Who is the public? What does it hold as its good? There was a time when men believed that ‘the good’ was a concept to be defined by a code of moral values and that no man had the right to seek his good through the violation of the rights of another. – Hank Rearden; Atlas Shrugged
Hopefully I can help them in some way. – Jared Fogle, Subway Spokesperson.
Dr. William Hastings & Dr. John Galt were still shaking with excitement even as they cracked open the top of their second beer. The echoes of their elated screams still reverberated off some tiled hallway deep below the Applied Sciences Building at Patrick Henry University.
“Famous,” Hastings said, using the hem of his lab coat to grip the bottle cap and twist. “We’re literally going to be the most famous people in the world.”
“Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” warned Galt. He pushed up his thick-rimmed glasses and wiped his nose. The emotion of the moment had gotten the better of him. Although he hated to admit it, his eyes had become misty, if only for a second. “It’s still going to be subjected to peer-review. Who knows what mistakes we may have made along the way? There’s a chance that we missed the…”
“John,” interrupted Hastings. “We did it. You know we did it.”
Galt took a swig of the celebratory beer. He thought for a moment and cracked a rare smile. “Yeah.”
“The Fathers of Fusion. That’s what the papers will call us,” cried Hastings. “We’ll literally be responsible for creating a zero-cost solution to the world’s energy shortage. Think about a world where no child dies in the cold. Where no one lives in darkness. Where food can be refrigerated even in the Sahara! We’ll finally have independence from foreign despots. We won’t have to grovel for their oil. No carbon emissions! No green-house gases. Barely any radioactive waste created. We’ll be billionaires within two hours of putting the patent on our process.”
Billionaires. Galt rolled the word over in his mind again and again. The thought of obtaining money for this new discovery seemed gaudy and obtuse to him. He had always looked up to Jonas Salk, the inventor of the Polio vaccine. He gave his discovery away for free, knowing that it would benefit the public greatly. He probably died a content and guiltless man, Galt thought. That’d be nice.
A slow clap rang from the dark corner of the room. Hastings and Galt frequently became so focused while at work. They must not have heard the intruder creep in. The shade of the night had cast even deeper shadows in the cracks of the room. The clap was eerily sincere.
“Congratulations my friends. You’ve just made us very happy,” the voice proclaimed from the dark.
The two physicists glanced at each other. “Who’s there?” Galt asked. “This is a restricted area. You can’t be in here!”
“But our name is on the lease for this building,” the face slid into the fluorescent light. It was Jared Fogle, spokesperson for Subway.
“Hey, aren’t you that guy from Subway?” asked Hastings. His voice held the delight that one experiences when a confirmed celebrity is in the proximity.
“I am.” Fogle said. “So you boys have discovered a sustainable form of fusion, eh?” The scientists both shook their heads, still unsure of where this conversation was heading. “And does that folder on the table contain all of your research notes and experimentation results?” They again shook their heads. “Good.”
Fogle lurched forward and grabbed the binder of precious information.
“You can’t take that!” Galt rushed forward. “That doesn’t belong to you.”
“Oh but it does. Subway, INC owns the rights to all of your research.”
“Bullcrap!” sneered Hastings. “We signed an intellectual property agreement with Patrick Henry University. They own the rights to our research.”
“Who do you think owns Patrick Henry University?” Fogle laughed. “This whole University was bought and paid for with Cold Cut Combo money. We’ve been using the great minds here at the school to be a de facto Research and Development arm of Subway, INC.”
“Our Board of Directors has been controlling the research grants issued at this facility since day one. Hadn’t you noticed that most of the patents issued had practical application to the hoagie/submarine sandwich industry?”
“What about Dr. Farell’s research into water-soluble bacteria?”
“We’re thinking of making some type of yogurt-based dessert hoagie,” Fogle explained. “The organic health craze, I suppose.”
Galt thought for a moment. “What about Dr. Yong and Dr. Tilleski’s experiments with teleportation of solid matter?”
“It’s a new initiative,” Fogle smiled. “Direct-to-tummy consumption. Order online and have your Meatball Sub delivered right to your gut.”
“What about Dr. Parmesan’s research into…Oh God!” Hastings yelped. “There is no Dr. Parmesan!”
“Now you’re understanding.”
“Well what do you want with our invention?” Galt had had enough. “This might be the most ground-breaking discovery in all of history. How could you apply this in a manner that only benefits Subway?”
“As an organization, we believe that our sandwiches could be toasted faster.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” laughed Hastings. “We’ve unlocked the secrets of the Sun and you want to use it to make a BLT crispy?”
“That’s about the gist of it,” Fogle again moved toward the binder. “Now gentleman, we thank you for your perseverance with this experiment. We are pleased with the results. This will be taken into consideration when determining your yearly raise.”
“What if we go public?” Galt yelled at the retreating spokesman. “What if we release our findings to the newspaper or to WSBY? Those local reporters would have the story spread so quickly it’d make your head spin.”
Fogle returned to the shadows. “Who do you think owns WSBY?” He laughed again. “We bought it with Spicy Italian money.”
“What if we go to the police?” Galt asked defiantly.
“You’re a smart man Dr. Galt,” the voice called back. “Who do you think owns the police?” The silence crept into the room like the night. “Pleasure doing business with you gentlemen. Remember, eat fresh!”
The two scientists stared at the floor for a moment after the door slammed shut. The hope of a better future for mankind had walked out the door under the arm of a formerly obese pitch-man. Hastings took a swig of his warming beer.
“Boy,” he said to Galt. “I could really go for a Meatball sub right now.”
Galt thought for a moment. “Me too. That guy is really good.”