AUTHOR'S NOTE: For the sake of plot, I've included just a little bit of biology and science in this first chapter. I don't know a whole lot about science, and rather than do a lot of research, most of the scientific jargon is stuff I made up off the top of my head. I won't do this for every chapter, but if anything here is blatantly wrong, go ahead and let me know.
LAURA PARIS ALLOWED THE water to fill the sink while the dish-washing bubbles foamed around her arms. When the sink was half-full, Laura dropped her silverware and dishes into the sink, and began to wash.
Laura didn't particularly enjoy washing dishes or cooking, both chores were easy, and once she'd finished with the dishes, she could get to doing things she really enjoyed, like watering her plants, reading magazines, and heading to the salon later to get her nails done.
In the other room, the television blared to give Laura something to listen to in absence of a portable CD player. Some daytime personality announced, "Here they are, Anne. These are the results to little Tommy's paternity test. Justin, you are. . . not the father!"
The crowd roared, and Laura shook her head at what some people considered entertainment. Of course, she couldn't very well judge them too harshly. She listened to the television, too, when she got particularly bored.
Laura was officially a housewife, although she helped her husband, John, with his work. He was something of a freelance-chemist; he particularly studied medicines and looked for ways to improve existing medications or to treat diseases that as of yet had no cure.
John had once worked for existing drug companies. That had been when the couple had been newly married and he was still fresh out of college. Laura hadn't even needed to work then, because the companies had paid John so well to begin with.
Even so, he'd quit as soon as his contract with Bydol had expired. John had complained that he felt wasted finding ways to make painkillers last a few hours longer or to make children's cough syrup really taste like cherries while people died of AIDS and cancer and he made no move to search for a cure. The Paris family had made risky moves, tapping into their life savings and allowing John to work in his own laboratory in their garage. At least John was happy and felt like he was doing something worthwhile with his life, and Laura still didn't need to work.
She finished scrubbing the last of her dishes while in the other room, an announcer declared, "After this commercial break, we'll take a look at how some couples dealt with cheaters, and of course, more paternity tests!"
Laura allowed the water to drain out of the sink, and turned just as John burst in their back door. He was gasping for breath as if he'd run all the way from the garage, and a wild look twisted his face.
"Honey, what's wrong?" Laura gasped.
A second later, John was laughing and had swept Laura up in his arms. She realized that the wild look had been extreme excitement as he cried, "Honey, I did it! I did it, Laura; I finally did it!"
John set her lightly on her feet, and Laura asked, "Did what? You found a cure?"
"Yes!" John cried. "I've tested it on mice; it worked perfectly. It had a ninety-nine percent success rate, Laura. Nothing is ever that successful, but it worked!"
"That's wonderful," Laura gushed. She knew John had been working a bit with AIDS, but so far as she understood it, mice couldn't carry AIDS. Feeling slightly silly, she asked, "What did you find a cure for?"
"Everything," John declared.
Laura raised an eyebrow in confusion, then asked, "What?"
"I found a cure for every disease that's caused by bacteria or virus," John told her. "AIDS, the chicken pox, TB, with some slight modifications, I might be able to target cancer-causing cells with it."
"How is that possible?" Laura asked.
John considered for a moment, then said, "It's all very technical."
"So dumb it down for me," Laura recommended.
John looked at Laura seriously, and said, "You're not dumb, honey. You just don't know all the terms and everything, but you could learn them if you wanted."
"Yeah, I know," Laura responded, allowing impatience to tinge her tone. "I'm not looking for affirmation right now, I want to know how you created this miracle drug, and I want you to explain it in a way I can understand."
"Right," John muttered. He took a seat at the kitchen table, and said, "You stop me if I'm going too fast for you. I began by studying the AIDS virus. The disease is hard to cure because of two of its characteristics. The first is that until HIV becomes full-blown AIDS, it doesn't exhibit symptoms the way most viruses do. AIDS doesn't even kill people, it weakens the immune system so that other diseases can kill them."
"I know all this," Laura assured her husband.
He continued as if he'd never been interrupted. "The other reason AIDS is difficult to cure is because it's constantly mutating. Just as soon as doctors think they have a handle on the virus, it's changed."
"I know that, too," Laura told him.
"Well, I studied those two characteristics while I was looking for a cure," John told her. "To begin with, I looked at the way the HIV virus targets the immune system. I wondered why antibodies and white blood cells couldn't be 'souped up,' so to speak, so that they could fight off all foreign bodies without being weakened or killed."
John launched into a technical description of how he'd created what he called super-antibodies, until Laura interrupted him. "You've lost me," she admitted. "That's OK, though. You've created really strong antibodies. These are strong enough to cure any disease?"
"Not quite," John replied. "You see, next I considered the mutating principle of AIDS. Not only does it baffle doctors, but it outsmarts your body's defenses by changing as well. All of your antibodies are prepared to fight a certain kind of infection, but the virus has already become totally different in a way your body isn't ready for. Then, it weakens the system."
Laura nodded to indicate that she followed, and John continued. "So, I wondered what would happen if my super-antibodies were to encounter a mutating virus that mutated in such a way to beat them. Then, the patient would be no better off than if he'd never been treated- unless his super-antibodies were to mutate along with the virus.
"The biggest problem in creating these mutations was that the antibodies' mutations would have to be congruent with the virus's, otherwise, the mutations would be meaningless. That meant that my antibodies had to be intelligent, with the ability to evaluate a situation and adapt."
Laura shivered. Her husband's experiments were beginning to sound like something out of a science-fiction movie. "How can single-celled organisms have intelligence?" she asked.
"They can't," John answered. "Tell me, have you ever heard of bio-engineering?"
"It sounds familiar," Laura answered.
"It's the melding of anatomy and technology," John explained, then he blushed. "Actually, that factor was inspired by Star Trek. I wondered if I could create tiny antibody-machines in a person's body. After all, if the government can create spy-cameras that look like house flies, why can't medical technology be made small enough to be injected into a patient's bloodstream?"
"So, you create little war-machines programmed to kill viruses, and put them into sick peoples' bodies?" Laura asked.
"You make it sound so nefarious," John complained. "Actually, I make little machines capable of creating super-antibodies. The machines evaluate the situation, and adapt their process of building antibodies if a virus mutates. The best part is, if the machines evaluate that they are no-longer needed, they disassemble themselves. Since they're made primarily of iron and biological components, the patient is none-the-worse for wear. Once the machines have dissolved, you'd never know they were even there in the first place, except the disease is cured."
Speechless, Laura gaped at her husband. Either he was a genius, or the medical field was advancing more quickly than she'd ever imagined it could.
"Don't you understand?" John demanded. "This is bigger than penicillin and Salk's polio vaccine put together! We could save millions of lives!"
Laura said the only thing she could. "That's great, honey," she said. "It's unbelievable."