By Phillip Ghee
A young entrepreneur dabbling in a novel product unwillingly unleashes a plague upon mankind.
Eddie Horatio Lin, unlike the mantle gratuitously bestowed upon most elementary school children, really could have been anything he chose. He had the stability of a prosperous family. He was privy to attend fine school and avail himself to a commensurable education. But most importantly he had been blessed with presence of mind and aptitude. One can surely make the claim that he was gifted. He was attentive, quick to digest and assimilate most any task assigned him or any subject presented to him. In fact he had only missed Mensa status by just a few points. All of this withstanding, in the eyes of Edward Sr., Eddie had made one critically asinine decision that moved him closer to moron than genius status.
In spite of the continuing diminishing of the American economy, Eddie chose love, that being the love of science, over education, careers and positions. Certainly there were many fields he could had chosen that would have afforded him a much more economically prosperous, lucrative and secure lifestyle. Adding structure to his father’s camp, all of Eddie’s friends, most of whom he had known since grade school, had made more astute and beneficial choices. Those who once held a hankering for science, left it behind, like old comic books and toy soldiers, once reaching their adolescents. They had majored in the popular studies of business, trade and commerce. A few had gone into Law, which no matter how useless and unproductive to the society, Law was still one of the most prestigious and sought after professions. The more bold ones went into the new fields birthed during the mid 21st Century. These were formed and nourished upon the culture of greed and excess. Although such livelihoods would have seemed unconscionable just a few decades earlier; they were now validated and cutting edge. Eddie’s wife belonged to this group. She was a Licensed Lottery Broker. She had graduated from an Ivy leagues school that was now pumping into the society new professionals such as Property Acquisition Specialist, Adolescent and Pre-Adult Labor Management and Procurement Representative and the still slightly controversial yet highly compensated PZC’s (Population Zoning Commissioners).
Eddie chose to become a scientist, more precisely, a Pharmaceutical Bio-Technology Engineer specializing in Genetically Engineered Products. In the caste/class conscious society of mid 21.st Century America, these professions were viewed and compensated much in the same way as high school teachers were in the late 20th Century.
Fields such as the sciences and engineering were no longer prized. If one was not engaged in some economic breakthrough, revolutionary product or service they would only accrue a respectable yet still a mid-level worker’s salary. Even when working for a company on the forefront of innovation, any rewards or bonuses was totally left up to the discretion of the company.
Every aspect of working as well as leisure life was economically based and stratified unlike any other time in the past. Even the Pharmaceutical Salesmen at the Bio-tech Company where Eddie applied his trade made three times his salary by marketing and selling the very same products that his genius and hard work helped to produced. Royalties were a thing of the past so there was no silver lining in his efforts no matter how profitable or socially rewarding the pharmaceutical and chemicals were. One produced solely for the sake of his craft.
The greater portion of the population had sunk to despicable depths. They had become either desolate or governmentally dependent. The ship of the future was sinking. It was the burden of a narrow band of blue collar and middle class workers to man the oars and sails. Their efforts and sacrifices helped to keep the ship afloat. The upper ten percent had throw caution to the wind. They lived lavishly and invested only in their personal rather than societal future. They charted courses of indulgence, drifting the society ever more closely to the shores of economic oblivion.
Eddie’s friends lead plush lives in the land of privilege. His wife, My Lai would let it occasionally slip and show her contempt towards the meager earnings of her scientist husband. During the early days of their marriage she was able to keep up appearances and fully immerse herself into the activities and social venues that their friends maintained. This was due to her expertise at statistics and her crafty intuition towards her given field. Then came the Anti-Insider Lottery-Broker Laws and Regulations. The profession fell under close scrutiny and the perks of astute analysis (sometimes questionable tips) were of no longer personal financial benefit to them.
All of the financial friction in the Lin household came to head the day Eddie Horatio Lin arrived home to find his wife, bitterly sobbing, and doused in tears. She sat at the dinning room table; a tattered envelope lay before her, its insert overturned, and facedown. Eddie immediately feared disaster or some family tragedy. He was however at a lost to understand why no one had contacted him or her beforehand, by viralcell. She sensed his arrival but, lost in her tears, she made no effort to acknowledge him.
Instinctively he wanted to console her but he sensed coldness in her aura that he dare not tread upon. Wait a minute, even from a distance; he could identify the vibrant pastel colors of the tattered envelope as well as the overturned insert. They were far too festive to be the bearer of bad news. He took a deep breath, stepped forward and intervened.
The card was of quality stock, peppered with heat activated aromatic sensors.
Thomas and MaryBeth Ferkle
Request your attendance at their Gala Ball
Celebrating the acquisition of their latest property The Merovingian Castle in
Montpeyroux , France
Formal Dress- Friday Night- Social Introduction and Tour
Casual Saturday- Wine and Network Gathering
Period Custom circa Parisian- 1700’s , Sunday Gala Ball
August 11-13 2036
Eddie was a little put off by the presumptuousness of the invitation especially since this was already the third of August. Like they were supposed to drop whatever they were doing, somehow scramble to find what would undoubtedly be an expensive, short notice booked, tickets to France. Not to mention they would have to cultivate elaborate new outfits to boot. But that’s how friends in their circle rolled” If you have to ask, you can’t afford it, if you can’t make it there maybe you weren’t supposed to be there, etc. etc . He was angry but looking at his wife’s blood shot eyes, he caved in. MaryBeth was supposedly one of My Lai’s BFF’s. Sure it would cost them another year putting off re-roofing and as for the wind and solar upgrades to the house and car, forgetaboutit. At that moment all Mr. Lin wanted to do was to restore Mrs. Lin’s eyes to their bright clarity and faultless beauty.
”À votre sante “
The assembled group of well wishers raised their glasses to toast the hosts.
The castle was as true as the word pronounced it to be. It was a true Châteauesque architecturedating from the late 1700’s. The fact that Thomas and MaryBeth even, with their combined wealth could afford something on this scale as an investment and solely as a summer retreat was amazing. But France economy was currently on the skids. Eddie was sure that American gains would be short lived at best. Once the pendulum would swing back in favor of the Europeans, he surmised the Castle would stripped down and back on financial blocks again.
The castle’s proximity to the fine wine growing region offered it access to some of the most treasured stock of wines which the host made no excuse in flaunting. Each glass raised in the toast originated from bottles valued over a thousand dollars each. MaryBeth made sure that covert strategically placed whispers would, given time, conveyed this fact. As if that wasn’t enough, an over eager and slight intoxicated MaryBeth jumped ahead of her planned surprise and hinted to the party-goers that a special treat would be served at the costume ball on Sunday.
Ever thing about the affair was over indulgent and over the top but, Eddie admitted that it was nice to get together with so many friends in such an exotic locale. His wife was in her element even if she was by in large just keeping up appearances. She simply sparkled in her gown. Money aside, he was sure her natural beauty and near perfect feminine form made her the envy of most of the cosmetically altered and chemically enhanced masses.
Then there was Buddy Lee. Buddy was one of Eddie’s best friends from childhood. He was quite a character. He served as hilarious color commentator, mocking the rich and famous for Eddie’s benefit. So sarcastic were his comments and observations that one might possibly assume that he was an outsider from the group. Financially he rolled just as phat as the rest of the group, Eddie and May Li withstanding. However, he tended to amass his fortunes by less than honorable or even legal means. He wasn’t a criminal per-se, just a schemer, hype-man modern carnival barker. Sometime his rouses went a little overboard and in times past he has paid the price for such incursions be it, considerable fines or short jail stays.
“ Psst. Eddie make sure you don’t spill any of the grape juice its about 100 buck a drop.” Buddy whispered to Eddie who was still holding his glass in salute. His remarks were almost self-fulfilling as Eddie chuckled bringing the precious tiny waves of the expensive brew dangerous close to the rim of the glass.
“À la votre”
“ Hey looks like MaryBeth had to do a little sampling before deciding which stuff to serve.” Eddie mischievously sniped back indicating her tipsiness.
“So what’s this crap, only about 60 years old?” Not waiting for a response Buddy continued. “I think my uncle has some ‘Ripple’ collecting dust in his attic that’s older than that. What do ya think I can fetch for that if I viralcell it on E-bay, Eddie my boy?”
The second well placed rumor made its way to Eddie’s table during dinner. A case of champagne, certified to have been trampled and corked during the Castle’s 1700’s heyday, would be served at the Costumed Ball. The rumor even developed its own rumor, the Champaign was said to be valued at $47,000 dollars a bottle. Needless to say this jumpstarted Buddy and served to re-energize his rant However, after receiving a stern warning stare from MaryBeth; he decided to save his wit for more private and accommodating company.
After dinner the men grouped into their own more specific gatherings. Eddie and Buddy huddled with some of their old school chums. Reminiscing about old times was fun and showed Eddie that he really wasn’t that far removed from the group. The subject of wine came up again; one of the group was a self proclaimed connoisseur of the grape. Questions flew at him as to why the alleged case should be so expensive. The connoisseur went on to explain that it had more to do with just the age of the wine, which was an important factor but, not the only variable. History was a factor, what events had taken place during its inception. Then there was the pedigree of the stock. Each wine comes from a root stock with its own unique DNA. The geography, climate and expertise of the winemaker play a critical role and so on and so on. The huddle group was fascinated by the impromptu seminar. Buddy being Buddy added his own sarcastic bend on the newly received information. Buddy nudged Eddie much to Eddie’s annoyance; the scientist in him was really enjoying this banquet of knowledge.
“Hey! If that’s the case, you should be able to make a fortune peddling some of that prehistoric, Ice Core water you use to study”. Eddie shushed Buddy and returned his full attention to the speaker. It was almost an hour later when over the thick aroma of brandy and cigars smoke and lost in the comfort of richly plumped velvet drawing room chairs; did Eddie lean forward.
During grad school Eddie had take a full semester of study at the North Pole. His rich uncle from China had made his money in various drilling and excavation projects. His company, Shenzhou Pacific Mining, provided drills, machinery as well as crews many and diverse projects worldwide. He had tried his hand in a new venture, deep ice drilling. When he realized that the scientific interests that sponsored the contract was Eddie’s Alma Mater; he entreated his nephew to pursue some cross-study. This would allow him to bond with the American side of his family whom the rich uncle knew very little about.
“Ice core?” Eddie repeated himself. Buddy was a little perplexed at Eddie’s sudden and apparent interest in what was supposed to have been just a quick and smart humorous jab. “What did you mean by that statement Buddy?” The question was presented with all the seriousness of a prosecutor at during cross examination.
“You know, what was Harold saying, The more ancient the stuff , the Mo money, mo money, mo money its worth. And didn’t you once tell me that the ice cores you guys were digging up went all the way back there to the dinosaurs and stuff? Think about what it must have been like back in those days. Take climate for instance, no acid rain back then, no factories. No man-made pollution Just pure good old air, no man to f–k it up. Who was responsible back then? Check it out, God himself, Mr. Aquarius, The Water Bearer.”
Eddie thought a few minutes about what had just been said. He took a sip from the brand snifter. He concluded that purity really was not a feasible marketing point.
“Well we can make the purest water of all in the sanctity of a lab”. Eddie was now very skeptical and dismissive and ready to move on to a new subject.
“God not a chemist, He’s a chef. What makes taste, taste, Eddie?”
With his mental gears now spinning Buddy uncharacteristically launched into his own mini seminar. His logic was admittedly sound. He continued with the Chef and cooking analogy. Buddy proposed that an accomplished chef could create a masterpiece whereas a novice given the same ingredients, equipment and environment would at best create a weak facsimile. He concluded that water is more that HO, a chemical bond. Water takes on the essence of the life or environment that thrives, or ceases to thrive, in its presence.
“Water…from..an ice core?”
The ices themselves were cylinders of ice drilled out of glaciers and polar ice sheets. They are the main analytical tool responsible for the gathering of information on Earth’s climactic past. These ice cores can determine with clinical accuracy everything from climate, gas levels, electrical conductively as well as a bevy of other scientific data. Spectrometry and modified oscillatory analysis’s make it possible to determine the age of the ice within a variance of just a few years. Collected ice cores have been known to date as far back as the first Ice Age and beyond. Such ice formations also trap air and particle samples thus allowing scientist to ascertain the quality of the air as well as the speeds of wind and possible trajectory of fallen snow.
Buddy’s Water Emporium was one of the hottest, trendiest spots on Los Angeles’ Westside. It catered to the rich and famous. You had either better be somebody or very close to somebody in order to get
reservations at Buddy’s. Eddie shied away from the limelight and preferred to remain a silent partner. Buddy was by no means getting a free ride. Aside from the fact that it was his, off the top snip, that birthed the idea for the enterprise; it was Buddy’s wealth that funded the initial investment. Buddy was also a marketing whiz. Buddy knew what the hi-end crowd craved. The establishment was as plush as the most excusive club or restaurant. The perks and amenities one encountered If granted entry into the club was sure to either cement their reputation or spawn one. The paparazzi would be packed three rows deep just to get a glance, photo, or hologramic of the A-listers lined up hoping for admission.
Naturally, neither the FDA nor the CDC took kindly to the idea of introducing something in the environment that was unknown. The environment as well as the human genome had taken a serious beating in the past hundred years. Much likes Buddy’s, science ran a velvet rope and was very selective as to whom or what should be allowed access. This was another reason Eddie chose to remain a silent partner, due to his title as a bio-technical engineer he would not want anything that could be construed at a conflict of interest messing up a good thing. Between his uncles’s wealth and influence of friends and Eddie own knowledge of the inner workings and politics and policies of the aforementioned agencies, they were able to secure licensing to distribute any waters generated within the history of man. The waters still had to face expensive and extensive testing. Eddie’s uncle weather the financial burden of the first year. Once their products had proven safe, restrictions were relaxed and that’s when the profits and proceeds rained down, in torrents, on the three major parties involved.
Along with the ambience and novelty associated with these aged waters Buddy had diversified and emphasized different distinct brands. BC, The Living Water, although not the oldest brew was the most expensive. It was said to date back to around the life and times Jesus Christ. It was a big hit among the Christian minded Celebes and notables. Even visiting Vatican head haunches were unable to resist the hype and seek out a bottle, 1000 dollars if purchased in the club, 1800 if ordered on-line. Macho Water was a favorite among the single men seeking pleasurable conquests. The water was certified to have originated during the time of Genghis Khan. Amazingly, the ladies actually preferred one of the least expensive waters in the house. The Summer of Love Mist, it was less than a century old, owing its originto the Hippie inspired 1969. Older women preferred the much more expensive Renaissance Rain.
The rebels and self important a-holes favored one of the first, tainted waters, that Buddy and Eddie experimented with: INDUSTRIAL AGE, Dirty Water. The labels on Dirty Water featured reproduced images of daguerreotypes capturing life on early assembly lines, coal producing mines, textile miles etc. To enhance the theme the men had added a specially created chemical ester that added just a hint of smokiness to the flavor of the water.
Somewhere along the line Uncle Hung Liu proposed that they open up a Chinese version of the Water Emporium. His reasons were not wholly financially. The phat proceeds that uncle Liu received from the club was due to his heavy investment that first year and, also it was his company that was still responsible for the Artic mining that secured the waters. He had made choice alterations to the way they drilled for ice cores as to accommodate the new uses for the waters. He also policed their investment making sure no other mining company tried to cash in on the deal. Even though the proceeds to Liu were considerable, compared to his already amassed fortune, they amounted to just chump change for Liu, what he liked to call Mistress money. He reason for opening the Chinese club, financially, would only afford him another. His ambitions were much loftier than that.
China was a country with a culture, ancient and mysterious; baffling at times to occidental eyes. Many western trends could actually be said to have roots in Chinese society. Power networking was as Chinese’s as the invention of paper. China also has a long history of pandering to the taboo and often these two Chinese institutions walked hand and hand. Be it the Opium dens of the 19th Century or, the illicit trade in Ivory ornaments China has always controlled the black market. If the Chinese elite desired the rumored aphrodisiac properties of rhinoceros horns, the healing properties of stewed, endangered, Snow Owl, or the mystical properties of South American Yage Tea, he could always find someone to deliver it; the next day!
China had also become the world’s foremost economic giant even though the United States of America still held the title on paper only. The Chinese business cultured differed from the US in that whereas the major business deals in the US were made in lush hi-rise offices board rooms, in large brown envelopes left conveniently by lobbyist upon the desks of politicians; the Chinese power deals were made in darken back alleys behind the rows of street vendor’s kiosks serving up noodles and other street-side favorite treats.
Entire corporations had been known to change hands amid the ruckus and bustle of the jie bin dong 街邊檔,“street side stalls. Chinese power deals were made in dark and dank basements of illegal mahjong and gambling cellars. Economic alliances were often formed before the night’s festivities at exclusive bordellos and strip clubs.
The rules and regulations in China were more laxed than they were in the US. However certain risky ventures were still off-limits. Uncle Hung Liu needed the assistance of an expert. He requested the expertise of Buddy to assist in the formation of the Chinese version of the club. Eddie was too! Clean, to by the book. Eddie did not feel slighted. He assumed that Buddy’s showmanship and sense of interior designed were the needed skills that Uncle Liu would need to get the ground off the ground. He assumed that when his uncle would finally get around to the enhanced waters then his scientific skill would be commissioned.
Buddy had grown to know far more about the business both scientific and commercially that Eddie was aware of. There would be rules that needed to be bent or circumvented and this was Buddy’s true gift. Eddie wished Buddy well, offered his blessing and sent him, as well as most of the top echelon of the Water Procurement and Development scientific team off to China.
The Chinese club once opened, resembled very much the Los Angeles club yet with a more distinctive Chinese and oriental flair and flavor. The A-listers for the Chinese club were just as prominent. The paparazzi were more respectful and orderly. The women were modestly attired, that is until inside the club.
Below ground was a separate establishment that many, including the A-listers upstairs, had no knowledge of. Drinks like Jurassic Juice, Cretaceous Ice Crunch and Primordial Punch were but a few of the illicit drinks served to the VIP’s downstairs.
China had not been as kind to buddy as it had been to his bank accounts. Eddie went to meet his friend at the airport. He had expected a joyous reunion but instead encountered an apparition of the Eddie he knew. The man who gingerly made his way towards him was half the man as the one who had departed from this very same airport.
His skin was pasty white speckled with raised blemishes. He walk seem arthritic and he could not hide a frequent clearing of the throat. Eddie wonder why, given the recent news about a new flu making rounds in China, that Buddy had not been guarantied before being allowed to enter the United States. But he later reasoned that the flu was recent and as of now confined only to rural regions. Also what ever ailed Buddy had been gestating longer than the few weeks of the newly confirmed flu. The rural areas of China were still a world away from the ultra modern metropolises of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. There seem to be no alarm sounded for the cities.
The flu had grown much worse in the weeks since Buddy’s return. Buddy’s condition had also deteriorated. Buddy decided he need to a little cleansing of mind, body and pocketbook. He headed down to the tropical paradise of the Cayman island for a little R&R. There not only could he clean out his system but he could also do a little cleaning, a little laundering of some of his earlier, ill gained, financial accounts. Buddy never returned.
The Chinese born flu had now reached the cities. Deaths were mounting. Given that any flu affecting a heavily populated area had the chance to become a pandemic; the CDC of the United States as well as prominent Pharmaceutical interests sent scientists and evaluators to assist the Chinese government. Eddie volunteered for his company to go to China. He reasoned that this would provide him a chance to experience the Chinese Club firsthand. Also Eddie thought this would be a good opportunity to expose his uncle to the new enhanced waters he had been experiment with.
He had not expected to find his uncle so ill. He had assumed that because of his uncle’s wealth and power that he would have been able to isolate, quite comfortably until the malady passed. Eddie, if anyone, should have known better germs don’t discriminate and can not be paid off.
The collective wisdom of the combined scientist soon fingered the culprit, or at least the host harboring the culprit. Animals throughout the ages have been known to be the bearer of bad news. There was the deadly bug that rode in on the backs of rats that devastated Europe during the Middle Ages.
The Avian, so called bird flu, may have been more hype than flu during the early 21st. Century but it later (perhaps via laboratory snafu) combined with an impotent Swine Flu strain of Virus from the late 1970’s and sent the world into a panicked frenzy. Yet the unlikely harbinger of this new flu was an animal not generally associated with animal to human transmission. The Reptile flu was indeed a flux in the annals of science. What the combined scientist had not ascertained was this new virus that first affected reptiles was not the new kid on the block.
The Reptile virus was an ancient killer who after a hearty breakfast had settled in, dormant style, to take in 60 million year nap. When it awoke, it found its favorite treat had vanished from the menu, perhaps due to its voracious appetite. So the virus had to settle for much less desirable cousins of it original faire. That is until it discovered that the Master Chef had added delicious new dessert to the menu.