Kyle asked.
“And doesn’t that ’eligible women catching the bouquet’ thing really only work for young women who want to get married?” Howard asked again, laughing with a few other people in the lab.
“Hey, Ellen, you were there, did you try to catch the bouquet?”
“What was I supposed to do, attack this older woman for it? Besides, I don’t need a bouquet to prove that I’ll get married ... And you know, that bouquet was gorgeous.”
“The ball of roses?” Howard asked.
“It was just this tight-knit ball of roses, it didn’t even mess with a ton of greenery, and the bouquet was all white, like the dress. It was just so neat and perfect-looking.”
“You have to admit,” Kyle interjected, “that was just about the perfect bouquet for her. There was nothing in the way in it, it was just a tight ball of roses and nothing else, and really, it did just what she probably wanted it to do --”
“Not be in her way?” Howard asked.
“But be beautiful at the same time,” another worker there said.
“There were also a bunch of lily of the valley in there, couldn’t you smell them?” Ellen said. “They didn’t stick out, but the bouquet even smelled more beautiful, with just roses and lily of the valley.”
“Getting married in the art museum was a really cool thing too,” Howard said aloud. “But why was Tyler invited?”
“Sloane told me before that she was inviting him because he would spend money on a nice gift for her,” Kyle said laughing.
“Is that why she invited the boss?”
“Nah, that’s like a rule if you’re getting married, she invited coworkers, the boss had to be invited...”
“No, I think she actually likes him as her employer,” Kyle said. “She can manage to test him and he takes it, it is like they’re buddies and know how to deal with each other...”
“Yeah, but it was cool they had their reception at a hall that also had an outdoor area right on the water for people to go to if they liked,” Howard said.
“So if you wanted some air --” Julie said,
“Or didn’t want anyone to see how you danced,” Howard interrupted.
Julie finished by saying, “you could enjoy the air on the water on the deck, too. Or if you didn’t like the slow song, the music sounded more muted and calm when you were out there. It was really nice.”
They all started talking about it during lunch to each other.
“Speaking of music, did you guys watch them dance?”
“I think everybody was watching them dance, I swear, I didn’t know that Sloane even knew how to dance!”
“I think one of them didn’t ... Did you see how much they talked while they were dancing?”
“Yeah...”
“I think one was telling the other what to do.”
“But they were doing all sorts of stuff, sliding along each other’s arms, him curling her up to him in two different ways --”
“I can’t imagine Sloane knowing how to do any of that!”

The newlyweds got married on a Sunday and stayed the night at the honeymoon suite at The Renaissance Hotel. The next day they flew to Miami and stayed there the night. The next day they flew to Paradise Island, staying at Atlantis for part of their honeymoon, then choosing to stay in a small hotel so they could get away from people and enjoy their time together without worrying about others around them. They ended up doing nothing for ten days, and actually being able to relax.
But after they flew and spent a day in Miami and they took a puddle jumper to one of the islands in the Bahamas, Carter had to ask Sloane about the strange behavior he saw in the airports both times. “Angel, did you see how they pulled us off to the side both times we had to fly for this trip?”
“Yes...”
“They didn’t do that to anyone else.”
“I know.”
“Was there anything on us to make them stop us?”
“No, Carter there wasn’t. I even made sure to not carry any metal on us.”
“We didn’t have anything at all, did we?”
“No, Neither of us even brought medications, so we had nothing on us.”
“Does this happen to you all the time when you’re on a plane?”
“It’s starting to, Carter.”
“Why is the security doing it?”
“I think ... I think they’ve just been taught to search for me more now.”
“How do they know where you --”
“My name is on an airline ticket...”
“Hadn’t it been long enough, I mean, if they are going to watch you --”
“Honey, I didn’t trust them, and because of it they don’t trust me.”
“Well that’s not fair of them...”
“It’s not fair to have your own government allow people to die,” she said, as he finally stopped asking questions. They were taking a ride to their hotel through all of their arguing, and she finally told him once they were inside the hotel, “You know, if they want to fight, I’ll use their means to fight back.”
“Like you were doing when you did that first press conference?”
“I’ll use whatever pathetic means they use to fight.”
“I have no idea what you have planned, angel.”
“Hmm ... Just work with me if it comes up again, okay?”
“Okay, but you don’t think they’ll do anything on our way back home though, do you?”
“Coming into the United States they could have more reason to search me over than they did when we left, so I almost expect it. Just be ready for me if I strike back somehow...”
“You frighten me when you talk like that, you know...”
“Don’t get on my bad side and you’ll be fine,” she said as she walked over to the bed where he was opening the suitcase so she could knock his shoulder to turn him around so she could start kissing him.

While they were away for their honeymoon they listened to bands that were playing on one side of their island off of the Bahamas, but they enjoyed themselves by staying away from others and having space to themselves on a more deserted side of the island. The two of them went snorkeling and scuba diving a lot, but by the end of their honeymoon they flew back to Fort Myers for the night before flying home.
They were stopped at the airport again going to Fort Myers, but this time not as they left, but as they arrived in the continental United States for their one night stay. Two guards waited to stop them at the entrance door to the airport that they had to go through in order to get their luggage.
“Are you Ms. Sloane Emerson?” they heard one of the gentlemen say.
“Yes I am,” she answered.
“Come with us please,” they said as they walked through the doors, expecting Sloane and Carter to follow.
She started to speak as they walked inside the terminal. “What do you need to detain me for?” making a point to say the word ’detain’ loudly enough for everyone else to hear in the airport.
“We plan to ask you a few questions and --”
“I have answered questions asked in the airport before I left, so there is no reason to ask anything of me now.”
“We also wanted to check some of your belongings to make sure you didn’t bring anything back into the country illegally.”
“That would have been done before we left, and that would have been seen from the x-ray machine.”
“Still, Ms. Emerson, we’d like to --”
“Look, my husband and myself have done nothing wrong,” she said, started to get louder. “Your people have been detaining me for no reason at all; we have done nothing to anyone.” She glanced over at Carter and gave him a quick look to let him know that this was going to be something she would do to fight the security agents whenever she traveled.
“Look, we have every right,” one of the guards said she he grabbed her arm to make her go with him. Sloane immediately made an exaggerated and violent gesture to swing her arm to get it out of his grasp. While doing it the guard then tried to grab her again to detain her and she fell to the ground.
Carter saw that this is exactly what she wanted, so he did his best to play the part to help her with her case. He jumped down and almost started yelling as he touched her cheek and saw her very carefully open her eyes to let him know that she was okay, as she them immediately closed her eyes again. “What have you done to my wife?” Carter said, getting louder and sounding angrier. “We’ve done nothing wrong at all and you knock my wife unconscious?”
“Sir, we --” the one guard said, hoping there wasn’t a serious problem.
“No no no, she’ll be fine,” he said as Sloane started opening and closing her eyes as if she was just waking up from being passed out. “The last thing we need is help from the people that hurt us. Now let us out of here right now, before you try to injure us for being innocent again!”
Carter immediately turned to his wife. “Angel, are you okay?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Are you hurt anywhere?”
“No, My head hurts a little, but I think I’m okay.”
“Let me help you...”
“Why did they hurt me?” She asked, now letting her voice get louder.
“Angel, I don’t know, but we’re getting out of here before they try to hurt you again. Do you want to press charges?”
The guards heard this and didn’t know if they did something wrong or if they were just made to look like they did.
“Um ... no ... or should we get the names of those men to be on the safe side?” she asked.
Carter turned around while still holding onto Sloane to look like he was supporting her, walked one step forward to be right up to one of the guards and put his finger under his nameplate on his badge. “Remember this name, angel,” he said as he read the full name off of the badge.
“I won’t forget that name,” she answered as Carter then turned back to look like he was helping his wife walk toward the baggage claim.
“I can’t believe you did all of that,” she said to Carter once they got their luggage and were in the taxi to their hotel for the night.
“I can’t believe I tapped that guy’s name tag like that ... Was it too much?”
“Oh, God no, it was perfect. I think you actually scared the guards, too.”
“And they didn’t hurt you, right?”
“Of course not, but at least it looked to everyone there like they were hurting me, which was all I needed...”
Do you think that will actually stop them?”
“I have no idea. But if it doesn’t, they’ll at least know that I’m not going to take it without a fight...”
After spending the night in For Myers and enjoying the Gulf of Mexico and the different sands and waters, they flew back to Seattle by Saturday after dinner, when Kyle was there to give them a ride back to their home.

Kyle wasn’t the only one liking their setup for the weekend Carter and Sloane returned ... Elisa also liked the idea of having a place for the two of them for a Friday night, so she was more than willing to pitch in and help. She had the afternoon off from work, and the kids were going to stay in their home after school with her parents, so she was able to go to Kyle’s coworker’s house before Kyle got off of work to turn the thermostat back on and turn the water back up so they could wash their hands at the sink and prepare dinner there together. Elisa even saw the curtains and the Italian lights but knowing she couldn’t put them up on her own, she eyed up places where everything could hang and moved all of the parts to the right places so she could put them up with her husband when he came to their flat after work.
When Kyle came to their house after work, Elisa had set everything up, including a dinner place setting for a meal that was already in the oven. They decided to put up the lights and curtains before dinner so they could use the lighting while they ate. He even brought the compact discs from their wedding from the ceremony and from the slow songs if Elisa wanted to dance.
Knowing when they were coming home that Saturday afternoon, Kyle made sure the place was spotless, and he even turned the Italian lights on in their home before he left to pick them up. They returned to their home and their place was spotless and the thermostat and water were back to regular settings. Kyle left their Wedding compact discs on top of their stereo, so they would have music to listen to together that night if they wanted. There were tab curtains in white with white Italian lights turned on between layers of fabric all over their house hanging from the pipes near the ceiling of exposed ductwork in their loft. They both thought that it was so beautiful that they decided to keep the decorations there until they had people over in the next month or so for a small get-together.
Opting for Middle-Eastern food for dinner that night, they liked the idea that they could eat their meal with their fingers. They included a fork for the basmati dill rice and the risotto, but they set up dinner with couscous, babaganouch, hummus, Dolmadakia stuffed grape leaves, falafels, taboule, and even a package of pita bread they purchased just after they got home.
Sloane set up a mock dining room table on their floor while Carter started heating up the couscous, babaganouch and the dill rice was warm as well as warming and cutting the pita bread. She spread out a tablecloth in the middle of the floor of the room, and placed fabric place mats and napkins on the table, along with spaces for plates and coasters.
“What would you like to drink, honey?” she called to him.
“Hot tea would be good, but --”
“But tea is hot. We can have that as well as...”
“We can have some water, unless you’d like wine.”
“You decide and I’ll take care of it, Carter. And let me make the tea too.”
“...Let’s hold up on the tea, because I was wondering if you’d like to end up taking a bath together tonight.”
“Ooh, that would be nice ... and hot tea and a bath don’t mix. Got it.”
They made Miso soup first with tofu and baby corn, but Carter made her use her chopsticks and told her they weren’t allowed to use a spoon, So they ate the soup from the bowl with chopsticks and picked up the bowl to drink it from the side of the bowl.
During their dinner, Carter saw the empty chrome photo frame hanging in the wall toward the edge of their living room. “Hey, do you know when we’re getting out wedding photos back?”
“Six weeks probably. Why?”
“I just remember taking those photos with the water right behind us...”
“Yeah, we did a few shots there, ones that looked like we were dancing even. Why do you ask?”
“We’ve got that picture frame over there, I was wondering what we’d end up putting in it.”
“I’m beginning to like it blank there, just a splash of metal on the wall...”
“It might be nice to have a picture of us in there, you know, so we can prove we were actually married...”
She laughed at his crack as they started eating dinner. Once they were eating, she had to mention, “It’s nice to not have so many dishes to worry about when we have a meal here...”
“It’s nice that we can feed each other,” Carter answered. She instantly got embarrassed, and he started by scooping some food onto pita bread and feeding her. She then reciprocated, but she first used her finger to smudge some hummus on Carter’s nose so she could lick it off.
After they ate, eating more food off of each other than off the pita bread, she asked Carter if they would want to take a bath now. “I’d like to get you a little more dirty first, angel...” he said as he started to crawl over her to start kissing her again. By the end of the evening they bathed together by candlelight, then curled up in bed together for the night.
They spent Sunday trying to get acclimated to being back, though they still acted like teenagers when they had a chance to be near each other alone, having a hard time keeping their clothes on.
“Do you think we’ll ever get bored with each other?” she asked him.
“I don’t know, it seems like we feed off of each other for more energy...”
“But does that make us pay less attention to our work, when we think about each other so much?” she asked again.
“I don’t know ... Do you care?”
She giggled at his question as he kissed her again.

Before returning to work Monday, Sloane looked at her calendar Sunday night and saw that Tyler mentioned to the lab that they could go to one of the first vaccination sessions for children to avoid getting AIDS. She said she’d go; Carter wanted to go with her, so she said she’d pick him up at home on her way, after spending the morning in the office.

People seemed pleasantly surprised to have her back when she came to work Monday morning, and they liked the rosy complexion she gained when she was in the sun for close to two weeks. They had a morning meeting while she was there, and they were talking about how they wanted to reprioritize the staff and what they should all be working on. They knew they still had to work on medications for those who have AIDS now, so some wanted to continue in that vein. Some were willing to also consider cure options, since that idea didn’t get as much attention as it could have in the past year.
At the morning meeting, Sloane kept thinking in the back of her mind about what would be the next battle she would fight. She considered Diabetes because of the few e-mails she read before her wedding. She waited then until she had a chance to talk to Julie.
“Diabetes isn’t a virus, but there may be a way to hold it back some while taking less or no insulin, all while still being able to lead a more normal or even more decadent lifestyle that Diabetes doesn’t allow you to have,” she thought throughout the meeting while everyone decided on what groups to go into while continuing their work.
After the meeting, she went straight to Julie. “Hey, kiddo, did you collect anything for me to cover on Diabetes and our medications?”
“Hi Ms. Emerson, and I didn’t get too much on any relationships with Emivir and Diabetes, but I wonder if anything can be gathered on how Emivir or the AIDS vaccine may help Diabetic patients. But I did collect a few notes on Diabetes for you,” she said as Scott walked by.
“Sorry, but my ears ring when someone talks about Diabetes,” Scott said. “And hi. Ms. Emerson, you look nicely tanned from your honeymoon.”
“I just enjoyed the water, I didn’t lay out or anything,” she responded.
“Well, I wanted to let you know that I talked to my brother and he said he would be willing to play the human guinea pig if you needed him for any tests. I’m sure he’d want to get paid something, but maybe he can help you out.”
“Thanks Scott. I’ll get Howard to help me out on setting up analysis tests for any of our medications. We might even go over the test medications to see if any of them can help out. But I’m sure we could use the help, and thanks a lot.”
Scott walked away, but Julie asked Sloane as Howard walked over to them, “Do you think this could actually work with the medication helping Diabetic patients?”
“I don’t know for sure, Julie, but I know of one drug out now that is for helping your heart that is also really good for migraines, because migraine medication constricts blood vessels, as do some hyper-activity heart medications. And hi, Howard.”
“Hello, little miss tan woman, how are you?”
She started to laugh under her breath. “I’m fine ... but yes, I think we might be on to something about part of our medications helping people with Diabetes, but I don’t know if it will only help with noninsulin dependent sufferers or if it may help with insulin dependent Diabetic patients. Scott’s brother is Diabetic, and maybe they could help us out. We’ve got to work on tests for our assorted samples we’ve gone through over the past year or year and a half.”
“Sloane, do you rest?” Howard asked.
“Do I know how?” she answered, as she went to her office to attempt to read any of the material Julie collected for her.

Diabetes Mellitus
Insulin dependent Diabetes
(Diabetic patients from youth)
NonInsulin dependent Diabetes
(Adult onset Diabetic patients)
It is characterized by widespread disturbances in the metabolism that adversely affect the ability to supply and/or utilize insulin.
Symptoms
Increased thirst
Feelings of fatigue or depression
Emotional instability
Prolonged wound healing
Visual disturbances
Treatment
Diet
Insulin
Oral hypoglycemic agents
ecomes her new goal?” Howard asked Scott in front of Julie.
“If she is trying to look for medications that may help people to utilize the insulin their body produces, then that is quite a chore,” Scott replied.
“So was AIDS,” Julie said as she walked toward her boss’ door to make sure she had the files Julie had for her to go over.
“This may be why Emivir and the vaccine only works on some patients,” Sloane thought as she started writing notes on finding out if the body produces any insulin if patients are Diabetic, or if their metabolism just stops then from properly distributing it throughout the body.
Maybe this was her new challenge, but she still had some business left to tend to. Looking at the clock while reading in her office, she then realized the time; she had to get Carter so they can go to a school for witnessing vaccinations. After she picked Carter up, they then went to an elementary school. While there they heard people from the school talking to Tyler about how it is a good idea to do this at a young age because so many kids are in sports now, which leads to an increase in injuries and blood loss. With this, she heard them discuss and that there may be an increased risk of transferring diseases.
Carter stood off to the side, holding his wife around the waist. She stopped herself from listening to the people talking about how this is for the good of all the people, and just focused on watching some children going to the station for their vaccination.
This was her drug, she thought, and she helped these people from getting the illness. Sloane then thought for a moment about the dream she had months ago about her having to go do missionary work in Africa for a drug she didn’t know to people who didn’t earn it.
And she thought that this was different.


Copyright Janet Kuypers. All rights reserved. No material may be reprinted without express permission.


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