Interphase: Exodus – Chapter 8

Don gaped at the still body of Julian Schmidt, desperately trying to push his mind past the shock of what had just occurred. Everything had happened so fast. They’d been talking, negotiating, and in the blink of an eye, a life ended. His gaze wandered to the weapon that had fallen from Mr. Schmidt’s hand. Only an instant later, and it might have been one of them lying dead on the factory floor.

Mike shoved the phone he’d taken from the body into his pocket and strode briskly over, gripping Don’s arm firmly and marching him out of the building. “Shouldn’t… aren’t we supposed to call…” he tried to say, his thoughts still sluggish.

“Let me handle the calls, Don,” Mike replied, and practically shoved Don into the car. He ordered the navigation program to take them back to the GSC and pulled out his own phone.

Don crossed his arms over his chest and stared out the window at the cement buildings rushing by. He needed to calm down, get his mind working again. Shutting his eyes, he tried to play the scene back, moment by moment, but the image warped like an old silent film. Only the instant when Mr. Schmidt’s face went blank showed stark and clear. A lump of fear rose in Don’s throat that he couldn’t swallow back.

Exactly like Vic. It was like… he simply wasn’t there anymore…

He heard a click when Mike ended his call. “The GSC is sending a clean-up crew here,” the agent explained. “They’ll retrieve the body and make sure nothing is left behind that can infect anyone else.”

Mike’s tone sounded detached. His expression was focused. Don gave a nod. It wasn’t standard procedure for a situation like this, but under the circumstances… “He was going to kill us. If you hadn’t shot him first…” Don found it difficult to finish the sentence.

“Are you all right, Don?”

Was he? He didn’t feel all right, but feelings seemed to matter very little right now. “I’m alive,” he answered. “I’ll sort out the rest later.”

Mike blinked at him, looking surprised, and then chuckled.

“Whatever this virus is,” Don continued heavily, “whatever it’s doing to people, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We have to stop it.”

“Well, I’ve just gotten a lead on another potential patient,” Mike said, digging the dead man’s phone from his pocket. “Maybe I can help fulfill my end of the bargain.”


As they pulled into the GSC complex and passed through the security check-points, they discussed the event and exchanged their observations. Don found it easier to think with a professional like Mike providing his perspective, and the agent shared some intriguing thoughts of his own. “One of the things that my tech guys uncovered,” Mike said, “was that there was a spike in data usage over the wireless network when Vic up and died, which might suggest that these nanites are capable of receiving outside signals.”

“It could explain his sudden demise,” Don agreed, trying to suppress a shiver of horror at the implications. If someone was capable of sending kill commands as easily as an e-mail… “If that’s the case, anyone who is infected could be at risk of blackmail… or worse.”

“As you keep reminding everyone, Doctor, the only way to figure out if that’s the case is to actually examine the nanites themselves. So first, we need to find a way to get a patient back to the lab without them dying or going homicidal.”

“Is there a way to block external signals while we transport them?” Don asked.

“A radio jammer might do it,” Mike answered, and a shadow of his previous good humor returned as he grinned. “They’re highly illegal, of course, but one of the perks of working for an outfit like the GSC is having access to all the fun toys.”

Julian Schmidt’s phone hadn’t contained an address for Marcus Meier, the infected patient that had sent the panicked text, but it took mere minutes for Mike’s agents to locate a home address. They also had little trouble in securing a radio jammer on short notice, but using it would carry drawbacks. It would disable every wireless signal within its radius, including cell phones.

“We won’t be able to use a jammer inside the lab, since it would set off a number of security systems that even I don’t have access to,” Mike warned.

“Is there anything else we could use to protect against radio waves once we’re here?” Don asked.

“Unless you have a Faraday cage lying around, try lining the interior of the quarantine room with aluminum foil,” Mike suggested.

Don blinked in surprise. “You mean that actually works? I always thought it was a bad cliché.”

“Nope, just low tech. Hell, we could wrap his hazmat suit in a layer as well just to be sure.”

With a plan readied, Don retrieved several hazmat suits from the empty lab while Mike rounded up several rolls of aluminum foil. Don was privately glad that the research team had already left for the evening. If he screwed something up, no one else would have to suffer for it. There were some raised eyebrows among the security team regarding the foil, but Mike assured them that the director had already been informed and had authorized the mission.


Marcus Meier’s home was a modestly-sized mansion on the outskirts of the city, shielded from the tended street by a set of large gates. They pulled up to the intercom at the start of the gated driveway, and Mike pushed the button.

“Yes?” a man’s voice demanded. “Who’s there?”

The plastic mask of the hazmat suit made speaking clearly a little difficult, so Mike leaned close to the intercom. “This is Agent Michael Charles of the Global Security Council. I have an urgent matter that I need to discuss with Mr. Meier right away.”

“The Global Security…” the voice on the other end began. “What matter is there to discuss, Agent Charles?”

“Sir, that’s something that I can only disclose to Mr. Meier’s personally.”

There was a pause. “This is he.”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to verify that first,” Mike said. “May I enter the premises, please?”

Another, longer pause, and there was an audible buzz as the gates opened. The vehicle drove slowly up the curving driveway and came to a stop in front of the house. As they approached the front door, Mike activated the radio jammer before hooking it onto his belt. A plump, balding man answered the door, but he immediately started to back away when he saw the two of them in full hazmat gear.

“It’s all right, Mr. Meier,” Mike called out, his credentials already in his hand. “I’m sorry about this, but it’s necessary. For our protection as well as yours.”

Marcus Meier hesitated, then leaned forward to get a closer look at Mike’s credentials. Don watched his face. The streak of bruising was an angry red instead of dull purple, potentially meaning that he hadn’t been infected for long.

“How did you find out?” Marcus asked miserably. “The board… did they send you?”

“No, sir, I assure you, we found out about your condition on our own and were sent to bring you in for treatment,” Mike replied smoothly.

“There is no treatment… not for this.”

Don stepped forward. “Mr. Meier, please. If you come with us, we will do everything in our power to stop the virus’s progression. We’re still learning about this disease, and your assistance would be immeasurably helpful. You could help us save many lives, including your own.”

Marcus shook his head stubbornly. “Where’s Julian? I need to speak with him first.”

Don’s gaze flickered to Mike, who sighed deeply. “Mr. Meier, I’m sorry to be the one to inform you of this, but Mr. Schmidt died earlier this evening.”

“What? No, no, that’s… that’s impossible!”

“Were you aware that Mr. Schmidt was also infected?” Mike asked.

Marcus visibly paled. “You mean…”

Mike said nothing, and Don watched Mr. Meier fill in the rest of the blanks himself. It was an effective, if deceptive, strategy. After a minute, the man hung his head. “Please,” he said hoarsely. “I don’t want to die.”

Don returned to the trunk of the car and retrieved a third hazmat suit, a full package of aluminum foil and a roll of duct tape.


A new complication rose as Mike ordered the car to return to the GSC campus. The radio jammer was effective enough that the car couldn’t access the GPS necessary for its mapping programs. With a sigh, Mike activated manual control and slowly pulled the car out onto the street. The drive back to the GSC was tense and quiet, and Don felt his blood pressure rising when Mike was forced to turn off the jammer as they approached the campus.

Don felt like he scarcely breathed until Mr. Meier was safely inside a freshly foiled quarantine room. Their patient remained perfectly normal, albeit distraught, during his examination, and blood samples were taken for immediate processing. Mike waited patiently for Don to finish his work, still wearing his hazmat suit. “Two executives from Imperium Tech get infected with this virus around the same time?” he muttered in Don’s ear. “At least, two that we know of. Hopefully this guy can shed more light on this.”

Don left Mike to his questioning and walked down the hall to test the blood samples. To his surprise, he found Dr. Douglas in a hazmat suit of her own, waiting for his arrival. “What, uh, brings you to the lab at this time of night, Dr. Douglas?” he stammered.

Dr. Douglas gave him an eyeroll before responding, “Mike called me in after explaining your… plan. While I’m not entirely comfortable with your methods, Dr. Harris, I can’t say that you aren’t committed to your research. The least I can do is help.”

Don handed the vials of blood over to Dr. Douglas and she quickly set about preparing a microscope slide. She slid it into the microscope and raised the magnification level. “I can confirm the presence of the nanites in this sample,” she reported. “What’s the next step?”

“Now, we hope that the conductivity of these little bastards is low enough to allow for nano-manipulation,” he replied. She stepped aside and Don moved forward, activating the microscope’s laser tweezers. Slowly, he separated the individual components of the nanites, and they took turns looking at the preserved fragments that drifted in the blood.

“What next?” she asked.

“Mike’s lead tech is already on his way down. Hopefully he can identify the technology involved.”

The security guards admitted a lanky young man to the research floor, who scarcely acknowledged anyone’s presence in his haste to examine the sample. He muttered to himself, adjusting the magnification several times, and at last stepped back from the microscope with wide eyes. “Do you have any idea what it is that you have here? This is honest-to-God, working nanotechnology. I was able to identify CPU cores and some sort of nano-scale power source. While I’d love to say that these were man-made, I don’t know anyone, person, corporation or country, who possesses this level of technology. It’s the single coolest and scariest thing I’ve ever seen.”