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         Chess tried his best to explain to Lodestar who he was and why he was writing.  One message at a time, the conversation stretched over days.  At first, he was too stunned that they were replying to him -- and too afraid that they might never reply again -- to do anything except write the best short messages that he could come up with, each time.  But, after a while, Chess suggested a public forum that he had discovered within the samiz network, where they could talk anonymously, and Lodestar agreed.
         Lodestar was guarded in all of their conversations with him, of course.  But Chess had pointed out the vulnerability that had allowed him to change their website code: a security hole that the government could easily find if they were actually looking.  And, naturally, he had also shared more of his suggestions for the game.  Chess did not know if either of these things would get Lodestar to trust him, but at least he had made contact.  He thought about the map that he always carried, and wondered if he ever had any hope of actually finding them in the harsh reality that was the world outside.

         More days passed, and the weather, which was already intolerably warm and humid without civ’s ubiquitous air conditioning, grew even more so as the month drew to a close.  But Chess had so many things, now, to occupy his mind.  Razor, excited at what Chess had been able to accomplish for his businesses, had become increasingly more demanding in his assignments.  And Chess, although he no longer had any desire to help Razor, felt that he needed to keep up a good appearance with the guy, to ensure his own safety.  And, of course, now that Ileana had thrown herself wholeheartedly into the potentially dangerous strategy of deception that he had devised, he would never risk having to run off and leave her on her own.
         Chess found himself viewing Ileana with increasing admiration as time went on.  She was obviously not comfortable about being dishonest with Tez, and certainly not happy about betraying Razor, but she was trying her best to do what she thought was right.  She was very strong, he realized, and terribly idealistic.  And those qualities warred against the fact that she was in love with a corrupt, violent, and mercenary -- not to mention misogynistic -- man.
         Yeah, he found himself thinking about Ileana more and more.  And sometimes, he wondered if he was in love with her.  But that was not possible, he told himself.  Because there was Sariel.

         Sariel was away again, and Chess found himself wandering restlessly through the hallways.  Along his route, he stopped to chat with some of the older ladies who seemed to enjoy his company.
         “Grab that box for me, won’t you, honey,” one of them called to him as soon as he entered her domain.  “Got a big, big shipment today.  I got them to bring it to just inside the building here, but no further.  Oh, you’re a doll,” she cried as he obediently lifted the heavy box.  “I think I saw a blouse in here that your lady friend might like.”  She laughed at his startled expression.  “What, you think you keep that a secret?  All that sneaking into closets and down hallways that you think are empty.  Huh-uh.”  She shook her head animatedly.  “And even if no one sees you, sweetie, we can all still hear you.”
         With his face heating up, Chess followed her quickly, putting the box down as soon as he could.  Then he backed away, muttering that he had to be somewhere.
         “Mmm… if I were younger…” she called to his retreating form.  “Hey, as a matter of fact, I’m young enough!  And then I’d go around singing to myself all day, too!”
         Chess walked rapidly down the hallway, pushed though the door -- and met Razor.
         “Goldfish!” the guy cried, making Chess cringe.  He hated that name, even when Razor used it in a friendly manner.  It just reminded him that he had no status there.  The guy could call him anything he chose and Chess would have to endure it.  The name made him feel his own helplessness acutely.
         “Hey, come walk with me,” Razor insisted.  “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
         At the words, Chess’s heart jumped violently.  He managed to keep his expression calm, but he was silently terrified.  How much did Razor know?

Continued next page...

Paul Offit: It’s amazing to me that we just keep knocking Big Pharma when in fact you can’t on the one hand praise the fact that these vaccines have saved our lives, have allowed our children to live longer better, healthier lives, and then just dismiss the people that make these vaccines so safely and so effectively.
-The Colbert Report with the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (at 03:35) 28 April 2014

         Lest anyone think that I am against patents and copyrights, trademarks, etc., when they are used for the protections intended, I actually hold a few of these myself.  I also work in a field that would not be possible without an awful lot of people and companies having made significant, patented discoveries and developments.  In fact, none of us would have the amount of health and ease that we are able to enjoy without innumerable advances in the healthcare field.  Which reminds me of an old LiveJournal post that still makes me laugh.  An on-line protest had been launched against a company that made a vitamin drink, because it had been reported that the product had been tested on animals.  And someone on my LiveJournal feed commented, “They’re giving vitamins to animals?  Those monsters!”  As far as vitamins and the gray area of “nutraceuticals” is concerned, we should probably be grateful for any safety tests that are done on those products, because the FDA has little if any oversight there.
         However, for the FDA-approved drugs that we take, and that we rely upon to be safe and effective, there is a massive amount of animal testing.  When the general public hears about a new, promising drug under development, it is usually already in clinical trials -- which means three phases of testing the drug on people.  But pre-clinical trials are where the animal testing is done.  As I understand it, animal trials usually focus on three areas: toxicology (does the drug hurt more than help?), metabolism (where does the drug end up in the body and how long does it stay there), and studies that seek to determine whether the drug has something akin to the desired effect.  However, even before this point, the company has to decide on a drug to develop, and, from what I have seen during my time in a research lab, that can be a real trial and error process.
         A researcher might have a chemical structure that theoretically looks like it will have a certain effect on, say, the liver, but when it is injected into twenty or so mice, it doesn’t go to the liver.  Instead, it goes to the brain... or it only stays in the liver for a short while and then leaves the body.  So the scientist changes the chemical structure and injects it into some more mice.  Now it stays in the liver, but for how long?  The mouse livers get shipped to the place where I worked to test for the presence of the drug after one hour, and then after six hours, then twelve hours...  A grad student who was working with us once asked, “But how do they test the mice after six hours when they’ve already taken out their liver at one hour -- oh.”  That’s a lot of mice.  Or guinea pigs, goats, and other animals.  I did not stay in that job very long, but I realize that someone has to do it.  That’s where our life-saving and life-improving medications start... until someone comes up with a better way.  Unfortunately, computer models have not met that challenge yet.



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