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What is something the fox hasn't got?


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What is something the fox hasn't got?

 

The telephone rang inside the large office, located inside the headquarter of the Committee for State Security, the national security agency of the Great Queendom. The man sitting behind the desk reached for the phone picked it up and said:

"Yes?"

"Is this Comrade Dimir?"

"Yes..."

"Good. I'm Horia Nica from the local office of district 27. There's been an incident in the city of Turda."

"It better be important Comrade as you decided you needed to take up part of my VERY precious time..."

"Well... Yes... It is important. There seems to be an epidemic breaking out."

"EPIDEMIC!? What has that to do with us?! And why didn't you contact the health authorities instead?! You must know Comrade it is a crime to deliberately obstruct the work of the committee, especially when it comes to such important work such as mine!"

"Bu.. But it's not a normal epidemic you see, there's been several cases of a disease a ... "

The deputy chief of the directorate interrupted him.

"What disease is it?! Spit it out!"

"It's Variola."

"Variola?! What is that?"

"It's more commonly known as smallpox"

"Smallpox? Smallpox is eradicated Comrade. Is this a joke? If it is I'm certainly not amused."

"It's not a joke. We are still waiting for the lab results, but we're quite certain it's smallpox, it can't possibly be something else. We've out ruled chickenpox which was the initial diagnosis."

"Smallpox... But... How? That's impossible."

"I know Comrade deputy chief, that is why I thought it necessary to inform you, and to do so personally."

"That... That was the right thing to do Comrade. We must investigate this... Have your office initiated an investigation of your own?"

"We've tried to gather as much information as possible, but we haven't initiated an official investigation, as we need a special permission from the directorate in order to investigate matters that doesn't normally fall under our jurisdiction."

"Yes, yes. You may initiate an official investigation. We'll send agents which will head it and you will do what you can in order to assist them. And if all of this is what you think it is, it's a class one matter of national security and you will act accordingly."

"Affirmative. I have sent you all the information we have gathered. It's not much, but we hope that it's enough to base an investigation on."

"I'll start making the arrangements right now, you will hear from us in about an hour. You start investigating."

"Yes Comrade."

 

Deputy chief Dimir put down the phone. He looked puzzled. Many thoughts went through his head. Could it really be true? The local office did have to be quite certain in order to dare report such a thing. If it was true... How? After all smallpox had been eradicated for years. Could it be some sort of biological warfare? If so terrorists would probably be behind it. But how would they have been able to acquire and spread the virus? Comrade Dimir looked up the city of Turda, it was a small city, only 70.000 inhabitants and located in a quiet part of the country. Why there? He thought. After going through some of his thoughts for a few minutes he left his office to go directly to the chief of the directorate and report it so that an emergency meeting could be held.

 

 

 

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A senior scientist, prof. dr. T.S. Gekkor, was working in the remote microbiology lab at a secure location within the borders of the Grand Duchy. His days in the actual lab were long since history, but he still liked to do wander around and see his former students at work. This evening there were just a few people around, most had gone home for the weekend, but there were always a few experiments going on that needed constant attention. Most of these were part of a project with the unimpressive name of ‘TD-24’, one of several projects of its type. This one in particular focussed on using viruses to do their job, but with a few modifications. Being the last day of the week, the professor focussed on checking the administration.

 

This is odd... he mumbled to himself as he noticed that two separate registrations of the viruses in stock did not match up. Tara, can you come to my office please?

A few seconds later a young and beautiful looking woman entered his room, her auburn hair carefully tucked away underneath a hairnet. What is it, grandpa?

Who worked with the Variola strain this week? I thought those were not up for some tests until we finished the current Yersinia trial was completed...

Variola..? You sure that strain was used?

Here, look at the numbers yourself.

 

Tara looked at the file and a look of shock appeared on her face. Without saying another word she stormed out of the office and to the section of the lab where all the viruses were kept. There dr. T. Gekkor quickly went through the records and noticed that only one card had been used to access the Variola strain: hers.

 

Not again...

Not again, what?

Professor Marhollo, I-I didn’t know you were here.

The woman smiled, obviously fake. Come now, do you really think I did not check the administration before you grandfather did? You are a genius at what you do with the viruses, but you are very clumsy when it comes to keeping track of your stuff.

I had only lost my swipecard for two hours, I swear! Tara replied a bit too quickly. It was in my desk when I found it again. So, no one could’ve taken it.

That’s what you say. The CCTV, however, sais something else. If you don’t have a proper explanation, you are facing serious charges...

 

Professor Marhollo snapped her fingers and four soldiers appeared. Knowing what was going on, Tara simple sighed and allowed herself to be arrested. Clearly there had been a deeper investigation in this matter and if she was somehow linked to it, she truly was in trouble. If any of the materials used here left this base it meant a serious risk, likely to cause international problems too. But she knew she did not do a single thing wrong. She was a klutz when it came to keeping track of her things. This too was not her first arrest, but every time she got cleared of all charges. This time, however, she knew something fishy was going on. She lent our her swipecard every now and then to allow someone to collect a few samples. But Variola? Tara knew she never requested those, nor every receiving any...

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Agents Dana Sculianu and Vulpe Muldescu, both part of the X-7 team, were sitting in a private compartment on the train from the airport to Turda.

 

"But Comrade Muldescu, don't you think we should consider the possibility of a foreign nation attacking us by using biological warfare?"

"Well, Sculianu, there is always the possibility. But it's unlikely. Why would they attack us in such a small scale. It won't harm us and will only provoke war."

"What if they wanted to frame another nation in order to start a war?"

"A possibility. But still why would they do it in such a small scale, and shouldn't they in some way have left or given us something that would allow us to pin the incident on someone? And also we can't officially start investigating such a trace. If there's any talk of a potential foreign attack on Suverina the military will get involved, and the military intelligence will want to conduct their own investigation. And that will severely hinder and obstruct our own."

"You're right. But do terrorists seem all that more likely?"

"Don't know. Not really I suppose. But perhaps the most likely of many possible scenarios."

"Everything about this case seems so unlikely and impossible. Smallpox - if it actually is smallpox - is in itself an impossible thing to break out. And when it's in such a small confined area it's hard to believe that someone did it in order to harm us. Besides, we have vaccine so we can stop it from spreading."

"A mystery. Perhaps it's an evil supervillain?"

"Muldescu... Stop joking around. This is serious."

"I'm just trying to figure out all possible causes."

"Muldescu..."

"Alright, alright. So who is it we will be working with from the local office?"

"Horia Nica. He's a rather young but promising talent, climbing fast on the career ladder within the committee. It's because he insisted so much that the local office started looking in to the incident in Turda. When one of the doctors suggested that it was smallpox, Nica thought it was worth looking into, even though the other responsible doctors had instantly dismissed the idea. Nica had an agent with medical education go undercover to get information from the doctor, she also persuaded the doctor to stick with his theory so it could be investigated further."

"Sculianu. I figured it all out. I solved the case."

"What?"

"It's Nica. He's responsible. He's the supervillain. In order to help his career and get a great job at the head office he somehow obtained the virus so that he could infect people so that he could solve the case and frame someone innocent in order for him to achieve his goal. It's not exactly world domination, but only fictional supervillains go after that."

 

Agent Sculianu rolled her eyes and sighed. She folded up a newspaper and started reading it. Muldescu smiled, started looking out through the window at the passing landscape, sinking deep into in his own thoughts.

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Four concrete walls and a solid steel door is the only way out. Several fluorescents provided a cold, pale light, one of course had the habit of flickering every now and then. It was no secret that the big mirror on the wall left of the door was a one way mirror, but who was standing behind it was a question dr. T. Gekkor could not answer fully. She knew prof. Marhollo was there, but the others? Last time she was here, on the same wobbly steel chair, two men questioned her. The tried the classic good cop, bad cop routine on her. Frankly, she was quite offended by it. Tara had, besides her MD a PhD in criminal psychology. Curious and slightly amused the doctor smiled as the door opened and a familiar face entered.

 

Doc’, we meet again, the bald officer spoke, smiling in the same way as she did.

Detective. Too bad we meet again in this room.

’t is. Seems ya’ve a knack of gettin’ into trouble, he replied, much more friendly than last time, but in the same, horrible accent that sounded like a crash course of all Jilder and Ugerian dialects. ’ahm sorry we’ve gotta put ya through dhis again. We’ve been trackin’ the activity of your group for a while now.

With disbelief Tara shook her head. You have..? Why didn’t you tell me?

We know how clumsy ya are, spilling the secret is somethin’ we cannot use. We faked your arrest in order to put all suspicion on you. You’re to remain here for as long as we think ya need be. Which, I truly am sorry to say, can be quite a while.

Over the intercom another familiar voice could be heard. We arranged comfortable lodging for you, for as far your future site allows that, so don’t fear that you need to stay in that cell forever.

...just where exactly are you taking me?

Officially ya’re goin’ to the military prison in Prondal, but we’re taking you to a secure location outside our official jurisdiction.

Professor... Who was it on the CCTV that got the virus?

Silence followed at first, but as the she responded, at least three other voices could be heard through the intercom on the background. We will provide you with a copy of the documents. For now it is safe to say that an experiment went into the field in a way we had not planned and it concerns the stolen Variola strain.

 

Just as soon as the doctor was moved to this military prison, that quickly she was moved out again. After being guided to a helicopter she went airborne and headed out. A military airfield half an hour out was the first destination. Unable to take a proper look around, the black of night hid most things, Tara was quickly forced into an aircraft. The exact shape of it she did not see, but it was black and fairly small. In there the professor too was present, but instead of wearing her familiar suit she was wearing something that could come straight from a superhero movie.

 

Doctor, if you like it or not, you are now part department 39, the Ducal Institution for Spying for Counterintelligence, also known as D.I.S.C.. We are currently heading for one of our mobile bases in the Amnalos Sea. You will prepped there for some fieldwork. First, read this.

 

The professor handed Tara a tablet with the information that was promised to her. Well, part of it anyway. Large sections were still missing, simply labelled with ‘Top Secret’ and pretty much every name in there was erased. Only her name popped up every now and then. Whatever this was, they had been aware of it for quite some time and did nothing. For as far as this document showed, the Ducal Chamber could actually have ordered this. At an unknown location the virus had been used on humans. All the professor told her was that she was about to be sent out to see the effects on humans first hand. Why this required D.I.S.C. and all the secrecy, Tara could only wonder.

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The train rolled into the central station of Turda. As the train stopped, the doors opened and agent agents Sculianu and Muldescu stepped down onto the station platform, number 14 A. Sculianu quickly let her eyes sweep across the station.

 

"Wow. Very impressive. A prime example of Art de nouveau. Do you see the beautiful arched ceilings with stained glass? And over there, that whole wall is mosaic. And all beautiful wooden ornaments every where!"

Muldescu looked up, he hadn't really listened to what she said.

"Art d... What?"

"Art de nouveau. It's a style of art and architecture that was popular between about 1890 and 1910. This station seems to be an exemplary example of such architecture."

Muldescu looked surprised. He knew that she know a lot of things and had many interests, but he couldn't recall her ever talking about architecture.

"Oh, so you're interested in architecture. I didn't know that."

Sculianu sighed and rolled her eyes.

"I've told you about 50 times before."

She said with a slight bitterness in her voice.

 

Muldescu didn't reply, instead gave her a smile, and his face assumed that charming boyish look that was so characteristic of him. Sculianu had a hard time getting mad at him when he put that look on, besides, she was used to him being like that. Together they walked along down the platform to get to the lobby. In the large lobby, Sculianu almost literally dropped her jaw. The architecture was splendid and beautiful, almost mesmerising. While Sculianu stood and looked around the room agent Muldescu bought some of the local newspapers at a news stand.

Muldescu saw Sculianu just standing in awe, he jokingly hit her in the head with a newspaper. She reacted as if she had just been woken up.

 

"Did someone hypnotize you, Sculianu?"

"The beauty of this building almost did. But let's go outside now. Nica will be waiting for us outside. I see you bought some newspapers."

"Just doing my job, researching a little bit of what kind of place this is and what goes on."

"I see there's a comic book there as well. Also research?"

"Just to have some fun and relaxing when I get a few spare minutes. You should try having fun sometime, you might enjoy it."

 

A cute little laughter almost giggly slipped out of her mouth. But then she thought, even though he had meant it as just a joke, there was some seriousness to it. She rarely did anything besides working. She couldn't even remember the last time she spent her free time just relaxing. She didn't mind it, but she didn't want to go on like that forever. She wanted something else some day.

 

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A picture from the interior of Turda main railway station.

 

Horia Nica watched Sculianu and Muldescu as they went out through the station's main entrance. He recognized them from the photos in the case file. They recognised him to, at least Sculianu did, and they started walking towards him. Nica observed them as they walked. Sculiany was wearing a grey suit with a white blouse, with only the top button unbuttoned. Her auburn hair reached just down to the shoulders. She looked cute, smart and professional. Nica's eyes wandered over to Muldescu, he was wearing an ordinary black suit and a white shirt. His white and blue tie was quite loose and his top button wasn't buttoned. Quite sloppy, Nica remarked to himself. Muldescu's clothing had not at all impressed Nica, but his face would. When Nica's eyes rested upon the face of Muldescu Nica noticed that Muldescu was a handsome man. VERY handsome ha added to himself. Manly face,nice brown hair and amazing green eyes. Nica didn't just find Muldescu handsome, he thought of him as beautiful. Nica had to interrupt his own thoughts, they seemed to be heading towards thoughts that weren't at all professional.

 

When Sculianu and Muldescu had reached the spot Nica greeted them with a nod and said:

"I'm Comrade Horia Nica and I suppose you two are the ones I'm waiting for if I'm not mistaken."

"I'm Comrade Dana Sculianu and this is..."

Muldescu interrupted her.

"Vulpe Muldescu. Pleased to meet you."

Sculianu elbowed Muldescu in his side. He looked at her and she looked angry.

"Yes, me and COMRADE Muldescu are very pleased to meet you."

"I'm very pleased to meet the both of you as well Comrades."

Nica looked smilingly at both, but his eyes rested a few seconds longer upon the face of Muldescu.

"Let me take you to the car so that we can go to where we've established our temporary office."

 

Nica walked them to the car, helped them to put the their baggage in the trunk and then went in and sat behind the wheel. As soon as the agents had gotten into the car the quickly drove of.

"I hope you don't have any high expectations on our temporary headquarter. It's an old office located in a basement. It's not easy to find a good and secure location on such short notice. But we're starting to get things organised. When we get there we'll hold a briefing to get you up to speed and also you'll meet the rest of us from the local office. Hopefully the rest of your team will have arrived in a couple of hours so we'll be at full strength."

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Quicker than expected the airplane they were in descended again, touching down on some runway that was still well within the Jilder borders.

 

I thought we were heading for a mobile base? Tara asked quite surprised when she saw this.

The professor said: we are, you are not just yet. We cannot waste any more time than we already have, the infection has started to spread. On your way to the site you’ll receive a crash course in how to deal with the matter. I’m sorry, but we will talk more at the base.

 

As the professor said this a new message popped up on the tablet of Tara. It stated quite briefly that nine more prisoners and one guard showed an elevated body temperature and were immediately placed in quarantine. Just as she was reading some details, the door of the plane was opened and she alone needed to debark. With just a few meters between her and that black craft, the door closed again and its two engines roared with power. The gust of wind that followed almost knocked Tara of her feet. At the side of the runway two agents gestured her to follow them. A van of the justice department awaited her, the inside had been converted into a crude office. Once inside the van drove off.

 

Okay, what do I need to do? Tara simply asked, knowing that she had little choice but to cooperate.

 

Besides the lack of choice, her inner doctor popped up too. She had studies microbiology and of all the pathogens she had worked with, Tara had only seen one in the field before. The opportunity to see an effectively extinct disease as smallpox at work was wonderful. Or so she thought. Ethics never were her strong point and, unknown to her, that was exactly one of the reasons she was chosen to work at the facility that she did.

In reply to her question a senior officer, who identified himself with designation OP-47, explained the situation. Two other agents grabbed a chemsuit form and helped Tara to get in it, which was a daunting task given the bad quality of the road here, as she listened to the story. With twenty patients at Dwalona the medical facility there was stretched to its limits. The two groups of patients had been placed into quarantine, each within a separate room close to the medical bay. Every staff member with some basic medical knowledge would be placed under direct command of ‘the doctor’, which meant Tara, and together they were to gather samples, attempt treatment and, above all, perform detailed observations. Tests had already classified the strain of virus as a weaponised version of the Variola virus. Suspect 1, the still mysterious person they arrested at Tara’s workplace, was still being interrogated, but the CCTV images were irrefutable.

After an hour’s worth of driving the site was reached. A double fence separated it from the outside world and an small invasion of military personnel patrolled the area to make sure nothing could come or go unseen. The main administration building was separate from all other buildings, this functioned as the HQ now, but it was not where Tara was going. The three wings of the prison compound were joined at a central place where the entrance to it all was. Just to the right of this building was the complex that also hosted the medical department.

 

Tara sighed before entering the complex, knowing that she would not be able to get some rest for quite a few hours. Let’s do this.

 

Old image of the Dwalona site, taken two years after opening.

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They parked on a small parking lot next to an old office building. It seemed as it was used by the national telephone company. Nica got out, opened the trunk and said.

"You better take your luggage with you Comrades, we don't know yet where you'll sleep tonight yet. And there's our entrance!"

He pointed an entrance to the basement, the doors were large safe dull grey metal doors.

"You will be handed swipe cards and a code so you can access the building."

They walked towards the entrance. Nica used his swipe card, entered the code and then opened the door. A few steps of stairs led them down to a small room. Two soldiers armed with automatic carbines were guarding the entrance to the rest of the basement.

"This is our security check, everyone going out and in must identify themselves. The guards will also take notes of when you arrive or leave. If anyone intends on bringing unauthorized persons, they must be given temporary authorization in advance."

After the three agents had identified themselves and went through the security check the next room they entered was the lobby.

"And here on your left is the reception, usually manned by Comrade Florea, apart from manning the reception her job is to keep track at what goes on and work with co-ordinating the whole operation."

The small woman behind the reception looked very timid.

"Good day Comrades. Welcome to our headquarter for this investigation. I keep track of what's going here, sort of being the spider in the net. If you need information, come to me, and if I don't have it, I'll find someone who does."

Agent Muldescu replied her:

"Very good to know Comrade... Florea, was it?.Flower, a very pretty surname Comrade."

Florea hesitated a bit before replying, she thought about that complimenting her surname probably didn't count as an inappropriate personal compliment.

"Thank you, Comrade...?"

"Muldescu, the name's Muldescu. And this here is Comrade agent Sculianu."

Muldescu smiled. Sculianu was about to greet Florea but Nice interrupted.

"Comrade Florea, please call a meeting so we can start right away with briefing the agents."

"Yes, Comrade!"

Nica showed them to a conference room a few meters down the corridor.

"Please sit down Comrades, the others will be here within a few minutes. And you can take out your computer tablets so you'll have the case file before you."

In to the room came a woman. Sculianu immediately noticed her long luscious blond her which was let out. It was aginst regulations for personnel with such long hair not to have it tied up. Sculianu wondered how she could get away with such an obvious breach of protocol.

"Hello! I guess you're Comrades Sculianu and Muldescu. I'm agent Vlad. I'm also a doctor of medicine and have as such been working as the investigation's medical expert. I have also been working undercover in the field, posing as an assisting doctor at the hospital where all the epidemic patients are. I'm looking forward to be working with you, and the rest of your team. You have quite the reputation."

"Well, Comrade, as soon as the others get here I thought that you'd start the briefing and when you're done with the medical part I'll take over."

"Sure!"

Agent Vlad smiled. She was wearing black trousers, a red cardigan with a white tank top beneath it.

A few others joined around the conference table and agent Vlad stood up and started to speak:

"So, the reason we called this meeting is as you know to brief Comrade agents Muldescu and Sculianu about the situation. The rest of the X-7 team should arrive soon as well. Things have deteriorated quite a bit since yesterday. There have now been a total of five deaths, twenty seven more are infected and about a hundred kept in quarantine. The final tests will done sometime during the night. We're quite positive it's Variola and the initial test indicate it as well. As you might know, there are certain protocols to follow when there's a confirmed outbreak of such a serious disease. That means we'll go into what we call "emergency mode". We're preparing a strategy for it should be handled on our part. We must make sure it is dealt with in the best and safest way as possible. We must also be able to continue our investigation. But we'll get back to that later. Now, let's take it from the beginning.

 

We don't know that much, but it's been established that the outbreak started with nine year-old Victor Spirlea. Eight days ago Victor fainted, having serious influenza symptoms. He was brought to the hospital and treated there because he had so serious symptoms. The next morning he had started to develop a skin rash. Shortly thereafter macules started to appear in his forehead and kept spreading. The next day the macules became raised papules. It was also that day that other cases were being started to be reported. The day after that, four days ago, the papules became filled with an opalescent fluid to become vesicles. Which then gives them the appearance of pustules. What is quite extraordinary is that two days later, the pustules had fully matured and started leaking fluid. That usually takes about five days. Two days later Victor passed away. Cause of death couldn't be certainly determined as is usual with Variola cases. The other deaths have been similar. This Variola virus seems very aggressive and develops rapidly. We haven't yet been allowed to vaccinate the infected, which is a shame as vaccine significantly lessen the severity of the symptoms and modify the severity of the disease itself. But we have to wait until it's fully confirmed that it actually is Variola before we start vaccinate.

We haven't yet found a reason why Victor was the first case and how he could have been infected. But what little we know and the timeline is available to you in the case file."

 

 

OOC: Part two will come in a few days.

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Exhausted and drained from working 15 hours straight, dr. Tara had fallen asleep on a hospital bed herself, still wearing her chemsuit. The people around her let her be, but could not help but to make quite a lot of noise. With the smallpox present in this prison, everyone had to make sure it did not leave this place. Tara had spent most of her time collecting samples, studying them under the microscope and trying to figure out how to prevent anyone from dying. From the first wave of patients, two had taken a turn for the worse. As well as they could her team provided fluids and antiviral drugs, but kidney failure was a risk with those and that had to be prevented. So far it had not helped a single thing.

The doctor was quite pleased with her team. Without question they did what was told to them, when she forgot something herself they did not hesitate to tell her. Nurse J. Helna, the one who first noticed that this event was something unusual, had proved to be a great asset to Tara. The nurse had done a minor during her training in pathogenic, which was very useful now; the fact that she was a no-nonsense and hands-on type of woman meant that nurse Helna quickly took the role of number 2 within the medical part of this assignment.

 

In the meanwhile, on the far away mobile base of D.I.S.C., professor Marhollo just finished a very long emergency meeting.

As she walked out, closely followed by a colleague, she sighed. That man should be shot... What he has done most likely will kill to many innocent lives and might cause quite a stir, not only within our own borders.

I know, ma’am, he carefully smiled, I am not saying that I disagree, but...

...but what!? Field testing of pathogens needs to be cleared by the Ducal Chamber, not a lucky by-product of some renegade organisation that might have ties with who knows what sort of terrorist group!

Luckily we know how much has been stolen and we can make a good guess how much of it has been used here. Assuming that the group has no way of multiplying the virus, we...

The professor raised her hand, causing her colleague to quickly fall silent. She did not want to hear another thing. It was time for a good lunch. This meeting had prevented her from having a proper breakfast. All prof. Marhollo could hope was that this stuff had not left the nation. Also, something did not quite match op chronologically, suggesting that this was not the first time a strain of Variola was stolen. But was that from one of the Jilder facilities or abroad? Only one way to find out: start digging through a lot of paperwork and ordering a total investigation of the nation’s stockpiles.

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