The Theorists (5)

5) THE MAD SCIENTIST

Dima works in a bio lab. She loves it. She loves things. She’s happy. She laughs. She smiles. Everyone loves her back, or else wants to beat the ever-loving snot out of her.

Her parents came over from Ghana. They didn’t have anything. Still don’t, not really. But they work hard. They get by. They’re conservative. Old world, old ideas. Whereas Dima wears pink plaid workshirts and jeans and sandals and sometimes a big red bow on her head. When it doesn’t clash with her haircolor, which goes through all the colors of the rainbow.

She lives in a tiny apartment with her boyfriend and her girlfriend. They get along really well. Don’t have much money but they love their work. He’s a librarian, she’s a med student. None of them has time for anything, except each other.

She’s a research biologist. She got her PhD. Now she’s a postdoc, just paying the bills doing what her PI tells her to do. It’s a big money grant. Something about disease prevention through CDC. Gonna look great on a resume. Until then it looks great on a paycheck.

That morning she gets to work and there are protesters. Hundreds of people, with posters, with bull-horns, and they’re all right outside her lab. They don’t give her any trouble. The way she looks, they think she’s one of them. Someone hands her a sign to hold. They’re protesting her lab. They’re saying she’s working on biological weapons.

She gets in front. She says she works in the lab. She says she has no idea, she’s just a researcher. She says she’s gonna go inside and figure out what the hell is going on. And if they’re right, she’s gonna come out and protest right there with them.

They cheer her on. Dima’s always been good with people.

She goes inside. Her lab is empty, just her PI. She’s extremely nervous. She’s smoking under a hood. Dima asks her. She nods. It’s all true. Huge money from the Defense Department, cleaned through CDC, taking other country’s biological weapons and trying to fuck with them, make them better, stronger, even more weaponized. It’s all military. For almost two years, Dima’s been working for the army.

Dima goes outside. It’s all true, she says. Every word they’re saying is true. This college lab has been taking millions of dollars a year from the military to work on biological weapons. The crowd roars. They’re out for blood. But not Dima’s blood. She’s on their side. She’s one of them.

Then Dima drops the bomb: we’re not building weapons. We’re taking them apart. We’re taking the nastiest, most horrible plagues that humans have ever made, and trying to find ways to make them die. Not just vaccines. Actually putting in time bombs, so that the virus will just self-distruct, wither and die all by itself. Finding ways to take horrible organisms and make them healthy, so that even if they infect someone they won’t die.

It’s a military grant, Dima says. And there are military applications: keeping our soldiers and our people safe. But nothing offensive, nothing dangerous. And everything they’re developing could have applications to other countries, and every disease, until diseases can’t threaten anyone anymore: not in the hands of a government, or a terrorist, or even nature itself.

The crowd is appeased. But they’re still a crowd, overflowing with anger. And now: embarrassment. Dima sees this. So she turns them on their heeels. You know who you should be protesting? The army. The army who keeps this for itself. The army who classifies research that could help everybody! And she leads them down the street, marching in the middle of traffic, to a government office. And there she starts them off, and then leaves, letting them protest their hearts out.

She goes in through the back door. She gets into see an official, a retired general who looks like he was in the middle of nap-time. She says, look, give them an hour to feel like they’ve done good work and then throw them a bone, they’ll go home happy as clams. What kind of bone? he asks.

Double my lab’s funding, she says. Say that it’s to let our research spread throughout the world. That it’ll all be public. Every country can have it. You’ll look like a hero. They’ll love you.

And you get more money, the general says.

Dima nods. I would really think so, yes.

The general agrees. Dima goes to the roof and hangs out for a while, looks at the buildings under the sun. Then gets the general, goes down, and announces that they’ve won. The general is flustered, but he gets to go inside. The crowd disperses. Dima gets on the news. Then she goes away.

She takes the subway back up to the office. She tells the PI what happened. The PI just stares at her. Dima smiles – she always smiles – and puts on her gloves. Science ain’t gonna do itself.

She gets home later. Her boy and her girl are waiting for her. Just made dinner that didn’t come out quite right. How was work?

Oh, it was okay, Dima says. Didn’t get a lot of science done. But not a bad day, come to that.

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~ by davekov on 5 March 2014.

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