Story note: One thing I am asked about a lot when it comes to “Derailed” is the world before Cameron and how the world got to the point it’s at now. Comicality himself had said he would like to know more. It became obvious that I should do something to answer those questions, and so the concept for “Days of Reckoning” began. One thing I should mention is that rather than one large story, Days of Reckoning is actually a series of short stories with each one moving forward in time from the previous one, and each story will be told in different styles and formats. Therefore, without further ado, I give you the first chapter of the Official Derailed Prequel.
Days of Reckoning
An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Leon Holmen
Before we begin, I would like to ask you if you mind if we recorded this.
Not at all.
Great then I’ll begin by stating that my name is Evan Alexander. I am a reporter with The New York Times. I am here to conduct an interview with Dr. Leon Holmen, per his request. Dr. Holmen is a man who many consider to be the father of Viral Enhancement Engineering. The time is 10:36 p.m. on Sunday, September 16, 2018.
So Dr. Holmen, normally I would ask you to explain who you are and what you do, but I don’t think there would be much of a point in this case. It seems as though everyone worldwide already knows your name.
Do they? I had no idea my influence reached quite that far. But then again, I have been in the dark for quite some time now.
So I guess the only place to begin would be the beginning.
The beginning of what? The outbreak, the virus, my life?
Well, why don’t we begin with your work at Envision Labs?
Very well, the year was 2012. By this time, I had already been a medical researcher for several labs. I had worked on several small projects, pharmaceuticals mostly. However, my real passion was gene manipulation. I felt it was the real gateway to the future of medicine; the ability to prevent disease and illness before they even happened. However, applications in that field were… frustrating, to say the least. It was next to impossible to find parents willing to subject an unborn child to any kind of experimental treatment, even if it meant possibly giving the child a better chance at life. The religious fanatics didn’t help matters any. I can remember several occasions when I would come into work amidst crowds of angry protesters; some I would even go so far as to call violent. However, I would often wonder, if it were their unborn child with a 40 to 60 percent chance of developing autism or a heart defect, how soon would their opinion of our work change?
So you say that it was hard to find willing participants?
Yes. You see, research on a fetus was controversial, to say the least, and the media was no help to us at all. Most sponsors shied away from us as if we were the plague, or some kind of boogey men of the medical field, and after a while, it had become too much of an uphill battle for me to continue. So I switched fields and began focusing my attention on antibiotic development. The work was mundane, at best, but at least I wasn’t viewed as the scum of the earth. So I made what may have been the worst mistake of my life; I settled.
How did you come to develop your theory of Viral Enhancement?
It, like most great scientific breakthroughs, happened due to a mix of curiosity and an accident. I was working in the lab one night, testing the effect different compounds had on different viruses when I came across one specimen that I had almost written off as a complete failure. The test we had run seemed to make the virus even more reactive. Moreover, that’s when a thought had occurred to me. Up until now, we had only ever thought of a virus as a means of destruction; something that we were attempting to combat. But no one had ever thought of a virus as a means to improve someone. What if, instead of a virus attacking the body’s cells, we could fool it into…
Exactly! Well, after the idea came to me, I became fixated on it, almost obsessed, you could say. My work with trying to better human kind through genetics had brought me nothing but regret, but I saw this as a new opportunity. It took two years of my life, but I had finally done it. I had developed a virus that not only improved on healthy cells, but also would repair damaged ones. I managed a successful live subject test in a mouse I had named Einstein, who had been blinded earlier in life. I introduced the virus into his system, and within a day, he had regained 7% of his sight, 20% within a week, 100% by the end of that month and 150% by the next month.
His sight went beyond what you had expected?
Yes. His sight not only retuned to him, it went beyond that of any other mouse. In addition, not only his sight, but also his other senses, his reflexes, his strength, his agility, all of them pushed beyond normal limits. I knew the next step would be to move onto primate testing, but I also knew it would take more than my current funding to do so. Therefore, in 2012 I presented my findings before the medical board.
How did they react?
They laughed. I was labeled a mad scientist, of all things. I was completely devastated. I felt as though my dream was ending before it ever really began. Frustrated and angry, I returned to my lab and began packing up my office and research. I had every intention of leaving that night.
To be honest, to this day I have no idea where I would have gone. I suppose to find a group of more forward thinking peers, or perhaps to just get away from the whole mess entirely. Either way, I felt staying there was no longer an option. That is when I was approached by Harold.
The Harold Lizener, the current president of Envision Labs, you mean?
Yes. Well, he was not president back then. He had caught me outside of my office, just as I was about to get into my car. He said that his higher ups had seen the demonstration and had become very interested in possibly funding it. I was hesitant at first; Envision Labs were, after all, military contracted, and it was obvious why the military would be interested in my discovery.
However, in the end you agreed?
Of course; I was a man of science, and progress must be made. I did, of course, have my stipulations. I only agreed on the terms that it would only be used to treat those who had been damaged during the war. I was regrettably naive back then.
It was here that I first met Thomas Loran, my research assistant. He was a young ambitious man; he reminded me very much of myself at that age. He was very eager to begin work right away. Not even a week after I accepted the offer, we had begun testing and trying to develop a stronger version of the virus that would be strong enough to withstand a human immune system. For a while, things were good, but I always held my suspicions that I was not being told everything. And in the end, I was right.
So what changed?
I noticed that Thomas had been having more and more correspondence with Harold as we got closer and closer to being ready for human testing. Our last step was to test in a Chimpanzee we had named Darwin. It was the night of Tuesday, June 12, 2012, when we gave Darwin the first exposure of what had come to be known as the Holman Virus. And much like Einstein, Darwin showed the same physical enhancements.
So if it had the same effect on Darwin, then how did it come to be what it is today?
At the time, we didn’t realize that the more complex one’s DNA is, the more unpredictable the results would be. Darwin had developed not only the same physical abilities that Einstein had, but was given other gifts that had yet to be shown. However, I would never have the opportunity to warn anyone of this.
Not even an hour after the successful test, the lab was overrun by a military unit. It seemed that Thomas had been put there not only to assist me, but to keep an eye on me. And the moment we finished, I was to be removed from any and all involvement. My life’s work was no longer mine.
So you just left it all?
I had no choice; it’s hard to argue with guns. So I took Darwin and we left.
They let you take Darwin?
They had what they wanted; the virus was in their hands. A mutated chimp was of no interest to them. However, he was, in a sense, my creation now. It was a week later that things became different. Darwin, who had been released into a specially designed habitat, had escaped.
That is what shocked me and shook me to my core; he simply walked through the wall. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but right there it was in front of me on the screen. He walked through the containment wall as if it didn’t exist. They tried to detain him, but his strength had become too much for them to handle, and in the end, he was put down.
I had lost everything at that point. My work, my results, and the last friend I had. I tried to warn them back at the lab about Darwin, about how the results would be unpredictable. Nevertheless, they wouldn’t listen; there was too much money tied up into contracts and they would begin military distribution within the year. All I had ever wanted to do was help people. In in the end, it was I who created their greatest threat. I couldn’t let that happen, so I did what any rational thinking person would do in that situation. I broke the law. I waited for everyone to leave, broke into the lab, gathered every last trace of the virus into a suitcase, and headed home to destroy it before it could bring any harm.
If you destroyed the virus, how did it get out?
I left the lab and on my way home, I was run off the road.
The official report was that you had crashed.
Is that what they’re saying happened? They would say that, wouldn’t they? The truth of the matter is I was supposed to be killed. I knew too much and they couldn’t have that. They didn’t know the cargo I was carrying. My car was run off a bridge. And the virus was exposed into the water supply. And the rest, as they say, is history. After I awoke in the hospital, I was arrested for trespassing and tampering with government property. The virus spread rapidly and one out of every five people is victim to it.
Well, those are big accusations you’re making. Do you have anything to back them up?
Only simple logic, I am afraid.
How do you feel, knowing that you had a hand in what many feel may be the greatest crisis since the bubonic plague?
I feel a bit like Dr. Frankenstein, whose monster has been unleashed on the villagers. I had wanted to help humankind and now I may have ended it.
Well that’s about all the time we have. I’d like to thank you for telling me your story.
Not at all, the pleasure was all mine. Though I doubt if any of this will ever truly be allowed see the light of day, it was nice to be able tell my story before the end. After all, my execution is scheduled for tomorrow morning and at least now I can face my fate knowing I did everything possible to get the truth out there.
You can find “Derailed” at https://www.gayauthors.org/story/lemonfresh/Derailed