The health-and-human-services secretary was briefing representatives from several other government agencies about the virus when the CDC director’s call came in. He put the director on speakerphone. “Perfect timing. I’m meeting with reps from the White House, Congress, FEMA, the FDA and FBI, among others. What do you have for us?”
“Confirmed cases now in seventeen countries,” he replied. “You want the list?”
The FBI director spoke up. “Yes, please.”
The secretary knew the agency was investigating whether the outbreak had resulted from a biochemical weapon because the virus had appeared simultaneously in five locations thousands of miles apart. The FBI chief was particularly interested if any cases had occurred in the countries that topped their list of known terrorism threats.
“In Europe: Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands,” the CDC director said. “In Asia: China, Russia, Mongolia, Japan. North and South Korea.”
The secretary of health and human services was taking notes, as were most of the others at the large conference table.
“In Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Chad, and Egypt,” the CDC director continued. “In South America: Colombia and Ecuador. So far, the confirmed cases in North America have been confined to the U.S., but we have unverified reports of a few cases in Toronto.”
“No cases in the Middle East?” the FBI director asked.
“The death toll?” the secretary inquired.
“Twenty-eight thousand, six hundred forty-two,” the CDC chief replied. “But it’s increasing by a few hundred every hour, and there may be thousands more cases out there that haven’t been confirmed yet. Doctors in many of these countries have limited experience distinguishing this from other variations of H1N1.”
“Anything new from the labs about what we’re dealing with?”
“Negative. We’ve been unable to isolate the mutation,” the CDC director said. “We may be dealing with a stealth component.”
“What does that mean?” the FEMA director asked.
“We could be looking at a genetically engineered strain,” he explained, “a chimera of different viruses, where one of the components is designed to go dormant after a certain period or when exposed to specific stimuli. If that’s the case, we may not be able to trace the effective component by the time we get the blood samples.”
“So you’re saying we’re definitely looking at biowarfare?” the FBI director asked.
“It’s possible, but I can’t confirm that.”
Doctor Andor Rozsa left his office at Pharmamediq, Incorporated and pulled out his cell phone as he walked to his car. Everything was proceeding exactly as he’d planned. The World Health Organization had just issued a global alert about the pandemic on GOARN, and the statistics they’d reported confirmed that all his emissaries had performed their missions to perfection. Now it was time to tie up a few loose ends.
The intermediary had already confirmed that all three agents had arrived back in Europe without incident and were awaiting their payments.
Andor got his aide Patrik on the phone and told him, “Call our intermediary. It’s time to take care of our emissaries. Make sure they’re all made to look like accidents.”
“Yes, sir,” Patrik replied. “And of course I’ll ensure that’s done before I perform my part.”
Andor hadn’t initially felt it necessary to eliminate the intermediary as well, but Patrik, the one man he trusted, had wanted his own guarantee that he couldn’t be linked to the crisis. He’s learned well from me.