Our third story is from another prompt I loved: I’m always a sucker for galactic communities and biochemistry, and @wheatles has done both justice with a tight narrative set in a backstreet clinic. I really like this one as it takes something that’s an everyday component of the human experience adrenaline – then examines how exotic and odd that might seem to unfamiliar species.
STORY NUMBER: 3
PROMPT PROVIDER: Anonymous
PROMPT: Adrenaline is a banned substance galaxy wide. The discovery of humans shows why.
“The weak always made the best scientists”, she crooned, stroking his face with her mandible. “That’s why they became the strongest of us all”
He gasped as the needle hovered above his chest cavity, part wishing this would be over and part never wanting her to finally stab him with it. The reaction was getting stronger though and his throat was so swollen he struggled to draw breath.
“You’ve been here before haven’t you?” she went on. “Soon you won’t be coming because you need it; soon you’ll be coming because you want it.”
Suddenly and with great violence, she slammed the needle downward. The jolt made his body jerk violently, milliseconds before the liquid flowed into his bloodstream. He shuddered a second time as the effect hit him, then sat bolt upright. The next instant he was off the bed, his eyes wild; all remnants of his allergy forgotten. He screamed twice, and ran out of the room.
Backstreet adrenaline clinics – Epi-Centres – weren’t uncommon at all since they banned it, even though not all species missed it. Most had long since decided that a flight-or-fight mechanism was not only not needed, but that it was downright damaging. The great and good of the universe all independently decided that an adrenalectomy was for the benefit of everyone. Calmer heads prevailed in negotiations, snap judgements were eradicated, neighbouring nations were friends. The galaxies were at peace.
The only time you want an adrenal response? When you’re surprised. Just as the known universe was when humans had arrived.
After her latest patient had fled into the night, the Administrator clacked her jaws and entered the client data into her workstation. His fifth visit, she noted. That was good.
Over 10,000 clients now, and over 8,000 who’d been more than once. All of them slowly getting hooked on the rush it gave them.
10,000 wasn’t enough. But it was a good start.
Humans were nearly functioning members of intergalactic society. The old attitudes were being swept away and the young weren’t tied to memories of the war. It’s easier to forgive something you didn’t live through.
And the skills that had once made humans fearsome made them valuable. They found employment. They spread out. Equal opportunities policies gave them a new beginning.
But, to learn from past mistakes, adrenaline was banned in every system. The adrenal medulla was removed from everyone once they reached their equivalent of teenage years, or ideally at birth. By removing the source, history couldn’t repeat itself.
Unless someone gave it a helping hand.
The Administrator sank her proboscis on to the sensor and the door slide open silently. She scuttled her way over to the human sat behind a desk at the other end of the room.
“Another good day” she said, passing over the tablet
Grimacing as he wiped off a small trail of slime, he took it from her. Flicking through the patient numbers, he nodded.
“Combined with other clinics, we’ll almo-” he cut her off with a gesture.
“I know. This was always the plan” he said.
“I’m just saying, we’re on track” she persisted.
“Of course we are. Have you ever met a scientist without a life threatening allergy? They’re practically falling over themselves to sneeze on a kitten.”
His medals gleamed in the low light. The only human who would dare be seen wearing anything that commemorated the war.
“But yes,” he continued, “a good day. In a month, we’ll have the numbers”
It was never proven if the sickly naturally made better scientists, or just that science was one of the more sedately pursuits available to the asthmatic or allergy-ridden. But what was certainly true was that the greatest explosion in human knowledge happened at the same time as the exponential increase in allergies in children. Suddenly mankind had the power to reach the stars – and this was made possible by next-generation anti-histamines and epipens available on every street corner. Finally, going out for a curry was no longer a potential terror. No longer did people have to check if their friends had pets.
At last, scientists weren’t held back by their physical weakness. And that was when they discovered the other benefit of epinephrine.
Ever been in a fight? A real one, where you were genuinely scared? Adrenaline. You feel it now, just remembering it. Your body recreates it. And when it does, you have the absolute focus you need, just for a minute or two.
And then the little come down. Each dose needs to be a little bigger than the last.
Soon, epi-pens weren’t just used for anaphylactic shock. Soon they were used instead of bungee jumping or skydiving. Soon, adrenaline was a memory aid and a focus boost. Soon scientists weren’t weak any more; they were strong and driven and extremely jumpy. The focus now was on building technology to make them stronger still; create a race of warrior nerds. And the results were extraordinary.
The meek didn’t just want to inherit the earth; they wanted to go after the universe.
Her ocelli swept the office to make sure everything was where it should be. She’d been working here for years and took pride in it. She cared for her clients as she watched them grow stronger, more determined.
When the next war came, the human had promised she would be on his personal staff. That didn’t really interest her, and she could see he despised her kind. She did it for her patients – her family as she thought of them. Thousands of them, evolving under her care, becoming the best versions of themselves. Her army of children.
His words echoed in her mind – “in a month, we’ll have the numbers”. Just numbers to him, she thought, but all of them mine.
She picked the last epi-pen off the counter and sniffed the end of it, smelling human sweat and fear. Kissing it, she stored it in her pouch and left.
“All of them mine”.