Hekken cleared his throat. Suddenly, all the hours he had spent listening to tedious explanations from dull scientists seemed worthwhile. He was glad he had done his homework.
Experiments have shown that the human blood system provides the virus with the perfect breeding environment. The virus invades human cells by injecting its own DNA through its tail into them and making copies of itself. By doing so it rapidly increases in number and quickly overwhelms even the strongest immune system. Death follows in a matter of days.
Odoursins eyes lit up. Go on.
But the problem has always been with its delivery. How are we to ensure maximum infection of humans in the most efficient manner?
I hope you are going to enlighten us, General Hekken.
The only viable way of spreading the virus quickly is by using mosquitoes, Hekken continued. However, we discovered that when the virus is injected into the gut of a female mosquito, it releases an enzyme which dissolves the lining. The gut bursts, killing both the mosquito and the virus.
A rather podgy, overweight man with small, sunken eyes struggled to his feet. Hekken recognized him as Martock and his pulse quickened.
Forgive me, General Hekken, but if this is good news then I live in fear of the occasion when you bring bad news to the Council.
There were murmurs of agreement and Hekken held up his hands to ward off further criticism. He noticed that Martock was enjoying his discomfort and forced himself to remain calm.
Let me assure the Council that even as we speak there are teams of our best people working on the problem. They are carrying out trials using a new chemical that combines with the lining of the mosquitos gut and protects it. If it works, it will enable the mosquito to carry the virus to humans on Earth.
There was a pause as everyone worked through the implications of Hekkens words. Odoursins eyes narrowed into suspicious slits. If it works, you say?
It will work, Hekken reassured him. He thought of the nervous man in the white coat and his little family. Theyre very keen to make it work down there, he added. Very keen indeed. Its simply a matter of time.
Odoursin nodded, then turned to Martock.
I think there is something else you should know, Your Excellency.
Odoursin blinked, moistened his dry, papery lips and stared at Martock.
Martock glanced briefly across at Hekken before continuing. Last night, he announced, we tracked down the Dreamwalker.
Odoursins voice quivered with barely suppressed rage. He turned to Hekken. Were you aware of this, General?
Hekken gave Martock a look which indicated his anger at being upstaged. That was his piece of news. Martock smiled back: a smug, self-satisfied smile.
I was about to inform the Council when I was interrupted.
Odoursin glared furiously at Hekken. Why was I not told of this earlier? I made it clear that I wanted to be informed immediately she was located.
Her appearances were only intermittent at first, Hekken explained hurriedly, trying to ignore the sweat that was now running down his back. Its been very difficult to pinpoint her exact position. But yesterday we successfully followed her back to Earth. And we made a discovery which I know will be of great interest to Your Excellency.
What did you discover? asked Odoursin, his voice a chilling whisper.
She has a son, replied Hekken.
There was silence in the room as the implications of this news began to dawn on each and every member of the Council. One by one they turned to look at Odoursin, uncertain of how he would react. But his expression gave nothing away. He simply nodded slowly, as if this was something he had been expecting for a long, long time.
Copyright (c) April 2006, Bloomsbury Press (USA). All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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