After two prominent scientists working at privately owned BSL-4 labs in Nevada and Texas are found murdered, no one makes the connection until investigative reporter, Whitney Steel, receives a lead pointing to an unspecified group plotting to unleash a biological attack using a new chimera virus known as “Resurrect”.
But when Whitney begins to unravel the truth as to who is behind the threat, enemies far and near surface, and a shocking discovery into the past changes her life forever in a race against the clock to stop the strike before thousands of innocent lives are lost.
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Dr. Matthew Fielding estimated he had six days to live.
He doubted he’d make it that long. Not judging by the harsh glint in the dark eyes staring at him through the clear visor. Inside the barren warehouse, the man wore a blue positive-pressure suit with its own air supply and clutched a gun awkwardly in his rubber-gloved hand. The spaceman-like suit would protect the man. For Fielding, on the other hand, it was already too late. Sweat trickled down the sides of his face, and his body trembled.
It had begun.
The high fever and chills were only the beginning. Soon, he’d experience the worst headache of his life, muscle and abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Already, his internal organs burned as if set on fire, the pain insufferable. An hour ago, he’d noted a purplish-red maculopapular rash on his chest and shoulders, followed by a five-minute nosebleed.
“Do you have it?”
Fielding coughed, then nodded. “They’re going to know the sample is missing.”
“I’m planning on it.” The man pointed the gun at a gray chest on a metal table against the brick wall. “Put the vial in there.”
Fielding lifted his shaking hand and pulled out a glass tube from his shirt pocket. He walked across the room, his legs weak and wobbly, and pressed the red button on the portable refrigeration unit.
The lid hissed open, and he placed the tube inside. He eyed a second sample already in the unit. Worry worked through his body. “What do you plan on doing with these? It’s not as if I’ll be around to find out. We both know that.”
The man waved the gun. “Close the lid.”
He did as ordered and heard the suction of the vacuum seal, confirming the component was secure. Whatever the man was planning, it wasn’t good. He’d learned that two days ago, after he’d come home from work to find the man in his home, threatening to kill his wife and daughter if he didn’t do exactly as instructed. He’d had no choice. He would sacrifice himself if it meant keeping his family safe.
“Thanks to you, a new chimera virus. Just think about how much you have helped us today.”
It was much worse than he thought. The man had what he needed: two different micro-organisms containing the necessary genes to replicate and create a new pandemic. Nausea boiled in his gut, and the room spun. He seized the edge of the table to steady himself and closed his eyes until the dizziness subsided.
He had worked in Nevada at Flatiron Sargasso Laboratories for the past fifteen years, one of only two privately-run CDC/USDA registered BSL-4 labs in the United States, researching some of the most dangerous pathogens in the world: smallpox, Marburg, Ebola, dengue and yellow fevers.
Fielding knew what the man was up to. He just didn’t know the target’s identity. Nor did he know which terrorist group the man belonged to, whether foreign or domestic. Not that it mattered, because he wasn’t walking out of the warehouse alive. He erupted into a coughing fit, his throat dry and raw. He yanked a crumpled handkerchief out of his pants pocket and wiped his mouth. Blood soaked the white cloth, indicating hemorrhaging had started. He noticed the two new large bruises on the outside of his hands and wrists caused by the bleeding under his skin. Fear paralyzed his limbs. If the man didn’t kill him first, shock, delirium and kidney failure would put him in a coma, followed by an agonizing death. Either way, he was a goner.
The man simply stood and observed, probably knowing he was in pain and his health was declining rapidly.
Coppery sour blood filled his mouth. He swallowed slowly, careful not to choke. “What’s…the other organism you’re using for the virus?”
“Smallpox. We’re calling the virus, Resurrect. Seems fitting, don’t you think? It’s been a while since the world has experienced a large smallpox outbreak.”
All the breath whooshed out of his lungs. Dear God. Bad enough Fielding had accidentally infected himself with Marburg while hastily trying to smuggle the sample out of the lab. He had to admit the security measures in place were lax at best, even after 9/11. The thought of this villain infecting unsuspecting innocent people made him glad he was going to die long before the guilt of what he’d been forced to do killed him.
As he watched two other men in suits enter the warehouse, regret plagued his conscience, and tears filled his eyes. Why hadn’t he spent more time with his wife, Janet, and his eighteen-year-old daughter, Scarlet? All those long hours, working at the lab and writing the dozens of scientific papers filled with research that had consumed years of his life. A waste of time. Time he wasn’t going to be able to make up for. He knew that now.
The two men glanced at him then lifted the unit containing the viruses and headed to the open warehouse door where a box van waited, engine idling. Gas-laden exhaust filled the warehouse. They trudged up the ramp and placed the unit on the floor in the back.
His blurry gaze shifted to the man with the gun, and he saw it. A spark of awareness the end was inevitable. He closed his eyes. Please forgive me…
A gunshot cracked. The thunderous boom echoed and vibrated throughout the warehouse a split second before the bullet shattered his forehead and bored into his brain.
©2016 Kim Cresswell (P) 2016 KC Publishing