Concerned Citizen

April 30, 2015:

Scott Summers approaches Harrison Wells for help in dealing with Smooth.

STAR Labs

Characters

NPCs: Caitlin

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

STAR Labs' halls are particularly quiet these days. A few stray young keener scientists, full of hope and generally comfortable with their uncertain futures linger in the hallways towards Doctor Harrison Wells' office. Caitlin had received their visitor near the entrance, and had led him through the labyrinth towards the offices.

Just outside, she knocks on the glass door that affords absolutely no privacy, prompting Wells to look up from the computer he sits behind. He manages a warm, but tired smile as he gently waves his hand, signalling that the pair should come into the office. The space itself is as anyone would expect: professional, clean, and relatively organized. One of the walls features multiple degrees hung up in a nice neat line — the doctorate frame cracked, but still legible. Along the desk a single framed picture faces Harrison's side of the desk. Two chairs sit opposite, presumably for visitors.

"Doctor Wells," Caitlin greets, "We have a company." It's not a frequent thing these days.

The scientist behind the computer has an unassuming nature about him. Bound to a wheelchair since the accident with the particle accelerator, he's taken to looking somewhat less professional these days. His black sweater and dark-hued blue jeans hardly scream CEO, but they seem to suit him these days, particularly in his current state. A pair of thin-framed glasses rest on his nose, which wrinkles slightly when the computer he's working on beeps loudly with an error, prompting a very short-lived frown. "Coding problem," he murmurs, perhaps for the sake of his company.

With a shake of his head, indicating that he should never-mind-it-for-now, he motions towards the chairs across from him, "Sorry, forgive me." He issues Caitlin an apologetic smile, evidently whatever he's working on has him somewhat distracted. "Please," he looks towards the visitor, "have a seat."


The occasion afforded some level of professionalism. The man being led by Caitlin is dressed smartly, wearing a pair of light tan slacks, a light yellow collared shirt sans tie, penny loafers and a brown blazer. Red glasses made of ruby-quartz material sit upon his nose, and for this occasion, he walks with a cane in hand.

Scott Summers is playing a dangerous game. Harrison Wells is top among a list of known scientists, but the X-Man is operating outside of his normal parameters today. The cane isn't exactly necessary, but it's a ruse he has used before; a ruse he is perfectly comfortable apologizing for at a later time, should such things become warranted.

"Doctor Wells?" Scott reaches across the table, offering a hand in Harrison's direction. "Scott Summers. Thank you for meeting me on such short notice, without appointment. I…" He pauses for a moment when the seat is offered, and reaches out a hand to feel for the back of a chair before pulling it out. "…wish I came under easier circumstances."

The scientist's distraction doesn't seem to bother him as he takes his seat. "Thank you, Caitlin," he offers to the woman over his shoulder, as if it were an after thought, before leaning the cane against the chair beside him with its base touching his leg. "I'm told your facility is impressive," he remarks, before folding his hands neatly in his lap, sitting upright. "I won't take much of your time, but, I am wondering what you know of 'exgenta-diacetylmorphine'."

That would be the medical term for the street drug known as 'smooth'.


The hand is accepted and shaken warmly. "Nice to meet you, Mister Summers," Wells offers as his lips curl into a very small smile. With a lift of his head, and another warm smile, Wells silently dismisses Caitlin. The two have worked together long enough, that a simple nonverbal exchange goes a long way to see the biologist disappear through the door.

"And it's not a bother. We are rather…" his eyes flit about the room for a moment, "quiet these days." There's no question that Harrison Wells' calendar has had unprecedented openings since the incident. The scientists' lips flatten at the mention of the circumstances, but he manages, rather encouragingly, "Seems there aren't easy circumstances these days, Mister Summers." The gentleness in Wells' voice reflects that of a mentor, someone trusted and entrusted with the education and early careers of younger scientist, or, perhaps, it reflected some sense of humility.

The mention of the drug, however, has Wells straightening and leaning forward in his chair. His lips part slightly and his eyebrows draw together. "Not much to be honest. A colleague of mine works with the police department and has had some time to analyze its potency. Evidently it's undeniably strong." His lips quirk as he tries to recall what Barry had said, "And I'm to understand it's similar to heroine, meaning it's highly addictive, and issues its user an unprecedented high." His eyes turn up towards the ceiling. "And, if I were to issue a guess based on it being heroine-derived, it must be highly addictive."


Eyebrows shoot upward beneath Scott's glasses at mention of S.T.A.R. Labs being quiet these days. It was among the many reasons why the place was high on Scott's list. Those same eyebrows fall back to their rightful place when Wells mentions that a colleague had already analyzed the substance. Even his lips flatten out a bit at that.

"From what I'm told, yes," he agrees. "Yet it's been modified, somehow, and has a unique effect when a user who bears the x-gene is taking it," he adds. "A colleague of my own, a biologist, has told me that there must be some kind of unique property to the substance to allow this kind of acute effect. Allegedly, the drug nullifies the biological effects that come with x-gene mutation."

Here, Scott pauses, seeming to contemplate something. He leans forward a bit, suggesting that he's becoming more engaged in the conversation, though his eyes seem to look beyond Harrison toward a place just beyond his left ear. "I have friends in the mutant community. The drug, it is…" He lifts his hands, gesturing about in an indicative manner, before folding them back into his lap. "… causing a great deal of turmoil. This concerns me, not only in that it seems to be based on street heroin, but that, to my knowledge, there is no known treatment for withdrawal symptoms. That fact alone is going to make it far more difficult for users to free themselves of the addiction, wouldn't you agree?"


Wells' expression deadens at the thought of the drug nullifying the effects of the x-gene mutation. A few beats pass and he emits a quiet puff of breath. "I didn't know that," he begins, "but that is knowledge that needs to be kept as discrete as possible." His eyes turn downwards, his glasses are removed, and he emits a soft sigh. His throat clears, "I've been working with some individuals who wish to see their abilities, in this case meta-human rather than x-gene, cease." He pauses. "While current use of exgenta-diacetylmorphine is only for street reasons, like all drugs, some might choose it for," he swallows hard, "off-label use." His expression turns grave. "People trying to find cures for things that don't need cures can become incredibly desperate, especially when laypeople think them altogether other rather than human."

He actually frowns and then states, "This is more than concerning, Mister Summers. I think it could be cataclysmic. I was speaking to one of my employees recently about the problems with government othering people. It's possible someone sinister could advocate to use the drug for malevolent purposes."

The glasses are returned to his nose. "Clearly something has to be done about this lest anyone have such bright ideas." His throat clears, "And it might be better that whoever works on it not be tied to government." He leans back in his seat and turns his gaze to the computer monitor. "We have facilities to work on it, analyze it, and while we may be understaffed, the people we do have are brilliant scientists." He pauses. "We will, however, need samples." Pause. "And ideally someone who has used." His jaw tightens. "I assume x-gene abilities return once the high dissipates?"


The real handicap to any conversation with Scott is that the glasses completely conceal the expression in his eyes. That being said, what could easily pass as an appreciative look comes over his face, when Dr. Wells speaks of discretion. "I agree," he says quietly.

He leans back again, finding himself steadily growing more comfortable. One hand drops to his cane to steady it, while the other reaches up to rub at his chin in a thoughtful manner while listening to what Wells has to say. "The leadership is afraid," he says plainly. "They're afraid because, in their eyes, metahumans have a specific advantage over everyone else. Which, in some cases, may be true. In others? Not so much. Either way, the idea of a mutant, meta or otherwise just… waltzing into the White House and doing whatever they please? It doesn't sit well. Our society faces a morality challenge unlike anything. This is beyond bigotry, racism, things we've faced in the past. However?" Scott gestures with his free hand. "We can always learn from past mistakes."

A long, lingering silence follows, leaving a bit of emptiness in the conversation. It's an emptiness that Scott is comfortable with, and it is eventually broken. "I'm already seeing people using it for this - 'off-label' use. The problem is, once the drug wears off, the withdrawal symptoms are bad. Worse than whatever 'metahuman' plight drove them to use it in the first place. You're correct, Doctor Wells; not only do the metahuman abilities return, but they are often unstable as a result of using the drug. More unstable than they may have been before."

Scott chews on his lower lip for a moment, his face wrought with the lines of contemplation. "Off the books research is risky. I don't disagree with you, but… let's say, let's just pretend, that you acquired a sample of this narcotic. You're studying it with all of the world's best intentions. To create an antidote, or a treatment for withdrawal, or perhaps something even better. What happens, Doctor, when the DEA finds out that you have it here? Unlicensed? It is a Schedule I controlled substance."

With that, the real chips are on the table. There is a clear subtext in the way Scott speaks, but more so, in the way his ruby-lensed eyes seem to have landed upon Harrison's face more directly than they have before.


Much like Scott, Wells isn't uncomfortable with silences, and, in fact, often manages to think through ideas when all is quiet. Controlled substances are something of a problem, and the notion of the DEA getting involved could also be problematic. "My lab is fortunate as we've worked some with the NYPD in the past. I suspect we may be able to acquire easier access specifically through them." He pauses, "Of course, my bigger concern is the anonymity and livelihood of any potential test subjects." He swallows hard, "To be frank, there are two ways we can do this."

His throat clears, "I actually see merit in either approach. The first, an on-the-books official connection to come to some resolution. It could be easier to pool resources." His fingers steeple in front of him and his gaze drops to his hands, "I've been considering attempting to make this lab at the forefront of metahuman and x-gene research. Currently calls for registration are few, but they could increase given time, and if it becomes law, there needs to be advocates for them that aren't government." Wells' draw together and his blue eyes look towards those ruby red glasses, "The problem, of course, is working alongside some official channels that could misuse, misrepresent, or otherwise damage our research and its efforts. Furthermore, licensing and permits can take time, and, as you said, people are suffering now. We did have a pharmaceutical license for opium-derived substances — I have no idea if it expired."

Scratching the back of his neck, Wells ponders the second option a moment longer. "The second choice is, of course, to keep it as off books as possible." He swallows hard, "The researchers that remain at STAR Labs have a level of discretion I can't quantify. One of the good things about being a discredited lab is we don't get much attention," a self-deprecating smile tugs the edges of his lips upwards.

Wells jaw tightens, "So, Mister Summers, it depends on you, and what you know of everything going on. I can accomplish this through open channels and we can champion whatever treatment we can find for withdrawals, or I can do this as discretely as possible. I see benefits and drawbacks of each. But in the end, what actually will help your x-gene friends?"


Scott remains firmly attentive to the words coming from Dr. Wells. Every single morsel of wisdom is mulled over, absorbed, compartmentalized. In such a fashion, Scott is not entirely surprised when both options are raised; nor is he surprised when the decision is ultimately placed into his lap.

Another lengthy silence lingers between the two, broken when Scott leans to the side and withdraws an inhaler from inside of his blazer. "I do see the value in either approach," he agrees. "Especially keeping things on legitimate channels. If you want to see a treatment approved by the FDA, that's… really the only way to go. Only I would be concerned, given the current state of government, whether such a road would ever pass through the bureaucratic red tape." The tone of his voice doesn't suggest complaint, but rather, calculated opinion.

"Pardon me." The inhaler goes into his mouth, and a single puff is drawn deep into his lungs. Congruently, any of the recording devices within the room suddenly and mysteriously find their audio circuits muted. No permanent damage, of course, and the video feeds will show what happens, but for the next thirty seconds, the audio on those recordings simply cuts out.

"I can get you a sample of the narcotic. I can connect you with other scientists who would like to work on this discretely. I can even work on finding a not-so-legitimate manner of distributing the treatment. That, my friend, is what I can bring to the table." The inhaler goes back into his pocket, and he gestures in a conceding manner. "Or, both angles could be worked, simultaneously." That suggestion is paired with a mirthful upturn of his lips.

Twenty seconds have passed since the inhaler was used.


Wells silently watches Scott, considering the offer of a sample, potential colleagues, and ways of distributing the treatment. The last, however, warrants a small smile. "Perhaps the this option s the best. I imagine it's possible this drug's usage has extended well beyond any boundaries we're even aware." His jaw tightens again. With a crisp nod, he adds, "I believe we've come to an agreement, Mister Summers."

"I would like to involve my people in this if they're interested. Caitlin, who you met coming in would be particularly adept as would Gwen, and possibly another member of our team," Bruce Banner. "In the interim, I will talk to my Police Department contacts and see if there's a channel we can tap there, and I will have one of our people look into our pharma license and whether we can currently have opiates on the premises."

His eyebrows arch upwards, "I think while it could get caught up in red tape, ultimately long-term distribution requires the proper channels. Unless you have a way to make that happen as well?" his eyes squint. "That said, we can begin moving things along as needed. As I said, being largely discredited means we don't experience audits." At least the explosion of the pipeline had some benefit.


An expression of relief flashes across Scott's face when Harrison speaks of an agreement. It's quickly followed by a smile. "Thank you," he answers with heartfelt strength behind each word.

"I'll reach out to affected mutant communities, see if there's any users willing to step up and volunteer for testing. There will be some legal hurdles there, but, I know of some attorneys associated with DaCosta International and X-Men: Red who ought to help, pro bono even."

Again, Scott reaches into his blazer to fish around for and find a business card. A smirk is formed when it's asked whether he can push along bureaucratic red tape. "Sorry, Doctor Wells. I'm not a miracle worker." The business card is set down on the table, face up. The branding is of the Xavier Institute in upstate New York. It would seem that Scott is an Administrator, Dean of Students and Teacher.

"There are lots of concerned citizens out there." The way Scott's inflection bends, he's clearly including himself in that crowd. Just another concerned citizen, here. It also suggests that he should be going. "Is… there anything else, Doctor? I'd hate to keep you." Already, his hand is reaching for and curling around the cane leaning against his leg.


"Good," Wells replies about finding some volunteers willing to come forward. "If we plan on helping with withdrawals, we will eventually require volunteers. Of course, we wouldn't want to get there right away, but it might be helpful to try methadone on those who already are experiencing withdrawals. It works with heroine, it's possible that the solution is a derivative of methadone could work with this."

Harrison slides the business card closer to him and eyes it for a moment, but makes no comment. "I'll speak to my people about this and share our goals for the project. This isn't simple research, after all. We really do want to help those suffering."

As to whether there's anything else Wells can think of: "Not at all. Please be in touch with any further information or resources you can send our way. I'll have my people start working on this as soon as we have a viable sample. Sooner, perhaps, if I can acquire my colleague's data." His lips hitch up on one side. "It's more than concern, Mister Summers. I suspect it's understanding of our times. Such things merit discretion, even more so with anything that could be perceived as a way out of the political mess on Capitol Hill." His lips press together tightly and then release as he nods, "Again, please be in touch."


There is certainly much to think about, and Scott has a great deal of work to do. "A good mind with a good heart can undo any injustice." One corner of his mouth twists upward. "Something I tell my students. We need more people like you in the world, Doctor Wells."

Scott pushes the chair back, standing with caution until the cane is firmly in his hand. "You'll hear from me, sooner rather than later." He nods his head. "Take care."

With that, Scott turns to carefully wind his way toward the door, using the cane as a guide to assure he doesn't strike anything on his way out to meet Caitlin once more.

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