but not much else. The stories would include her side, of course, but their
would have the real weight. She could see the headlines:
LEAKS FROM SECRET BIORESEARCH LAB
WOMAN SCIENTIST IMPLICATED
“You ever read about D.C. Jail?” Rivers seemed to know her thoughts, spoke while examining the wart on his palm. “I been there, Doc, dropping perps off. Terrible things happen. Especially to people like you.”
“You can really do this?” She ignored Rivers, addressed Rhodes. There were not many things she feared, but Hallie was honest enough to admit that being locked in the District of Columbia Jailwas one. The stories that came out of that place—broom-handle rapes, mutilations, medieval things.
“Yes. We can.”
She could fight but, as Rhodes said, even if she won, she lost. Or she could sign. Go quietly. Live to fight another day.
Hallie had never been the kind of person who agonized over decisions. Weigh risks and benefits, figure the calculus, make the call. Another day always came. She looked up. Rhodes was holding out a pen. Rivers leaned back, smirking, fat hands folded on his paunch.
A part of Hallie wanted to curse them. Instead, she reached into the pocket of her lab coat and took out the Mont Blanc Meisterstück Solitaire her father had given her when she’d received her doctorate at Hopkins.
“I have my own.”
Without hurrying, she uncapped the pen, signed her name, ignored Rivers, and looked Rhodes in the eye.
“You’re doing a bad thing here, Mr. Rhodes. Sooner or later, we all pay for the bad things we do.”
The fly buzzed around Rivers’s head, and he still seemed oblivious to it. Rhodes kept his eyes locked on hers, saying nothing, but he rubbed his Penn State ring as if it were an amulet and she saw a flicker in his dark eyes, sudden and bright and quickly gone, that told her he knew it to be true.
NOW, IN BARNARD’S OFFICE, IT WAS NOT LOST ON HER THAT she could simply say,
Sorry, gentlemen, BARDA screwed me royally
, and walk right out.
But really, she didn’t even come close to that. Instead, she sat thinking of the thousands of young soldiers. And not only young ones. Old ones, too, from older wars, hanging on in VA hospitals all over the country, living out their lives with whatever remnants of bodies and minds their wounds and wars had left them. And soldiers’ families. It went on and on.
“You said Al is still working on the project.”
“How much biomatter does he have left?”
Barnard looked embarrassed. “None, I’m afraid.”
“It’s all gone? Every last
The basis of their research had been an extremophile from theArchaea domain. She had retrieved the biosamples while on an expedition exploring a monstrous cave in Mexico called Cueva de Luz. She had brought almost 100 grams of viable organism out of the cave with her. Half of that had expired before they learned how to keep it alive. When she had left over a year ago, more than 20 grams had remained. In microbiological terms, that was a ton.
“I’m afraid so. Al’s worked himself near to death, Hallie. I worry about him sometimes. And he took your departure hard. But at some point, science goes from craft to art. Al’s a fine craftsman, but he’s not an artist.”
“Can we synthesize replicant?”
Lew Casey broke in: “We’ve tried for months. Can’t get the mitochondrial dissemination right. It could be more months—or never.”
“While thousands of hospitals become …” She searched for the right word.
Hallie took a deep breath, sat back, rubbed her eyes. She hadn’t slept now for almost eighteen hours, and the cave rescue had been exhausting. She needed fresh clothes, a hot meal, a shower, sleep. But others were in much, much worse shape. Sleep could wait.
“We have to go back to Cueva de Luz.” She stared at Barnard. “There’s nothing else.”
“You cannot imagine how much I was hoping to hear you say