Abi sneezed multiple times as he walked through the shopping mall. He made no effort to cover his face. He ached all over and was slightly feverish. He could tell his body was fighting hard against the disease. He sneezed again and wiped his hands on the door handle as he entered the men’s restroom. It was empty. He made frequent and hurried swipes at his runny nose and then wiped his hands on all other high contact surfaces in the restroom – the door handle, the faucet handle, the paper towel dispenser lever.
His intent, of course, was to infect as many people as possible. His fellow warriors in other cities in the U.S. and around the world were doing the same. They all followed carefully rehearsed plans that targeted locations in which the maximum number of people would be exposed in the shortest amount of time. The secondary goal was to spread the disease as widely as possible. It was much better, in their view, to have a broadly dispersed and sickening population rather than one which had a high death rate but was confined to a small area. They wanted a worldwide pandemic and this was the easiest and least risky avenue to achieve that end.
He carried out his mission thoroughly. He made a number of small purchases at the mall, for instance, and was careful to touch his nose and mouth just prior to the purchase. Money exchanged hands, as did his germs. This was the protocol he followed for several hours – traveling on public transportation or frequenting highly populated places. He strove to have as many physical interactions with the people he encountered as was possible without drawing public scrutiny.
He did this on the bus, the subway, and at the stops and transfers in between. Several times he was able to turn and sneeze “accidently” on people sitting or standing close by. He always apologized profusely, concealing his malice beneath the crude cultural stereotype he had adopted.
He then headed to the airport, checked in his baggage, messily, and began a long day’s trip – all pre-planned so that he took multiple hops, each of which would require travelling the interior of the nation’s busiest airports. He carefully concealed his agenda with a handkerchief and polite manners when was around security personnel, but went back to his mission when out of their sight.
In Denver he had a three hour layover, and decided to exit the airport and frequent its malls, to better spread his cargo. One of the tenets of biowarfare strategy was the creation of multiple epicenters, which would handicap epidemiological research teams. The larger the city and more dispersed the epicenters, the less likely they could respond quickly enough to make a difference.
On his way out of the airport he spotted a young, pretty brunette trying to remove a large, suitcase from the baggage carousel.
“Allow me to assist you,” he said.
“Oh, no thank you, sir. I can handle it,” the young woman said, even as he hefted the bag up and onto its wheels.
He followed his script carefully. He pretended to be slightly socially awkward and a bit shy, but someone who sincerely wanted to offer assistance. His “character” for the mission was always a bit naïve and clueless. It was a complete charade, even the slightly affected accent.
“It is no problem,” Abi said, smiling. “I help you to your car?”
The girl shook her head. “No, please, I’m fine.”
“I do not mind to help you, please,” he said, smiling broadly, feigning ignorance. Of course he realized she would not want the assistance of a complete stranger with her large bag all the way to her car. He smiled and acted as if his offer was completely normal.
“Oh, that’s sweet. No, thank you. I wouldn’t want to bother you.”
Abi sneezed, and as he did he turned his head and upper body and covered his mouth. The sneeze was productive and left a large amount of moisture in his hand. He concealed what had occurred by producing a handkerchief with his other hand. It appeared as if he was covering his mouth, but he had actually sneezed nto his hand. He turned and offered his hand to the young woman.
“I thank you then for allowing me to assist you.” He bowed slightly. His hand remained in the air.
She smiled and hesitantly took it. It was a small gesture of thanks in an awkward moment, just the sort of thing Abi had learned was common in America, and perhaps no place else. Americans were a touchy people, far too informal for their own good, he had observed.
The handshake was brief, and as she tried to take her hand away Abi held it for a second and then let their hands slide apart.
“You, madam, are a delight. May you have a wonderful week,” he said with a smile before turning and walking away. The young woman simply hurried off looking slightly perplexed. Abi smiled to himself. Statistically, he’d given her approximately a 60% chance of acquiring the flu and a 35% chance of death.
Hours later, Abi sat in the coach section of a 737 bound for Tampa, sneezing and blowing his nose, careful to expectorate in ways that would not draw undue attention to him but would still infect as many as possible. He visited the restroom several times, wiping his germs on all touch surfaces.
The organization had initially focused its study of a second attack on the U.S. on bypassing the airline screening of travelers for weapons. Much money had been spent looking for ways to carry bombs and guns through the security apparatus. That proved to be difficult. The Americans were not perfect, but it became clear that getting box knives through a search a second time was no longer going to be guaranteed. No matter.
Abi smiled to himself, even as his body was in rapid decline. He looked around the plane and imagined all its passengers would soon be dead or dying. A baby giggled across the aisle, bouncing on her father’s knee. A young couple sitting in the row in front of him held hands. Businessmen read their newspapers. Flight attendants served drinks. They would all soon be dead.
All the expensive screening equipment in the world meant nothing if the man himself was the weapon.
Go to part 4 here.
Go to part 4 here.
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