Authors: Robert Michael
Tags: #Jason Bourne, #Sidney Bristow, #james bond, #spies, #Alias, #assassin, #Espionage
“Enhancements would be the wrong word, actually. You and your friends already believe you are the pinnacle of humanity. We can ensure that gap is widened. By reducing the competition. By reducing the strain, by weakening the genetic code. By shutting off areas of the brain that control survival instincts, produce anti-bodies, encourage healing.”
“I don’t understand. I thought genetic engineering was designed to improve humanity.”
The doctor shook his head.
“It can, that is true. Its true beauty, its greatest strength is its ability to destroy. We can eradicate diseases, improve immunities, design strains of antibiotics that are immune to resistance; we can heal grievous wounds, grow limbs where none existed, cure cancer, fight off the effects of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, predict psychotic behavior and birth defects like spina bifida, Down Syndrome, and autism. Synthetic genomics paired with technology can create solutions that are even more creative. Solutions that can be used as a weapon. Perhaps the most sophisticated, complete, and insidious weapon ever invented. An incurable disease, if you will.”
“You are proposing to me that your project here is basically a genetic software capable of creating new strains of disease? That instead of curing the ills of the world, you can selectively purge humanity, effectively using a manufactured drug that reduces opposition to our ways?”
The doctor put his fingers together in a tent in front of him. His face was grim.
“You understand me perfectly.”
“What do you call it?’
He looked surprised.
“Oh, uh, we have been calling it SARC in the lab. It is just a pet name right now because we have not officially completed our work.”
“Sarc? Latin for flesh?”
“Yes. It is what we will create. We have established multiple ways to administer the programming: a drug, in water tables, rain, air born, and as a vaccine. It will appear as flesh, as part of a human body that belongs. Cancer with camo, as one of our colleagues put it.”
Andronicus did not like the idea of so many cooks in the proverbial kitchen. He would ensure the security was tight. He had already taken measures before he arrived.
“How did they get you to agree to help us, Doctor?” He was suspicious. Not only of the efficacy of this plan but of his involvement. Why was he here? A plan was already in place. Why was he truly involved?
The doctor bit his lip and looked absently over Andronicus’ shoulder. He cupped his mouth with a shaking hand and pinched his nose with a sigh.
“I agreed to save the life of my family. I agreed so Veronica could stay close to me.”
Andronicus turned and watched Veronica. Her face was a mask of concern, but she smiled at another scientist and punched him on the arm amicably.
“She isn’t your niece, is she?” he observed.
“No.” The doctor squirmed in his chair, his eyes swimming in pools of unshed tears.
“I understand your situation. Perhaps we can be of mutual benefit to one another.”
Spreckles wrinkled his nose in distaste.
“How?” He asked, dubious.
Andronicus allowed a smile creep across his face. A genuine one. He had an ace up his sleeve. He believed he could use this program to sink their enemies, to expose them, to embarrass them, and to aim the ill will of the world against them.
“What do you need to make this happen?”
“Besides time and money?”
“We lack only one key component of technology. We want to concentrate on certain impulses and behaviors so the delivery system will target the proper subjects at an appropriate time. We have in place the DNA markers that control the human life support centers: the heart, brain, lungs, and digestion. What we need is a way for the technological implants to effectively read their minds. We need a trigger.”
Andronicus thought for a moment. He wondered how much of this his colleagues had already known before sending him on this assignment. What he had thought would be a suicide mission had turned out to be a tour of the end of humanity. A line from Shakespeare came to him suddenly.
Wanton boys and flies to gods
. Something like that. He was not sure if he was being offered the keys to his dreams or the dagger to commit his own
Was he witnessing the Tower of Babel, or the pillars of salt?
“I may have just what you need, doctor,” he said.
Dance with a Devil
eatrice could taste the salt of him on her tongue. Her fingers curled the hairs of his chest absently. Her head rested on his bare shoulder. His breathing was steady and his eyes were closed. He was awake still but relaxed.
Dappled sunlight filtered through the gauze draperies. The setting sun was golden against his bronzed skin. Beatrice allowed her eyelids to flutter against his skin.
“Are you sure your brother will fail at this?” she asked, her breath thick with the pleasure he had shown her.
“Shhh. I am relaxing,” he whispered sharply.
She sighed against him.
She did not like being treated like a young girl.
She gave Antiochus a wide berth because he was powerful and she could manipulate him through his ego. Men were so predictable.
Even though Antiochus was virile and her best partner among the dozens with which she had shared her bed, he still fell prey to many of the flaws of the male species. His weakness was his supposed strength.
What had begun as a harmless and harried affair had turned into a powerful partnership. Even better, through their partnership, she had been able to secure an opportunity to increase his reliance on her. He craved not just her body, but also her input, her support, and her encouragement.
Most would not suspect it, but Antiochus was unsure of himself. He lacked an inner strength that would allow for independent decisions, lightning-quick actions, and orders that did not require a day’s worth of hand-wringing. For this, he had an incessant need for her to be at his side.
At first, she had welcomed this desire. She longed to be accepted. After being rejected by his brother, Beatrice was desperate for the power of the ViVeri elite. It was her intent to make her mother proud, to honor her parent’s legacy.
The Komemnos children’s father had instilled in them a great fear of failure. For Andronicus, it lent him a steel-hard determination and focus. For Antiochus, he covered over his lack of confidence and dread with a false bravado. Many missed this, but she had seen the effects close up and in private moments when Antiochus was most vulnerable.
It helped that his chiseled chin, muscular frame, and his family’s legacy carried a significant amount of weight in their circle of influence. Among the Consortium, Antiochus was considered almost god-like.
Indeed, he appeared the vision of a Greek or Roman deity.
She found it ironic that one brother possessed the inner strength—the other, the beauty and grace—of a leader. Andronicus would always be held back by his brazen manner, his hard edges, and his immense ego.
Antiochus, with Beatrice at his side, could rule with impunity.
After a moment, she decided to press the issue.
“We should just remove him altogether,” she suggested. She swallowed. She knew she was walking on thin ice.
She felt his muscles tighten beneath her. His jaw clenched but he did not open his eyes. His nose flared as he pursed his lips.
She knew he would not talk to her for some time now. This was his pout.
It was remarkable to her how quickly men would revert to their juvenile ways. Even men as powerful as Antiochus and Andronicus, whose bloodlines were pure and royal, would throw a tantrum, become petty and vindictive, and play the fool. She was comforted that humanity’s best could still be so weak. It was why God had made woman. They completed what God had made incomplete. In that, there was a gift, an honor, a role to play. Strength in supposed weakness.
“I know you do not want to discuss this, but we must. You do not have a choice in this,” she cooed.
His eyes sprung open and he glared at her, hurt and angry.
The sudden change from passionate lover to violent anger had surprised and made her uncomfortable in the beginning. Now she was used to it. It was no mystery to her that to men, violence and sex were inextricably intertwined. Fresh from battle, men would be insatiable in bed, and after having intercourse, a man would be equally prepared to sleep or to fight.
“You cannot tell me I have no choice!” he accused. Spittle flew from his lips. Lips that had kissed hers moments ago. Lips that had pronounced such poetic statements of fondness and fealty. Now, they were cursing her.
She remained calm. Effected a look of profound hurt and meekness.
“I am only concerned that he may succeed in this and then what will we do? The council will accept him in.”
“They would not dare. We have an agreement!” he demanded. He sat up and pulled himself away from her in a huff. He licked his lips nervously, his eyes darting.
She slipped her feet to the floor and looked back at him.
“It is not Andronicus we should be concerned about. It is this new threat in America.”
He shook his head in disbelief.
“They are not upstarts, Beatrice. They have been there since before Kennedy. Even he could not control them. Even the Communists could not crack them.”
He was right, of course. These were her very words to him a week ago as they lay in each other’s arms. She often found him parroting her policies, philosophies, and knowledge and parading it as his own. She allowed him this because she knew the truth.
“So, are we just going to ignore that the Brotherhood is directly attacking us? That they have infiltrated our entire network of commons?”
He crossed his arms and stared at the draperies gently blowing in the floor-to-ceiling balcony window.
“The Brotherhood can have America for all I care.”
“They want more than that and you know it. Some of our colleagues believe they know more about us than anyone in history.”
He turned to her, his grey eyes hard and unyielding.
“Then our colleagues need to cut their ties to these foreign countries. Security leaks are going to expose us. Our society has been kept a secret for millennia. We have enshrouded ourselves in mystery and money. Just because Andronicus has chosen a poor time to come from the closet, does not mean we cannot go back to the enigma we once were,” he said, his voice flat and accusing.
He blamed her for her support of Andronicus in his early, more idealistic days. Antiochus could not let it go. He could not forgive his brother that he had slept with Beatrice. Or that she had chosen his brother over him.
She supposed that this petty jealousy was a perverted indication of what could pass for love. It did not matter to her. It was in concert with her goals, so she encouraged it without directly drawing the words from him. She knew that often with men, the confession of love was the murder of the emotion within them.
She kept her voice level as she turned away from him and pulled a loose sheet across her shoulders.
“I agree. You are right. We have to cut off our connections with America immediately. Speaker Rodman will be on his own. Let us hope they do not get to him or suspect who he really is. He is our only hope to stem this tide.” She crossed to a dresser and grabbed a pin to pull her hair up. The stone floor was cool on her bare feet.
She turned to Antiochus and watched his eyes admire her figure. She put her hands behind her head and allowed the sheet to fall away from her shoulders.
He caught his breath.
“Do you think Andronicus suspects our plan?” he asked, his eyes narrowing. She could see his anger softening.
“If he does, we will have to feed him to the wolves,” she said.
Antiochus grimaced as if he were haunted by a memory. Beatrice had heard the stories, but Antiochus had not shared the tales of his childhood. Yet. That was for another time.
“Andronicus is too much like father,” he said, again repeating one of her own accusations. “He will fall upon his sword or he will overstep his abilities. He is too ambitious.”
“The others do not trust him,” she said.
Antiochus frowned, his gaze wandering.
“Rashidi wants him to succeed,” he said, biting his lip.
“Rashidi is dying. He wants
to succeed. He considered Andronicus his son.”
Antiochus shook his head in disappointment.
“Why do old men find Andronicus so capable?”
“Like you said, he is like your father. At least The Scot and the others do not find him as capable.”
Antiochus cheered up at this.
He laughed through his nose.
“Did you see his face? He actually thought he had friends at the table.”
“And his only friend was Rashidi, whom he disappointed and alienated in his attempt to cover his shame,” she said.
She took a drink of wine from the bar and allowed the fading light to play across her body. She liked its warm fingers across her skin.
“Will SARC work?” he asked, patting the thick pillow-top king mattress.
She put the wine glass aside and sauntered back to the bed, a sly and knowing smile snaking its way across her face.
“No. But we have to hope that Andronicus believes that it will,” she said.
Safety in Numbers
allie came in as Frank was adjusting his tie in the mirror. He was frowning. She caught him unaware. He saw her movement in his peripheral vision and put on a slim smile that he hoped covered his despair.
She came up to him and fixed the knot.
“I made some lasagna for dinner. You want to join us downstairs before you go in?” Hallie said, staring at his tie. She rarely looked him in the eye.
This was perhaps Frank’s most difficult assignment. His strength as a surrogate family unit for the DOJ and US Marshall’s office Witness Protection Program was that he was able to be both a believable caregiver and a detached professional. He was efficient.