He doesn't remember when it starts. Of course he remembers the first hit. Everyone remembers the first hit. It was innocuous. A little plastic vial with white powder in the correct recommended dose sitting in the bottom of it. And he'd looked dubiously at the doctor; (he even remembers the name Dr Singh,) and asks her if she's sure that he needs this. Her reply is impatient, faint undertones of 'are you a doctor?' layering it. "Of course Agent Jayden. The side-affects of the ARI need counteracting. It's extremely tiring to your mind to be forced to continually generate new AR scenarios to the extent that you do. This will give you relief, calm you down, and help with the nosebleeds that you've reported having.'
He trusts her of course. You trust the doctor. And he inhales it. It's not the first time he has snorted something. Sugar sherbert dust as a child through a pixie stick on a dare, eyes watering but triumphant. Cocaine, once in college. It didn't do anything for him, he'd sat there while everyone else got louder and more obnoxious and convinced of their brilliance, and he'd wondered if there was something wrong with him.
This is different.
This is a rush, and he wonders what the fuck the doctor was on when she'd told him this was meant to calm him down. But he tells himself, that this is how it works, why would he question it. That was the first hit.
He doesn't remember when it became an addiction. It was somewhere between that first hit, that first shocking hit of relief from the mental tiredness he didn't even know he had, from the overbearing and continual presence of the ARI even when he wasn't wearing the glasses, and between the time he left his jacket in his office and his hands began to shake as he searched for his dose. Psychosomatic of course. Triptocaine didn't cause tremors. It didn't cause headaches either, but that's what he got, sharp shocks pounding through his head until he could hardly see to pull the curtains and lie trembling and vomiting on his bed. It passed of course. There came a point where he couldn't be sick anymore. There came a point where he could call a taxi, and stumble into his office and desperately take it.
The headache abated, his stomach calmed, and he still didn't want to know or guess what it was that had caused the episode. It was the ARI he reasoned. He took the tripo enough that he hadn't even noticed the damage the ARI was doing to his body. The only reasonable solution, he told himself, the only correct one was to keep taking the tripo. And for a while that was enough.
Norman Jayden was curious though, it was what made him a good FBI agent, and made him close his cases so swiftly. He looked for solutions, for answers, for anomalies. And while the part of him that wanted to make life quiet, make life easy, just wanted to accept what the doctors had told him of the ARI strain, the rest of him couldn't let it rest. Couldn't let that be the only answer.
He was one of a group of agents who had been volunteered for the trial, then scattered over the country. He took his week's holiday and went to visit a few of them. The first one - Kaydee Hamilton was a shock. He remembered her as a curvy blonde with a high pitched laugh, and an eye for detail. Now she was rake thin, and her hair was thinned. Her eye for detail was the same however, she had the highest case closure in the region, and she thanked the ARI for it. The whole time they were out for dinner, catching up on old news, she tapped restlessly on the table, and shortly before dessert she excused herself to the ladies room. She hadn't used the ARI once that day, and when she came back she was calm and collected once more, able to joke and laugh as always.
That's the first piece of evidence, and when he's visited two more agents he is confirmed in his initial assessment. They're jumpy and yet completely case-focused. The fourth one is dead. The file is closed, the notes are muted and few. Death, they said of unknown causes. The autopsy hadn't turned up much. He tracks the doctor who did the autopsy down, and he the man shrugs tiredly, murmurs a condolence and tells him the truth. There was nothing in the autopsy but they knew what killed him. He'd cut back on the triptocaine he'd been prescribed, then stopped taking it at all. He was trying the cut down method to wean himself off. Two weeks later he was dead. He had to take the last few days off work, he couldn't function without it, but he was determined. Absolutely determined.
Jayden thinks about this for a long time in his hotel room that night, thinks of how many cases he has solved, how many people he has saved by putting known murderers and rapists away in prison, how much the ARI glasses help. He weighs this against what he knows, how thin he is in the mirror these days, how he hasn't been on a date in months, and how swiftly the vials of white powder disappear these days. The familiar headache starts behind his eyes and he winces. He can't think like that, can never think like that. He'll think about this whole mess tomorrow. There is always a tomorrow.
Meanwhile the holiday is over. And he has been reassigned. There's another child missing, and he sighs because these are the cases he hates the most, because he knows that this second child will found in the same way as the first, and he knows these bastards don't just stop at one or two. He can't be anything but his best for this case, and being his best now includes being able to see what others can't.
He takes the tripo. Tomorrow the chase begins, tomorrow the search for a child, who will be found, but not alive.
Tonight the headache goes, and he sleeps.