"Miss, please don't touch that."
Edie snatched her hand away from the glass and smiled ruefully. "I'm sorry."
The guide came closer and gestured toward the item inside the display case. "This is very dangerous. If this case should ever break, our world would cease to exist as we know it."
"Yes, ma'am. I won't go near it again." Edie widened her eyes as she nodded assuringly. The guide turned to resume her place in front of Edie's tour group.
Edie stuck her hands in her pockets, then leaned over as far as she could without attracting attention to read the tag on the display case. "Rhinovirus. The rhinovirus is known as the common cold. Nothing is known about the rhinovirus anymore, thanks to common cold research scientists, who found a cure to effectively kill the rhinovirus. Except for this sample here, the virus no longer exists. Neither does the cure."
"What are you doing?"
Edie jumped, then elbowed Alan in his ribs. "Research."
"For what?" Alan followed Edie as she hurried to catch up with their group.
They were taking a tour of the International Museum of Health, which had exhibits featuring information on every known disease – none of which exist any longer. As a doctoral student of Extraterrestrial Studies, Edie was here to gather information for her thesis. Alan was along for the ride.
"You know, I bet if we could synthesize that virus, we'd give those Martians a run for their money." Edie spoke quietly.
Alan nodded. "Biological warfare."
An hour later, the tour ended. Edie and Alan breathed deeply as they walked down the steps to a hydrolite. After programming their destination, Alan leaned back and looked at Edie. "So…are you serious? About the virus?"
"Sure. I mean, can you think of a better graduate project?" Edie began to input her notes in her handheld unit. Alan nodded, but kept quiet. Edie wouldn't have listened, anyway.
A week later, Edie triumphantly waved a vial in front of Alan's eyes. "I got it!"
"What?" He grabbed her hand to see what she held. The vial contained a blue solution that seemed to ooze as it moved around. "Is that…?"
"Let's just say that I have connections." Edie laughed as she practically skipped down the hall to the lab. "Want to see it?"
Alan laughed. "Sure."
Edie slipped through the door before Alan, grabbed her lab coat and skidded to the microscope. Alan was right behind her with a couple slides so they could examine the virus under the scope. Edie carefully unstoppered the vial and poured a drop onto one of the slides. Alan placed the other one on top and slid it under the lens. Together, they watched the virus undulate between the two pieces of glass.
"I want to try something." Edie dug out a small knife and pricked her finger. On another slide, she let a drop of blood fall, and then another drop of the viral solution. She slid it under the scope. Fascinated, they watched as the virus devoured her blood. Edie grinned. "Perfect."
Alan nodded, then looked beyond her. "Edie, where's the rest of it?"
Edie turned to the table where she had cut her finger. "It's right th…where is it?"
"Uh oh. Looks like you spilled it."
"What? Oh, no!" Edie cried. "Now what do I do?"
"Well, there's still that one drop left. That's enough, right?"
"I guess." She began to clean it up, then stopped. "Alan. I feel…funny."
Alan turned to look at her. "Your nose is red." He stepped closer. Her eyes were bloodshot. "Edie, I think you got contaminated."
An enormous sneeze burst from her. "Alan, I cad breathe."
Alan picked her up and carried her to a hydrolite. Breathing hard, he programmed in the location of the hospital, though he knew it wasn't equipped to handle this sort of thing. He sniffled. Uh oh. Hospital staff placed them in a room next to a woman giving birth. Before long, the whole floor was coughing, sneezing, and complaining of headaches and sore throats. Soon, the entire hospital was infected.
Three days later, the news ticker announced an international emergency. Many people didn't survive. Alan and Edie were placed under quarantine while scientists tried to re-invent the cure. After two months, Alan and Edie were sent to live elsewhere. Though they both recovered, neither one was ever the same.
Three months after The Plague, the Martians attacked. They were immune to the virus.
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