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by Bruce Holland Rogers
Category: Science Fiction
Description: A DEA general attempts to curtail the manufacture and distribution of Dreamrail, a physically harmless drug made from over-the-counter chemicals that can be programmed to induce any type of dream. When the general realizes he can't win the war on this wildly popular new substance through conventional means, he devises a cruel plan to make users think twice about reckless self-medication.
eBook Publisher: Fictionwise.com, 1999 Science Fiction Age
eBookwise Release Date: October 2001
59 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [23 KB]
Reading time: 11-16 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
"Doesn't matter what you do or don't stop at the border," put in Jerry Pike, the DEA chemist. "You've got labs springing up all over the place. This stuff is harder to make than methamphetamine, but the demand is higher than it ever was for meth."
"We put a lid on methamphetamine," said Meech. "We'll put a lid on this."
"Not the same way, you won't," Pike said. "The precursors to Dreamrail are too damn common. You can't outlaw the ingredients, General. It's alcohol all over again."
Meech frowned. Alcohol use had been impossible to eradicate a hundred years ago, and it wasn't proving much easier to do away with now. He asked Administrator McAlester what she thought. She smiled a bitter smile. "Looks like we have another real challenge in front of us."
"My thought exactly."
The Attorney General sighed. "General, I think you're going to burn up a lot of money and good will going after a harmless drug."
"Harmless?" said Meech. "You mean like alcohol? Or tobacco?"
"Those were outlawed with good reason," Irwin said. "There were real health issues. Dreamrail doesn't seem to do any physical damage to anyone. We're losing hearts and minds on this."
"That's what I'm saying," Ho agreed.
"Losing hearts and minds?" said McAlester. She shook her head. "It will be worse if we cave in. Dreamrail is a gateway drug. People who try it will want to try other things."
"But it only works when you're asleep," Irwin said. "It's not like other drugs. Giving yourself a particular dream when you're asleep anyway ... I just don't see how that will lead to an appetite for marijuana or alcohol. It doesn't interfere with on-the-job productivity, or--"
"It sanctions weakness," General Meech said. "Isn't that enough? Isn't that the path that we don't want the country to travel again?"
"I'm not sure it matters what we want," the Attorney General said. "We can't get this one back in the bottle."
"No, we probably can't," Meech agreed.
McAlester looked surprised and was about to say something, but Meech held up his hand. "I don't think we'll ever get Dreamrail off the streets entirely. But we don't have to." He turned to the DEA chemist. "Pike, we know how the drug works, right?"
"Basically, yes. Site-selective mimicry of neurotransmitters. You jiggle certain connections in a sleeping brain, sites that are activated by sensations of buoyancy, say, and you get a dream of flying. Jiggle a different set, you get sexy dreams. There are other components. Takes trial and error to get a version that elicits a dream, and it only gives you a general type of dream. The user's own experiences--"
Meech cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Yes. Right. Can Dreamrail give you nightmares?"
"Not the stuff that anyone actually manufactures, no. Who would buy that? But every time someone alters the structure of the drug a little, it stimulates different sites in the brain. We know that some formulations have generated nightmares."
"Then that's what I want you to do. I want you to come up with some varieties of Dreamrail that generate nightmares. Sweat-in-your-sheets-and-hope-to-die nightmares. Can you do it?"
Pike shrugged. "Shouldn't be hard."
"I don't see the point," said the Attorney General.
McAlester was smiling, though. She said, "I do."