20 Aug Chapter 9: Drug
The doors leading to outside the shuttle terminal swing open and we are met with quite a sight: five wide avenues radiating outward, lined with multi-story ornate stone buildings. Each ancient facade boasts fantastical carvings of animals and plants that twist or bend to form architectural features like doors and windows. Black soot from hundreds of years of traffic and industry stain the deep crevices in the carvings, giving the structures an even more weighty look.
We are met on the sidewalk by one of the activists. Before we can introduce ourselves she motions for us to come with her to a deserted alleyway. She looks behind her anxiously. “We have some bad news. Because of all the commotion around the treatment hearings the police have stepped up arrests of unmedicated teenagers. Even foreign ones.”
Gian’s mouth drops open. “But that’s crazy!”
Laik is stunned. The activist turns to him and says, “You’re sixteen right? We can hide you until your return flight. It’s not perfect but it’s the safest option.”
Rills looks like he’s ready to punch someone. “Can’t he just go back in the terminal and take another shuttle out of here? Like now?”
I put my hand on Laik’s shoulder. “The next shuttle isn’t until tomorrow.”
Laik sighs. “I’m not going to hide, guys. I know the risks but… this is too important.”
“If they arrest you they’ll forcefully medicate you. You never know how long you’ll be locked up.” The activist is insistent.
Laik looks at the ground. “I know. But I still won’t hide.” Rills grabs Laik’s hand and squeezes. Laik smiles weakly. “We have a job to do.”
Rills and I leave the others and make our way to the governmental complex. The main parliamentary building is the most ornate one I’ve seen yet—huge three-story tall whimsical creatures carved from massive stone blocks form arches that hold up a dome the size of a city block.
Upon entering we’re greeted by the buzz of thousands of officials, pages, reporters, admins, lesser officials, lawyers… all seemingly hurrying to get somewhere important.
“You’re up, Cevs.” Rills accompanies me to the main hall where the hearing is taking place. I hear my name and title being announced as we enter the room. A dozen bureaucrats sit on a raised dark wood rostrum at the back, surrounded by hundreds of onlookers in the grand space. I’m brought to a table directly facing the curved platform as the crowd murmur lowers to a hush.
“Thank you for joining us today.” This comes from the bureaucrat sitting nearest the center—all I see is a head poking above a placard that reads ‘Deputy Chancellor.’ She makes eye contact with the other representatives and continues. “We have heard a range of opinion and testimony about the application of pharmaceuticals to our underage population. But I am especially interested in what the manufacturer of the drug in question has to say.”
I take this as my opening. “It’s a pleasure to be here today deputy chancellor, representatives.” I look each of them in the eye one by one as I subtly bow my head. Based on their expressions it appears they were expecting someone else. “In case you’re wondering why the head of a drug company is so young, it’s because I’m from Threa.” Looks of recognition cross a few of their faces.
The deputy chancellor’s expression is hard to read. “As maker of the drug, what is your view of our current use of it in teenagers?”
I reply, “The drug is morally reprehensible and should never have been developed in the first place.” There are some murmurs from the crowd.
“But our use does fall within the letter if not the spirit of the law, does it not?”
“Technically yes. But I would argue that not only is the drug cruel, but also completely unnecessary. And I can prove it.” I hear whispers spread around the room.
“I see. And how is this proof demonstrated?”
I lean forward. “I will need to ask some questions first. Would that be acceptable?”
The deputy chancellor nods. “Certainly.”
“Thank you.” I hope she can’t see the sweat on my forehead. “How would you rate the drug? Are you happy with the effect it has on sexual assault rates?”
She holds up a bound report. “Our review of the treatment program showed exemplary results. Does that answer your question?”
“Absolutely. May I ask when that report is from?”
She opens it to the first page and scans it. “This review was carried out last week.”
I pause before I continue. “Then the report proves that the treatment is not needed. As of three months ago I had all shipments of the drug replaced with an inert version.”
Gasps echo around the chamber. The deputy chancellor leans over to the official sitting next to her and confers for a moment. Her expression remains enigmatic. “You understand that you may be liable for civil or other penalties as your actions constitute a clear case of fraud.”
I remain cool. “Actually no fraud was committed. The drug we delivered has the contractually obligated amount of active ingredient in it, but we added a counter agent that blocks the molecule from attaching to the relevant nerve receptors. So the drug fits within the letter, if not the spirit of the law.”
The room erupts in conversation. The deputy chancellor puts her hand up for quiet. She confers with the other representatives.
“Thank you for your appearance here today. We will consider your testimony at this afternoon’s closed session.” With that she and the rest of the officials stand and file out the back. Rills runs up to me, lifts me out of my chair and gives me a huge bear hug. My feet aren’t touching the floor anymore.
“You did great. They were not expecting that!”
“Thanks Rills. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
He puts me down gently. “Let’s go, Gian and Laik are waiting for us at a bar nearby. I’ve been told the representatives won’t issue a decision until late tomorrow, so right now I’m buying you a well-deserved drink, my friend. Cheers!”