Story 17 - Aquarius in Ice.
The lid was shaped in such a manner that once it was sprung open near ground level, the pod would likely begin to spin extremely rapidly and violently, by which its contents would be injected into the atmosphere, possibly low enough to get it into the ground hugging air turbulences that would then spread it across a city.
The pod was cleverly designed. The moment I saw it, the words "Perfidious Albion," came to my lips. Those words had been on my mind from the moment that Anton had revealed the nature of our mission, even while we danced at the tower restaurant in Moscow. The meaning of those words had overshadowed our journey. They also explained why we had to be cautious.
Our experience in Venice came to mind, and the bragging of the fondi's chief, that there was nothing that anybody could do to stop them from attaining their objective, especially not a bunch of amateurs like us. Perfidious Albion was alive and kicking, indeed. Fortunately those words hadn't come between Antonovna and me. She understood the meaning of them.
Perfidious meant treacherous, deceitful, like in playing one against the other. I had explained the meaning of the words to Anton, a long time ago,
of the very words that the man of the fondi had used to identify his empire with. Anton understood what those words meant in real terms. She had studied the history of her nation and knew from this background how the British Empire's game had been played against it for the last two centuries. Only the specific term, Albion, was unfamiliar to her. I had explained to her that it was an old name for the British Isles, a native name perhaps.
"This might have been a test pod of a chemical or biological weapons test," Anton observed when she gave the pod to me, "or some kind of drop pod released from a high flying aircraft."
I was puzzled. "Does Nicolai know anything about such weapons tests?" I asked Antonovna.
"If he did, we wouldn't be here," she replied.
"Or maybe he isn't supposed to know," I suggested. "Maybe these are secret tests?"
She shook her head and took me aside from the others. "That was not made in Russia," she said. She showed me why. There was a tiny inscription on the side of it. She showed it to me. It wasn't easy to see through the goggles of the plastic bag suit that we wore. "This was made by Cobor Glass of Canada," she said. "Also, this container wasn't dropped from an aircraft. It came from space." She showed me the burn marks from the reentry fire. "This makes the thing altogether very scary," she added, "and it puts it right into the camp of the royals who alone have the needed resources to do this kind of thing."
We showed the evidence to our biological experts who suddenly became very silent. They looked at each other. After a minute or two, Leslie took the pod back to take another sample.
"This may be the end of the world," said Leslie ten minutes later after another hastily prepared sample was examined in one of vehicle's electron microscope.
"There is no doubt about this," Leslie said to me and Anton. "We have found traces of a virus culture that neither of us has ever seen before." She spoke with obvious anguish in her voice. "The device carried an uniquely engineered virus, unlike anything that has been developed in our labs, or in the western labs that we know about. Nothing like this exists in nature, not precisely anyway. The virus has apparently been engineered from a mutated strain of the common cold virus. It may have been subjected to modifications that utilize the flu virus as a DNA carrier that might turn the common flu into an incurable illness. No one in our labs has ever dared to mess around with flu based viruses. They are far too infectious to be useful as a biological weapon."