Product Test

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The director of research and development at BioLogic sat at his desk. The meeting was on his agenda for a week, but he still had no idea just what it was about. That made him uncomfortable. William Farnum did not like to feel uncomfortable. He'd been uncomfortable enough during the War.

"So, what is this meeting about?" he asked.

Across from him, Gerald Flight grinned, and it made William's skin crawl.

"Mr. Farnum, surely you wouldn't eat your dessert before the main course."

William did not like Gerald. Gerald was the new breed that arrived with the tech boom in the 50s. The breed of easy smiles and no life of hardship to forge some sense character on a progressively richer and more durable generation. William knew that Gerald gunned for his job. It only made sense. William came from a time before the silicon circuits and chemical revolution. He was a walking fossil at this point.

"You've had this meeting set up for us for a week, now, Gerald. I don't like coming into situations without a sense of what is going on."

Gerald smiled. It was an upsetting flash of teeth. "Come, come, Mr. Farnum, you do your job so well. Surely you can handle any situation. You are of the greatest generation, right?"

William coughed and turned his gaze out the large window of his office, staring at the New York skyline. So much had changed in 30 years. He couldn't believe the heights the city had climbed to. Even in full daylight, New York glowed in gigantic screens and displays. New York was also getting some of the first large-scale holographics, courtesy of BioLogic's parent corporation, Phoenix United.

William turned his gaze to the other side of the office. He was surrounded by glass and always felt watched. He saw his secretary plugging away at something and then turned his attention toward the direction of the elevator, seeing a strange man enter, pushing a small medical-cart, not unlike those used in the labs at the basement levels. He watched the man approach the secretary and speak with her about something. William hadn't even noticed Gerald had left the room to collect the man. Christ, he was slipping.

Gerald entered the room and held the door open for the other man, who dutifully pushed the cart into the room. Gerald took his seat and gestured to the man to take the chair next to him. The man looked at William, silently requesting a seat. He was pitiful looking. His eyes were wide and bloodshot, his hair was thinning, but so long in the back, it was tied into a knot, and his lab coat was stained with who knew what.

William nodded and then the man took his seat, grunting as he fell into the cushion. It was clear he had a bad back.

Gerald leaned forward. "This is why we are here, Mr. Farnum. Since you saw fit to assign me to research lead, I've been keeping an eye out for talent out in the industry. A few months ago, I approached you about adding someone to the team, a Mr. Bova."

William sniffed. "Ah, yes, I remember." William did not remember.

"Well, I was excited about Mr. Bova because of something he was developing. I recruited him to our research team and he was able to perfect his project here."

William looked over at Bova. He seemed flighty and distracted.

"What project is that, Mr. Bova?" William asked impatiently.

Bova snapped his eyes to William. They were covered in red tendrils of blood. The man was not much of a sleeper. Bova licked his lips a bit, looked over to Gerald, which annoyed William, and then turned his gaze back to William.

"W-well, sir. Mr. Farnum. W-well. BioLogic mostly has foc-cused on... mostly focused on prosthetics and has done amazing w-work. My c-cousin has an artificial foot."

William narrowed his eyes at Bova. His voice had the faintest trace of German.

"But, sir, BioLogic hasn't really developed a strong product for the market. Sorry. Emergency and surgic-cal market. So, w-what I developed..."

Gerald stepped in, excited. "We are calling it Dermagraft."

Bova fell deeper into the chair, clearly relieved he didn't need to speak.

"Dermagraft?" William asked, "derm... something to do with skin, yes?"

"Exactly, Mr. Farnum. We have developed, thanks to Mr. Bova, a specialized skin grafting material that is based on actual skin cells."

William was intrigued. "How does it work?"

Gerald turned to Bova, who hadn't noticed he was being looked at. He snapped to and rose out of his chair, making his way to the medical cart he had brought in.

He fished out two spray bottles from a lockbox and laid down a sterile layer of gauze on a tray. He arranged them gingerly on the cart and wheeled it closer to Gerald.

"This is a two-spray solution. The first spray is all stem c-c-cells. The other spray is a special activator that ch-ch-changes those stem cells to mirror surrounding skin c-cells. Until the second spray is applied it mostly works as a protective film..."

Gerald gestured to the bottles. "Think spray-on skin grafts."

William shifted in his chair, intrigued by the potential, but skeptical. "Does it work?"

"We c-conducted several tests in the lab and-"

William waved his hand, cutting off Bova. He dug into a drawer in his desk in silence and Bova and Gerald glanced awkwardly at one another.

A moment later, William pulled his service knife from the drawer, still in the sheath. He slid out the knife and set it on his desk, in front of Gerald.

"Let's test it right now."

Gerald chuckled nervously.

William simply stared.

Gerald stopped laughing and leaned forward. "We can show you some of the recorded tests, or we can prep a chimp in the lab if you want?"

William sighed and rolled up his sleeve of his dress shirt. He took the knife and dragged it across his forearm, creating a deep trail of crimson. Gerald grew pale and stared at the blood. Bova began prepping the spray.

William smiled. That's what separated him from Gerald.

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