"Good morning, Mr. Stalk. I'm glad that you're here. If you'll just step on the scales here, we'll get your height and weight recorded for our records." she said, holding a clipboard and indicating a hospital scale with her pen.
Dr. Swan stepped up on a stool and lifted the height attachment at the back of the counter weight, hospital scale to get his height as Jason sat and removed his Ostrich skin boots then stood and stepped onto the scale. Jason liked looking good when he went out, even if his wardrobe generally came from thrift store clothing racks.
"Mm, Hm, 5' 10 and 1/2 inches, 190 pounds. Very good for a man your age, Mr Stalk. Judging from your whiskers, I'll put down that your hair is gray since you shave your head. Okay, now for your blood pressure." said Dr. Shaw as she opened a drawer, retrieved a blood pressure cuff and adjusted her stethoscope on her neck, in preparation for taking Jason's blood pressure.
Jason unbuttoned his right sleeve cuff, rolled up his sleeve as he had become accustomed to doing for blood pressure checks over the years and said, "Don't be surprised if it's low Doc, it has tended to be low most of the times I've had it taken."
"Hmm, yes, I've seen it noted in your medical records, Mr Stalk. You seem to be a bit of an anomaly among humans. Says you have a congenital, vascular/arterial valve condition that only occurs in one out of 100,000 humans. Which is one of the reasons we chose you, Mr. Stalk." she was saying as she pumped the bulb attached to the BP cuff.
Dr. Swan took his pulse, watched the mercury fall in the gauge and checked her watch. As she wrote down her findings in Jason's chart, she said,"90/60 is just at the very top of what is considered to be low blood pressure, Mr Stalk. But, in this case, I'd say that you normally have low blood pressure, yes. You have not had enough time at rest for your blood pressure to come to a resting pressure. That in itself, makes you a prime candidate for our specialized suspension study.
You see, you've been chosen to be in our nanite infusion, during suspension test subjects. Your normally low blood pressure will help mitigate any chance of a blood clot breaking loose and causing serious health risks. It actually makes the infusion process easier and actually safer. Infusion is the addition of a large amount of fluid into an already 'full' system and the lower the opposing pressure of the system is, the easier it is to add more fluid to the system."
Jason raised his left eyebrow and gave the Doctor a withering gaze, "Health risks? Bullshit, Doc. Tell it like it is. A blood clot could kill me. I thought these nanites were supposed to prevent the blood from clotting during suspension. Shit, Doc, I may be a recluse, anti-social, moderately homicidal and have difficulty with crowds but, I'm not suicidal. Well, at least, not since my little brother blew his brains all over the roof, inside of his car."
Dr. Swan blushed slightly and said, "Yes, that is what our type one nanites are designed to do, Mr Stalk. But, your low blood pressure actually increases the efficiency of the type one nanites. Allow me to explain and you can decide if you want to be part of the type two nanite study in conjunction with the type one nanites."
Jason had put his boots back on and was sitting in the chair next to her desk. He crossed his arms and leaned back to listen after nodding in assent.
Dr. Swan cleared her throat and continued, "This second study is an addition to the suspension study and has the potential of reversing the damage that your arthritis has done to your skeletal system. And as an extension to the suspension study, there is more remuneration." she said with a smile on her face. "That is, of course, if you agree to have this addition to the suspension procedure that you have already been accepted into." she said looking intently at Jason.
Jason's ears perked up, he uncrossed his arms and leaned forward slightly, at the mention of more money. "Okay Doc, so what does it do? How dangerous is it? And how much more remuneration are we talking about?"
"Well, your living expenses will be paid for 2 years with transportation to and from the V.A. provided for all follow-up examinations, of which there are likely to be many, as we'd like to find out if the nanites continue to function while you are not in suspension or if the neutralization compound we've developed completely neutralizes them. And to determine if and how your body disposes of the inert nanites, or if your natural immune system simply attacks and destroys them, sensing that they are a foreign body."
"There will also be a one time payment of $5,000 for the suspension study and $5,000 for the additional nanite type infusion for a total of $10,000. Then you will receive a monthly stipend of $800 a month, until you are discharged from the Nanite Study portion of our program." she paused for a second and continued, "As for what they do, the type two nanites have the capability of repairing skeletal damage, particularly at the joints. What they do, is rebuild the damaged area and to be honest, I'm not exactly sure how they do it. But they have performed well in test animals."
"As to how dangerous it is, we estimate that there is about an 8 percent chance of an unintended effect from the nanite infusion. This is why we're paying $10,000 initially, will be paying you an $800 a month stipend and doing regular tests on you for a minimum of 18 months. In the unlikely event that there is an unintended detrimental effect of the nanites in your system, all of your medical expenses would be taken care of, of course."
"In short, Mr Stalk, this could be the breakthrough in treating arthritis we've been looking for. Perhaps even a cure, someday." There was a sparkle in her eyes as she spoke of a possible cure for the painful condition of arthritis.
Jason's jaw dropped and he said, "You mean these nanites might cure my arthritis and I get a check too? Well, hell Doc, sign me up."
"Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say it could cure your arthritis, Mr Stalk. But, it could be an effective treatment of the condition. We're hoping that the nanites will resurface your joints and repair any damage that might have been done to your bones. That is what they did in our test animals. But, yes, it's possible. However, once the nanites are neutralized, the condition may return. And since you're going into suspension for 30 days it would allow the nanites to work unimpeded by your body's immune system." said Dr. Swan seriously.
"Okay Doc, you had me at $10,000. I'm old, can't find a job worthy of my talents, I hurt all the time, I have a short temper, I'm paranoid in public places, I stay away from people so I don't cripple or kill some moron for giving me a hard time or making a snide remark. And hell, I can't pay all of my bills and am looking at being homeless again, every friggin' month."
"So, I have virtually no human interaction except with other veterans and occasionally one of my sons. Because vets understand the unwritten "rules" and proper attitude, when dealing with a fellow vet and my sons were raised to respect their elders and know that even if they could whip me in a fight, they'd have to kill me to do it."
"Mostly, it's about respect, Doc. This world seems to have lost the understanding of the word. So, if there's a good chance that I could live out the rest of my life without so much pain, and be able to do some of the things that are too painful to do anymore, I'm in. And if it kills me, hell, I'm ready, 'cause living just ain't much fun anymore." Jason said with a hint of sadness in his voice.
"Hopefully, Mr Stalk, when you awaken from stasis, you will see marked improvement in your movement and much less pain from your arthritis", said Dr.. Swan. "That's what I'm talking about," Jason said hopefully.
Dr. Swan then began explaining all about the nanites, proudly, "What we've managed to achieve is to develop 2 types of nanites, one keeps the blood platelets from degrading or clotting together which is a real concern for us during stasis because well, your bodily functions are nearly completely suspended during stasis and the possibility of developing a fatal blood clot is very real and too, cells degrade during periods of non-circulation.", Dr. Swan said informatively and continued. "The first type of nanite does that by energizing those cells and seems to keep them viable and active, even during suspension. Plus the added effect of separating cells that have clotted together and re-energizing them so that they don't clot again for a while."
"The second type actually seems to repair skeletal and joint surface damage, we're not sure just how they accomplish this but, oddly enough the second type appeared after a single character was mis-typed in a line of code used to program the nanites and wasn't discovered until after an arthritic test animal was revived from stasis. Once revived, the animal was much more energetic and seemed to move about much more freely with less observable pain. After a thorough examination including MRI and X-rays, we discovered to our surprise, that the arthritic damage in the animal had been largely repaired."
"An autopsy of the animal revealed, that although the new nanites did repair some major joint and skeletal damage, a pulmonary embolism or blood clot in it's heart/respiratory system, killed it while it was playing with another test animal which had used the original coding in their development. We tried repeatedly to combine the 2 written code versions without success."
"So, we tried using each set of nanites without using suspension separately, to see what effects the nanites would produce in real time, under normal circumstances."
"On the first set of test nanites, we didn't notice any physical change in the test subjects however, there seemed to be a marked increase in aggression among the more docile of our test animals. This aggression among the test animals brought to light the effect the nanites produced in the test subjects. Namely, increased tissue regeneration."
"The wounds which the aggressive prey animal subjects received during fights, healed extremely rapidly. Roughly eight times faster but, the affected test subjects had to be put down due to them becoming overly aggressive, carnivorous and unmanageable."
"The second set yielded far more promise in medical applications. The younger test subjects seemed to show no marked alterations what so ever. But, the older the test subject, the more marked a change in their physical behavior became evident."
"At first they seemed to get far worse in their conditions and this understandably concerned us. Then after about 3 days, the test subjects seemed to improve from their worsened conditions daily, although they showed signs of being in constant pain and some died. After about 3 weeks the test subjects that survived, seemed to have all skeletal damage reversed but, were still in constant pain. We then developed a neutralizing agent that could be fed to the test animal and neutralize the nanites. And the test animals are still alive and in excellent health."
"We used the first set on suspension test animals and they were all successfully revived from suspension as apposed to those who weren't given the nanite infusion and didn't survive 9 out of 10. Although, the aggression increase was noticeable after about 3 days and only got progressively worse. I had had to come up with a second neutralizing agent that could be fed to the affected subjects to deactivate the first set of nanites, because we couldn't touch them due to the extreme increase in aggression. When we were finally able to render them unconscious, oddly enough, they died and could not be revived."
"Then we decided to use both sets of nanites at the same time and that was a smashing success. Although the neutralizing agent for the nanites to counteract the marked aggression affect of the first set of nanites had no effect on the second set of nanites and the animals started showing signs of constant pain within 2 days of revival. Once given the second neutralizing agent, they were pain free and continue to also be in excellent health which was the answer we were hoping for."
"We repeated trials on multiple sets of test animals and all were successful with marked improvement in the animal's health and skeletal systems. Once we got approval for human testing, we started our ad campaign." Dr. Swan concluded with a bright smile.
"And, that brings us to this moment, right Doc.?" Jason said sarcastically.
"Ahem, well, in point of fact, yes." answered Dr. Swan noting, Jason's sarcasm.
"So, what's involved in this Doc? How are you going to put me in 'suspension'?” Asked Jason, making quotation signs with his fingers.
"I'm glad you asked, Mr. Stalk. We have a suit that has sensors and stimulation contacts for revival that you will wear while in suspension, it is a modified under-suit that is to be used by our astronauts." Dr. Swan informed, showing Jason a photo of a modified space, under suit for astronauts and continued.
"Once you don the suit, you will be seated in the suspension pod, where we will insert the infusion IV and the pod will be closed and sealed. The infusion will begin after you are given a sedative and become unconscious. Your physical functions will be suspended and your core temperature will be lowered to 33 degrees precisely and maintained with normal governmental triple redundancy safety precautions. One set of nanites keep your blood and vital organs ready for re-animation and the second set will work on your joints and skeletal system.
"During suspension, you won't be technically dead. The defibrillator will be used to force your heart to beat and regulate it's rhythm while you're in suspension to about one beat every 5 minutes. When it is time to revive you, your core temperature will be raised to 98 degrees and your heart will be brought back to a normal rhythm via the built in defibrillator in the stasis unit the suit will be connected to, the pod will open and you should be fully revived after being in stasis for 30 days. You will then be given the oral deactivation compounds and tested to see what effects the nanites had on your body." Dr. Swan concluded with a confident look on her face.
Jason looked thoughtful for a second, then said, "Okay Doc, so what you guys are going to do is almost kill me, put a bunch of micro-machines in me that are supposed to work on my arthritic joints while my body is damn near frozen and kept in a fridge for a month. Then you'll heat me back up and revive me with a bunch of electroshocks. I assume that it'll be a lot like getting hit with a cattle shocker when I wake up, right?"
"I don't know, Mr Stalk. I'm sure there will be some discomfort. But, nothing a Marine couldn't handle, I'm sure." Dr. Swan said seriously.
Jason smirked thinking, "Atta girl, Doc. Pull out the tough Marine card on me." "Great!” Jason said sarcastically and continued shaking his head as he thought out loud. “I get to learn how it feels to be T.V. Dinner.” he chuckled and continued. “Okay, Doc. What's next? What waiver or whatever do I sign and when do I get Paid?" asked Jason seriously.
Dr. Swan opened a folder on top of the pile of file folders that were on her desk, pulled out a completed form and handed it to Jason saying, "This is the standard government non disclosure and secrecy agreement between the "Mars and Back" suspension study and yourself. You're a Marine with a highly redacted military record, Mr. Stalk. I'm sure you're familiar with what is expected when one signs one of these."
Jason smirked and said, "Well, yes I'm familiar with governmental non-disclosure agreements. I still can't talk about everything I did and where all I went, while I was on active duty as a Marine. And it's been nearly 35 years since I was on active duty."
Jason took the file from her and read it completely, checking that the 2 copies were identical to each other without being obvious about it. After he was satisfied as to what he was agreeing to, he signed, dated and initialed all 3, original and both redundancies. "Typical," Jason said as he signed the papers, "everything in triplicate. That's Government for ya. Waste in the name of transparency."
As Dr. Swan handed Jason the last paper she said, "Just sign this and you can go down to the credit union where they will disperse payment for you." Jason took the paper, read it and after taking a second to think about it, he shrugged, signed the paper, put the pen on top and slid it across the desk to Dr. Swan. "Okay Doc. when do I have to be back?" Jason said as he stood, hiding a grimace of pain.
"In 2 weeks from today, you should report to this address," She said, handing Jason a 3"X 5" card and continued, "You'll notice that the address is at the campus south of your Apartment. All that construction that has been being done is part of the science and engineering wing of the campus and where our suspension pod is located." "Yeah, I've seen it, Doc. They closed off the thru street and built another building there. So, that's why it's taken so long to open up that area to foot traffic." Jason said, taking the paper with an address and a clearance verification on it." Dr. Swan continued. "When you arrive at the aforementioned address, we will begin the study. Do use this time to take care of any monthly obligations for at least 2 months just to be sure." She said as she handed him the cashiers check.
Jason took the check with a smile, thanked the doctor, went to the Credit Union, cashed the check and left the hospital. Jason then went to the electric company and paid his rough estimate of 6 months worth of electric service, then to his apartment complex and paid his rent for 6 months in advance. Then Jason went to a coin store and purchased several small gold ingots with the majority of his remaining money, then, on a whim, he went to a Military Surplus store in The City and bought some more black camouflage B.D.U. field uniform tops and trousers as well as several black, pocket t-shirts and black boxer-briefs. He also purchased a magnesium fire starter block/flint bar, a brass compass, an M-1 A-1 Bayonet with belt sheath and an "Alice" pack, like he had carried while he was in the Corps, out of nostalgia and to carry the rest of this purchases home with him.