Tainted cure (the rememdium series book 1) (page 5)

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“Don’t worry about your old man, boy. I’ll introduce them to this,” Walt said, pulling back his jacket to reveal the nine-millimeter nestled in his waistband. “Now, sit tight until I return. Keep your mouth shut and eyes peeled for trouble. If you spot any, don’t hesitate to use force. This here cave belongs to the Addison clan and no one else.”

Turner nodded and handed the pack to Walt. Once he situated the bag on his shoulders, Walt took off at a light trot, heading for the hidden entrance to the cave.

 

Turner Addison licked his dry lips over and over, trying to calm his overtaxed nerves. All the repetitive movements did was make the cracks in his skin even worse. The bark of the tree he leaned against poked through his thin jacket, making his skin itch. The cicadas were louder than before and the noise level made him even edgier. How was he supposed to hear a two or four-legged predator nearby over the ruckus?

“Get a grip. Dad will flip out if he finds me a bundle of sweat and all jittery. I’ll never hear the end of it. Then the entire trip back to camp, I’ll be forced to endure stories of his time in the military!”

Chuckling to himself, Turner scanned the area. With all the leaves gone except for on a few pine trees interspersed throughout the groves of others, he had a clear view of the surroundings. The silver light of the moon gave the entire area a spooky feel. A shiver of fear ambled up his back when he thought about all the horror movies he’d watched over the years. Lone people in the woods ended up as victims of some crazed, knife-wielding psycho.

Turner hated skulking around in the woods. He despised the fact his father was a prepper just as much. Hunting wasn’t so bad, only because his dad closed down the machine shop every year during muzzleloader, bow, and gun season. Turner enjoyed the time away from work though he wished he could spend the free time pursuing things that interested him, not his father. Stalking animals and then having to gut and haul away the meat made him feel sick to his stomach. Turner really wanted to hang out with his friends, waterski, and play video games. However, those things weren’t on the list of approved activities by his overbearing father.

He’d considered moving out of his childhood home several times, yet each time he got close, ended up staying. With only a high school education and limited job skills of working at the machine shop, financially, he was stuck under the eaves of 145 Windsong Lane at least for the foreseeable future. Living life alone was expensive. He’d researched all available rental houses and trailers in Hot Spring County, but without a roommate, would never be able to swing the bills on the paltry paycheck his father handed him each Friday afternoon.

Besides, the thought of living with any of his friends made him cringe. None of his three closest friends would even have been considered roommate material. They were all slobs, interested only in online gaming and eating. The only other person he’d actually contemplated sharing space with was his ex-girlfriend, Jesse Parker.

A twinge of sadness at the mere thought of Jesse made tears form. Wiping them away, he sighed. God, how he missed her. Well, he really missed the old Jesse, not the one she’d turned into. His high school sweetheart—a girl with long, thick honey-colored hair, quick smile and ability to laugh and not take life seriously. Jesse had been the perfect girlfriend until the last few months of their senior year.

On a whim, feeling the pressure of being model-thin and whining constantly about her curvy hips and thighs, Jesse caved and took her first hit of meth. Though Turner tried to warn her of the dangers, she ignored him, promising she would only do it long enough to lose fifteen pounds.

Beautiful, sweet, carefree Jesse lost way more than fifteen pounds. She damned near lost her life. Turner tried to help get her off the mess, but Jesse became a full-blown junkie in less than two months. Fearing she would overdose, Turner risked their relationship and told Jesse’s mom. His hope was the combination of mother and Chief of Police would break through the haze of drugs in Jesse’s mind.

He had been dead wrong.

Jesse flew into a rage. Called Turner every foul word she could think of in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly. At the top of her voice, she threatened to castrate him, among other vile, despicable things. Turner tried to calm her down and take her keys, aware she was flying high. One solid kick from Jesse’s boot to his groin left Turner in a crumpled heap on the parking lot pavement.

Less than a month later, Jesse disappeared. In the middle of the night, after being grounded for weeks, Turner’s one and only girlfriend fled to northwest Arkansas. It took over two years for her to resurface, and that only happened when she was busted at a convenience store to feed her raging addiction. Chief Parker had gone to retrieve her daughter from Fayetteville and immediately transported her to rehab. Turner had looked online and found Jesse's mugshot. When he saw the haunted eyes, sunken cheeks and pale skin, he sat inside his room and cried for the first time since their breakup.

The blowout of their relationship and the knowledge Turner had “ratted” Jesse out, left him alone in the world of female companionship. Everyone in their tiny town knew what went down between them. Though the general comments he’d heard were positive, girls shied away from him like he had the plague. Turner knew he was one of those men people pass on the street and never give a second glance. He was right under six feet, brown hair and eyes, and a lithe build. Basically, the same description people gave the police when a white guy committed a crime. So, his label of rat overrode his bland looks and left him a lonely, bored man before his time.

When he was a teenager, like most, Turner blamed his woes on his parents. After graduating high school, he came to the conclusion that wasn’t fair. Turner had put himself in the situation all on his own. Turner wasn’t dumb. He just wasn’t motivated in high school to study or try and obtain scholarships for college. The amount of time and effort to do so just didn’t interest him. His mother used to call him flighty and artistic when he was younger, which was true. Drawing, painting, and designing graphics were the only things Turner really felt he had a knack for.

Unfortunately, those skills wouldn’t pay the bills, so he kept his hobbies to himself and preferred to hang with his friends rather than buckle down and study. Knowing he could work for his father seemed the best—and easiest—road to travel.

Now, Turner regretted the decision, but it was too late to change.

Other than the discussions and preparations for “whatever shit this old world brings” (his dad’s favorite saying around the dinner table), Turner’s home life was normal. Well, if there really was such a thing. Though his dad was all about preparing for the end of the world and teaching Turner how to survive when society collapsed, Walter and Martha Addison were good people. Honest. Well-respected throughout the community. They were typical southern Bible thumpers who loved God and others, yet standoffish of big government.

Most of the time growing up, Turner tuned out his father’s ramblings about disasters, world-wide plagues, lying governments, and conspiracy theories. However, during the last year, Turner started researching things on his own. At first, he hoped he could find evidence on the Internet to prove his father was nuttier than Aunt Linda’s Christmas fruitcake. A few sites he visited confirmed his ideas, yet most supported his father’s. The more news he watched, the more he grew to understand his father’s strange ideas weren’t too far from the mark. Shootings, bombings, diseases, wars, rumors of wars, people being beheaded simply over religion—it was like Turner finally woke up from the dream funk he’d been living in. The truth of the ugliness in the world slapped Turner into reality.

Those things contributed to Turner’s change of heart, yet what truly swayed his opinion of the world came from Trevor Montgomery. Trevor was the older brother of Seth Montgomery, one of Turner’s closest friends. After graduating high school, Trevor enlisted in the Army and completed two tours in Afghanistan. When Trevor returned home, he was nowhere near the person he’d been before. Seth said his brother suffered from PTSD, which was completely understandable, given where he’d been stationed. Yet it was the horror stories of what he’d witnessed while overseas that made Turner sit up and take notice.

Trevor didn’t tell the stories directly to Turner. Seth retold the tales from countless nights sitting beside his brother, trying to talk him down as the panic tore through his destroyed mind. The similarities to his father’s sordid stories were astonishing, and Turner became a believer that no one—or government entity—could be trusted.

Period.

Glancing at the trail less than ten feet away, Turner’s heart beat faster when he looked at the footprints. Though he wasn’t quite convinced the imprints were made by someone from the government, they still made him feel edgy. Off. Because all the years they’d tromped up and down the path to the cave, they’d never run across any.

Ever.

“No, stop it. This is ridiculous. They’re just from another hunter, that’s all. Some other redneck fool. Maybe one got lost after following the barks of a hound on the trail of a deer, pig, or some other kind of hairy critter.”

The wind picked up, blowing dried leaves across the trail. A strange sense of fear made Turner shudder. The sensation of someone watching him made his skin crawl. Unwilling to be a sitting duck, he stood and pulled out the Bowie knife from its sheath.

When his father’s voice rang out, calling for him to come to the cave and that all was fine, Turner turned tail and ran as though the devil was right on his heels.

“How long does it take for the formula to work? And what methods of administration have you tried?”

Everett was still riding on cloud nine from the discovery two days prior. He decided to ignore the snide tone of Dr. Jason Thomas. The man had descended into the lab with an attitude of arrogance, which rubbed Everett the wrong way. Instead of showing even a modicum of enthusiasm or excitement at the discovery, Dr. Thomas appeared annoyed and full of doubts before anyone on the team even had a chance to show him the results. Everett hoped the man’s negativity would change after the initial meeting and walk-through of the results over thirty-six hours ago, yet so far, Dr. Thomas remained skeptical.

“Ultima received his dose via intramuscular injection. These two over here,” Everett motioned to the two cages perched on top of Ultima’s, “received theirs via sublingual method. The next trial will be inhalation. Response time for each method so far varies between fifteen minutes and two hours for full effect.”

“I see,” Dr. Thomas replied. He let his gaze linger on each subject briefly and then focused his attention on Everett. “Are you also going to attempt oral administration or are you worried the chemical makeup of the formula will break down when formatted into capsule or tablet form?”

“Our plan is to watch and observe the four subjects for the next week before we attempt any other testing. So far, no adverse side effects have surfaced other than slight loss of appetite and low-grade fever. The fever lasted less than two hours in each mouse, and their interest in food is beginning to increase, albeit slower than what we’d like to see. However, I am confident the formula will not suffer any major chemical changes no matter what form is used to administer it.”

“Agreed. Since we used transgenic bacteria as the basis, the method of delivery should not change the effectiveness of the formula,” Dr. Riverside added.

Everett gave the kid a slight grin, appreciative for the support. “Exactly. Once the bacteria enter the brain, specifically, the nucleus accumbens, they attach to the neurotransmitters. Basically, when necessary, the bacteria release enzymes to regulate the dopamine levels in the brain, thus maintaining steady levels.”

Dr. Thomas furrowed his brow, the look of disbelief evident to Everett. “What happens when something stimulates the cells to produce extra dopamine? Like when an orgasm is reached, or if more drugs are introduced into the body? How will this formula of yours stop the flood of dopamine?”