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Life Arts

Short Story: "Suppression"

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FDA Chemist Priscilla Naklin idly studied the hi-res image on her screen, a plant with a cluster of five small, white flowers, each one tinged on the inside with a delicate purple. "What did you do," she asked it, "to deserve all this attention?"

Soon after it had been discovered on a tract of climate-stressed far northern First Nations territory, cloisterwort was pressed into service for the calming scent it added to a traditional remedy for the common cold. The intent may have been simply to make the preparation less offensive to sensitive young noses, but the effect of adding it was dramatic. It didn't take long for word to spread, first throughout First Nations circles, and then to herbal remedy manufacturers eager for a new miracle cure.

Even before the new products hit store shelves, the popular press was all over the story. Pent-up demand was prepped with discount coupons, and natural remedy outlets fed the frenzy of interest with anything they could find about the new plant and where it grew. Even the seed companies were getting requests.

Smelling money in the air, Big Pharma then sent its lobbyists to the FDA, in hopes of forestalling the loss of a major revenue stream to a product that didn't come from its labs. Specifically, they wanted it declared to be a medical product, because it actually worked, and therefore not available for sale except through their channels.

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That, of course, meant convincing Congress, and Cil had been tasked with crafting the whitewash the committee would be handed at the upcoming FDA hearing. She wasn't pleased. "It's just not right," she lamented.

"You talking to yourself again, Cil?"

She closed her eyes and inhaled. "Mmmm. Mocha." She looked up at the 40-something woman standing beside her. "Hi, Gwen. Is that for me?"

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"You don't think I'd drink one of these, do you?" She set the cup down and brought her other hand closer. "Now this, this is more my style. Real Kona."

While Gwen pulled up a chair, Cil opened her cup and stirred in the whipped cream.

"Have you decided what to do with that report yet?"

She glanced at the flower. "No. When I talked to the FDA rep back in college, I thought their job was to protect the people. Boy, was I wrong."

"You're not the only one in that pickle right now. Have you been following Congress' problems getting the White House to acknowledge their subpoenas?"

Cil shook her head. "Only vaguely. I've been eating myself up over this report for weeks, now."

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"It's turned into a battle over Executive Privilege. When their requests for testimony were rebuffed, the committee issued subpoenas, and they've been ignored as well."

"That's kind of the end of the road, isn't it? What else can they do?"

Gwen took a long sip, and savored the flavor for a moment. "See what I mean? They're stuck in the same kind of pickle you're in. They really want to do the right thing, but they're stymied. Fortunately for them, there's a way out."

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)

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