PANDORA'S BOX (Con't)

Julia and Mark arrived at the White House and were immediately escorted to the Oval Office. James Bean, the Presidents Press Secretary, immediately approached them and Mark made Julia's introduction to him. "The President has just arrived from Camp David and will be here shortly", he remarked. "There have been some important developments on this matter that The President has just been made aware of. This situation has now developed into an international incident." He turned, and leaving Mark and Julia dumbfounded, disappeared out a side door. President William Harris, looking like a man on a mission, entered the Oval Office followed by James Bean. His usual cheerful demeanor was replaced by a look of solemn determination. I want to welcome you here today and discuss this matter of the incident that occurred in the lab at NASA, but first I'll let the Press Secretary give you a quick update on what's been happening, …Jim…". Jim, reading from his notes, began, "We've received, this morning, some startling information from our sources in Canada. Thieves stole the specimen cylinder that was being shipped to Toronto by NASA two days ago. They hijacked a courier van on the outskirts of Toronto and took the cylinder. Now, it gets worse. The cylinder was discovered in an old abandoned warehouse. It had been opened and the contents were scattered on the floor. A body was found a short distance away. It had two puncture wounds in the neck and the victim had apparently died in convulsions." He continued, "The second incident occurred about 60 miles inland of the French coast. One of our cargo planes carrying the second cylinder to Paris crashed killing the three crewmembers aboard. Before emergency and security crews could reach the area a local 10 year old boy had approached the scene and found the container. He was found dead, a few feet from the wreckage, still grasping the opened cylinder." Mark and Julia sat in stunned silence, as though hit by a baseball bat.

'We've really opened Pandora's box this time!' Julia thought.

"We can't keep this from the media any longer," the President began, "I've scheduled a press briefing for 5 p.m. today." "Mark, I need you to give me some info I can throw at them as to what this thing is, and what kind of threat it poses." "I want you to coordinate with any and all the available agencies to get this under control as soon as possible. The last thing we need is an epidemic of panic. I understand you believe this one in California may be pregnant?" Mark replied that, based on the facts to date, this was a good possibility. "Well," stated the President, "We don't need to let the press in on that. Not just yet. There'll be enough panic as it is." "Mark, will you bring us all up to date on the events in California, and what you have discovered about this entity?" Mark brought the President and other members up to date on their latest information and watched as the President gave a brief chuckle at what Julia had referred to as 'Pandora's boxes'. The smile on his face was quickly replaced by a solemn expression. "That may have more truth to it than we want to discover." He remarked in a barely audible voice.

Chapter 6. More Mysterious Deaths
Thursday, July 26th, 2029
Several weeks had passed since Mark and Julia's meeting with the President. No trace of the alien creatures, either in California, Toronto or Paris had surfaced since the original incidents. Life had returned to normal, and the assumption was that they had died unable to cope in Earth's environment. Mark was back lecturing to visiting professors at the Research Institute in Washington and Julia was back at the Ames Center in California writing a paper after doing research on the dead specimen from Mars. In the back of both their minds was the nagging suspicion that they hadn't seen the last of the creatures.

Julia had just arrived home after a long day at the lab, kicked off her shoes and was just about to put a pizza in the oven when the phone rang. It was Mark calling from Washington. "Julia, do you have a fax machine at home?" he enquired. "Yes I do," she replied. "Well turn it on and stay on the line, I'm sending you an article that appeared in the back of today's Washington Herald. I want to see if your reaction to this is the same as mine." Julia checked the fax in her study and returned to the phone. "O.K., Mark it's on. Fire away," she said with a laugh that Mark hadn't heard at their last meeting. The fax began making a humming and whirring sound and Julia started reading the article as it was being produced.

Toronto (AP) -Mysterious Cattle Deaths Not Mad Cow Disease
Local officials in Toronto, Canada have confirmed that seven cows found dead overnight on a farm outside that city have been tested for Mad Cow Disease and the results were negative. The cows appeared to have been injected with a highly toxic poison that resulted in convulsions and death. Ontario Provincial Police are mystified at such a bizarre act and are questioning residents of neighboring farms.

Julia's eyes suddenly widened and she let out a gasp as she read the words 'injected with a highly toxic poison'. "Exactly my reaction Julia," Mark stated. "I'm going to contact the OPP in Toronto and see if I can get in touch with the Inspector handling the case. I'd like to get more information on the wound marks and poison before we jump to any more conclusions." Julia told Mark about her research on the dead specimen and the analysis of the venom that had been found in the dead guard. "If the Canadian police confirm our suspicions, I'd like you to go with me to Toronto to do some tests on the carcasses. You might want to bring your notes with you." Mark said. The conversation ended and Julia hung up the phone. Reaching for the remote she turned on her TV and switched to CNN. She was halfway to the kitchen to finally throw the pizza in the oven when she was stopped dead in her tracks. "…and now we have an update on that breaking story on the multiple mysterious deaths in the French countryside…".