“This is an outrage!”
Halfway through the door to Doctor Ecchs' office, Josh quickly backpedalled to avoid being rammed by the government agent striding through the door. Behind her, Doctor Ecchs was yelling furiously, storming after her as she headed for the elevator. The Doctor continued his rant, heedless of his assistant's presence.
“Did we not say, 'these pills have a serum in them'? We said that!” He growled. “Did we not say, 'they make it easier for you to exercise by focusing the mind? We absolutely did! Theis product performed exactly as advertised, and I will sue your entire administration for this baseless claim!”
Ms Ballard, the FDA overseer who had been assigned to look at the ThinkFit! process and approve it for general production, spun on her heel and glared at the Doctor. “That serum, as you call it, is made up entirely of lightly salted water. That diet tonic you're out there flogging is nothing but a placebo, and that makes your little approach fraud. You're lucky we don't slap you with a billion-dollar fine, pal.”
Doctor Ecchs waved a sheet of papers at her. “Excercise is up 8% across the city. Gyms are overflowing with new members, all of them ThinkSlim customers. It might be a placebo, but it works! Just try and fine us – I will fight you all the way. We never claimed that this was a medicinal product, you were the ones who started that little wagon train.”
“We'll leave that for the class-action lawsuit to decide. For now, I intend to publish every last piece of information about your 'process'. Cease and desist production immediately, or face the consequences.” With that parting shot, the elevator opened silently behind Ms Ballard, and she spun again and stormed onto it, shoving Nightshade out of the way on her way past.
The supervillain stepped out of the elevator in some confusion as the doors closed. “Doc, Josh. Meeting with the agent go badly?”
Doctor Ecchs sniffed. “She has the gall to claim that just because our mind-control serum doesn't actually control minds, it's non-functional. That woman simply doesn't understand psycology. As if I would be allowed to sell actual mind-control serum on the open market. Do they realize how easy it is to reverse engineer that stuff?” Shaking his head grumpily, he turned back to his office door, then paused. “Oh, yeah, what did you two want? No, wait, tell me at my desk.”
As the doctor walked back to his desk, Josh took the oppurtunity to start talking, hoping Nightshade wouldn't interrupt. “I have the reports back on those gyms you acquired. They took in a lot of one-year memberships over the last month – record profits.”
“That's great, really.” Doctor Ecchs moped at the front of the desk. “All of which will dissolve when word gets out that ThinkSlim!'s a placebo. Nobody benefits when they know what they're drinking.”
“Yeah… may I speak freely, sir?” Josh hesitated. Ecchs looked up at him blearily.
“Josh, buddy, you have seen my senior vice president. And my VP of research. And my VP of acquisitions They all talk back, why shouldn't you?”
“If you tried to fire one of them out of a cannon, they would kick your butt.” Josh pointed out.
Ecchs considered this. “Fair enough. Speak ahead.”
“Well, I never really thought you were going to be able to get this past the FDA, so, uh… I went ahead and sold the gym chain on your authority.”
Ecchs looked up sharply. “You did.”
“Yes, sir. Got a very good price for it. The new owners were looking forwards to more record profits over the course of the year.” Josh waffled. “Of course, a lot of customers are going to be cancelling their accounts soon, but they don't actually know that yet…”
Ecchs studied him. “Who was the buyer?”
“Well, officially it was a Mr. Sam Eddison.” Josh shrugged. “But I traced it back to a Jason Wydemere Holdings after a bit of digging…”
Ecchs blinked. Then he started to chuckle. “He's at it again, huh?”
“He probably thought he was pulling the wool over our eyes.” Josh smiled.
“Josh, you are going to get a big bonus for this one.” Ecchs frowned. “Why didn't you tell me before the sale went through?”
“You were busy with the FDA authorization stuff, and didn't want to be disturbed.” Josh shrugged.
“Okay, fair enough.” Ecchs considered. “I'll let it pass this time, since it went off without a hitch. Nice work. But no more selling Malefico property without at least checking with Ada first, okay?”
“Yes, sir.” Josh grinned. “Or Nightshade?”
“Like I trust her with finance decisions.” Ecchs laughed. Nightshade, who had been standing to one side listening, stiffened angrily.
“Why the hell not? You put me in charge of the whole damned company once!”
“Yeah, and that went so very well.” Ecchs pointed behind him. “Don't think I never noticed that crack in my viewscreen.”
Josh slipped out as the angry insults started to fly, trying not to laugh.