Monday, December 8, 2014

Foxworth Terminus by J. Drew Brumbaugh

Subgenre: Near-Future Science Fiction, Action Thriller
Release Date: November 24, 2014

ABOUT Foxworth Terminus:

Reggie Foxworth, brilliant bio-chemist, has spent the last fifteen years working on a top secret project to enhance paranormal brain function. With success in sight, the project is being cancelled. Knowing his career and future are about to be terminated and with nothing to lose, Reggie takes the mind expanding drug himself before they can destroy it. Initially, the physical consequences are not evident but as time passes Reggie finds out just how powerful the mind can be. More like magic than science, Reggie discovers that he can do impossible things. These strange powers don’t go unnoticed and soon every government on Earth is out to steal the secret and eliminate Reggie as a threat, including his own. They send assassins, turn his friends against him, alienate his girlfriend, try anything to stop Reggie. How can he escape, end the attacks and find a way to win back the love of his life?


Pulling the door closed behind him, Reggie stood motionless for a few minutes while his eyes adjusted to the faint glow coming from the hallway. Three parallel rows of lab benches ran the length of the room. Slowly in the dim light, objects began to take shape: the imposing array of polished, stainless steel instruments, the computer equipment, the animal cages, and the maze table. And though he couldn’t see it, Reggie knew the refrigerator sat in the back corner. Carefully he made his way to the frig and opened it. The light popped on. Reggie snatched a tiny vial from the shelf and closed the door. He turned to the nearest countertop and retrieved a hypodermic needle from one of the drawers. Pulling up a high-backed stool beside the bench, he sat down.

He took a breath, steadied his shaky hands and loaded the needle using the entire sample. “So far, so good,” he mumbled to himself. Faced with giving himself a shot, he paused. This was going to be harder than he’d imagined. He eyed the vein in his forearm, brought the needlepoint up close to the skin and faltered.

He hated shots, was a baby when it came to getting them or having blood drawn. Sticking himself presented a psychological barrier. He swallowed hard, tried again to force the needle tip through the skin. His shaking hand refused to cooperate as he dreamed up excuses not to inject himself. What if he missed the vein? Would the drug work if injected into the muscle by mistake? He tried to steady himself but couldn’t stop trembling. He glanced away, searching for courage.

“How do diabetics do this?” he asked himself. But his question went unanswered. Inevitably his attention returned to the sharp, silvery point.

Hard to believe that this single hypodermic full of liquid represented his entire career. It was the culminating achievement of fifteen years of tedious labor, of experiments repeated ad nauseam, of separations and chemical identifications that defied the limits of science, of monumental advances in gene therapy and brain chemistry. It had violated standard medical protocols from the beginning. Rataze was an enigmatic compound that defied synthesis or even full structural analysis. Separated and accumulated from selected rats and then injected into a normal rat, the results had been nothing short of phenomenal. Now the government was about to flush that miracle drug down the drain.

"What is wrong with those idiots?" he asked aloud, leaning back in the black vinyl stool trying to ease the tension knotting the muscles along his spine.

Time was running out. Either he injected himself and took the risk, or stood by and let his life's work go down the sewer. Reluctant to take the final step, he scanned the lab uneasily from his seat in the farthest corner from the door. The gloomy shadows matched his dark mood. Reggie knew he had to take the shot. And no one was coming to do it for him. He thought about the imposing and expensive array of equipment that filled the auxiliary lab. It had all been built just so he could cradle that hypodermic full of innocent-looking fluid. And that was only the auxiliary lab. The main lab was several times larger and even more extravagantly equipped. If rataze worked on humans like it did on the rats, well, the expense would be repaid a thousand times.

The tomb-like quiet mocked his procrastination.

"It has to be done," he muttered, trying to bolster enough courage to take the action. "I can't let these assholes waste all the work I've done, we’ve done.”

"What if it doesn't work in humans?” his conscience argued. “What if it kills you? A few rats died from complications,” he reminded himself. “Complications, not from the treatment itself. Some of the rats went berserk. Yes, but why? Without knowing the mechanism by which rataze did whatever it did, there's no way to tell. It's now or never. Before the security thugs show up.” He realized he was talking to himself again and stopped. It wasn’t as if he was arguing about whether he should do it or not. He knew it was about injecting himself, sticking a needle into his vein. He cringed.

Taking rataze himself violated his sense of ethics, but what choice did they leave him? He wished Jennifer was with him, wished she’d supported his decision. She’d made it clear that she was against it. No, no one could know until it was done. You never gave up. How many times had his dad drilled that into him? Hard work and persistence was the only way to get anywhere. Doing it, not talking about it. If things didn't go right, you just worked a little harder.

He remembered his first Little League season. He'd been eight, youngest kid on the team, and Dad had been proud. But the memories weren't all good. One game he'd come to bat in the last inning with the bases loaded, two outs and their team behind by a run. It had been a three-two count. He could still see the pitcher wind up, the ball coming toward the plate. It was low, almost bounced over the plate. He'd swung, and struck out on what should have been ball four. On the way home, Dad had been sympathetic, but Reggie’s tears had come anyway.

"Don't worry," Dad had said, "there'll be other days. All you need is practice."

Reggie had wanted to quit baseball right then and there. Instead, his dad insisted on practice and more practice. Work harder. And practice they had. Every night after school Dad had pitched to him, hours on end. He'd become one of the top hitters in high school. It was a lesson he hadn't forgotten. Hard work was rewarded. But this time if he didn’t take matters into his own hands, all the hard work would be wasted. And that idea was more than he could stomach.

He turned back to his predicament. He and his team had done the work, sweated to find the answer, and now that they were on the verge of success, it was being stolen from them. It came down to this: either he took the drug now or the whole project got lost in red tape along with the careers of about a hundred people. There was only one conclusion, the conclusion he’d already reached. Time to act.

He closed his eyes and rolled his head to loosen the stiffness in his neck. It didn't help. He opened his eyes and exhaled softly through dry lips. For a moment he stared off into the dimly lit lab. And then slowly his gaze dropped back to the needle. It always came back to the needle.

Carefully, he raised it, point up, and sighted across the liquid meniscus. His disheveled, brown hair fell into his face, partially blocking his vision. He eased the plunger inward until the barest drop oozed out.

Resolutely now, he moved the syringe down to the blue vein in his left forearm. He steeled himself against his phobia. Mechanically his right hand inched the needle closer. Somehow, it steadied. His left hand clenched several times, and then tightened into a fist. He forced back the fear that threatened to freeze him. The needle point pierced the skin and slid smoothly into the soft tissue. Part of his mind noted with surprise that he hadn't flinched. He watched, detached, as he pushed the plunger home. A quick reverse flick of the fingers and the needle came free. It was done.

About the Author:

J Drew Brumbaugh lives in northeast Ohio where he spends his time writing sci-fi, fantasy and suspense novels, teaching and training at the karate dojo he and his wife founded, building a Japanese garden in his back yard, and taking walks in the woods with his wife, Carolyn, and their husky, Blue. He has two novels in print, a collection of short stories, and a co-authored children’s book. He continues to work on his next book and seems to always have several stories in various stages of completion.

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