17199The Outsiders -- Chapter 7 -- Another Origin
- Nov 10, 2013
Ken and Phyllis Cordway were the primary shareholders and officers of Cordway Pharmaceuticals. The company had been started by Ken’s father, and upon his death, Ken had taken over. Phyllis, like Ken, had a Ph.D. in Pharmacology, and, until the birth of their twin daughters, had worked closely with him. The pharmaceutical business was a tricky one. There was a lot of research and development involved, and you could never be sure what research would result in a viable and salable drug. The Cordways had shown remarkable judgment in picking the drugs that they would develop, and, as a result, Cordway Pharmaceuticals had thrived.
But the new drug that they were working on promised to be the most important yet. It was revolutionary, and could literally change the world. As often happened, a side effect of a drug led researchers to look at what was causing the side effect. In this case, a junior scientist at the company had pointed out that certain rats that had been given the drug (one for high blood pressure) seemed smarter than the other rats. Their actions seemed to show some intelligence, and when tests were performed on these rats, these observations were verified. No one knew why this was the case, but suddenly controlling blood pressure became less interesting. The focus of the research changed.
On a crisp Sunday in October 1964, the Cordways came to the offices, with their daughters, to witness some crucial primate studies and to discuss the findings with the researchers. If things went well – and everyone had their fingers crossed – they would be sitting on a drug that could increase human intelligence. The Cordways wanted to discuss with the researchers the mechanism by which the drug acted on the brain. Ken and Phyllis met with the researchers in the lab, and left Natalie and Cynthia with their nanny in Ken’s office down the hall.
What the Cordways did not know (or, at least, did not recognize as important) is that the boiler in the building had been acting up. The building engineer had arranged for the mechanic to take a look at it on Monday, and he passed the message to the appropriate people, but no one thought that this meant that the building was unsafe, not really. And by the time the engineer realized that there was danger, it was too late. The boiler blew. All of the researchers and Ken and Phyllis Cordway were dead. And the building was on fire. The nanny left the office with the babies. The hall was filled with an acrid smoke. She pushed toward the nearest exit and made it out. But just barely. She collapsed outside the building, and she never woke up. The girls, however, were very much alive, screaming at the top of their lungs.
It was not long before the police arrived, but all they could do was count the bodies. This was not a crime; it was a tragic accident, one that killed a dozen scientists and the owners of Cordway Pharmaceuticals. The secret of the drug was lost. While there were copies of the lab notes kept outside of the building, those notes did not include the latest, and most crucial, round of experiments. And everyone who knew anything about those tests was dead.
The Cordway children were taken to the hospital. They had inhaled a significant quantity of smoke, but recovered well. They were placed with their aunt, Janice Rimmer. Janice was unmarried, but, as guardian of the Cordway girls, she controlled the Cordway money, so she was able to devote herself to raising them properly. She only spent such money as was necessary, leaving the bulk for the girls when they reached maturity.
The girls thrived with Janice, at least until they hit puberty. They were both smart girls, extremely smart, geniuses in fact, but their personalities diverged. Natalie became totally devoted to science, especially pharmacology. Cynthia, however, became extremely self-centered, letting nothing get in the way of what she wanted to do. This caused her to butt heads with her aunt, and on her sixteenth birthday she left home, never to return. At this time, Natalie had graduated from college and was working on her Ph.D. Cynthia had not gone to college, but had picked up knowledge her own way, picking up on whatever interested her and learning it on her own.
When Natalie became 18, she received her Ph.D. in pharmacology and joined the Cordway Pharmaceuticals board. And when the president retired (he had held that position since Ken Cordway died), Natalie took over at age 20. And she was good for the company, and it prospered. But something was missing. First, she thought it was her sister. She and Janice had hired detectives to find Cynthia, but they had no success. It was assumed that Cynthia was dead, although Natalie did not believe that. She would know if her twin had died.
But Natalie had grown used to Cynthia’s absence. She was not the missing piece. She thought it might be the fact that she had no social life. So she tried dating, but the men she went out with were not her intellectual equals, and she stopped.
On Halloween she was invited to a masked benefit. She had declined. She had no one to go with, and she did not feel like going stag. But at the last minute, she changed her mind. She didn’t have much in the way of a costume, so she put on a suit, a tie, a fedora and a mask. She wasn’t sure exactly what kind of costume it was, but it felt right.
She left for the party, knowing she was going to be late. That was not her usual way, but it was a party – people always come late. The party was at the Gotham Museum of Natural Art and History. She entered the building, but something told her not to immediately enter the party room, but to be stealthy. And her instinct was correct because the party had been hijacked by armed robbers. There must have been a dozen in the room. One was by the door, but in a minute he was on the ground unconscious. Natalie held a black belt in karate and was a skilled fighter. It was a hobby of hers, and it came in handy in this instance. She urged some of the guest to exit, and there was a rush out of the room. Two robbers rushed toward that door, but Natalie stopped them. The robbers were reluctant to shoot; stealing was one thing, but murder, especially the murder of rich people, was not something they wanted to be part of. But the head robber was not going to let the people just walk off. He shot his gun into the air.
“Stay where you are,” he yelled. “Nobody leaves without making a major deposit.”
But even he could see that things were not going his way. Natalie picked up a circular tray from the table and threw it at him. The tray hit him in the neck, and he dropped his gun.
The other robbers believed that a member of the Batman family was there, and they ran out along with the partyers. But by then the police were there. Natalie blended into the crowd and disappeared.
The next morning, when she read about her exploit in the Gotham Gazette, she knew she had found what was missing from her life.
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