Snow crunched beneath Bruce’s feet. The muscles in his calves burned against his cold skin as he worked to keep up with Abel. The third man with John and Samir took off running. Two agents started to move from their positions in pursuit.
Abel Williams hollered into his wrist microphone, “Back in position.”
Samir and John stood there looking unsurprised. Samir held the metal briefcase. His arm gently swung it back and forth against his leg like there was not a care in the world.
Bruce and Abel stopped six feet from their assailants. Multiple agents stood with their guns drawn from a further distance. Bruce noticed small beads of sweat standing on Samir and John’s foreheads. The cold air bit into Bruce’s lungs as he took a breath.
“Nervous?” asked Abel.
John crossed his arms and his body stiffened.
Abel continued, “You have every right to be concerned. We have you, we have the virus, and I have a little surprise just for you, John.”
John grimaced, and then said, “Oh, I think you’re the one who’s going to be surprised.”
Abel asked, “Why is that?”
A grin spread across John’s face, “All in due time.”
Bruce noticed Samir grimace, and his knuckles turn white around the briefcase handle. He coughed, and a mist floated between him and Agent Abel.
Abel took a step back and said, “Samir, please hand me the briefcase.”
Samir took two steps forward, handed him the case, and then returned to John’s side.
Bruce could tell Abel was enjoying his moment. His moves were slow and deliberate as he opened the briefcase. Inside, an empty vial sat in a cushion of foam. Bruce felt the blood drain from his face.
Abel’s eyes widened, “Where’s the virus?”
John padded his shoulders to get warm, smiled, and then replied, “Oh, did you think Samir was going to give you the virus? Well, in a sense, we have, we both have.”
Bruce and Abel covered their mouths and backed up. “Stay back, ordered Abel.”
Lasers appeared on the assailants’ chests. Neither man attempted to move. Samir finally spoke, “John has shown me the light. This virus, this thing. It isn’t something John dreamt up. It was made in a lab, with the government’s blessing.
“Oh, I suppose they had other plans for it. Who knows a third world country in the middle east, or maybe Central America. You let this loose, cut them off from the world, and then offer aid. What’re a few dead people when you’re a superpower?
“As you have probably guessed, John and I are infected. At least we volunteered for the job, unlike what’s going to happen to all of you. Now you’ll see what it feels like to fall victim of your own device.”
Abel stammered, “How, how did he turn you?”
Samir scowled, “John showed me the bombing of my village in Syria. I watched the F-18 drop its payload onto my parents’ home. When were you going to tell me, Abel?”
Abel ask, “Did you try to call your parents?”
“Do you know why they didn’t answer?” asked Abel.
Samir snarled, “Because the government killed them.”
Abel shook his head. “I can’t believe this man conned you so easily.”
Abel raised his finger and pulled out his cellphone. Bruce watched John’s eyes twitch and then squint. Samir pulled in a ragged breath as Abel talked to someone on the other end of the phone in a language Bruce did not recognize.
Abel extended his phone towards Samir, “Take it, they want to talk to you.”
Samir looked confused, “Who?”
Abel replied, “Take it.”
John looked nervous and took a half step back.
Samir took the phone and said hello. A second later, he whipped out his pistol and pointed it at John’s head. Samir commented in a foreign language and tossed the phone back to Abel.
Samir said, “I’ve been a fool.” He looked at John and growled, “You played me for a fool.”
Bruce interceded, “Don’t shoot him, we need the intel.”
Samir’s eyes never left his gunsight as he answered, “Oh, I’m not going to kill him, maybe just inspire him.”
Abel spoke up, “Agent Samir, you have enough troubles. It’s nothing we can’t fix at this point, but if you shoot him, there’s nothing I can do for you.”
John stammered, “I, I don’t understand. The video isn’t fake.”
Abel nodded and answered John, “That’s correct; it’s not. We’ve been monitoring your communications with ISIS factions still scattered around Syria. We knew you were planning on using Samir’s home town as a base in hopes we would bomb it. What you didn’t know is that we evacuated the block before we dropped the bomb.”
John nodded, “You see, Samir, what did I tell you?”
Abel continued, “Samir’s family is safely inside the U.S. They were evacuated before your people could arrive. The other people who lost their homes are currently being housed in a hotel at the U.S. expense while we build them new homes.”
Samir convulsed once. He gasped, “Inside my beltline in the back, there’s an antidote.”
Abel quickly grabbed it and injected Samir.
John started laughing, and Samir knocked him into the ice and snow. John rolled over and spoke while blood dripped from the corner of his mouth. “You idiots. That was the only antidote, two doses. That means you two will die, and so will all the people who come in contact with our friend that you let run away.”
Two agents stepped from the shadows with the mysterious third man handcuffed between them. One of them asked, “Do you mean this, man?”
John sat up and spit blood on to the snow, “Ha! You will all still die.”
Bruce spoke up, “Can I give him the good news?”
“Go ahead,” said Abel.
Bruce looked down at John, “The good Dr. McCray had a vaccine and therapeutic medication. You see, you don’t make a superbug without an antidote. Unlike you, John, the good doctor had hundreds of doses for pharmaceutical companies should the need arise. We’ve all been inoculated. We may get a sniffle and fever, but nothing more.”
John doubled over and threw up between his legs. When he stopped he asked, “What about me?”
Abel answered, “Let me think about it on our trip to a very small building in the middle of some very big woods.”
John gasped, “I don’t know how long I have.”
Abel handcuffed John and pulled him to his feet. “Oh, we have a good idea how long you have. The two of us have plenty of time to get to know each other better.”