Hippocratic Oath

Lying awake on his bed Scott wondered if he would ever be able to sleep again. Just a few words, words he had never heard before; words that had cut into the quick of his heart like no surgeon could ever do.

Just an hour earlier Dr. Valderian had informed him of his decision to retire from a lifetime of service to research and scientific progress. This man who had found lasting cures to such curses as AIDS and Swine Flue felt he no longer had the stamina needed to face the modern-day medical challenges their world was facing. So popping a Champagne cork, he informed Scott that the board had more or less accepted his recommendation to make Scott his successor.

"Or course, the decision still has to be finalised by the authorities, and they may want to carry out one or two more tests. But those are mere formalities."

Scott thanked him and expressed a wish that Dr. Valderian would still continue to help him in the fight against the great killer disease, cancer. It was cancer that had brought them together over 30 years ago. He was fresh out of university and Dr. Valderian, still a little known researcher in a backwater university nobody knew about. Although he didn't know it yet, he was just weeks away from making the breakthrough that would propel his country to the forefront of the world stage. After centuries of oppression from the richer Northern nations, Prestaria could at last wreak its revenge. Scott had never questioned but often wondered about the veracity of the official version of events surrounding the AIDS epidemic of 2020. But undoubtedly, Dr. Valderian's work had been the stroke of luck that had not only saved millions of his fellow countrymen's lives, but also established Prestaria as the major world power.

Dr. Valderian opened a drawer to his desk and taking out a strange looking object, Scott had never seen before, handed it to him.

"I want you to familiarise yourself with the procedures of the investiture. This is a recording I made of my predecessor's ceremony. It's a bit old but you can use one of the machines in the museum to view it. I'll get you clearance."

Lying in his bed, staring up at the ceiling Scott found it hard to imagine the difference that object had brought into his life. He had watched the ceremony and found its antiquated episodes quite amusing. He was about to extract what the assistant had termed a cassette tape from the machine, when further images appeared on the screen. A young man stood on the stage and holding up his arm made a solemn pronouncement concerning his profession. It was only from the voice that he recognised Dr. Valderian. But what fascinated him even more were the words he was saying.

"I will keep them from harm and injustice." The words looped around endlessly in his mind, sometimes pronounced by Dr. Valderian, sometimes by a colleague, but often by one or other of the prisoners at the centre. The centre... The newspaper headline flashed once again into his mind:

Government research facility on decommissioned prison site

What the article failed to mention was that whereas the site may have been decommissioned, the prisoners still remained. They were far better fodder than any animals. Firstly, more reliable tests could be run, but more importanly, who was going to complain about a bunch of Northern POWs whose relatives had long since perished.

"I will keep them from harm and injustice." That was what he had tried to do for his fellow countrymen. But as prisoner after prisoner came before him to mock him, he realised that was not enough. Thanks to the pills he could still shut out the murderous screams echoing from the cells as the experimental cures were tried, tested, failed, modified, retried, and modified before finally achieving the looked for success.

His first thought had been merely to escape abroad and build himself a new life. But he soon discovered that wouldn't make the voices disappear. Blind, he might have been, but now that his eyes were opened he knew he couldn't act merely in his own interests. He had to get the prisoners out, and he had to act quickly before the lack of sleep drove him mad.

Three days it had taken and he knew he looked a wreck. Fortunately, he'd been able to keep out of Dr. Valderian's way, the latter evidently wanting to accord him the time needed to visualise the tape he had given him. Scott got up and dressed before descending the staircase and entering his office. He had thirty minutes to go before the guards were changed. He waited another 10 minutes before going down to the cellar, explaining to the duty officer he had come to check the supply of medicines they had received earlier that week. Taking the handle to the fire-escape in his hand Scott paused, closed his eyes and offered up what in other times and other circumstances what might have been considered a prayer. Opening the door he slipped out. The moment he saw the gun barrels levelled at him, he thought of the memory chip implanted in him years before. And Dr. Valderian's voice rang out:

"You are a great disappointment to me, my friend. Even I expected better things of you."


I really admire the way your imagination has brought together the two establishments. Had this been a book rather than blog, what a page-turner!

28 August 2009 at 13:09  

Your piece presents a great deal of interesting views on the world allowing the reader to glimpse into the future and what it may hold, warning us of the responsibility we must accept for our decisions.
I understand that this is a first draft and you have roared ahead, capturing your ideas as quickly as possible to pull together your story - however even after reading it twice I was a little confused with a few things - in particular about the memory chip. There is an important technique within short stories with a twist attributed to Chekov called the smoking gun. I am sure the memory chip is an integral piece within your story and its a shame its only mentioned right at the end. check here for my article on it -


I think my discomfort was also brought about by the fragmented timeframes - or lack of focus on the continuity in timing. This may have been a conscious decision to put the readers at illease to reflect on the feelings the main character also felt.

Each week I attempt a new genre - this week is a limerick. Visitors can suggest my next weeks genre or see my entry for this week here


28 August 2009 at 15:42  

You paint a scary picture of the future. I think you should make the connection with antique memory equipment from the museum and new memory chips clearer. I like where this is going and I think it will be a strong piece once it is edited.

29 August 2009 at 21:29  

I agree with the comments made. Good piece but as we know this is for Fiction Friday so no editing was done.

31 August 2009 at 14:40  

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