Chapter 1: Bjorn
7.30.2001 Edited by , every Sunday.
It was a bright and sunny day.
Bjorn Lincoln, all 160 pounds of him, was careening down the freeway in his charcoal ’04 Lincoln. It had never occurred to Bjorn that his name matched that of his car; This was not the sort of observation that Bjorn dwelled on. He was more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy, someone who didn’t sweat the small stuff.
On this morning however, Bjorn was indeed sweating. A great deal. The source of this perspiration was right in front of him, peeking out from between two struts of the steering-wheel. It was a clock. It said 9:13.
Bjorn was late.
This was unusual for Bjorn. He was a punctual man. He shrugged off hangovers, overcame broken alarm-clocks and even, sometimes, skipped breakfast. As an agent of the American Food and Drug Administration, he took his job very seriously. Tardiness could be catastrophic.
On this morning however, Bjorn was indeed late. It was not his fault, he insisted to himself, but he felt guilty all the same. And when Bjorn felt guilty, he sweated.
The Lincoln finally pulled off the freeway, curving around a pruned Washington lawn and under an overpass. On the other side, the shape of a tall grey building grew gradually larger. Bjorn accelerated into the parking lot, smoothly sliding his vehicle into a spot. He threw open his door and leapt out, walking quickly towards the building’s wide entrance. The door of the car slowly shut behind him.
Bjorn flashed his ID as he passed Ernie, not stopping to chat. He gave a small wave to Liv at the front desk, but made a bee-line for the I7 elevator. He pushed the button and waited.
Bjorn was tall and dark-haired, with chiseled features and stony grey eyes. He held himself very straight, shoulders back, strong hands flat against his thighs. He was motionless as he stood there.
Bjorn was a very serious man. There had been little open affection in the home of his grandmother, and his memories of his parents - although warm - were dim. Only occasionally, as with the dream this morning, did flashes of clarity come through, but still they remained confusing.
As Bjorn had slept the preceding night, he had seen his parents. They all held each other’s hands as they walked home from the park, laughing and joking. Bjorn’s father lifted him high, and Bjorn felt as if he was flying…
Then flash to later, Bjorn sent to his room. His parents’ shadows falling upon his door; they were gesturing wildly. Arguing. Then two more figures approaching, their strange silhouettes imprinting themselves on Bjorn’s brain. One, tall and slender, the other small, but distinctly humanoid. Raised voices – whining? – a gunshot… blood. Tears.
That’s when Bjorn had awoken, sheets twisted around his legs, hand clenching a beeping clock. His muscles had felt strained, his heart was beating at double time. Bad remembrances, and so maddeningly hazy…
The elevator dinged, doors swished open, and Bjorn stepped inside. Quickly he zoomed to the 13th floor – the Top Secret, I7 floor. He had work to do.
“Yo Bjorn,” said Puri. “You’re late and got a few new goods to do.”
“I know,” said Bjorn, entering the room. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” said Puri, grinning at him. “It’s okay. No probs. The data entry can wait a bit.”
Bjorn flashed her a smile. “Thanks.”
A pause. “You busy Friday?”
Bjorn looked at the small woman. She couldn’t be more than twenty-one. “Puri, I don’t know if…”
She gave a sad smile. “Yeah… You’re right. Whatever. No prob. You probably have all sorts of honeys.” She lowered her eyes, swiveled in her chair, turned back to her work.
Bjorn, being a simple man, did not navigate the intricacies of women. When things weren’t straightforward, he didn’t pay them any mind. They would sort themselves out. He shrugged and walked to his desk.
There were indeed some new pills to test. Three different multicoloured capsules, each individually wrapped and numbered, each fully checked out by the FDA labs, with only one experiment left. The human test.
And the human test was Bjorn.
He gave shook the pills in his hand, trying to guess what the gelcaps were for. Baldness? Flu? A new Viagra?
The FDA had never used to require an actual man or woman to ingest new drugs before approval, but a bevy of lawsuits in recent years had changed their policy. Bjorn fit the bill, and really, it wasn’t so bad. Sometimes he got a headache, indigestion, or a pair of breasts for the week, but he had always (well, almost always) fully recovered. He got paid well, and it gave him a lot of hook-ups at government. He needed those connections for his investigation. Murderers weren’t easily found.
There was a note taped to Bjorn’s desk, a short message scrawled in Mr. Wilcox’s sparse handwriting. “Important product test. Room 3C. Manufacturer intro. 9:00.”
“Shit,” muttered Bjorn. He dumped the pills in his pocket. He would get to them later. He broke into a run, heading for 3C.
“This new pill,” he heard as he approached, “will revolutionize medicine, making any cancer, growth or broken arm truly disappear! At McNoHart Networks, we know how to do it right.” The speaker spoke with a grating, high-pitched voice. A mild English accent was audible.
“Thanks Mr. McNoHart,” said Bjorn’s boss, Gary. “The scientific analysis checked out. The mice we administered the drug to were stolen somehow, however, so we’re going to skip to the Human Test as soon as Bjorn- er, Mr. Lincoln arrives. I’m just going to go make sure everything’s ready in the back.”
“Mr. Lincoln. Eeexcellent,” murmured the first voice, followed by the loud sound of crunching. Bjorn touched the pouch he always kept at his side.
As he arrived at the door, Bjorn slowed. He took a calming breath, set a professional smile on his face, and strolled inside.
In the bright lights he made out two human shapes. Two familiar shadows.
“Ah, Mr. Lincoln,” said the smaller one. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
The child began to giggle.
By Sean Micheals