Two hours later, when Professor Maynard failed to show up for her environmental science class, Jessica called right away. No one doubted any longer that all this was the work of Maynard and Orlov and their brain research. Jessica met Emily, Maria and Melissa at the campus center. Mindy opted to stay with Amina, her roommate.
Maria griped as she sipped her latte. “Last year we spent half a semester looking for a hidden zombie lab. Maynard could be anywhere.” Melissa nodded. Emily thought hard about it but imagined Maria could be right. The lab could be anywhere. Jessica got on the phone. Five minutes later, someone called Jessica back. She covered the phone to speak to the group.
“CDC lab is in the annex to the engineering building, right next to the physics department robotics lab.” She eyed the stares of the others while she said good-bye and hung up. “Hey, there are ways to hunt other than traipsing through the woods, you know.”
The annex was quiet in the morning. Half of the ground floor was given over to super computers and not a lot of people in any case. There were a number of rooms in the other half of the ground floor, but as Jessica pointed out, only one mattered.
“This one has a sign. CDC Immunization Study, Professors Orlov and Maynard.”
Maria rolled her eyes. “Even I could have found that one.”
The door was locked. Melissa thought she might work the lock by magic but Emily was not for waiting. Amina was back at the suite in tears over Joel. Emily kicked open the door.
Maynard was inside, looking at a printout of a slide in the electron microscope. She was not startled by the crash of the door, but she did pause to look up. “Oh, girls,” she said. “I am glad you are here.” She stepped up to put a lab table between them. “I need some volunteers and you would be perfect.” She looked confused for a second before she found a test tube filled with a pinkish liquid. She put a stopper in the test tube, picked up an eye dropper and smiled.
“Volunteers for what?” Maria asked.
“Maria, and Emily.” Maynard acknowledged them. “I remember you from last semester. And Jessica from this semester.” She pointed at Melissa. “I don’t know you, but no matter. It is good to have help with these sorts of things.”
“What sorts of things?” Maria tried again as Jessica inched toward one side of the lab table and Emily inched toward the other side.
“The trouble, you see, is transmission. I could infect individuals by injection and achieve the desired effect, but I could not make them contagious. I needed to study the two-day incubation period thoroughly. Professor Orlov helped with that, but I need to do more work before anything can be declared conclusive.”
“Dissected, I presume,” Maria said to try and regain Maynard’s attention.
“Thoroughly,” Maynard admitted. “I hated to do it. I hate to hurt living things, but I decided the ends do justify the means after all.” She carefully pulled off one glove and pulled up a gun that was hidden beneath some papers. “Mister Orlov brought it with him. I hate guns, you understand. Guns kill people. So do be good and allow me to administer a drop or two on the tongue. It won’t hurt. I promise.” Emily and Jessica were at the corners of the table, but stopped in the face of the gun.
Maria continued her questions. “What did you hope to accomplish here?”
Maynard frowned, an indication that she was frustrated, had little patience or perhaps was just exhausted from little sleep, but the girls were unmoving, so she explained. “This summer I will be meeting at a conference with environmentally conscious leaders from all over the world.”
“Gonna spike the punch bowl?” Jessica asked.
“No, that would dilute the dose and make it unworkable. It is a delicate bacterium I have made. Too much water will wipe it out, especially the chlorinated and fluoridated water they have around here. I learned that early on, the hard way.” She rolled her eyes. “I have had to work hard to get it to survive a normal mouth of moisture, I hope. That was why I could not administer it orally at first. Now, a couple of drops on the tongue should suffice to get it into the system and the blood. When the people at the conference return to their homes all over the earth and for the next two days, whomever they breathe on will be infected. You see, I believe I have made it so once it bonds with the blood it will be able to be airborne for a short distance. It will pass from person to person and soon be a plague like no other in history. My computer estimates suggest it will take six to ten years to infect the entire human race, and all beginning with this little vial.” She shook the tube of pink liquid.
“Aren’t you afraid it will get on your hands?” Melissa was spooked by the whole idea.
“No, it won’t transmit through the skin, unless you have a cut or something. You will just have to wait and breathe it in.”
Maynard pointed the gun in Emily’s direction. “Silly. I won’t kill anyone. I will fix them. In one stroke I will wipe out all tears, all grief and sorrow, all pain and torment. People will just go back to being the animals they were always meant to be.”
“But without our superior brain, we will never survive,” Emily said.
“Maybe so. But the earth will be healed. The earth will survive. Don’t you want to save the planet?”
“Not like that,” Jessica said and took a step.
As Maynard hesitated, being unable to point the gun in both directions at once, Maria said, “Over here.” She found Maynard’s eyes and gun focused on her and she ducked. Emily and Jessica jumped. Melissa wiggled her fingers as the gun went off.
“It’s not orange soda. I’m not going to drop it,” Melissa said as the vial floated to her hand which was covered by a glove no one noticed she had slipped on.
Emily hit the professor a little harder than necessary. Jessica found some duct tape to tie her up. Maria found an oversized specimen container, one that came with a lid. She filled it with tap water while Melissa carefully poured the pink liquid into it and then thought to drop the whole test tube in.
Maynard was not quite unconscious, but when she realized what they were doing, she tried to scream through the duct tape.
“Now the notes,” Maria said and she immediately got on Maynard’s computer and started to type.
“Wait, don’t you think Julie Tam might want a look at the notes? Maybe they can find a cure.” Melissa suggested.
“One hard copy only,” Maria said. “But keeping it on any computer that might be hooked up to the web is too dangerous. I could use your help.” Melissa nodded and got on the other terminal. She thought suggesting Julie was the right thing to do, but the idea of a mindless, helpless humanity really frightened her, especially after her experience last year with Abby the witch.
“We need to trace all her contacts to see if she stored info somewhere else or e-mailed the experiment to someone,” Melissa added.
Emily was on the phone with the police and with Julie Tam that very moment.
Jessica stomped her foot. When everyone paused to give her their attention, she whined. “Now I have to really study for my environmental science final. I can’t just blame people for everything and expect to get an A. It’s like last year, Ms Farmer in art history dying again right before finals. And I sucked up so hard, too.”
Next week we get to meet No Earthly Creatures as Latasha and Detective Lisa have their turn. Until then, Happy Reading.