December 27, 2016


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

Ngozi Adeyemi sighed and sat back from the scanning electron microscope. She said, “This machine…”

Ibrahim Eto'o Fils held up one hand, then lowered it, knowing it might be offensive as he said, “I know. It’s ancient. I’d rather have a QTM. But the Chinese aren’t exactly handing them out to West African disease researchers.”

She shook her head. “I was educated in England, worked for seven years at the CDC in Atlanta, and chaired the International Society for Infectious Diseases for six years. I’m not just a ‘disease researcher’!”

Ibrahim held up both hands in defense. “You won’t get any argument from me, Doctor Adeyemi. It’s been a privilege working…”

Ngozi brushed him away, “Save the flattery for someone who’ll believe it. You’re as skilled as I am and you’ve been here longer. We have work to do – and two of us may be the only ones who can accomplish it.” She paused. “When we finally tracked down the initial outbreak of the AIDS virus; and finally eradicated Ebola, we got cocky.”

“We didn’t,” Ibrahim said as he settled onto his lab chair. Another wave of his hand and his virtual computer screen materialized over the lab bench. “We know what we’re dealing with here. Climate change cooled Sahara and brought rain it hasn’t seen for over a thousand years. We’re afraid it’s also reactivated extinct pathogens.”

Ngozi sighed. “That’s why I came home. There’s something going on up north – it feels like a disaster waiting to happen. But there’s no proof,” she gestured at the SEM. “We’ll never get it if we have to work with stone knives and bear skins!”

Ibrahim grinned, “Thank you so much, doctor! These are the tools I used to earn my doctorate!”

Ngozi let herself lean forward until her forehead rested on the microscope’s control panel. “No offense intended, Doctor Eto’o Fils. It just frustrates me. We conquered hundreds of diseases with tools less complex than this, but I’m less afraid of disease than I am of attitude.”

Ibrahim puffed a laugh and said, “We thought we had climate change under control – and then it flipped from warming trends to cooling trends and wild solar weather.”

“We can’t control attitudes the way we can control viruses and bacteria – a few antivirals here and a vaccination campaign there. It’s this damnable community attitude.”

“That’s why I came back to Lago. So many western doctors think curing the common cold by fighting it with a molecule-evolving mutation smart drug signified that they’d claimed the Grail.”

“Monty Python and the Holy,” Ngozi said.

“I take it you experienced the movie?”

She sat up and gave him a sad grin, “With both English and American friends. You’d be startled how different their responses are.”

“How so?”

She shrugged, “I can’t quantify it. The movie was identical, but the two groups of people – all who’d seen it dozens of times – laughed at totally different places and repeated totally different lines. And I  laughed at different times from both of them! It was embarrassing both times!”

Ibrahim sighed. “We need to get back to work. I’ll get back online and see if can’t at least get a virtual QTM to work for us.”

She called up the next slide and got to work, muttering, “If we can’t beat this now, it’s going to go global in ten months.”

He shot her a look and added an emphatic plea to his email just before he sent it.

Names: Nigeria; ♂ Cameroon

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