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  • Patrick Rizio

Chapter 10

“First of all, it is crucial that this conversation not leave this room. There are only two people who know the full scope of this thing, and for the foreseeable future it must stay that way.”

Jason really wanted to get back to the lab, besides, hadn’t they already gone through this?

“I already understand that. It is not a problem.”

“I know you do Jason. It’s just that, at this stage of the game, the importance of keeping this under wraps cannot be overemphasized.”

Schimmel returned to his desk, sat in his chair and leaned forward. He had a little more to enlighten his company genius about.

“A while back the Santino company patented a genetically modified strain of soybeans that were resistant to a pesticide they manufactured. That particular strain of soybeans is now legally owned by them. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, except for one thing. That particular strain now composes eighty percent of the soybeans in the entire country. They are brutally pushing out anyone who doesn’t grow their strain of soybeans, and, of course, helping those who do. They’re out to monopolize the markets and are using deplorable tactics to accomplish their goal. Things like tying up farmers in court who don’t use their products with frivolous lawsuits, and, well, the list goes on and on. They are the definitive bad guys of our industry.”

The big man sipped his black coffee and explained further.

“Once I sell you an apple tree that will grow in the desert, you would think that you have that forever. Harvest the seeds from the first crop, and you’ve eliminated the need to buy from me in the future. If, however, I have that particular strain of genetically modified apples patented, every time you plant, you pay.”

Jason looked down for a moment. “My god, we’re talking about becoming the food police,” he said quietly.

Schimmel smiled. His company genius was a quick study.

“That is exactly what we are talking about, but as we both know, it goes beyond that. Knowingly turning the importing and exporting of foodstuffs on its head is, well, we’ve already been through that.”

The big man walked over to the recessed bar on the south wall of his office and set down his coffee cup. He was smiling again. Some people shrink from captaining a ship, others thrive on it. Bob Schimmel was so far into his comfort zone right now, it was almost knocking Jason out of his chair. He smiled back.

“Please boss, continue.”

“Our objective, then, becomes a bit more complicated. Having something that will benefit all mankind should not be hidden. We will not, however, become the food police. What we are going to do is target specific markets, at specific intervals, and we will not stop farmers from harvesting and reusing our seeds. The only restriction we will impose, will be to prevent our customers from selling our seeds to someone else. However, in the beginning, we will assume a more conventional approach. Focusing on things like, increased yields per acre, and disease and insect resistant crops. The exotic aspect of this, the apples in the desert and pineapples in Minnesota, will be phased in. Timing will be crucial, but it can be done if we’re careful. This should enable us to spread the benefits, without causing turmoil in the marketplace. The crucial element here is our ability to design plants whose key characteristics will achieve only the goals we’ve set. No more and no less. That allows us to maintain control and keep a lid on market fluctuations. This type of arrangement can only continue for a limited amount of time, and requires that the full knowledge of this remain, for the time being, between us.”

“Would that not also allow us to maximize our profits?” Jason asked.

“We are not in business to lose money son.”

Jason thought about all of this. Something didn’t feel right. Suddenly, he realized what it was.

“Boss, if Germany, or the Saudi’s, or someone else who can afford it, needs to ante up for increased production per acre, or insect resistant crops, or crop diversion they never had, or whatever, that’s one thing. But what about the folks who can’t afford to. The ones who are already starving. How do they fit in to this equation?”

Schimmel was still smiling.

“Jason, when this thing takes off, it’s going to be bigger than anything we’ve ever done. That kind of revenue requires some pretty substantial tax write-offs. The best way to accomplish that will be through humanitarian channels. Now, Universal Biotech already supports charitable causes in many areas. We will simply expand our efforts of providing food, and the ability to grow it, to a much greater arena. At the risk of oversimplifying, the more we make, the more we give away.”

The big man sat back in his chair and relaxed, giving the young man in front of him some time. Jason considered what Schimmel was presenting. He really couldn’t see any downside. It seemed the perfect solution. It all hinged however on the ability to modify the crops in very specific ways. Schimmel hadn’t asked him if this was possible, and he hadn’t assumed. He knew they could do it. The information was all there in the lab reports, and Schimmel had, of course, seen the work in its entirety. But the technical knowledge needed to piece it all together would have been beyond anyone on Jason’s staff, had they the same access.

“Boss, modifying the crops...how did you know?”

The big man walked towards the floor to ceiling windows, which comprised the entire east wall of his office, and looked out for a moment.

“Son, there was a time in my life when I could have become one hell of an engineer.”

*******

She was inherently attracted by the dome. Most buildings were all 90 degree corners. This one felt so much more natural. Having it located right on the lake allowed her to align the domed building in the foreground and look past it as far as the eye could see, and see nothing but water. Bright, shimmering, ever undulating water. She felt the wonder of it, the beauty of it, understanding its interconnectedness.

“Sarah! Sarah, this way dear. We must keep up with the other children. Hurry up now, stay together.”

Her exhilaration faded. She quietly walked up the stairs to the entrance of the building and waited in line with the rest of the kids.

Alison could see the bus at the front of the planetarium as she turned into the parking area. The class she taught at the Art Institute only allowed her twenty-five minutes to get here, and the traffic was, of course, awful.

Running towards the entrance, Alison searched the line of kids for Sarah. She was not hard to find. Standing quietly at the end of the line, head down, body language expressing the quiet sadness of one who doesn’t quite belong. Alison felt her heart swell. She wanted so badly to just run up and throw her arms around that beautiful little girl.

When the room darkened and the sky of the planetarium came into view, with the thousands of stars suddenly before her, Sarah experienced…wonder. Concentrated passionate wonder. A sensation complete and total. She had never actually looked into the night sky before. Even if she had, she wouldn’t have seen what she was seeing now. The light pollution from the city blocks out this kind of detail, this kind of brilliance. It seemed all of the heavens had opened up before her, and for the first time in her life she felt whole, she felt complete. She felt she belonged.

She felt she was home.

After the sky show the children were all taken to the planetarium’s restaurant for lunch. Most of the girls were whispering and staring at the young man sitting with their art teacher. Miss Russo had a boyfriend.

“The brain is an exceptionally greedy organ,” Jason explained. “It’s very high in fat and cholesterol and will sacrifice significant amounts of bodily function to keep its glucose level intact. Sarah’s brain, being many times more efficient than the norm, requires much higher glucose levels than normal. When she started to concentrate heavily, her brain simply pulled so much glucose out of her system it put her into shock. She was, quite literally, in a self-induced coma.”

“But this has never happened before,” Alison added.

“Not that we know of,” Jason answered.

“But I’ve worked with her for months and never seen any indication of, I mean, it was like someone turned her switch to off, and just like that, she was unconscious.”

Jason sipped his coffee.

“How about when she draws?” he asked.

Alison searched her memory carefully. She had usually paid more attention to Sarah’s drawings themselves than her physical condition when she was drawing them.

“Well, she always did seem rather quiet when she drew, but she was so incredibly withdrawn to begin with that I just never really noticed.”

They both looked over to Sarah, and found her looking back at them, (of course so were the rest of the girls at her table).

“I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think there is any change in her when she draws.”

Jason considered that for a moment.

“It would seem she picked up the drawing without a hitch. Possibly because, while her awareness skills are so considerable, her artistic ability is only average,” he answered.

“I don’t follow.”

“Look at it this way. You’ve seen Olympic sprinters run on T.V. right.”

“Sure.”

“OK. Now everyone knows these guys are tremendous athletes, exceptionally gifted.”

“Yes, these guys and girls are tremendous athletes,” Alison interjected. “What’s your point?”

“Just this,” he said smiling. “When these guys and girls were six months old, they couldn’t even walk, let alone run. What happened to Sarah is akin to trying to walk and falling down. As we mature, we learn how. Since her artistic ability is normal, when she draws only normal amounts of energy are required. I’m sure that ultimately her body will produce the proper amount of glucose when she needs it. It’s just a matter of time.”

“Well how much time?”

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think it will take very long. She’s destined for big strides, not little steps.”

Alison looked over at Sarah again, and thought about what Jason had said. It was ironic how withdrawn and helpless she seemed, with the potential she had locked inside. Alison turned back to Jason and found him gazing intently in Sarah’s direction. She was returning his gaze, looking straight into his eyes. This unspoken understanding between these two, that had nurtured itself from their first moment, warmed Alison’s heart, but she also found herself feeling a little…jealous?

“What should we do about her testing?” Alison asked. “The orphanage would not look favorably on a repeat episode. They have the Department of Family Services giving them grief over what happened. I doubt if they’ll give permission for her to be tested again.”

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Jason answered. “D.F.S really doesn’t need that kind of publicity nowadays.”

“Well, what do we do, just give up the idea of her testing for a while?”

Jason thought for a moment.

“Maybe just for a little while, but first things first. What we really need to do is get her away from that orphanage,” he said looking away.

 Alison saw that goofy half smile of his beginning to appear. 

“I talked to Bob Schimmel the other day, he’s extremely well connected you know,”

Alison’s eyebrows went up. Jason continued, fighting the impulse to grin.

“He can’t arrange for a full adoption right away, that will take a little more time, even for him, but the foster parent idea you have is very doable. Just take care of the paper work and it’s a done deal.”

Alison stared at him, wide eyed, speechless. Finally, she blurted out, “But, how did you? We never talked. I mean, I didn’t say anything.”

Jason was smiling big time now, finding it rather amusing how the attractive young lady in front of him was trying to remember to breathe.

“Jason, are you serious?” Alison said, her voice rising. “God in heaven tell me you’re serious!”

“Oh, I’ve never been more serious.”

He took her hands in his.

“Bob Schimmel is a very powerful man. As a favor to me, he pulled some strings. His lawyers will be contacting you with the paperwork, but that’s only a formality. It’s done! In a couple of days Sarah will officially be your foster daughter.”

Alison had been thinking about this for some time now, but hadn’t said anything to anyone, not even Sarah. She was afraid that being single might make things harder, and she didn’t want to say anything until she did some checking to see if it would be possible. The thought of having that poor girl experience one more disappointment would just not…And look at him smiling! Him and his damned intuition, or whatever it was. The man was just infuriating. How dare he go ahead and…

That was when she kissed him.

She reached across the table, grabbed him by the shirt, and kissed him so hard his teeth rattled. The children reacted immediately upon seeing their teacher kiss her boyfriend. They were very surprised. The other two teachers were surprised. Jason was even surprised, (pleasantly). The only one not surprised, apparently, was Sarah. She just smiled quietly. She felt good right now, very good. Alison finally let go of Jason’s shirt, and sat back down.

“I suppose we should tell Sarah,” she said, taking a Kleenex from her purse to wipe the tears from her face.

“Yes, I suppose we should.”

“What do you think she’ll say?”

“Gee I don’t know,” Jason said grinning from ear to ear, “What do you think?”

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