"Ah, Laver, always a pleasure. May I assume from your unscheduled visit that you've some good news for me?"
"Yes, don Chieftain. My drug is ready, and I've brought you the first samples." He sat down and pushed a small bottle across the desk.
"Excellent! And have you settled on a name?" Chieftain picked up the bottle and turned it around in his hand, giving it only a cursory glance before stowing it in a drawer.
"As you know, I've had some trouble with that. I mean, I've considered any number of things, none of which I'm entirely happy with. At the moment, I'm sort of thinking of just calling it 'happiness.' Of course, the final decision is up to the capo. Maybe he can think of something better..."
"Perhaps. Now then, tell me about the finished product. For example, how long do one pill's effects last?"
"That would depend on various factors, such as a person's weight, what else they may have had to eat or drink- and by the way, I would strongly recommend labeling bottles with warnings not to mix the drug with alcohol- and so forth. But at the average, I should say from three to five hours, having reached its full effects within a minute. The effects may also vary in type and degree throughout the duration, and may themselves be affected by things like the brain's natural chemicals, or the imbalance thereof, as well as natural influences upon mood. If something happens that would make a person happy, it could enhance the drug's effects. If something happens that would make a person unhappy, it would diminish the effects, but probably not by much."
"So we might expect a person to take up to three pills a day."
"Yes, if their life is such that they feel a need to remain under the influence all day and into the night. I would strongly caution against that; perhaps that should be another warning on the label, not to take more than one a day. And really, even that seems extreme to me. It should be more of an occasional thing, that's how I've always intended the drug. In fact, I'd say that if a person feels the need to take the drug every day, perhaps they should consult a psychotherapist about their emotional problems."
"Perhaps we should put that on the label, too," suggested Chieftain with a touch of sarcasm.
"Don, I know you're trying to sell a product here, but have you given any thought to patenting this drug and selling it legally, by prescription? Through psychotherapists?"
The don smiled. "The thought has crossed my mind. But... well, first, it's not up to me. I have to pass this on to capo Primus. And neither he nor I could patent or market it directly; it would have to be done through an Adult. And if he or she were discovered to belong to LandOrder, the patent would be declared void, alot of people would go to jail, and the government would take control of the drug itself. Besides, we can make more money this way. And we might still get some psychotherapists to help us sell it, on the sly. ...But back to the drug itself, what else can you tell me?"
"Well, as to the addictivity issue... I know there has been some pressure from within the organization, both at levels higher and lower than yourself, as well as from some of your peers, to make it addictive, but you know my position has always been firmly against that. I am in the medical profession, you know, and I really can't... you know...?"
Chieftain waved his hand dismissively. "I know, I know. We've had this discussion before. You know I agree with you, and you know that Primus has given his personal consent to leave the matter in my hands, to decide as I will. So I assume you've dealt with the issue in accordance with your personal ethics."
"I have, of course. And I appreciate your allowing me the extra time and resources to ensure that it wouldn't be addictive. And yet, I worry about those who... don't share our opinion in this matter."
"That's not your concern. Everyone knows how this stands, and hopefully our organization does not employ anyone foolish enough to make trouble once a decision has been made. If anyone does, they will be dealt with. What of production costs?"
It took a few moments for the apothecary to realize a new question had been asked, owing to Chieftain's lack of segue. "Uh... the um, well it... My thinking is that each bottle would contain perhaps 50 caplets. The sample bottle I've brought with me contains 10, and it cost... well, I mean, neglecting obviously the extensive costs of R&D which led to this point, the bottle cost about 3 capitals, all things considered. But it is of course, I mean, well, the whole... mechanics of production... the system isn't in place, as yet. Once it's all set up, the people to obtain the natural ingredients, and a lab set up to produce the artificial ones, and a plant to put it all together properly and bottle it, and making the bottles themselves, and labels, and-"
"Enough, I get it," interjected Chieftain impatiently. "I don't need to hear about every trivial detail of the process. What are your cost projections?"
"Yes, of course. Well, getting everything set up should take a bit, but of course far less assuming extant facilities may simply be converted toward this purpose... once everything is settled, ingredients, labor, production, distribution, etc., I should think a bottle of 50 would ultimately cost the organization at most 5 capitals. In fact probably less than that, I'm not really a money man, as you know..."
"Fine. I'll talk to others about the matter. And ultimately it's up to the capo, what we'll charge per bottle, but I should think on the order of ten gold pieces." The don sat in silence for a moment considering his next question. "Now, what would be a lethal dose?"
"A... lethal? Why, I suppose... hmmm. I hadn't really thought about it. I mean, any drugs taken in sufficient quantity... Well, anything at all taken in... hmmm." Laver stopped to do some rough calculations in his head. Finally he reported, "Of course, it depends again on the individual, various factors and all, but on average I should think at the very least an entire bottle could do it, though... not necessarily for everyone. Why on the Land do you ask?"
"People can do some shockingly foolish things. Perhaps another warning is in order."
"Well I mean, if we're already telling them not to take more than one a day..."
"Three," said Chieftain. Laver gave him a confused look. "I should think," the don explained, "that capo Primus would have the label warn our customers not to take more than 3 in a day."
The apothecary sighed, and nodded. "Very well. Three, then. But to specifically say 'Don't take a whole bottle at once,' I mean, what kind of idiot could such a warning possibly benefit? Anyone who knows anything would never try such a thing, anyway. I think the only thing it would actually accomplish is telling suicidal people..." he trailed off, unable to give voice to the rest of his thought.
Now don Chieftain sighed, and gave Laver a sympathetic look. "Laver, I know it troubles you to think about this, but many of our customers will be suicidal. While perhaps most of the organization is simply looking for a recreational product to sell, my personal hope for this drug has always been to cut down on the suicide rate. Small though it may be when compared to that of other worlds, from what I hear.... And yet, as you say, any drug taken in sufficient quantity can become lethal. We mustn't ignore the distinct probability that some will use it for precisely that purpose. But what we must chiefly concentrate on is the greater probability that more lives may be saved than lost, because of the product. Do you understand? Quite fully?"
Throughout this little speech, Laver had been hanging his head, listening, but not looking. His eyes were closed, and he was trying his best to keep from vomiting. He knew there were always risks in any end of the medical field. He'd always wanted to help people, and yet had never been able to bring himself to become a doctor, for his extreme distaste and inability to cope with death and suffering firsthand. This was why he'd become an apothecary, to help people from afar. He would never know the joy of personally saving a life or easing pain, but for him, the vague pleasure of helping people in the abstract outweighed the immediate anguish of losing patients. Yet he understood that one had to take the bad with the good, no matter what one did in life. He still found it distasteful to think of, but he knew he was lucky. He minimized the necessity of thinking of such matters, but he could never make it go away entirely. When Chieftain finished speaking, Laver simply nodded. He raised his head and shared a look with the don, and Chieftain could see the understanding in his eyes, and so did not further press the issue.
Chieftain broke the gaze, and after a few moments of silence, he asked, "So, what of the specific effects? Can you describe the experience? Have you tested the drug yourself?"
Happy to have the subject thus changed, Laver did his best to resume a clinical mindset before responding. "After perfecting the formula through tests with street rats, yes. And I must say, it is highly effective. What it does, in essence, is make you happy, without distorting any of your perceptions, clarity of thought, soundness of judgement, etc. You may still think of unpleasant things, and on some level be depressed, but the happiness you feel will blanket your emotional pain. You won't really care about it. It will simply be... academic. As if you were merely reading about a fictional character's pain, and empathizing... without your empathy managing to spoil your own good mood." At this point, he made up his mind to take a pill himself, when he left the don's office. Although part of him now found the thought of even one pill on rare occasions distasteful, he mentally waved the thought away as specious nonsense. "Presumably you'll be trying it as well, before contacting Primus?"
"Of course. In fact, if there was nothing else...?"
"You'll be in touch. As usual. Good day, don."
"Good day, Laver."
The apothecary bowed and exited the office. He then walked to the water cooler, took a bottle from his pocket, extracted a pill, and swallowed it along with some water in a small clay cup. Moments after Laver had left the antechamber, don Chieftain popped his head out the door of his office and told his receptionist to hold his calls until further notice, both via t-mail and in person. She replied, "Yes, sir," and when he'd closed the door, she got up and moved Drugfix's cup to the sink, replacing it with a fresh one from the cupboard above the cooler.
...Chieftain closed the door and returned to his desk. Opening his top right-hand drawer, he produced the bottle Laver Drugfix had given him earlier. A minute later, he found himself grinning widely and proclaimed, "Ahhhh... happiness indeed!"
He fished a t-mail bubble out of the still-open drawer, and called capo Primus in Kimrin.
"Don, good to see you," said the capo. "What's the word?"
"Ah, Capp. My apothecary, Drugfix, has just provided me with a few samples of his new drug, which we're tentatively calling 'happiness,' pending your approval, of course. I've just taken a pill. It's goooood. You want I should have a Sorreter translocate you a couple?" And in a mock-aside, "Oh, Sorreter! Sorrioreter! Here, Sorry Sorry!"
"Don... is there a Sorreter in the room with you?"
"Um..." swinging his head about in broad strokes, "no." Laughter. "Is there one with you?"
"No, but I'll call one." The capo took out another bubble and summoned one of his Sorreters, who soon appeared before Don Chieftain in Plist.
Chieftain stood up and clapped the man on the shoulder. "Hi, man! Here, have a couple of these. Maybe see if Capp'll let ya try one yerself, when after you've brung 'im these." He dragged his guest's head down a couple of inches to whisper in his ear, "They're good." He released him, slumped back down into his chair, and giggled.
Capp Primus said, "Do these pills impair your ability to think straight, to act seriously?"
The don sat up straight in his chair, put on a serious face, and said, quite seriously, "Not at all, capo, no. I can snap out of that any time I like- apparently- and I still feel quite happy, quite high. However, it does seem that the pills facilitate an ease of escaping seriousness, if you so desire... and perhaps enhance the desire to do so, to act... foolish. And I'd say that acting foolish enhances the effects of the drug. It's just more natural... more fun... but it isn't necessary."
And the Sorreter was back beside Primus, to whom he handed the bottle. "Thank you. You may keep one." Each man swallowed a pill, and they were soon as happy as Don Chieftain, and smiling.
Merv asked, "Is it safe to translocate under the influence? I mean, with alcohol, magic can sometimes be affected, a bit screwed up. Best not to try something like that, so major, though it can work...."
Don shrugged. "Dunno. Didn't ask Laver, and he didn't mention it. Whyn't ya try, we can find out?"
He looked to his boss, who also shrugged. "May as well. Not an order, of course."
"Okay." He disappeared. And reappeared. "Seems okay to me. A little dizzy, but less so than if I were drunk. I went... more accurately where I meant to. Than if I were drunk. Coords not so sloppy-like..."
"Where was that?" asked Primus.
"Here... I brought you a souvenir." And he brought his hand from behind his back to toss a snowball at the head of the LandOrder gang. Capp broke out laughing.
"No fair! I haven't got anything for you!"
Merv bowed, and with a grin said, "Continued employment is gift enough, sir."
"You have that, of course.... However, I think next winter you may find a bonus come one payday. Or maybe not... I suppose I may not be in such a playful mood without one of these pills."
"I'll try to contain my disappointment. Will there be anything else, sir?"
"Not at this time. You're dismissed." The Sorreter once again vanished, and Don and Capp sat looking at each other through the bubble for about ten seconds before they started laughing again.
"Ahhh... yes, well, a part of me isn't overly fond of this breakdown of decorum, but a more immediately prominent part of me doesn't much care. Still, my life is generally good enough I won't likely use these again. But I am confident they'll sell quite well. 'Happiness.' Not real happiness, of course, but as they say...."
"'...It beats real depression.'"
"Just so. Well, I guess it's a good enough name, very apt. Alright, then. You're dismissed as well, Don."
"Thanks, Capp. Have a nice day," and with yet another fresh peal of laughter, he closed the connection. "Three to five hours," he said to himself. "I think it's best it's a slow day..."
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