Infected Page 100
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“We don’t know it hasn’t been seen before,” Amos said. “Just because it hasn’t been recorded, that doesn’t mean it’s not known somewhere in the world.”
“Maybe that holds true with a regular disease, something that makes people sick. One sickness is much like the next. But this is different. These are triangles under people’s skin — there would have been something. A myth, a legend, something.”
“You obviously don’t think it’s natural,” Otto said. “So you agree with Murray? That it’s a weapon?”
“I don’t know about a weapon, but it’s not natural. Someone made this.”
“And leaped decades ahead of any known level of biotech,” Amos said patiently. “This isn’t cobbling together a virus. This is creating a brandnew species, genetic engineering at a level that people haven’t even theorized yet. The meshing of new organic systems to human systems is perfect, seamless. That would take years of experimentation.”
“But what if it’s not designed to build those systems, the nerves and the veins?”
“Of course it’s designed to do it,” Amos said. “It built them, right?”
Margaret felt a spike of excitement, a brief flicker of insight. There was something here, something she couldn’t put her finger on.
“Yes, it built the nerves and vein siphons, but we don’t know if it was designed to build those specifically.”
Otto shook his head. “I just don’t follow.”
“Blueprints,” Margaret said. “What if the initial seed, or spore, or whatever, is designed to read blueprints, like the instructions built into our DNA?”
Amos stared at her with a mixture of two expressions — one said, I hadn’t thought of that, and the other said, you’re taking the fuck-nut bus to Looneyville.
“Go on,” Amos said.
“What if this thing reads an organism? Figures out how to tap into it, grow with it?”
“Then it doesn’t need people,” Otto said. “Why wouldn’t we have seen this in animals?”
“We don’t know it hasn’t infected animals,” Margaret said. “But maybe there’s something else going on here, more than pure biology. Maybe it needs . . . intelligence.”
Amos shook his head. “Needs intelligence for what? This is all conjecture, and besides the fact that you are obviously one crazy bitch, who would make an organism like that?”
The pieces started to fall into place for Margaret. “It’s not an organism,” she said. “I think it’s a kind of machine.”
Amos closed his eyes, shook his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose all at the same time. “When they commit you, Margaret, can I have your office?”
“I’m serious, Amos. Think about it. What if you had to travel great distances, so great that no living organism could survive the trip?”
“So you’re talking even longer than a plane trip to Hawaii with my mother-in-law.”
“Yes, much longer.”
Otto leaned forward. “Are you talking space travel?”
Margaret shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe you can’t send a living creature across space for as long as it takes to get from Point A to Point B. But you can send a machine. An unliving machine that consumes no resources, and has no biological process that could wear out over time. It’s just dead.”
“Right up until it turns on,” Amos said. “Or hatches or whatever.”
“The perfect infantry,” Otto said. “An army that doesn’t need to be fed or trained. You just mass-produce them, ship them out and when they land they build themselves and gather intel from their local host.”
Amos and Margaret stared at Otto.
“Okay,” Amos said. “For the sake of a crazy science bitch and a gungho junior spy that’s watched too many movies, let’s say you’ve got this ‘weapon.’ What good does that do you? You send these things across the universe, stopping on Vulcan for a couple of brews, of course. But why?”
“Two reasons,” Otto said. “The first is recon. Gather intel on the environment, the people, the opposition. Maybe that’s why it’s not in animals, because . . .” His voice trailed off. He couldn’t finish the thought.
“Because if it can read DNA, maybe it can read memories,” Margaret finished. “It needs the cultural context to know the threats, to know what can stop it.”
Agent Clarence Otto beamed at her. He nodded slowly. That smile of his was almost enough to take her away from this insanity, and she found herself smiling back.
“Why don’t you two just fuck and get it over with already?” Amos said. “If we can lose the flirting for a moment, I’m still not convinced. Your ideas don’t really make sense. In Margaret’s fantasy land, these things are here because Alf can’t make the trip himself. So why are their little machines gathering intel?”
“Intel is the first reason,” Otto said. “The second is to use that intel to create a beachhead. Establish control of a defensible area so you safely receive reinforcements.”
The van fell quiet for a few moments. A sense of dread filled the air. Finally, Amos spoke, fear ringing clear through his sarcastic tone.
“Otto, if you don’t mind, I like you better when I think you’re just a dumb-ass CIA agent,” he said. “How about you leave the science to us and have a nice cup of shut the fuck up?”
Infected Page 100
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Infected Page 100 summary
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