Hatching of a Snake

Hyphine. It was a revolutionary drug, they said. It would change the way pain was managed throughout the cluster. Doctors could prescribe it to whoever needed it without risk, because it was found to have no addictive qualities. It eliminated pain without causing any numbing, drowsiness, or other side effects. And even in large doses, it wasn’t toxic.

And Dr. Veras Plastine was the one who made it happen. It was his research that had first revealed the effects of the plant extract on lab rats. And it was his research that showed that mixing the extract with just the right combination of cytoserocins produced the wonder drug.

When his corporation, Medical Dynamics, announced the drug to the world, Veras became a virtual overnight celebrity. The Scope sent reporters to interview him. Even the Amarr Certified News reported on him and his story favorably, something virtually unheard of for a Gallente.

Medical Dynamics’ stock shot through the roof overnight. Veras was given a huge bonus. It was a dream come true, something he had imagined since he’d first started his research a decade ago. And for a thirty-two year old, the fulfillment of the dream went beyond his wildest.

“Here you are, Dr. Plastine,” the waitress said, bending over low to place the drinks in front of him. She flashed him a smile as she slowly straightened back up. “If you need anything else, please let me know.”

“Sure thing,” Veras said. He had his left arm around one woman and his right arm around another. Rock stars weren’t common in the world of medical research, but Veras had become one. He spent his nights carousing in nightclubs and his days sitting hungover in his lab. But he was rich, had made his name, and had nothing to worry about any longer.

“So, like I was saying,” Veras continued, “then Halo said to me ‘Doc, you’re a life saver! I never coulda jumped off that stage without your drug!’ And then he asked me to sign his cast!” The crowd of people around him laughed. Veras just leaned back and smiled. It was a good night, he had the crowd going. The Halo Axegrinder story had always been a popular one.

“Doc, you’re something else,” one of the men said. He was a tall, handsome man with slicked back hair and a cutthroat smile. Veras couldn’t remember the man’s name, but he had been sitting there listening for the entire night.

“Well, if you liked that one, wait until I tell you about the rest of the band,” Veras started.

For the rest of the night, he told stories about crazy celebrities and the crazy things they did. It was almost dawn before the party was finally winding down and Veras decided it was time to go get a few hours of sleep.

Before he left, the man stopped him. “Dr. Plastine, I’ve got an offer for you,” he said.

“An offer?” Veras asked. “I’m not looking to get into any business schemes.”

“No, no,” the man insisted. “I work for a company. Much larger than Medical Dynamics. Way more resources. We’d like to hire you.”

“Oh,” Veras said. His head was swimming and he could barely see straight. “Look, maybe sometime later. I can’t really talk about it now.”

“Of course,” the man said. “Here’s my card. Call me, we’ll talk.” The man handed Veras a plain white card with black letters that read “Fleur DeGaulle” and had contact information.

“Uh, sure,” Veras said. He stuck the card into his pocket and stumbled out of the nightclub to a waiting limo.

The next day, Veras sat in his office with the lights out. His head was pounding. He wished his drug could cure a hangover, but even Hyphine wasn’t up to that task. He groaned lightly to himself every few minutes, wishing he could fall asleep.

There was a sharp knock at the door which sent Veras cringing. “Come in,” he said weakly.

The door swung open, throwing a dagger of light into Veras’s eyes, causing him to cringe further. “Why are the lights off?” Tamia, his assistant, asked. She hit the light control and sent them on, then saw Veras. “Sheesh, you look like hell.”

“I feel like hell,” he said through his teeth. “What do you want?”

“Well,” she said, sitting down in front of his desk, “we’re having trouble with the latest test drug. It’s causing far more nausea than it should and we can’t figure out why. We need you to look into it.”

“Can’t Victor do that?”

“Victor has looked. He doesn’t know what the problem is either,” she said. “We need you, Veras.”

“God, is everyone here incompetent but me?” he groaned. “Ok, fine, I’ll be out there in a minute to look at it.”

“Thank you, your highness,” Tamia sighed. She stood and walked briskly out of the room, loudly slamming the door behind her. Once more, Veras cringed.

He slowly stood and walked out after her. They went down to the lab, where Veras’s team was surrounding microscopes, beakers, and other testing equipment.

“Veras!” Victor said, jumping up. “We need your help. The drug is - ”

“I know, causing excess nausea. Let me look at it.” He pushed his way to the microscope and looked through it. “Ugh, why are there so many ammonia molecules in this?”

“It’s for the - ”

“I know what it’s for, the question was rhetorical. You don’t need so many, that’s why it’s causing nausea.”

“But without them to block the addictive - ”

“Yes, I realize that,” Veras sighed. “But you have the molecules mixed in essentially at random. You need to have them only book ending the addictive components of the drug, that’ll keep them from being absorbed. And when you do that, you’ll reduce the ammonia and the nausea.”

A murmur went from his crew as they realized Veras was right. He had already begun walking back to his office when they started to put his advice into action.

He flipped the lights off, slumped back down into his chair. His head was throbbing now, enough that he reached into his pocket for some hangover pills. He tried not to use them, because they were habit forming, but he couldn’t stand it now.

When he pulled them out, he found the business card from the night before. He popped the pills into his mouth, swallowed, then looked down at the card. “Fleur DeGaulle,” he muttered to himself.

After a moment to let the pills take effect, he reached out to the comms unit and input the contact information. A moment later, Fleur’s face appeared on the screen. “DeGaulle,” he said, then lit up once he saw Veras. “Ah! Dr. Plastine! Good to hear from you. I wasn’t expecting you so soon.”

“Well, I figured I’d best be punctual,” Veras said.

“I like that! But I’m afraid I can’t really talk at the moment,” Fleur sighed. “But I have an idea. My associates are having a party tonight, a big one, and I’d like you to come. We can talk there. Is that good for you?”

“Of course,” Veras said with a smile.

“Great. I’ll send a limo to get you from your office around 20:00.”


“See you then!” The comm screen cut out, leaving Veras in darkness once again. He sighed and leaned back and counted the hours.

Fleur hadn’t been lying. The party was big. Larger than any Veras had ever been to. It was held at a palatial estate at the outskirts of the city. There were so many people there, Veras couldn’t even count them. Beautiful people from all races and all nations.

Fleur met him shortly after he’d entered. “Ah, Veras! It’s good to see you!”

Veras looked around in awe. “You too. What sort of party is this? It’s huge!”

Fleur grinned wide. “It’s just one of my company’s parties. We throw them for our clients.”

“You have a lot of clients,” Veras said. “What company do you work for again? I never got the name.”

Fleur shook his head. “Ah, it’s called ChromaDyne. But we’re here to have fun, not discuss work! Come on, come on! Let me show you a good time!”

“Ok,” Veras muttered, still a little overwhelmed by it all. Fleur led him down a hallway to room. The lights were turned down inside. People lounged on large, plush couches.

Fleur flopped down into one of the couches and pointed to one across from him. “Sit down,” he said. Veras did. “So, Veras, you seem to enjoy having a good time.”

“Yeah, I do,” Veras said. A couple was passionately writhing next to him.

“Great. Well, you’ll have one tonight.” Fleur raised his hand and waved at a waitress. She briskly walked over. “I’ll have a dirty martini. Veras, what’s your poison?”

“Ah, a vodka and Quafe,” Veras said. The couple was beginning to make noise.

“And bring me a couple of special items, dear.”

“Of course, Mr. DeGaulle,” the waitress said before she walked off.

“Special items?” A foot started to push itself into his face. He pushed it away.

“Yeah, something to make the party more lively. Don’t worry about it,” Fleur said. “You’ll have the best time of your life here!”

“It certainly looks like it.” The couple finally stood and moved to a different couch, where they resumed. “What does ChromaDyne do, anyway?”

Fleur shook his head. “Ah, business business. It’s a party and you want to talk business!”

“Well, you did invite me here to do that, so…”

“Well, if you insist. We’re a pharmaceutical company, just like Medical Dynamic. We’re just a bit… more involved.”

“How come I’ve never heard of you before?”

“Honestly, we like to keep below the radar,” Fleur said. “Better for our business, really.”

Just then, the waitress returned with the drinks. She handed Fleur several small packet and he smiled and winked at her. “Cheers,” he said, holding up his martini.

“Cheers,” Veras replied, holding up his own drink, then taking a gulp of it. As soon as he finished, Fleur tossed one of the packets to him. He barely managed to catch it without spilling his drink.

“What’s this?”

Fleur smiled that dangerous smile of his again. “It’s one of our newest products. Give it a try, see how you like it.”

Veras blinked. “What? I’m not trying some strange drug! I don’t know what it is… What it does! I don’t even know the chemical composition!”

Fleur laughed, loud and hard. It was a laugh with an honesty Veras hadn’t heard in a long time. “That’s what makes you such a genius, I suppose! Always thinking about the chemical composition! Well, I don’t know that. But I can tell you what it does! It makes you feel good. It lowers your inhibitions and boosts your self confidence.” Noting Veras’s nervous look, Fleur continued. “It’s like alcohol, only without the drunkeness.”

“Like alcohol, huh?” Veras wondered, looking at it.

“Yep, that’s it. Just like alcohol, except without the headache in the morning.” Fleur popped one into his mouth and swallowed it with a gulp of his drink. “Bottoms up.”

Veras looked down at the packet. With a shrug, he tore it open, took out the tiny pill, and swallowed it with his drink. Fleur smiled at him and he grinned back. Within a minute, Veras was starting to feel amazing. “I feel like I could take on the world,” he said.

“And you can,” Fleur answered. “All you have to do is come work for ChromaDyne.”

“I’m quitting,” Veras said.

His staff stared at him. “What?” Victor asked.

“You’re quitting?” Tamia repeated. “Why are you quitting?”

“I’ve got a better offer,” Veras said. “From a company called ChromaDyne. They are going to make me the head of their research department. I’ll have billions of ISK worth of resources to play around with, nothing like what we’re forced to use here. And I won’t have to carry everyone else’s mistakes, either. They have the best researchers in the cluster over there.”

“I’ve never even heard of them,” Victor said. “How do you know about them?”

Veras smiled to himself. “I attended a… recruitment meeting last night. They showed me some of their new products. And they told me they want me to develop their brands even further. Imagine what I could do with them! Cure diseases, or eliminate pain entirely, or create safe, non-habit forming relaxants or stimulants! It’s a chance I can’t pass up.”

“You helped put this company on the map, Dr. Plastine,” Tamia said. “I can’t believe you’re going to abandon it.”

“We all need to grow up sometime, Tamia,” Veras said. “Maybe one day, you’ll figure out that Medical Dynamics is the small time.” She shook her head and said nothing. “Cheer up. With me gone, you’ll be in charge. You can even take credit for all the work I’ve done that I’m leaving behind. Not that it’ll compare to what I’ll be doing. But I’m sure it’ll still be big.”

Veras grabbed his things and turned. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to be somewhere else!”

“We haven’t gotten anywhere,” Veras mumbled to himself as he stared into the microscope. “No matter what we do, the product is still addictive.”

“Is that really a bad thing?” his assistant asked. The assistant was the fifth new one Veras had gotten this month. He couldn’t even keep them apart any more. For whatever reason, ChromaDyne had a high turnover rate. In the six months he’d been there, Veras’s entire staff had turned over three times.

“I doubt our employers want to release a drug that is so addictive,” Veras said. “Especially when all it’s supposed to do is help deal with depression. We don’t want users to become addicts.”

The assistant rolled his eyes, but Veras ignored it. “But if everything else about the drug is working fine, why hold it back?”

“I can’t have anything but perfection,” Veras said. He stood up from the microscope and stretched. “I need to take a break. Maybe if I relax a little, something will come to me.” He rubbed his eyes and walked toward his office. “If anything comes up, I’ll be in my office.”

He sat down in his chair and leaned back with a sigh. As if by reflex, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pill. It was Crystal Egg, he’d figured out. But Fleur had been right, it was no worse than drinking alcohol. And the side effects weren’t nearly as hard to deal with. He popped it into his mouth and swallowed.

Almost immediately, his comm screen beeped. He opened his eyes and pushed a button. Fleur’s face appeared on the screen. “Veras! Good to see you,” he said with his switchblade smile.

“Mr. DeGaulle!” Veras said. He’d since learned that Fleur was the CEO of ChromaDyne, not simply a recruiter as he’d believed. “What can I do for you today?”

“Our new drug, Veras,” Fleur said. “I thought you’d have it done by now! Our clients are tired of waiting on it!”

Veras shook his head. “It’s the addictive qualities,” Veras said. “They’re too strong. Give someone just one pill and they’d be hooked! And all our testing shows the withdrawal is terrible. Vomiting, shakes, heart palpations. I’d hate to see what someone who took it for months or even years did if they tried to quit. They’d probably die.”

“Oh really?” Fleur said. “That does sound… Well, we certainly don’t want our clients to die, not as long as they still have money to give us of course!” He forced a laugh at his own joke. Veras joined in with a chuckle.

“I’m trying, Mr. DeGaulle. I really am. I think we’re close. We just need time.”

“Well, time is…” Fleur froze and turned his head. “One minute, Dr. Plastine, I - ” He was suddenly cut off by shouts.

“Down on the ground!” came a harsh order from the other side of the screen. “Get down on the ground, now!”

“Mr. DeGaulle?” Veras asked, shooting to his feet. “Is there something - ”

The screen stayed on just long enough to see a DED officer grab it and shut it off. Moments later, loud barking orders came from outside his own door. A second later, his door was kicked down and a DED officer was pointing a weapon at him.

“Hands in the air!” the officer said. Veras threw his hands up as another officer came into the room and grabbed him.

“Dr. Veras Plastine, you are under arrest for the criminal research and manufacture of boosters under the purview of Serpentis Corporation.”

“What?” Veras shouted. “I work for ChromaDyne! I’m not - ”

“You have the right to remain silent,” the officer growled. “Your words can be used against you in any criminal proceedings against you. You have the right to legal counsel. If you do not have your own representation, one will be provided to you.”

“Dr. Plastine,” the judge said. “You are charged with knowingly aiding Serpentis Corporation in the research and manufacture of illegal boosters. How do you plead?”

“Not guilty,” Veras said.

“Is it true that my client was never told about who owned ChromaDyne?” Veras’s attorney asked.

“That is true,” Fleur answered. Fleur was in chains. He had already been convicted. The evidence and rap sheet against him could stretch from Gallente to Caldari.

“Is it true that he was never told what he was actually researching?”

“That is also true,” Fleur said.

“What did he think he was researching?”

“Anti-depressants,” Fleur answered.

“No further questions.”

Fleur looked at Veras and smiled. It was meek and apologetic. The danger had fled.

“Dr. Plastine was tested for drugs shortly after we booked him,” the DED officer who arrested Veras said. “He was found to have used Crystal Egg within the past hour and showed signs of Crystal Egg abuse for at least six months.”

“Objection!” Veras’s attorney said. “My client's usage of recreational drugs does not demonstrate that he was aware he was involved in their production!”

“Sustained,” the judge said.

“On the count of knowingly aiding in the manufacture of boosters, we the jury find the defendant not guilty,” the foreman read. Veras sighed and slumped back into his chair. “On the count of knowingly aiding in the research of boosters, we the jury find the defendant not guilty.” Veras leaned his head back in relief.

His attorney slapped him on the shoulder. “I told you I’d get you off,” he said. “After a few months for your possession charges, you’ll be a free man.”

“Yeah, a free man,” Veras mumbled.

“Please,” Veras said. He was literally on his knees.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Plastine,” Tamia said. “We aren’t interested in hiring you.”

“I’m begging you,” Veras said. “I need a job. I’ve tried everywhere else. No one wants to hire a drug researcher who had a drug addiction and used to work for Serpentis!”

“Neither do we,” Tamia said. “I’m sorry, but the PR blow would be too much. We’re only a few days away from announcing a new drug to treat addiction. If the press found out we were hiring someone who used to be involved in creating it…”

“But Tamia, I didn’t know! I never knew! And I was acquitted!”

“You dug this hole for yourself, Veras. I’m not throwing you a rope to help you out.”

Veras stood up. “I swear, it’ll be worth it! I can help this company, I know it! You owe me a chance, at least!”

“No,” Tamia answered firmly. “We owe you nothing. I certainly don’t either. Not after you left like that. My team doesn’t need a drug addict with a stick up his ass. Someone else might, but not us.”

“There’s no one else left,” Veras whimpered.

“Maybe you should give your Serpentis friends a call.”

Veras stiffened. “Fine,” he said. “I’m not going to grovel any more. But you’ll regret this, one day. You will.” He walked out the door.

Veras slumped in a corner of his shabby one-room apartment. He stared down at the communicator. Finally, with a deep breath, he pushed the “Activate” button.

“Ah, Dr. Plastine,” the man on the other end said. “Interesting to hear from you.”

“I know. I just… I need work.”

The man laughed. “Work? You want to work for us?”

“Yes,” Veras said. “I want to work for you.”

The man laughed harder. “Don’t lie to me. You don’t want to work for us. You just don’t have any other choice.”

Veras swallowed hard. “Please, I need a job. I just…”

“I didn’t say no. You’re hired. Get on a shuttle to the Intaki Syndicate as soon as possible. Once you’re there, I’ll arrange for transport to Serpentis Prime. Once there, we’ll discuss the terms of your employment.”

“Thank you. I promise, I won’t disappoint you.”

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