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Story 23

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While docked in a starport, your usually grumpy comm officer seemed excited to go stretch his legs this morning. While grabbing some coffee from your galley you turn on the holo projector to catch some local news.

“…but despite the protest being broken up by the police, no major injuries were reported. In other news STARKe Pharmaceuticals, one of our sponsors, is running a large scale study on a new medication they’re developing called Volomin. Let’s take a moment and watch the ad they’ve created before interviewing one of the lead researchers.”

The projection fades out and cuts to a commercial with two women at a restaurant. The first woman says, “So Joe just got a promotion and the kids are doing good in school, why do you look so wistful?”

Woman two looks down at her plate while pushing around some noodles with a fork. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I just have a hard time being happy.”

A business man arrives at the table with a tweed jacket and perfectly white teeth, “Do you have unexplained periods of depression, general unhappiness, space affective disorder, or other common mood disorders. Volomin could be the answer. Ask your doctor if you are eligible for the current Volomin trial. Volomin from STARKe Pharmaceuticals. Making you better than you really are.”

The scenes cuts away to show the woman having fun with children at a playground while a handsome man, presumably her husband, looks on and a rapid speaking voice over starts talking, “Possible side effects may include depression, general discomfort, headaches, blurred or distorted vision, loss of balance, dry mouth, numbness, periodontal disease, lockjaw, tremors, heart palpitations, varicose veins, liver damage, kidney failure, loss of taste, loss of smell, loss of sight, early Alzheimer’s, cardiac arrest, and in extremely rare cases… death. Volomin. Making you better than you really are.”

The commercial fades out and the news studio reappears with a news anchor and a gentleman in a lab coat. 

“So Dr Spiel, how does Volomin work?”

“So initially you would be injected, most likely by your PCP, with the Volomin Nanobots, but that is a one time procedure. And then you would need to take a once a day capsule simply called Volomin. The Volomin contains a special nanoparticle that, on its own, has a hard time crossing the blood brain barrier and finding the specific receptors it needs to attach to. The nanobots from the one time injection identify our specially patented nanoparticle once it is absorbed from your GI tract into your bloodstream to carry it across the BBB and deposit it at the appropriate receptors, and if the nanobots find other chemicals associated with negative emotions in those positions it removes them to give preference to our new nanoparticles.”

The anchor chimes in, “That sounds fascinating and a little scary manipulating neurochemicals.”

“Nonsense, people manipulate their neurochemistry all the time, like when they eat chocolate…”

You turn off the holo vid projector while leaving the galley and think to yourself, ‘Who would try such a thing, especially while it is still in trial?’.

You go about the rest of your day taking care of ship business. That evening there’s a knock at your hull door. You check your video feed and see it’s your comm officer returned. You pop the hatch and he strolls in while whistling a jaunty little song. You think to yourself, ‘I didn’t even know that he could whistle.’

“So what’s up that you’re in such a good mood?”, you ask with a smile.

“I just started a trial for Volomin to try and improve my mood. I really thought that I had become such a downer that it would just be a matter of time till you would want to space me.”

“You haven’t been that bad, but isn’t that drug still in trials? How are you going to get additional fills while we gallivant around the Drift System?”

Your comm officer excitedly explains, “They are looking to gain approval for Space Affective Disorder, which means they need studies in spacers as well. They’ve given me 6 stands worth of the medication with the expectation that it should get general approval for several mood disorders in the next 2-3 stands and that then gives them time to get it distributed to various planets throughout the Drift System before I run out. In the meantime they’ve contracted with various labs to do blood draws whenever we land on a planet.”

“This is the most up beat I’ve ever seen you, so I hope it all works out like you hope.”

Place six damage markers on this encounter card and remove one marker each round. In three rounds read/listen to Story 58