Author Topic: Sci Fi/ 1558 words/ Prologue of WIP/ no warnings applicable yet  (Read 607 times)

Offline geethr75

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The man on the hospital bed eyed his visitor curiously. The man’s appearance did nothing to commend him or to inspire confidence. He was of medium height, thin and stood hunched, as if to make himself even less noticeable. He was handsome and his face was pleasant to look at. His hair was cut so short, it surrounded his scalp in tight curls. His hands were clasped in front of him, and his eyes kept darting around the room. In fact, he was looking everywhere except at the man in the bed. 
The man in the bed sat up, his hand groping for the switch that would lift the top part of the bed upright.

“I thank you for coming, Mr. Marvin,” he said once he was upright. “Please sit down,”

Marvin sat down, his eyes meeting the other man’s briefly before shifting again. “I cannot divine the reasons for my presence here, Mr. Lane.”

Lane took a slim tablet from the bedside, swiped his finger across, and opened a page, and handed the device to his visitor. “You are the author of that article, I believe.”

Marvin looked at the page. His face showed surprise. “Yes. But I wasn’t aware that it was read by anyone. The journal itself is obscure, and I am even more so.”

“Be that as it may, I found it. Probably because I was desperate.” He paused. “In that article, you talk of a treatment to my condition.”

Marvin looked up sharply. “So, that is what you have. Do you? Forgive me, but you exhibit none of the symptoms.”

“That is because, I’m far too gone now,” Lane said quietly. “The treatment you describe- the drug you developed- is my only remaining hope.”

“But-” Marvin stopped, and then said. “It is true that the drug could help you, if it existed. I’m still in the process of developing it. I did explain that in my article.”

“That article is five years old,” Lane said sharply. “Am I to understand in five years, you haven’t managed to create a viable drug?”

Marvin’s shoulders squared and his lips compressed. When he spoke, it was with suppressed fury. “I’m not a rich man, and I have no funding for my research. I’m forced to do it in the time I can spare from my job!”

Lane frowned, but remained quiet. “So, you’re saying there is no drug.”

“None that will do you any good,” Marvin said dismissively.

“But there’s something.”

“Well, yes, I suppose you could say that, but it’s not ready, and I don’t think that it’ll do you any good.”

“But it could.”

“Look, I can’t just administer a drug which even I’m not confident about. It’s too risky.”

“Under normal circumstances, I would agree,” Lane said with a grimace. “But do you know how long the doctors have given me? They say I could die within days. Even if your drug doesn’t help, I don’t think I’ve anything to lose.”

“Perhaps. But I stand to lose a lot. I could go to prison, if it ever came out that I did something so unethical. What I’ve developed can’t even be called a drug yet. It is only a compound, and I don’t think I dare test it on even an animal, let alone a human being.”

“I’ll sign whatever is necessary to absolve you of blame.”

“You’re a dying man, and a desperate one. Whatever you sign will have no validity. You know that as well as I do.”

“No one need find out you did this. As you said, I’m a dying man. I can make a request that my body shouldn’t be autopsied after death. And I’m also prepared to pay you.”

Marvin looked surprised, though not happily. “I won’t deny that I need the money, but.... I just... it doesn’t feel right.”

“Look, I’ve nothing to lose from this and everything to gain. A day or two either way is not going to make any difference to me. I’m prepared to pay you any amount irrespective of the result of this.”

Marvin was silent, and Lane spoke again. “Please. Please help me.”

“A man like you...” Marvin said. “Why should I? Perhaps this is what you deserve.”

“If you came here in the expectation of hearing a confession or a justification-” Lane began then stopped and began stiffly. “I ask only this. How many police officers did you see on your way to my room? How many are there outside right now?”


“Even they accept that I’m a dead man.”

“Maybe. But...even if I give you this compound, even if it works, you’re still going back to prison... you’re still going to face a trial, and probably a death sentence. Isn’t this better?”

“We do not know what the future will bring, do we? I may be going to jail and I may be facing a trial, but the outcome is not certain, is it? This is a chance I’m prepared to take.” He paused, and was silent for a moment before he spoke again. “I know that you think me a monster, but let’s not go into that, because I’m certain that that’s nothing to do with anything. You’re a scientist, and I’m offering myself as a test subject plus an opportunity to further your research.”  His eyes were bright as he said. “Please... please help me... this is my only chance...”

“Five million Plous,” Marvin said suddenly. He looked at Lane as he spoke, a defiant look in his eyes. “Five million and I’ll do it.”

Lane nodded, as he picked up his tablet again. “Give me your account details. Or would you prefer a cheque?”

Marvin opened his mouth as if to say something. He looked completely nonplussed as if he had not expected Lane to agree to the price. Then he closed his mouth, and his jaw set stubbornly as he took out his phone and gave the details to Lane.

“There,” Lane said. “The amount is transferred.”

“How do you know I won’t just go away and not come back? How do you know I’ll actually administer the compound to you?”

“I don’t,” Lane said. “But I’m desperate. And so, I choose to trust you. I have money. It signifies little right now.”

“What if,” Marvin licked his lips. “What if someone starts looking into it after you’re dead?”

“I’ll draw up a legal document which we’ll both sign. It’s something that’ll say that I’m paying you this money to further your research, and considering what I’m dying of, no one will question the reasons behind it.”

Marvin nodded. “I’ll be back with the compound.”

Lane nodded. “Please.”

He pressed the switch that lowered the bed to a supine position again, placing his tablet near his head. Marvin rose and at the door he turned again to look at Lane. Lane’s eyes were closed, and Marvin could just make out the bluish tinge on his eyelids. Lane was right. He had very little time left.

Marvin was frowning as he left the hospital. He wasn’t happy, despite all Lane’s assurances, and the very physical presence of the money in his account. What if his drug worked, and Lane decided that five million was a lot of money after all? Considering what they were doing was completely illegal, he doubted there was anything he could do if Lane decided he wanted his money back. And Lane being who he was, it was a likely scenario. He shook his head, a wry smile twisting his mouth. The chances of the drug working were less than one in a million. That was not something he needed to worry about. Lane had no partners, no family. No one was likely to question the donation he made to find a cure for the very disease that killed him, not if Lane were to actually draw up and sign a document like he had said.

He hurried to his makeshift lab where his compound was. As he poured it into a vial, and placed it into a container specifically designed for it, he was again assailed by doubts. What if someone found out? It was highly risky, administering it while Lane was in the hospital, but it was even riskier to get the man discharged. He had little hope that the compound would work, in which case when Lane died, questions would be raised as to why he was discharged and on whose authority, and if his role came out, especially considering the money Lane had transferred, it was possible that he would be facing some serious charges. No, however risky it was, he would need to do it in the hospital itself. After all, there was no round the clock surveillance on Lane’s room now, and even the nurses and doctors never came there unless when necessary.

Marvin suffered no qualms about it being Lane. If the compound had any chance of success, he might have hesitated. But he knew well that it would not. Which was just as well, for Lane did not really deserve to live. And with the money that Lane gave him, he would finally be able to develop a viable drug that would help thousands around the world. He was smiling as he entered the hospital for the second time that day.

Offline Cana

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Re: Sci Fi/ 1558 words/ Prologue of WIP/ no warnings applicable yet
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2018, 05:36:32 AM »
Hi Geetha.

I like the premise of the story and it certainly has the makings of an extremely good read. Not sure if this is an extract or the beginning but;

You start with a great description of the characters but then in the long dialogue section, when they discuss the compound and the man's condition it seems rushed. I don't know how it fits in with the rest of the book so far, but I feel you could slow the pace with more narrative whilst they are discussing his condition and the visitor's research.
If it isn't too big a reveal, could the reader know more about the nature of his condition and how long has he been in that bed? Can you bring in some memories of other visitors to his bedside and/or his family?  Could you build on the patients desperation by describing what he might miss by dying? Who will miss him and who will not? If it isn't too big a reveal, how has he got so much money? Could you include something at his bedside that indicates his wealth? An expensive watch or shoes etc. Could you intersperse the scene with a nurse or cleaner coming in, maybe, to bring him something then leave, to create some more tension?

Does the scientist move around the room at all? He could see things that indicate the patient's wealth.

Can you reveal any more about the scientist's work, maybe when he failed to win a grant or sponsorship and hence not have the funding to continue his work. Would it be good to bring in just how desperate the scientist is financially with a memory? How did he become a scientist and is it relevant?

When the scientist leaves to go to his research lab, could you include something that makes him a little bit paranoid, seeing a cop in a car eating a doughnut or at a vending machine in the hospital foyer? A ma in an expensive suit that looks like he might be a lawyer.
When he travels to the lab does his car reflect his struggle? Where is his lab and what does it look like? Can you use the time traveling to the lab to contemplate the ethics involved?

Hope this feedback inspires.

Kind regards, M

Offline geethr75

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Re: Sci Fi/ 1558 words/ Prologue of WIP/ no warnings applicable yet
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2018, 09:21:18 AM »
Thank you for that detailed and insightful critique. I'll take all your feedback in when I edit the chapter. I have a problem with descriptions, and that is why I really need some good critiques. Thank you for this.

Offline peterdep

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Re: Sci Fi/ 1558 words/ Prologue of WIP/ no warnings applicable yet
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2018, 04:33:41 AM »
  • Good point: The style is relaxed and smooth. Words flow well so one soon becomes enmeshed in the story rather than the text itself.
  • Good point: The hook is excellent. There's enough information to tickle the curiosity and intrigue. It's adroitly done.
  • Needing Attention: The pace is too smooth. As noted by the Cana, you need to chop it up a bit. Short sections of dialogue interwoven with descriptive text and storyline. It's the short sentences, long sentences trick promoted to paragraphs.
  • Comment: I'd very much like to read a lot more of this - which can only be a good sign - good luck :)

Offline geethr75

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Re: Sci Fi/ 1558 words/ Prologue of WIP/ no warnings applicable yet
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2018, 10:51:20 AM »
Thank you so much. It's going to be more than one book, and I've finished the first one.  :)


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Re: Sci Fi/ 1558 words/ Prologue of WIP/ no warnings applicable yet
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2018, 11:04:21 AM »
I'm wondering why you call this a prologue instead of Chapter 1. Prologues have such a bad press.

As others have said, it's an interesting premise - the use of an unlicensed drug to delay a terminal illness in return for money. But there are huge plot holes that need addressing.

Lane - is he supposed to be a criminal on Death Row? If not, why mention the lack of police officers outside his ward. There were times when the dialogue didn't always make a lot of sense.

Marvin - how did Lane get in contact with him and force him to visit in person?

The dialogue also becomes monotonous once they start discussing the ethical question and the matter of trust.

Flaws in the logic make the plot implausible as it stands. We either need more background information (but it has to be skillfully woven into the narrative) or the story has to start somewhere else. Maybe start in Marvin's laboratory and a mysterious summons to a drugs baron's death bed (you get the idea).

Until you overcome these issues it's difficult to take seriously.