Jem was awakened by the same guard as always rattling the bars of his cell.
“It would seem you’re a busy man, Jem.”
Jem sighed and got up. His head spun momentarily and he remembered how long tripe lasted in the system. He got up, steadying himself, and walked over to the entrance of his cell.
“Ah, good, I was actually somewhat predicting this one.”
He let himself be handcuffed and led back through the maze of corridors to the same door as always. The guard opened the door, but the man inside was not Devin. It was a tall, well-composed man with black hair.
Jem prepared himself for the encounter, then took his seat on the opposing side of the table from the man, who he assumed was Gerard.
Gerard waited for the guard to close the door, then turned to Jem.
“Jem, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.”
“Well, first, who are you? Devin implied there was more than one person, but I don’t know who you are.”
“I’m Gerard.” He stuck out his hand to shake Jem’s, but Jem declined.
“I’m guessing you’re here to try and convince me to join you again. Devin wasn’t strong enough – or strong at all – to break me, so you figured you’d take your turn. Is that it?”
“Not quite. I’d still love for you to join us, and I have the feeling you might by the end of this, but I’m here to present you with some rather unfortunate facts.”
“And what would those be?”
Lying had always come easy to Jem, but when he was on tripe, it didn’t even feel like he was lying any more. He became the person he pretended to be, and responded to the news accurately; an expression of shock, of outrage, of a kind of repugnance; all of these flashed across his face in an instant. He composed himself again and spoke.
“The drug testing you probably knew about at Mind Pharmaceuticals. Guess who ordered it?”
“Clyde Orrville Edison. He’s really the reason we’re trying to expose Mind Pharmaceuticals. He’s been overseeing these testings – and the death they often create – for far too long, and it needs to end. You can help immensely in his demise. If you were to join us…”
Jem – or the character Jem was playing, anyway – was thinking. Gerard gave him space to think, and there was a silence of a few minutes while Jem mulled it over.
“Okay. But only because of Christopher. And I’d still better get the tripe Devin promised.”
Gerard smiled. “All right. That will be fine.”
“And I want to deal Clyde his final blow, the one that will send him reeling for years.”
“And one last thing. I don’t want to do the drug tests.”
Gerard gave him a wry grin. “You drive a hard bargain. That might be a little tricky. I should be able to minimize the amount of trials you do, and possibly you won’t even have to do any before our plan is set into motion. We’ll see. Sound fine?”
Jem nodded. “All right.”
Gerard extended his hand again, and Jem shook it, internally smiling. Things were going just perfectly so far.
“I’ll have someone come by to pick you up in a few hours,” Gerard said.
Jem nodded. He could still feel the tripe coursing through his veins, which made things even better than they already were for him. And if he’d manage to get more, for a little bit at least… He couldn’t wait. And as long as everything worked out in the end, he doubted if he’d ever have any trouble getting it in the end. He kept his face resolute the entire time these thoughts were going through his mind. As far as Gerard knew, he was a pretty desperate punk who’d fallen out of society’s good graces and didn’t have a hope in the world; and that’s the way he wanted Gerard to think of him.
Desmond was doing a final review of his finished products and logging the final precise weights into his computer when he noticed he had an email. He virtually never got email, as very few people actually knew of his existence. Intrigued, he opened it.
It was from a person whose name he hadn’t seen in a very long time. Clyde Edison Orrville. He took a shaky breath. If he was getting an email from Clyde, after so long of a silence, he was sure it was important. He had been keeping an eye on Clyde’s company for quite some time, and had gotten a few hints that everything that happened there wasn’t completely above board, and he had been convinced for quite some time that, knowing how Clyde worked, something big would happen with the company, and soon.
He opened the email and gave it a long, in depth reading. Clyde’s writing style had always been quite intricate, with additional meanings that could be seen hidden in certain purposeful supposed “gaps” in the intricacy, gaps that gave much more meaning than they could’ve if they didn’t break the intricacy to begin with. Thus it was important to search for every bit of meaning hidden in the message.
Desmond smiled. Clyde didn’t give much information into what was actually going to happen, but Desmond could imagine. Clyde merely asked a favor that implied much more than it said, and Desmond wrote a quick response in the affirmative.
At the end, he wrote one final sentence: “Long time no see, Clyde.”
Clyde got the response from Desmond and smiled. Good to see that he was, if only marginally, still “on the grid”. In college, he had the tendency to lock himself away when working, not speaking to anyone and rarely eating.
Seeing that Clyde hadn’t seen much about him for a while, since his book on Grand Willowdraught had been published, he assumed that he still did that to some extent. But he was in on the plan, and that was enough.
He stepped out of his office and took a short stroll around, to check on a few things as well as to aid in his thoughts. Walking was the physical expression of thought, Clyde decided.
A very simple thought that somehow hadn’t struck him until just now came to him. Nobody, except for that intern and Jem, and a few minor people who worked with him occasionally – they were of no consequence – knew what he looked like. He almost laughed aloud at how much of an upper hand this gave him, more of an upper hand than he already had.
He was sure Gerard was the leader of this little rebellion. He didn’t know if there were people other than he and Devin in it, but he doubted it. From everything he knew about Gerard, he was an intensely careful person. This was both what made him a somewhat difficult person to plan around, but also served as his, hopefully final, weakness. Clyde could use Gerard’s carefulness and extremely thorough documentation to his own desires.
Yes, Gerard, you are an interesting opponent, but one I can defeat easily. Just wait, your time will come. And assuming everything works out correcty – and it will – you won’t even have a chance to realize what happened until it’s all too late.
What’s that? You say you have hidden things that will spell my demise? Trust me, dear Gerard, I’ve planned for them. I know you well enough to know the sort of things you will do, things you have done, and I have made spaces in my plans to allow for them. Do what you like, you will find it is all a part in my plans.
No, I do not wish you to give up the battle now! Certainly not, my dear adversary. I wish to play out this game to the very end, one by one capturing your pieces until your king lies cornered and trapped in a checkmate. Only then will I allow you to admit defeat – ah, but then, it will be to late. I will be gone, and you will be forced to pick up the pieces by yourself.
This monologue continued through Clyde’s head as he walked through the main hall and stopped by the doorway. There was the plaque that had “his” picture and name. But there was an all-important change in it that had so recently happened. He doubted anyone would notice until it was too late.
And beside it, an even more important plaque. A plaque which showed the name “Gerard Crossley Darwin”, with an engraving of his bust, naming him the current – and prior, for several years – CEO of Mind Pharmaceuticals. It would have to be so, of course, because “Clyde Edison Orrville” had resigned years ago. He smiled as he began the trek back to his office.
Well, not his office for much longer. He had emptied it out and was paying one final trip to it to pick up a few final things. The white rat, Andrew, as well as the notebooks that had been added to continually for the past few days. While he was there, he went to his computer one final time and checked a few processes that he had set running on Mind Pharmaceutical’s servers. They were almost done. He watched the progress bar slowly move across the screen.
Once this was finished, there would be so, so many changes at Mind Pharmaceuticals. He had spent a long amount of time thinking through and documenting each and every change that would happen, and the effect that would have on the flow of everything that happened.
He smiled once again as the progress bar said it was almost completed, but needed to restart the computer to finalize everything. He knew why; it had to delete his account and set the deletion date to some specific time in the past. He clicked okay and watched his existence at Mind Pharmaceuticals dissolve away into virtual time.
He picked up the rat and notebooks and made a final sweep to make sure he hadn’t accidentally left anything behind.
Then, one last thing, something he would purposefully leave behind. A gun, the almost-identical – a very small but very important difference between the two – twin of which was also in his possession, with the amount of residue that would be left from a single shot in the barrel. The empty shell had been saved. Clyde set the gun on the desk, in plain sight. Gerard was careful, but impulsive. He could be oh so very impulsive.
Before he left, Clyde had granted himself access into Gerard’s account at Mind Pharmaceuticals. It was easy enough to do, and quite necessary for what he had to do.
He logged into the instant messenger program, on his personal laptop – he had taken special precautions first, of course -, in a small room within Mind Pharmaceuticals that he had reserved. It was typically used for conferences, but often lay unused, and Clyde took advantage of it. He searched for a contact: Devin Caldwin. He sent a message and began the first active step that he would take in the plan.
A slight pause, followed by “Devin is typing…”.
“what,” Devin replied.
“We need to meet up, now. The testing room, in fifteen minutes.”
“i dunno. whats this about?”
“It’s important. It’s about Jem.”
(Clyde could almost hear Devin starting to sweat. He didn’t know what had happened, and last he knew, Jem was going to report him to Clyde himself.)
“okay ill be there then”
“Good. Don’t be late.”
With that, Clyde closed the messenger, turned off his computer, and headed in that direction. Everything was prepared, and now he had only to wait.
He sat in the chair that was used by the person overseeing the test, putting on a pair of black leather gloves. Perhaps he was a person overseeing a test. Was he? He supposed that he’d find out.
Devin had found the message he received from Gerard rather odd. Gerard had typically shunned the instant messaging system, decrying it as terribly insecure.
Devin decided that it must’ve just been that Gerard had deemed this as important enough of a meeting to use it instead of a more… analogue form of communication. After all, he hadn’t directly spoken of any sensitive information, so he guessed it was okay. He picked up a notebook and pen – always an important thing to have when going to a meeting, especially one with Gerard.
He thought for a moment about which testing room Gerard was meaning, but it didn’t take him long to decide. Gerard, for some reason, had almost always only used testing room #4. He doubted that Gerard paid much heed to “lucky numbers”, but thought this might’ve been at least part of it, or at least a certain liking of that number, or perhaps just the room itself – although all of the testing rooms were identical in all practicality.
He headed towards that room, then walked through the door into the testing area of the room. He looked at the cot that so many had suffered in – and several had died in – and let out a sort of mortal shudder at it. He had no liking of such things. That was why he had been doing this from the start.
There was no one else in the room, though. He was surprised. Gerard was never late. Never.
Just as he started to get suspicious, and stood up, sensing a trap, three things happened at the same time.
First, a gunshot. Then, immediately after, a shattering of glass. Immediately following that, a sudden and forceful impact on his body. He looked down at himself and saw blood pouring down his chest from a shot through his heart.
He looked up, through the now-shattered one-way mirror. A man was standing behind it, a gun in the epicenter of the shattered part of the glass, smoke drifting out of the barrel.
The man lowered the gun and smiled at Devin. Devin opened his mouth to speak, but found he was unable to, his mind suddenly growing fuzzy.
“Hey, Devin, it’s nice to meet you. Oh, and when you get to hell – tell them to prepare for my coming. It should be quite the arrival.”
Devin’s body slumped onto the floor, lifeless.