(This is the twelfth part of the short story The Blue Pill. You can find the entire story here.)
Nambiar got the two quickly along with their things into their car and sped away. They left Yosemite and checked into an inn on the way from Yosemite to Los Angeles. They freshened up and sat down.
“I sent that anonymous email to you, Dr. Roy. Everything I wrote there was true. I was going to send you proof as well soon but you took the email and showed it to Torrance. From then on, I knew your life was in danger. Your device is a huge threat to Babylon.”
“Why? They would make so much money!”
“Look at the size of the company, the centers they have. They would never want to jeopardize their entire business model just for the sake of patients! Do you even realize what would happen if your device hit the market and became successful. Hundreds and thousands of patients would not need to visit their centers. They would all be able to dialyze at their homes by buying the device off the market. The cost of dialysis would come down. Great for the patients but not so for companies like Babylon.”
“But Karl, he is not like that for sure. He is so committed to patient care!”
Nambiar laughed out loud.
“Do you really believe all the crap he talks? I have heard him laugh at you in meetings!”
“Ok. One second now. Nambiar, how do I know whether what you’re saying is true or not? I have no reason to believe you. Karl has been nice to me. Why should I disbelieve him and believe you? Give me one good reason I should do that.”
“I understand your problem Dr. Roy. You have no reason to believe me over Torrance but think logically. What would your device do to Babylon’s business? Do you think their centers would continue to exist?”
“Surely, their centers would not stop immediately. This kind of device would take a long time to become popular.”
“Yes, but eventually? Babylon is a service provider. Large companies like this don’t change their primary way of doing business easily. It is a huge change for them. They would never be comfortable. From providing dialysis services, they would need to change to a company that simply sells the device and trains people. What would happen to all the centers? What would happen to all the staff?”
“Surely that cannot be the reason to deny patients a better quality of life?”
“Even a smaller reason is enough. Remember, for companies like Babylon, it is not about the patient, really. They exist for the investors. Torrance is not answerable to patients. Torrance is answerable only to the investors.”
“Isn’t he answerable to his conscience?”
Another loud laugh.
“Having a conscience is quite a challenge these days, Dr. Roy!”
“One second, are you saying that Karl Torrance sent that guy to kill me? Are you out of your mind? For a while, let us assume that Babylon is not serious about getting the device out to the market. Do you really think Karl would kill me to avoid that? All he had to do was pull the plug on the project. That’s it. The device would be dead. Nambiar, you are sounding ridiculous!”
“In the past four years, Babylon has acquired two other such devices. Both were tested on individual patients with excellent results. Both failed the Phase 1 trial due to circumstances very similar to yours. Torrance decided to stop work on the first one. The scientist behind the device created a huge problem. He went to the press. Babylon made sure nothing ever got out though. But by then they had learned a lesson. They felt it was not worth taking the risk. The second guy is still missing.”
Dr. Roy felt his heart turn into lead. “Still missing? What do you mean?”
“He supposedly went for a walk one morning while on a holiday and went missing. Neither he nor his body was found. His family has still not given up hope. But its been more than two years now.”
Nambiar opened his laptop and showed him internet clips about the two cases he had just mentioned.
Dr. Roy began to feel helpless. “What do you have in mind now?”
“Get some rest now. We will head out at 5 in the morning.”