Marchenko unsealed the fridge and removed the suspicious device.
“Good thing it didn’t go off in the club,” said Colonel Garin, staring at the metallic canister.
“We’ve got the remote control,” said Marchenko.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be standing so close to this.” Neither man moved back.
“Only of the clap … so what do you think it is?” Garin asked.
“A weaponised, contagious vectoral agent. A bioweapon.” Marchenko told Garin what Chen had said. Garin flared up.
“It’s a weapon of mass destruction. Screw you Ruskis for this!”
Marchenko appeared offended. “We couldn’t afford to keeping spending billions of dollars on missiles and planes to keep up with you. Bioweaponry was much cheaper. And we were good at it.” Marchenko gestured towards the canister. “I think this is part of Project Rebirth.”
“What in the name of Sputnik is Project Rebirth?”
“The idea was to seed many of these canisters around the US and release them in case of war. I never knew the precise details, but the substance mimics something like the flu. It takes a while before it kills you – several days I think. By the time anyone realises what they’ve got it’s too late.”
“Like SARS. The only effective treatment is right at the beginning.”
“Right. It’s highly infectious. It doesn’t have the transmission problems of other viruses. A cough or a touch … fuck me roughly with a horse’s cock, even close proximity will do it. You’ll pass it on before you know you’re infected. Within hours. And it’s something like 90 per cent fatal. It was tested on Russian political prisoners, some of them vor. First you get the chills, then you start throwing up – a few hours later you start bleeding through your eyes and nose. Then violent sickness, major organ failure and death.”
“What does the rebirth part of Project Rebirth mean?”
“It means that the North American continent would be scoured free of life and a communist rebirth could begin.” Garin’s eyebrows reached for the sky.
Marchenko seemed unimpressed by Garin’s reaction. “What – you didn’t have plans like these of your own? What about your own bioweapon stockpile?”
“We destroyed them, just like the treaty said,” lied Garin.
Marchenko smiled sceptically. “Someone obviously decided to keep some canisters lying around in case you didn’t live up to your end of the bargain.”
“Wipe that smirk off your face. We’re in a world of shit here.” Garin had seen enough.
“Keep it and the control here. I’ll have some of my men pick it up. And keep your goons out of the basement.” Garin paused. “I need a final favour.”
“Tell me what it is and I’ll consider the price.”
“I know you want revenge. I know people are going to die. But I need a week to try and stop this. After that it won’t matter.” Marchenko appeared thoughtful.
“The vor are hot-headed and angry. They will want to strike right away.” Garin waved a hand.
“Tell them to wait. One crisis at a time.”
“We will need time to plan anyway. I can give you a week.”
“I have your word – as a vor?” said Garin, repeating what the dead Chen had asked.
“Very funny. Yes.” Garin put his hand on Marchenko’s arm in a comradely gesture. It was an expression of thanks, not only for capturing the device and the agent but for giving Garin time to try to stop them madness.
“Thank you, comrade.” He started to walk out of the basement. “Now I just have to tell the president America is under attack.”