Dr Stephen Woodrow, eminent research specialist into human genetic mutations, was indispensable to the government. Standing in his laboratory, he felt the walls closing in on him, heavy with the weight of awards, various degrees and his most prized accolade, the university pendant for outstanding contribution to human advancement in completion of his PhD in human chimera diagnostics. Looking at the pendant, sparkling as the flicker of the fluorescent bulb refracted from its surface, he felt a gnawing anxiety that he could no longer excuse away. As chief scientist with the Genetic Verification Department, he was responsible for the fates of many, who on being diagnosed as not of optimal genetic lineage, would be quarantined and at best sterilized, at worst killed. The money was lucrative, sure, and the prestige had been enough to win the approval of his harshest critic, his mother, but he had become increasingly attuned to the suffering that he was sufficiently removed from in his sterile laboratory with its heady smell of agar and formaldehyde. Higgins was due to arrive soon to check on the progress of the Trugene Diagnostic Kit, a kind of litmus test that was to be used as a quick first step in assessing citizens’ eligibility for resource allocation- electricity, gas, water, to their homes. It was all dependent on the outcomes of their genetic make up, and the quicker people could be culled at this stage, the more efficiently more than a half dozen government departments could run. Higgins, as the head of the Ministry of Genetics and Human Advancement, the umbrella Ministry under which the Genetic Verification Department sat, held a lot of sway in the direction of research. He himself had once been the head scientist of the Department and had passed the baton onto Woodrow. The pressure was now on Woodrow to develop a commercially viable test.
Pulling the pendant off the wall, Woodrow tried to remember the hope and optimism he had felt on receiving it. That was 20 years ago and with every step up the rung of the Department to the lofty position he now held, hope and optimism had given way to pragmatism and complicity with the orders from above. He neatly folded the ribbon on which the pendant was limply suspended and placed it in the top pocket of his crisp laboratory coat, crinkling his letter of resignation that patiently awaited Higgins’ arrival. Today is the first day of the rest of my life, he thought. So far, all was going to plan. He’d managed to pull in a favour to alter the pathology results from the last departmental physical, indicating that he had to cease work due to a fragile heart. With the sympathy that he was sure to garner from Higgins, he could then put his next plan into action to verify once and for all what he’d suspected, and possibly go some way to quell the discomfort he increasingly felt with the work he’d carried out in the name of the Department and the Ministry. Rumors had circulated for years that Higgins was in fact a human chimera, manifesting in two separate DNA chains in his make up. No one had managed to check this as he never submitted to the yearly physical required of all Ministry employees, and rumor also had it that physicians who had tended to him when it was unavoidable all died as a result of freak accidents.
“Woodrow, how are you, it has been a while.”
Woodrow kept his back to the door as he answered “Higgins, I trust you are keeping well?”
Higgins let out an uproarious laugh “Fit as a fiddle, I can’t remember the last time I made a visit to the doctor.”
This provided the perfect segue for Woodrow. “The same can’t be said for me. I have been advised by the doctor to take it easy. My yearly physical indicates an enlarged heart and an array of other niggling issues that I need to get on top off” He reached for the letter and accidentally pulled the pendant out with it. He wasn’t quick in his reflexes and the pendant fell to the floor. He put it down to nerves. He hoped Higgins didn’t pick up on that, or the sweat that was building on his brows and upper lip.
“I, I, I’m tending my resignation.”
Higgins always had a soft spot for Woodrow, seeing him as his protégé, a way to stroke his ego, with his grandiose claims of having taught Woodrow everything he knows. Naturally, his reaction was one of concern “I’m sorry to hear that, is there anything I can do?” Hook, line and sinker Woodrow thought. He fell into the trap, the only thing left to say was “There is one thing. I am embarrassed to be asking you this, but I need a loan. Well, you could see it as a grant. I am keen to set up a home laboratory for part time…”
“How much? Just say the word.”
He didn’t think it would be that easy. He knew what would come next. Higgins, as he’d seen do so many times when they’d gone out for a meal, would pull out his cheque book, make the grand gesture of signing his flowery signature, lick his index finger and pull off the cheque.
“52,000 should be enough, I have a lot of equipment sitting around in my shed already.”
As he’d envisioned, Woodrow watched as Higgins pulled out his cheque book and did what he always did. With his guard down, and with his esteemed opinion of Woodrow, he was none the wiser that he’d left a tell tale clue to his possible demise- saliva that Woodrow intended on running through his working prototype of the Trugene Diagnostic Kit.
The story must have a chimera at the beginning. The story must involve a pendant in it. A character borrows money, but it is done for different reasons than people would expect (from this random writing challenge generator)