An incinerator? What the hell?
“Well they’re probably just,..” I’m about to suggest that maybe Jordaan was referring to some scrap material or something, but then I remember. He didn’t say “transfer it” but rather “transfer her.” Unless Jordaan is secretly a sailor, he was no doubt referring to a person. So why would they be transferring a person, living or otherwise, to a goddamn incinerator? My head is spinning.
“Just remember to keep quiet,” Rau says. “If we’re being monitored we can’t let them know that we know something forbidden.” I nod.
“I think we need to go to our rooms,” I whisper. “Maybe we can think of a plan and discuss it afterward.”
“Good idea. Come to my room if you’ve thought of something,” Rau says. We do our best to act as if nothing is wrong and head down the hallways to our respective rooms. When I arrive at mine, I see that the room is just as lavish as the common room is. The splendor of all of this reminds me a lot of the tale of Hansel and Gretel. The children arrive at a kid’s dream: a house made of candy. Sure, it’s paradise, but it was all a ruse by a witch to fatten them up so she could eat them later.
I hope that my adventure here doesn’t end with someone being shoved into an oven, not me or any of the staff here. But if I must, I must.
But wait, did I really just make a snap decision there? I start to think about it. This plague is probably worse than most diseases of recent memory. There’s probably a reason the common name for it brings to mind the horrible disease of the Middle Ages. It’s killing lots of people indiscriminately, and it kills fast.
I stop my train of thought for a second and snap back to reality. I start looking around the room for anything that could be a camera. I scour every drawer, every opening, every possible place in the room that could be holding something small or otherwise. I find nothing. This is a good sign. Since Cornelius Laboratories is probably under federal rule. there seems to be a limit as to how much surveillance the scientists can put on rooms.
I exit my room and walk over to Rau’s room. On the way there I pass a scientist who barely glances at me for a second. I knock on his door and he opens it immediately. “Come on in,” he says, and quickly closes the door behind me.
“Got a plan? ‘Cause I sure don’t right now,” he says.
“Of a sort, I guess,” I tell him. I go near the door and press the buzzer to the left of it. Floritelle’s voice immediately filters through the PA.
“Yes, Mohammed?” Floritelle is so friendly it’s creepy.
“It’s Ellie Stiles. Mohammed and I have something we want to ask you. Can you come to Mohammed’s room?”
“Yes, of course! Give me a moment to wrap up this report I’ve been writing,” Floritelle says.
“Thanks.” I say, and take my finger off the buzzer.
“What the hell are you doing?” Rau says, clearly getting furious.
“Look, we’re never going to get any straight answers from guesswork. Maybe Floritelle won’t tell us anything, but maybe he will. We need to know as much as we can before we do anything drastic.”
I think Rau is about to hit me, but he restrains himself (or something). He crosses his arms and plops onto his bed. “I don’t like this one bit, but whatever. I don’t have any other choice in the matter.”
We don’t say anything to each other, resulting in probably one of the most awkward silences I think I’ve ever encountered in my life. It is broken by a knock on the door. “It’s Vincenzo!” I hear. Seriously, where did Cornelius find this guy?
I open the door, as Rau refuses to move. Floritelle walks in, and I quickly shut the door behind him. To the surprise of both Rau and Floritelle, I walk behind Floritelle and throw all my weight into a tackle. Floritelle, clearly caught off-guard, falls down. I immediately get on top of him and feel around his belt. As I predicted, there’s a pistol. I take it and hold it near him.
Floritelle wheezes. I must have knocked the wind out of him. “What is going on here?” he manages to finally say.
“That’s what we want to know, Floritelle,” I say.
“What are you—”
“Shut the fuck up,” I say. I need to be as intimidating as possible. Rau, meanwhile. looks just as terrified as Floritelle does now. “Why are you here? What are you going to do with us?”
Floritelle hesitates for a second, but he finally begins to talk. “You’re not going to like this,” he says.
“I don’t care!” I raise my voice a little, but not too much as to alert outside attention, assuming there is any. I don’t know how soundproof the walls here are.
“Well, as you might have guessed, Cornelius Laboratories has been working with the federal government. We here received blood records from all over the country and found people such as yourselves that are genetically immune to the touch plague,” Floritelle starts. “The federal government, well, was concerned with what might happen if high-ranking people were to be infected. Who knows what kind of anarchy might reign if Canada were to suddenly lose all of its politicians?”
I’m starting to get it. “So let me get this straight,” I say. “Cornelius Laboratories isn’t trying to save the general public, is it?”
Floritelle hesitates. He’s trying to form the word so I form it for him. “So the answer is no.”
“Well, we’re trying to save some people,” Floritelle says defensively. This is rich. Rau and I and god knows how many other people aren’t going to be saving the lives of millions. We’re going to be saving the lives of businessmen and politicians.
“That still leaves one question, though,” I say. “How exactly are we going to be saving these people?”
“Well…” Floritelle looks away again. I stomp on his back. He winces with pain. “Alright, alright! Whatever it is that protects you guys from the plague is present in all blood cells, but in tiny amounts. We think that together, every single one of your blood cells forms a full shield. So if you were say, lose blood, that shield would be weakened to the point where you wouldn’t be immune anymore.”
Rau picks up quicker on this one. “And I assume that means this ‘shield’ you’re talking about might be transferable, then.”
Floritelle nods as best he can from his “facedown on floor” position. “Yes,” he says. “All of the blood in one immune patient’s body has enough material to provide one antidote or shield.” That seals it. Not only have Rau and I been sentenced to protecting politicians, we’re supposed to have given our lives for them.
“Well, that’s all I need to know,” I say. I yank Floritelle off the ground with Rau’s help. “Floritelle, you’re going to take us out of this place. If you’re stopped by anyone, you’ll tell them that you’re taking us out for dinner, as per our last requests. Once we are safely on the Ottawa streets, you are going to hand over your credit card to us and then leave us alone. If you fail to do any of these things I will shoot you. There’s so much plague death that no one will even bat an eye.”
Floritelle hesitates once more but nods. “Okay,” he says. He does everything we ask, and soon we’re out onto the streets of Ottawa. We stop on a side street near a busy intersection and we get out of the car. I hold out the pistol to make sure Floritelle does as he’s told. He hands us a credit card.
“Thanks,” I say, before delivering a hard punch to the center of his head. He keels over. “I can’t take any chances,” I say. Rau nods. We walk off in a bit of a daze, but eventually find a hotel. We check in using Floritelle’s credit card.
Diseases are strange things. They can ravage cities for years and years, only to die out suddenly. They can ravage for short times, disappear, then reappear in an altered form for years on end.
The touch plague was neither of those diseases. Its rampage lasted another week or two after Rau and I made our daring escape. Thousands and thousands more people died, and Canada got a little emptier. China and India suffered hugely thanks to their dense populations, but they still had hundreds of millions of people left at the end of it all.
Various theories are floating around as to what killed the virus. Maybe quarantines work. Maybe the virus stretched itself too thin. Who knows. Either way, the touch plague is now completely gone. The panic has subsided.
Shortly after the news came that the plague was dying down, I phoned a few newspapers and gave them my story, making sure to name Jordaan, Floritelle, Marks, and all the other names I could remember. Newspapers were skeptical at first of what I said, but their background checks turned out to be fruitful. I launched a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all of the “patients” and their relatives against Stephen Harper and the various politicians involved in the secret contract with Cornelius Laboratories. I’m still waiting on a final decision in the matter, but my lawyer says it’s looking good.
I now have an alarm installed in my apartment.