“Lab Mice” by George J. Condon

Lab Rat, by Patrick Stacy
Illustration: “Lab Rat” by Patrick Stacy © 2005

Michael Delaney was in his cubicle at Consoldyne Aerospace Industries, rotating a view of a new jet engine design on his workstation, when his telephone rang. He released the computer mouse and picked up the phone receiver.

“Delaney speaking.”

“Michael, it’s Kay Dunston.” It was his girlfriend’s mother, but her voice sounded strange. “Do you know where I can find Paula?”

“I haven’t seen her since Monday morning, Mrs. Dunston. I was going to call her tonight to see how she’s doing.” Michael thought of Mrs. Dunston as a prim, controlled woman. He was amazed to hear her start sobbing.

“Michael, I don’t know what to do. I haven’t seen Paula since before that awful fire. Now, with the police asking all of those questions…”

“Don’t cry, Mrs. Dunston. I’ll be right over.”

Michael powered down his computer equipment, grabbed his windbreaker, and headed for the elevators. On the way out, he told his boss that he might be gone for the rest of the day.

Steering his midnight blue Honda out of the parking lot, Michael knew that Mrs. Dunston must have been desperate before calling him. She had never tried to conceal her conviction that her daughter could have chosen a better boyfriend. Why couldn’t a beautiful girl like Paula meet a successful lawyer or a doctor, instead of an ordinary aerospace engineer? None of that mattered now. Probably, Mrs. Dunston was overreacting about Paula, but he needed to be sure.

The Dunston home was in Forest Hills, a neighborhood that regarded the rest of Toronto with polite disdain. The house was a large Tudor-style side-split, well back from the street behind a carefully manicured lawn. As Michael locked his car, he smelled a charred odor, but the house appeared untouched. He smoothed back his dark hair, straightened his necktie, and walked up the front steps. A moment after he rang the bell, Kay Dunston opened the door. For once, she seemed to be glad to see him.

“Michael, thank you so much for coming over.”

“What’s happened?” he asked when they were inside.

“I wish I knew,” Mrs. Dunston said. “Paula came home Monday evening, acting very agitated, but she wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. She spent hours in the shed in back of the house. Before my husband died, he had kept his gardening tools in it. Paula had the place cleaned up, so that she could keep her pets out there”.

“Pets?”

“Rabbits and white mice, mostly. Paula has always been fond of animals. Anyway, I went to bed about eleven. Around two in the morning, I woke up hearing sirens. The shed was burning and the men from the fire department came. They trampled my flowerbeds, but they did put out the fire. Those poor little animals. I went to Paula’s room, to be sure she was all right, but she was gone. I haven’t seen her since.”

“Have you tried calling her at Lambda Laboratories?” Michael asked.

“Of course I did. Some woman answered and told me that Paula no longer works there. I didn’t know what to think, so I told the police that she was missing.”

“What did they say?”

“They asked me a lot of questions and wrote things into their little notebooks. Then, they left and I haven’t heard anything more from them. One policeman told me the fire crew found evidence that the shed was burned deliberately. Michael, something awful has happened to Paula.”

“We don’t know that, Mrs. Dunston. Mind if I look at the shed?”

“No, but it’s a wreck now. Just go out through the kitchen.”

Michael walked outside and for the first time saw the shell of the gardening shed standing at the bottom of the yard. The roof was gone and the windows had blown out from the heat, but the soot-blackened brick walls still stood. The ruined doorway was barred by yellow police tape. Michael pushed the tape aside and stepped inside.

Ashes and charcoal littered the stone floor. In the rubble, Michael saw blackened wire mesh cages, some of them containing the charred bones of luckless animals caught in the inferno. Something glittered on the floor and Michael went down on one knee to get a better look. It was some glass from a laboratory beaker, bubbled now from the heat.

As he straightened up, Michael’s foot slipped in the greasy soot. Grabbing at a blackened bench to steady himself, he felt a stinging pain in the palm of his left hand. He saw that a splinter of glass had embedded itself in his flesh. Cursing, Michael picked the glass out carefully and drops of blood began oozing from the wound. There were several other pieces of glass on the bench, apparently parts of a shattered test tube.

Michael had a queasy feeling in his gut. Whatever Paula was doing out here, she was not just keeping pets. He left the ruins of the shed and went back into the house.

Mrs. Dunston found an adhesive bandage for the cut on Michael’s hand and he soon left, promising that he would find Paula. Michael felt far less confident than he pretended to be. He would start by calling some of Paula’s friends, to find out whether one of them knew where she was. It was a pretty lame plan, but anything was better than just sitting around.

As Michael drove away from the Dunston house, a dark green Chevrolet Blazer pulled out from the curb behind him. When he merged onto Highway 401, Michael glanced at the rearview mirror and saw that the Blazer was still following. Through the streets of Don Mills, the SUV remained just a few car lengths behind his Toyota. Deliberately, Michael took a few wrong turns, but the other driver followed, not even trying to be inconspicuous.

When he drove down the ramp into the parking garage under his apartment building, Michael was relieved to see that the Blazer did not follow him. Paula’s disappearance must be making him paranoid. As he rode the elevator up to his floor, his bandaged hand throbbed painfully. He was feeling light-headed too. Maybe a shower would sharpen him up before he made those phone calls.

Inside his apartment, Michael peeled off his windbreaker and tossed it onto the sofa. He was thinking about taking a couple of aspirin when the door buzzer sounded. Opening the door, he saw two men standing in the hallway. The taller one was balding and wore horn-rimmed eyeglasses. His companion was shorter with blond hair cropped into a military buzz cut. They could have been salesmen, except for the way that their eyes seemed to notice everything.

The taller man pulled out his billfold and flashed an identity card.

“Hi, Michael,” he said. “I’m Steve Wozniak from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.” He nodded toward his companion. “This is Chuck Horner from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“I suppose you’re the guys who followed me,” Michael said. “What’s the FBI doing in Toronto? I thought Canada was still a separate country.”

The blond man winced.

“That kind of attitude won’t help, Delaney,” Wozniak said. “We know about your radical activities.”

“Radical activities?”

“You marched with antiwar protesters in college and you worked for Amnesty International,” Wozniak said with a sneer.

“All very romantically leftist, but we’re not here about any of that crap. We’re interested in your girlfriend.”

“We think she’s supplying terrorist groups with biological warfare agents,” Horner said.

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Is it?” Wozniak asked. “Why else would she run away?”

Michael knew Paula well enough to be sure that the biological weapons story was bogus. Whatever she was mixed up in, it was nothing like that. Suddenly, he realized that these two jerks had no idea what Paula was doing in that shed, but they wanted to find out very badly.

“Look,” Michael said. “I’m not feeling too terrific. I plan to shower, maybe even go to bed. All I know is that Paula’s missing. If I knew more, I’d tell you. Now, please excuse me.”

“We’d like to come in for just five minutes,” Horner said.

“Not without a search warrant.”

“Have it your way, ” Wozniak said. He pulled a notepad from his jacket and scribbled on it with a ballpoint pen. Tearing out the page, he handed it to Michael. “Here’s my phone number. Call me if you think of anything.”

“Sure,” Michael said, taking the paper. He closed the door and locked it.

Suddenly, he felt uneasy and began looking around his apartment. At first, everything seemed to be where he had left it, then he noticed that the Toby mug next to his stereo was facing the wall. He never positioned it that way. No wonder those two cops had given up so easily. Somebody had searched his place already.

From now on, he could not be sure of any privacy. The people who broke in to search might have left behind listening devices and cameras to monitor his every move. All right. He would give them a show.

Michael went into his bathroom and turned the shower on. Stripping, he stepped under the spray of warm water, feeling it wash away some of his tension. He stuck his hand out from behind the shower curtain, making a rude gesture with his middle finger, just in case someone was watching.

Toweling himself dry, he went into his bedroom and lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling as he tried to make sense of what had happened. Where was Paula? Whom should he call first? Fatigue washed over him like a warm surf, and his eyes closed.

He was climbing a long, dark stairway in a strange building. A pool of light bathed the top of the stairs and he felt a mixture of longing and fear about what waited for him up there. Reaching the landing, he moved through a doorway into a room adorned with crimson tapestries. A solitary figure sat in a chair, facing away from him. Even from behind, he knew that it was Paula.

“Darling.” he said, touching her shoulder. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried about you.”

The figure turned toward him. Instead of Paula’s face, it had the head of a giant white rat. The creature squealed and sank its sharp teeth into his throat.

Michael sat up in bed, sweating and shuddering until the dream faded. His throat felt dry and he went into the bathroom to get some water. As he stood at the sink, he saw his reflection in the bathroom mirror and he dropped the drinking glass. The face staring back at him was his own, but younger. He felt as though he was looking at his college yearbook photo. What the hell was happening?

Peeling the adhesive bandage away from his palm, Michael saw that the cut was gone, leaving no scar behind. On the inside of his left forearm, he saw a small red mark in the shape of a butterfly with its wings open. Was he losing his mind? He had to find Paula. She would know.

Pulling on a blue shirt and gray slacks, he sat down at his personal computer. Somewhere in his e-mail address book, he had telephone numbers for a few of Paula’s friends. As he started the mail program, a message popped up, informing him that he had new mail. He did not recognize the sending address, but the subject line read “Hello, Darling”.

He opened the message and read:

Michael,

I'm so sorry that I had to go away without saying goodbye. I hope I haven't worried you too much. Maybe leaving suddenly was not such a brillig idea, but it was something I felt that I had to do.

Love, Paula

Michael stared at the message. What was it supposed to mean? He was surprised at the misspelling of the word “brilliant”. Paula was usually a meticulous writer. Wait a minute! What if it wasn’t a spelling error?

He started a web search engine and typed in the word “brillig”. A long list of site hits appeared and he selected the first one. On the screen, Michael saw the words:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe,

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

He recognized the first stanza from “The Jabberwock”, a nonsense poem from Lewis Carol’s “Alice In Wonderland”. He laughed. Thank God! Now, he knew where Paula was and he was sure she wanted him to meet her there. He had to find a way to join her without bringing along the people who were hunting her.

Pulling a small suitcase from a closet, Michael packed it with shaving gear and two changes of clothes. He rode the elevator down to the underground parking garage, put the suitcase into his Toyota and drove the car up into the street. As he moved north on Don Mills Road, he checked his car’s mirrors, but he saw no sign of pursuit. That was no surprise. By now, his two law enforcement buddies had probably hidden a tracer somewhere inside his Toyota, so they could monitor his movements remotely.

He parked at the Fairview Shopping Mall and carried his suitcase into the nearby Don Mills subway station. As he passed through the turnstile, a young man and a woman walked in behind him, holding hands. Were they really lovers or were they undercover cops? Michael was relieved when they got off at the first stop. He rode the westbound train to Yonge Street, then went south to Bloor Station, where he could be sure of finding a crowd.

At Bloor, he dashed into the mass of commuters waiting on the platform, used the stairs to cross over to the other side of the tracks and caught a train going back north again. He rode to the Finch Street Station, where he knew there was a car rental agency.

Twenty minutes later, Michael was driving a bronze Cavalier that was probably not bugged. The rental company insisted that all customers use credit cards, so the police would learn easily which car he had taken, but he might have a head start of a few hours. He hoped that would be time enough.

As he sped north on Highway 400, the gently rounded hills of Southern Ontario gave way to a more rugged landscape. By now, he realized that the changes in his body were connected with nicking himself on that piece of glass at the Dunston house. That glass splinter must have been contaminated with something. Was it possible that Paula really was mixed up in the making of toxic biological agents? If that were true, he might be dying already.

* * *

Two hours later, Michael was in Ten Thousand Islands country. A little south of Midland, he turned off onto a two-lane road. After driving ten more kilometers, he saw his destination ahead, The Jabberwock Inn. The resort was a collection of brick cottages clustered around a central office and dining room. Two years ago, shortly after they met, he and Paula stayed a week there and she loved the place. It had to be the answer to the clue in her message to him.

The tourist season was almost over and Michael saw only three or four cars parked on the grounds as he drove through the gate. He stopped outside of the motel office and walked into the front lobby. Behind the reception counter, a chubby teenage girl sat reading a magazine. She looked up at Michael and smiled, but her boredom showed through.

“Do you have a reservation?” she asked.

“A friend of mine came up here from Toronto about two days ago,” Michael said. “Her name is Paula Dunston. Which cottage is she in?”

The girl typed something at her registration terminal.

“Sorry, sir. We have nobody by that name.”

“Are you sure?” Michael asked. “She’s tall and pretty, with auburn hair.”

The girl’s smile vanished, but Michael saw a flicker of recognition when he described Paula.

“I’m sorry, sir. We can’t give out information about our guests.”

Michael pulled out his billfold and put a twenty-dollar bill onto the reception counter.

“I’d really appreciate your help,” he said.

The girl shook her head, but she was staring at the money. Paul put a second twenty on top of the first one. Glancing quickly around the room, the girl scooped up the bills and hid them between the pages of her magazine.

“Unit 16,” she said. “Around the back.”

Michael drove his Cavalier around the main building and saw Paula’s Volvo in front of Unit 16. Parking bedside her car, he walked up to the cottage and knocked. A few seconds later, the door was opened by someone who could have been Paula’s younger sister. She looked frightened.

“Paula, is that you?”

“Michael? Oh, my God! It’s got you too.”

Michael stepped inside and closed the door behind them. He pulled Paula close and kissed her.

“What happened to us?” he asked.

“It’s the virus,” she said. “How were you infected?”

He told her about cutting himself on the piece of test tube.

“Are we going to die?” he asked.

Paula laughed, a strained and nervous laugh.

“Worse.” she said. “I think we may be immortal.”

“Do you mind explaining that?”

“How much do you know about viruses, Michael?”

“Only that they make people sick.”

Paula nodded. “Yes, because they rearrange the nuclei of our cells to suit their own needs. Viruses are like clumsy tenants who damage the landlord’s furniture while moving it.”

“Like this?” Michael asked. He pulled up his left sleeve and showed Paula the red butterfly mark on his arm.

“I have one of those too,” Paula said. “It’s a side effect that I don’t understand yet. Anyway, my team at Lambda Labs was experimenting with corona viruses, the ones that cause SARS. We found a drug that triggered mutations. We hoped we could force the corona virus to change into something more benign that the body could cope with more easily.”

“What went wrong?” Michael asked.

“Some of the viruses mutated in the wrong direction. They became so lethal that they killed our lab animals almost instantly.”

“Was anyone planning to use them for germ warfare?”

“No. All of the deadly cultures were supposed to be destroyed, but one of our biologists has links to the Middle East. He was caught trying to sell one of the worst strains to a terrorist group.”

“How does all this tie in with the fire at your house?” Michael asked.

“I set the fire, Michael. I panicked when I found out the police were investigating. I wasn’t involved with terrorists, but I was doing something illegal.

One of the viruses I tested at the lab did something amazing. Not only did it not harm any of the test animals, it made them healthier. I infected a few mice that already had cancerous tumors. Within twenty-four hours, the tumors were gone. I even killed some animals with a huge overdose of anesthetic. The virus brought them back to life.”

“How is that possible?” Michael asked.

“I don’t know, but I think this new virus has developed the trait of reconstructing any damaged cells that it infects, to match the healthy cells around them. It’s a good tenant who repairs the furniture. Actually, there’s survival value for a virus in keeping its host alive.”

“How does it know which cells to copy?”

“I haven’t figured that out yet,” Paula said. “Anyway, I knew I had something too important for Lambda to exploit it for profit, so I hid the test results from my research team. I smuggled some cultures of the virus out, so that I could experiment in that shed.

“When the Mounties showed up at the lab, I was afraid I would be charged with something too. I went home and gave each of my experimental animals a lethal injection. Before the virus could bring them back, I sprayed everything with lawnmower gasoline and set the shed on fire.

While I was injecting the animals, one of the mice bit through my latex glove. At the time, I barely noticed because I was so intent on destroying the evidence. A few hours later, the virus began changing me. Well, you know about that part.”

“So, you’re telling me that we can’t die?” Michael asked.

“Well, If you get blown to pieces by an explosion, I doubt that the virus can put you back together. If it’s something like a heart attack, cancer or even a stab wound, then you’re going to be good as new.”

“Fascinating stuff,” Steve Wozniak said. He stood in the doorway with Chuck Horner grinning behind him.

“I got a spare key from the fat girl in the office,” Wozniak explained. “That must be your Cavalier outside, Delaney. You were smart, renting a car in case we bugged your Toyota. The joke is that we believed you when you told us you didn’t know anything. We didn’t follow you up here.”

“Then, how did you find us?” Michael asked.

“Simple,” Horner said. “We went back to see Mrs. Dunston again. She mentioned that you both spent some time here, a couple of years back. Steve and I decided to check the place out.”

“If you were listening to us a minute ago,” Michael said “then you know Paula wasn’t involved with any biological weapons.”

Wozniak shrugged.

“Who cares? Chuck and I have decided to let the other guys deal with that investigation. We suspected that your girlfriend was onto something much bigger than weapons and she just confirmed it. Do you have any idea how much some rich people would pay for immortality?”

“So, you’re going to sell us to the highest bidder,” Paula said.

“You make it sound so harsh,” Wozniak said, grinning. “Let’s just say that you two are part of our early retirement plan. Now, let’s go out to the car.”

“We’re going nowhere with you, turkey,” Michael said.

Wozniak slid his hand into his jacket and pulled out a gray 9mm Glock. He pointed the pistol at Michael and thumbed the safety off.

“Don’t push me, Delaney. I won’t lose any sleep if I have to pump a couple of bullets into you.”

“Won’t that spoil my market value?” Michael asked.

“Your girlfriend is the valuable one, not you. She developed the virus. Besides, I can just blow off both of your kneecaps and drag you out to the car. Now, are you going to walk out of here or do you get carried?”

“All right,” Michael said. “You win.”

“That’s better. Turn around, both of you. Chuck will cuff your hands behind your backs, just so you won’t get any cute ideas about escaping.”

Michael felt cold steel against his skin as Horner snapped handcuffs onto his wrists before doing the same thing to Paula. The two policemen then prodded their captives outside to where their vehicle was parked.

Wozniak opened the left rear door of the Blazer and pushed Paula in, behind the driver’s seat. Horner led Michael around to the other side of the SUV and shoved him in beside Paula. Horner took the front passenger seat, while Wozniak slid in behind the steering wheel, pushing the button that locked all four doors, so that Michael and Paula could not throw themselves from the vehicle.

Wozniak started the engine and shifted the Blazer into gear. A few minutes later, they had left The Jabberwock Inn behind and they were speeding down the highway. While Wozniak drove, Horner swiveled around in his seat to look back at the prisoners. He was chewing gum, but he wore a solemn expression.

“I feel sorry for you two,” he said. “I really do.”

“What’s going to happen to us?” Paula asked.

“You’re a bright girl. Figure it out. You destroyed all the test animals and the virus cultures, so we just have you.”

“I’m not sure I can recreate the virus. It was a random mutation.”

“Don’t need to recreate it, Honey. You both have it in your blood.”

“So, we’re your lab mice now, is that it?” Michael asked.

“Exactly,” Horner said. “There are lots of rich people who are old and sick. They’ll pay anything we ask for a chance to live forever. It should be easy to extract the virus from your blood and inject it into anybody who can pay for it. Of course, those people aren’t stupid. They’ll want to run lots of tests on you, to be sure it’s no hoax. They may even kill you a couple of times, to find out whether the virus will bring you back. You may live forever, but you’ll be just milk cows for anybody who can afford you.”

Michael tasted the sour bile of despair in his mouth as he realized that Horner was right. Even if he and Paula could escape from these two vultures, they were marked by the changes the virus had made to their bodies.

Wherever they fled, they would be hunted by people driven by greed or by fear of death. He slumped back in his seat, sick with the knowledge that he and Paula were truly damned.

Michael realized that he was staring at the back of Wozniak’s head and an idea flashed into his mind. It might be their only chance. He braced his manacled hands against the seat behind him, waiting for the right moment. Just as a huge black diesel truck sped toward them from the opposite direction, Michael threw his body forward into the gap between the Blazer’s front bucket seats and sank his teeth into the lobe of Wozniak’s right ear.

Wozniak yelled in pain, wrenching the steering wheel to the left as he jerked his head away from Michael’s attack.

“Jesus!” Horner screamed. “Look out.”

The Blazer crossed over into the oncoming lane, directly into the path of the oncoming diesel truck. With only seconds to spare, Wozniak swerved back over to the right hand side of the road. The truck roared by, its horn blaring. Wozniak drove the SUV up onto the highway shoulder and braked to a hard stop. Pulling his pistol from his jacket, he turned to look back at Michael, his face twisted with rage.

“All right, Delaney, I’m going to finish you right here.”

“You don’t get it, Wozniak,” Michael shouted. “You’re one of us now.”

“What?”

“My saliva contains the virus and your ear is bleeding. That means your bloodstream is infected. Within a couple of hours, the microbes will start to change you. You wanted to sell us for big money. Well, now Horner here will want to sell you.”

“Don’t listen to his BS,” Horner said. “Shoot him.”

“Everybody shut up,” Wozniak said. “I need time to think.”

The Mountie was sweating, shaken by what had happened.

“Don’t lose your cool, Steve,” Horner said. “Remember our plan.”

“Easy for you to say, Horner. You don’t have bugs in your blood. Maybe Delaney’s right. Maybe you will sell me out, if I let you.”

“Don’t worry,” Michael said. “I know he will get a good price for you.”

Horner cursed and reached into his jacket for his own gun.

“If you won’t shoot this guy, then I will,” he said.

Before Horner could pull out his pistol, Wozniak fired. The bullet hit Horner in the face, slamming his head against the Blazer’s front window and leaving a bloody mess on the glass. The FBI man’s body sprawled in its seat like a broken doll.

“I never did trust that bastard,” Wozniak said.

“Undo my handcuffs,” Michael said.

“Fat chance.”

“I’m serious, Wozniak. We’re on a public highway, in the daytime, and you have a dead body in your car. What if you get stopped by a routine police check? I can help you to drag Horner into the bushes. Nobody will find him for days.”

“I can do that myself,” Wozniak said.

“The two of us can do it easier.”

“And why are you suddenly so helpful, Delaney?”

“I told you. All three of us are marked now. We’ll be hunted by the same people you were going to peddle us to. We have to work together.”

Wozniak rummaged through Horner’s pockets and pullet out the handcuff keys. He came around to the back of the Blazer and opened the door as Michael turned his back and held out his manacled arms.

“Don’t get any cute ideas, Delaney,” Wozniak said, “Remember that I have a gun and I’ve whacked one guy already.”

He unlocked the handcuffs and Michael rubbed his sore wrists.

“Don’t worry about me,” Michael said. “I don’t see any more cars coming after this red Pontiac. After it goes by, take Horner’s feet and I’ll grab him under the arms.”

The two men lifted the dead FBI agent out of the vehicle, carrying him to the side of the road and down a slope where the body would be out of sight of the highway. Wozniak nodded and they dropped Horner’s corpse into the tall grass.

“All right,” Michael said. “Let’s get out of here.”

Wozniak pulled his pistol and pointed it at Michael.

“Sorry, Delaney, but I’ll travel faster alone.”

Michael closed his eyes and all hope drained out of him as he waited for the bullet. What was taking Wozniak so long? Opening his eyes, he noticed that the Mountie was trembling so hard that his gun hand was shaking.

“Feeling queasy, Wozniak?” Michael taunted. “It’s the virus.”

Wozniak fired as Michael sprang forward, but dizziness affected his aim. Michael felt a searing pain in his left arm, but he managed to grab Wozniak’s wrist with both of his hands and wrench the gun away from him. He slammed the pistol barrel hard against the side of Wozniak’s head, sending the Mountie’s glasses flying. Wozniak fell to his knees and Michael hit him again.

Wozniak fell face forward into the grass, shuddered, then lay still.

Michael’s heart was pounding and he gasped for breath. He felt drained emotionally, but this was no time to let down his guard. Fumbling through the pockets of Wozniak’s jacket, he found the handcuff keys and the ignition key for the Blazer. He took them and ran back to the parked vehicle. Paula was ecstatic to see him.

“Thank God you’re all right!” she said. “What happened? I heard a shot. Michael, there’s blood on your shirt.”

Pulling his left sleeve up, Michael saw a furrow in the flesh of his arm where the bullet had grazed him. Already, the bleeding had stopped and the wound was turning pink. It seemed to heal before his eyes. At the rate the virus was repairing him, there would be no trace of an injury within an hour.

“I can explain everything later,” Michael said as he freed Paula’s wrists. “Wozniak is unconscious. If he’s smart, he’ll run when he wakes up. We have to get out of here quickly. How did you send that e-mail message to me?”

“I phoned a friend of mine who lives in Vancouver. I asked her to send it from a cybercafe, so it would be harder to trace.”

“Good. Do you think she would put us up for a few days?”

“I don’t know, Michael. She might. Why?”

Michael started the Blazer and turned out onto the highway.

“As soon as we get back to Toronto, we have to lose this vehicle,” he said. “People will be looking for it. Do you have your bank card with you?”

“Sure.”

“With your bank card and mine, we should be able to withdraw enough cash for two one-way tickets to Vancouver, plus a few dollars for taxi fare to Pearson Airport. We can’t go back home for clothes or anything else. Our places will be watched. I don’t know anything about being a fugitive, but we’ll have to learn. From now on, that’s what we are.”

“Michael, what’s going to happen to us?”

“I don’t know.”

As they sped south toward Toronto, Michael thought about how mankind had dreamed of immortality since the dawn of history. Now he and Paula were going to live that dream. Be careful what you wish for, Michael told himself grimly. *

About the Author: George J. Condon, after serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, worked in several career fields before finding his niche as a computer security specialist with The Bank of Nova Scotia. George and his wife live in Toronto, where they enjoy what that great city has to offer while trying at the same time to survive those cold Canadian winters. George has published stories previously in Aphelion Science Fiction and in Planet Magazine.
(c) 2005 George J. Condon george_condon@myway.com

About the Artist: Patrick Stacy, like many before, started young. His main emphasis in childhood was in comics. Never content, the challenge was then to illustrate freehand — now that would be talent. Early influences are still inspirational today, such as the legendary Frazetta, Vallejo, and Parrish. Classical influences were Rubens and Caravaggio. Stacy was winner of the L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future contest in 1996 and has two illustrations within the volume.
(c) 2005 Patrick Stacy Patrick Stacy

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