A female Nobel Prize-winning doctor creates a deadly virus that is aimed at killing only women in America. Ironically, the doctor is threatening the world with annihilation in order to save it from Armageddon. A humanitarian who once loved her is trapped into helping her.
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The deadline was up. She would have to kill.
Rachel Lesage stopped on the dirt path, furious, and found herself in a no-man's-land between two worlds. The path from the ravine had brought her to the rear lawn of Lesage Laboratories, while behind her lay the woods. The peace there-the hush of the trees, dappled sunlight, shy birds-had given sanctuary from the decision she had to make, but now there was no more refuge. The lawn stretched before her with mono-green precision, purged of every nongrass species. No birdsong, no shade, no shelter. Nowhere for her soul to hide.
They had refused, ignored her warning. It enraged her. I never wanted this. From the front of the building where a casino tent had been set up, the electric twang of a country band jarred her. It was Employee Appreciation Day here at her Bar Harbor facility, and families were picnicking on the front lawn. More were inside, piling up their plates in the cafeteria, line-dancing in the conference room, squealing over raffle prizes in the lobby. Their clamor had driven her to the ravine, though as Lesage Laboratories' founder and CEO she should be among them, playing host. Tonight, at the lobster dinner, she must make a speech; tomorrow, in Dallas, the keynote address at an industry conference. As a Nobel laureate she was a speaker much in demand. But here, now, the deadline was up . . . she must act.
She started along the concrete walkway, moving mechanically, feeling cold despite the glaring sun. Like an accident victim in shock, was her detached thought. She'd always been able to focus her mind clinically, to analyze phenomena, even her own reactions.
Suddenly, she wasn't sure she could go through with it.
The casino tent rose before her, garish yellow, a fool's idea of gold. Whoops from people playing blackjack drifted over the parking lot with a fairground giddiness, and the country singer went on whining out his heartbreak, his loss. False emotion. Rachel knew, because the anguish chilling her was so profoundly real.
She heard a child's wail. A little boy, all alone, was squatting in the parking lot, crying wildly, face red, eyes big with fear. Rachel felt a wave of sympathy, surprised by the force of this maternal response. It was over thirty years, yet she vividly recalled how her baby daughter's cry, even from another room, would tug milk beads to her nipples. She thought, Our primitive nervous system is hardwired for only two types of stimuli: biological needs demanding instant gratification, or immediate dangers demanding "fight or flight." Nothing else penetrates.
She crouched before the boy. "Where's your mother?"
He gaped at her, instantly silent, though fear and confusion still swam in his eyes, and his breath came in spasms. He pointed to the tent. "Daddy." Gambling regulations barred children from the premises, so his father had simply left him outside. Rachel imagined the young man drawn to the bright tent as instinctively as a moth, as mindlessly as an addict. Instant gratification. Hardwired.
An engine revved and a station wagon suddenly reversed toward them. Rachel snatched the boy up and stepped clear with him as the car lurched past. Not noticing them, the driver shunted gears and drove off, tires squealing. The boy squirmed in Rachel's unfamiliar arms, and the moment she set him down he tore away, crying again, running blindly toward a patch of tall ornamental grass.
Her eyes locked on the high stalks. The chill snaked out from deep in her heart as she saw again the tall sorghum grass in the hills above Kigali. Saw a wounded boy crawling, bleeding. Saw herself clawing over the stony ground, trying to reach him . . . her son . . . Paul . . .
Her public relations manager was hurrying across the asphalt. "Doctor, could we get pictures of you inside the casino? Maybe playing the-"
"No." She was staring at the boy. He was sobbing hysterically, hands on his head in a pathetic surrender to panic. He seemed to stand for all the earth's children abandoned in humanity's greed. His desolation galvanized her. She was resolved. The deadline had passed.
"Find that child's father," she told the PR man. "He's in the tent." She started toward the lab.
In her office she picked up the phone. She was sickened by what she was about to set in motion. But if I falter, I'm worse than the rest. Denying responsibility, bewailing that nothing can be done.
She depressed the numbers: it was done. The system was activated, beyond recall. The day after delivery, thousands would be dead.
An immediate danger. A primitive stimulus. The world will take notice now.
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