Elliot said, "But if racing to keep up with the Chinese—or the Russians or the Iraqis—
can create situations like the one we've got here, where an innocent child gets ground up
in the machine, then aren't we just becoming monsters too? Aren't we letting our fears of
the enemy turn us into them? And isn't that just another way of losing the war?"
Dombey nodded. As he spoke, he smoothed the spikes of his mustache. "That's the same
question I've been wrestling with ever since Danny got caught in the gears. The problem
is that some flaky people are attracted to this kind of work because of the secrecy and
because you really do get a sense of power from designing weapons that can kill millions
of people. So megalomaniacs like Tamaguchi get involved. Men like Aaron Zachariah
here. They abuse their power, pervert their duties. There's no way to screen them out
ahead of time. But if we closed up shop, if we stopped doing this sort of research just
because we were afraid of men like Tamaguchi winding up in charge of it, we'd be
conceding so much ground to our enemies that we wouldn't survive for long. I suppose
we have to learn to live with the lesser of the evils."
Tina removed an electrode from Danny's neck, carefully peeling the tape off his skin.
The child still clung to her, but his deeply sunken eyes were riveted on Dombey.
"I'm not interested in the philosophy or morality of biological warfare," Tina said. "Right
now I just want to know how the hell Danny wound up in this place."
"To understand that," Dombey said, "you have to go back twenty months. It was around
then that a Chinese scientist named Li Chen defected to the United States, carrying a
diskette record of China's most important and dangerous: new biological weapon in a
decade. They call the stuff 'Wuhan-400' because it was developed at their RDNA labs
outside of the city of Wuhan, and it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made
microorganisms created at that research center.
"Wuhan-400 is a perfect weapon. It afflicts only human beings. No other living creature
can carry it. And like syphilis, Wuhan-400 can't survive outside a living human body for
longer than a minute, which means it can't permanently contaminate objects or entire
places the way anthrax and other virulent microorganisms can. And when the host
expires, the Wuhan-400 within him perishes a short while later, as soon as the
temperature of the corpse drops below eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit. Do you see the
advantage of all this?"
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