The Catalyst Diet
by Arasibo Campeche
I was well-prepared. The Catalyst Diet flunky was seated across me, trying to keep me from glaring at the pizza box on my kitchen table, ready to give her spiel. But I was ready for her. I had the Internet on my side.
She spoke first. “Hello, Mr. Noobnot.”
Fantastic. I contained a chuckle and kept a deadpan expression. Only someone without a trace of an online presence didn’t know what a noob was; it was nearly pronounced the same as new. New is something I’m not.
“Yup, that’s me. And you are?” I knew her name from the email, but you need to keep them confused.
“I’m Tatiana Morales. Please hold this.”
How could someone talk while grinning like that?
I took the green tubes and tried not to smile. Making me comfortable with the product from the get go? Not bad.
“What you have in your hand is the ultimate weapon against body fat.” She’s following the script. The guys from that subreddit were good.
My turn. “Well, your body still needs some. All of your cell membranes are made of fat. Imagine, without membranes you would need all of those macromolecules inside your cells to stay together and not diffuse away from each other. It would be like expecting a drop of food coloring not to spread in a glass of water.” I didn’t spend two hours on the Thermodynamics’ Wikipedia page for no reason.
She giggled. “I’m glad you’re scientifically literate.”
A predictable attempt at a ploy.
“The thing is, these enzymes can distinguish good fat from bad. We engineered them with high substrate specificity.”
I was able to keep a straight face even though I didn’t get that last part. The pizza box on the table between us had been empty for a week, but I still wished a fresh pepperoni calzone would pop out of it. Cash was low these days, and anyways, I should cut down on the cheese. Eating pizza so often wasn’t giving me that V-shaped torso all guys dream of.
“Only the bad fat gets burned? Where does it go? Surely the breakdown products can be harmful. Big molecules of fat aren’t soluble in water. Why would smaller pieces not stick around?” This had been something a redditor called Everyone’s_pink_inside had brought up; there were no good answers to the post.
“ Ahh, quite right.” Tatiana opened her briefcase and produced a tube filled with blue liquid.
“This, Mr. Noobbot, is the enzyme that converts the insoluble breakdown products into water soluble molecules. For peeing.”
Was that on purpose? Suggesting I’m at bot level was a serious claim. Bots were cannon fodder in online gaming.
I shifted in my lazy boy. Mention of blue fluorescent tubes wasn’t anywhere on-line.
After considering what she said for half a minute, the answer was easy. I leaned toward her and brought my shoulders to the front, trying to find that position where it was hard to tell if I was musclebound or fat.
“You said enzyme, in singular. Only one breakdown product gets made soluble?” Now the kill-shot. “If you’re going to pull a pink shiny tube out of your suitcase, then I can’t do it. I don’t want to need to pee every five minutes.” Using people’s argument against them in a subtle manner was the most elegant form of warfare. I would have to thank the spirit of Sun-Tzu later.
Tatiana’s eyes squinted. Her curling smile told me I fell into a trap, like a bug flying face first into a spider web.
“This enzyme is a heme-dependent P450 hydroxylase.” She mouthed the last word slowly.
Ok, this wasn’t fair anymore.
“It’s capable of catalyzing a myriad of fatty acid substrates and has been studied for hundreds of years.” My poker face was starting to crumble like a cookie in a pigeon park.
“Taking advantage of this now is a good idea. The blue tube is a product that came out this week. I’m sure that after it becomes popular, prices will only increase.”
“I have one more question.” I looked at the glass tubes held between my fingers. My hand was shaking, and the green liquid started to bubble.
“Are you guys hiring?”
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Arasibo is currently swimming through the unforgiving waters of grad school in order to complete his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics. When he is done discovering new ways in which experiments fail, he fancies himself a science fiction writer.