A pharmaceutical company begins drug trials of a pill that they believe can activate a previously understudied and widely unknown region of the brain. The trial begins and when the first participants take the pill, there's no obvious changes. The company decides they need to be subjected to intense physical and mental training in order to stimulate the body into processing the drug. Over the course of a couple weeks, one person discovers they can levitate objects with their mind. Then, a different participant starts to shoot fire from their hands. Other various powers emerge, ranging from typical powers, like flight, to truly unique ways to manipulate their bodies and the laws of nature.

There's a lot I plan to hand wave about the powers from the drug (the brain is linking to a spiritual aura so not much to say on the science side), but I want the drug and the culture around the drug to feel realistic. A few notes about how I intended the drug to work:

  • Taking additional pills beyond the recommended dosage doesn't increase the intensity of the powers
  • Training is required for powers to emerge, plus a few days for your body to adjust to the pill in the first place
  • You stop taking the drug, you lose the powers

How does the company hide their drug and keep the participants from spreading the word? I imagine this could not be a publically distributed drug, but what purposes could the drug be prescribed for? (Super soldiers seems obvious)

How would the black market handle a drug like this? Would it even warrant interest from the public due to the training needed?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "How does the company hide their drug and keep the participants from spreading the word?" Is this modern day, with Facebook, Twitter... the Internet... mobile phones, etc? If so, short of taking a fascist-like and illegal approach this will be extremely hard, and at best a gamble. $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Dec 8, 2016 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @NexTerren was thinking it's maybe 5-10 years ago, so smart phones and social media haven't completely spread, but even so, maybe people would assume any selfies taken while using powers are photoshopped? I have an explanation for hiding future drug users, but it relies on one person getting specific powers, so this company might have to do some shady stuff to hide the first group... $\endgroup$
    – skeletim
    Dec 8, 2016 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ If the test subject group is sufficiently small, anything posted on the internet would appear as a hoax and personal witnesses were to few to skew public perception. No need to hide it at all. $\endgroup$
    – Durandal
    Dec 8, 2016 at 19:42

3 Answers 3


Sell it to the users as something else that's doing the lifting.

We, today, have a children's toy that allows you to lift up a ball with literally your mind. In fact you can buy it off Amazon right now. It works by having an electroencephalogram attached to your head. This is used to measure brain wave activity. If it sees you focusing, it turns on a fan and lifts a ball in a tube. It's also glitchy, but for $85 that's still pretty cool.

The point is, we have technology that can read basic brain activity today, and we have it in the form of a toy. It's not that much of a stretch to say that some super-secret corporate facility was working on a more advance program 5-10 years.

Of course they're not, this is just the cover story they're telling the subjects.

They'll go to great lengths to make a mock prop headset, and have the target objects to move hooked to pullies or pistons or some other mechanical device to lift target objects; there won't be any floating anything to become alarmed about. They'll spin the story to the subjects that the headset measures brain activity, and as verification objects in the test chamber can be moved around. They can say they're working on the code to handle the brain-to-movement transition, and need subjects to practice.

"Oh, that pill? That's just to make your brain easier to read for the headset. It's perfectly safe, simply helps for read outs. Don't worry about it. If you'll step right this way...?"

Every subject will be closely monitored to see that they don't try to do anything fishy, or play around outside the intended scope of the tests.

Unfortunately, the machine can cause dizziness, nausea, sweating (the scientists tell the subjects) so it's important to rest after use. Hopefully the pill has an effect time that is reasonably short (a few hours? Less?) and they can have the subjects sit in a dark room to sleep off the pill's effects--erm, I mean, the headset's (wink, wink) effects.

This is all a story that seems fantastic and interesting, and they can try to shut down any discussion with normal Non-Disclosure Agreements and general scary legal action. Worst case? One of the subjects spills the beans that your scientists are developing a cutting-edge electroencephalogram device, and specialized code to understand the brain signals. Since literally this technology (to some capacity) exists today... it should be an easy enough story to sell. Some people will still scream conspiracy theories, but like most conspiracy theorist, us normal folk will ignore them.

  • $\begingroup$ That's how the developing company would handle it. I'll update the answer later today for the black market bit. $\endgroup$
    – Ranger
    Dec 8, 2016 at 19:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Might want to list visual hallucinations under the side-effects of said pill. That way if the person accidentally lifts something with their mind while not hooked up to the machine, the scientists can dismiss it that they were seeing things. $\endgroup$
    – Anketam
    Dec 8, 2016 at 23:07

So you set it up like a drug trial.
First phase is really small, maybe 10 people to get dosing figured out.
Maybe use some underprivileged people who would like a place to sleep and some money. If they talk after the effects wear off no one will pay much attention.

Wait for the powers to manifest and call in the Defense Department for a demonstration. Show it off and get their agreement to help with phase 2.

Phase 2 is a little larger test group of 100-200 to check for efficiency and safety, look for unwanted side effects. These would probably be volunteers from the armed forces. This is where you can really test stuff out without having to worry about security because DD would handle that.

Phase 3 is an even larger group of 1000-3000 to continue to look for side effects and safety concerns.

Black Market:
This is going to happen, but the fact that the effects wear off is a good thing, meaning that there will have to be a steady supply to be of much use, and having military security on hand is going to help.

Something like this would probably fall under some kind of code word level security where violation is Treason and very bad things will happen to people that violate it.

The biggest threat is going to be foreign powers trying to get a hold of it for the purpose of reverse engineering it for their own armies.

That's why trying to keep it all in house is probably a bad idea. If a nation state wants to break into your corporate headquarters to steal the formula corporate security may not be up to the job.

  1. Form a partnership with the military, They can supply a stead supply of participates in the study. And they will be under orders to keep their mouth shut so you there not likely to talk about it.

2.The black market should be a problem it not like you can just take the pill it takes training which would be much hard to sell on the black market.

Uses: Military uses is the most obvious, but the pill could also be used for intelligence. But am sure that they could have many practice uses as well but it might have to be declassify for that to happen.


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