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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Director Franks had stomach ulcers

            Director Franks had stomach ulcers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Dyspepsia, migraines, anxiety and his hair had gone white prematurely before falling out completely. He had always been a thin man, but since taking the job as Director of the FBI, he had lost a significant amount of weight due to his lack of sleep and the amount of stress that was put upon him. However, according to Fawn Carpenter, his secretary who had been there since J. Edgar Hoover was instated, he was actually holding up better than most of the Directors who had sat in his chair.

            He was just gulping down his eighth cup of coffee and a pill the size of a horse tranquilizer when there was a knock on the door and Fawn wandered inside, “Excuse me, sir. Agents Steele, Thomas and Caussyn would like a word with you.”

            Franks choked down the pill and grunted, “Sure. Why not?”

            Fawn nodded and blinked her gigantic, rheumy eyes at him and nodded before tottering back outside. Franks made a note to buy her some geriatric footwear for Christmas, but the three women hurrying inside interrupted his thoughts.

            “Well, what brings the entire basement up to see me all at once?”

            Christie cleared her throat; “Actually, I have some information on the Liberty Cross situation that I think you will be interested in seeing. I had Agent Caussyn cross-reference and verify my findings. And Agent Thomas is here because you made her my shadow.”

            “What are your findings, Agent Steele?” Director Franks asked wearily, aware of the flashes in his vision that usually heralded the beginnings of a horrendous migraine.

            Christie set a printout on his desk and cleared her throat, “Deaths. An absurd amount in Missouri.”

            “You are sounding like a broken record, Agent Steele. Your data on the dead and missing people in Liberty Cross is how we discovered the outbreak in the first place.”

“I know, but when I found the outbreak I didn’t see the whole picture. Here is all of our data about killings for the past month: there have been twenty total in a fifty mile radius of Liberty Cross, and five more in the month before that.”

            Director Franks frowned, “That seems like a mistake.”

            “It isn't, sir.” Taylor cut in, “I thought so too until I triple checked the system and cross-referenced all of these cases. If we follow the pattern here, it means that the outbreak in Liberty Cross is consistent with the other killings. It looks like whoever perpetrated the crimes in the surrounding area was in our favorite small town at the outbreak’s onset.”

            “Meaning that this outbreak could very well could have been created artificially,” Christie continued, “It could be an attack.”

            Franks looked over the sheet and nodded slowly, “You think that this outbreak could actually be a viral weapon?”

            Christie looked over her shoulder at Agent Thomas, who cleared her throat, “Sir, given my experience both in the field and as an analyst, I can’t in good conscience disregard their findings. If this is a weapon of some sort, all of the CDC agents who went there to contain it are at risk. This thing could wipe them out and spread even faster if we don’t get them to right information.”

            The director pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a long breath, “I can’t ignore that possibility either. We lost contact with our CDC liaison in Liberty Cross late last night and we haven’t been able to reestablish contact. What is also worrying is that there has been no activity from the town on any level: no phone calls out of the town, no social media hits, not even radio contact. It is a literal dead zone right now.”

            “Has the media caught wind of this?” Agent Thomas asked.

            “Not yet, but there have been a lot of missing persons reports in the area over the past few months and people are starting to notice that an entire town has gone silent. We also rerouted every bus route through there and closed off the roads in and out, citing a gas leak but that is pretty conspicuous.”

            Christie cleared her throat slowly, “Your liaison to the CDC was Dr. Steven Yeats, wasn’t it?”

            “No. He was an agent of ours, but he was traveling with Dr. Yeats and he have lost contact with him as well.”

            “He only just left last night! How have you already lost contact?” Christie tensed at the panic that was suddenly present in her voice. She took a deep breath to calm herself, “What about the other operative there? Has there been contact with any of them?”

            “Not in the last twenty four hours. We were about to send in more agents to bolster them and report back, but now that you have this information that points to a possible weaponized disease, we will have to take more drastic action.”

            “Sir, I would like to go with the next wave of agents,” Agent Thomas and Taylor both turned to stare at her and Director Franks snorted loudly. She added, “I have field experience and I could get back valuable data to Agent Caussyn. This could be incredibly valuable to the ARC project. Imagine being able to compare our remote information to concrete information. It would be the best calibration possible.”

            “You make a good point, but now allow me to make a better one. You don’t have any sanctioned field experience: you simply take off whenever you get excited about a case, you haven’t actually been trained.” Director Franks stared at Christie and noted that she deflated so drastically that it would have been funny if the situation weren’t so dire.

            Agent Thomas cleared her throat, “She could go as an analyst, sir. God knows that if we plan to use ARC in the future we need to know how accurate it is.”

            “So we should send her to a simulated event. This situation is too F.U.B.A.R.”

             “How would you suggest we do a simulation?” Agent Thomas asked, her arms folded, “I think that this is an opportunity that we can’t pass up.”

            “If she goes, so do you.” Franks clutched at his throbbing skull and tried to keep his expression from betraying his pain, “I hope you realize this, Agent Thomas.”

            “I understand, sir.”

            An awkward silence hung in the air, and finally Taylor cleared his throat, “Well, I’m not going. No offense, sir.”

            The Director gave her a stiff smile, “None taken. You are to stay here and record data.” he stood up stiffly and nearly fainted from the pain. He covered his misstep by folding his arms authoritatively and nodded, “Alright. I’ll fill out the paper work, you go tonight. Please go make preparations.”

            The agents nodded and hurried out of the office, and the Director snatched up his phone and dialed a number that he had only called once before. The line rang three times before a clipped, professional voice answered, “Director Franks?”

            “Mr. Achan,” Director Franks tried to hide the anxiety in his tone, knowing that it would do no good, “I need to speak with the boss.”

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