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The Paris Option

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Paris, France

Monday, May 5

The first warm winds of spring gusted along Paris's narrow back
streets and broad boulevards, calling winter-weary residents out
into the night. They thronged the sidewalks, strolling, linking
arms, filling the chairs around outdoor cafe tables, everywhere
smiling and chatting. Even the tourists stopped complaining-this
was the enchanting Paris promised in their travel guides.

Occupied with their glasses of vin ordinaire under the
stars, the spring celebrators on the bustling rue de Vaugirard did
not notice the large black Renault van with darkened windows that
left the busy street for the boulevard Pasteur. The van circled
around the block, down the rue du Dr Roux, and at last entered the
quiet rue des Volontaires, where the only action was of a young
couple kissing in a recessed doorway.

The black van rolled to a stop outside L'Institut Pasteur, cut its
engine, and turned off its headlights. It remained there, silent,
until the young couple, oblivious in their bliss, disappeared
inside a building across the street.

The van's doors clicked open, and four figures emerged clothed
completely in black, their faces hidden behind balaclavas. Carrying
compact Uzi submachine guns and wearing backpacks, they slipped
through the night, almost invisible. A figure materialized from the
shadows of the Pasteur Institute and guided them onto the grounds,
while the street behind them remained quiet, deserted.

Out on the rue de Vaugirard, a saxophonist had begun to play, his
music throaty and mellow. The night breeze carried the music, the
laughter, and the scent of spring flowers in through the open
windows of the multitude of buildings at the Pasteur. The famed
research center was home to more than twenty-five hundred
scientists, technicians, students, and administrators, and many
still labored into the night.

The intruders had not expected so much activity. On high alert,
they avoided the paths, listening, watching the windows and
grounds, staying close to trees and structures as the sounds of the
springtime gaiety frown the rue de Vaugirard increased.

But in his laboratory, all outside activity was lost on Dr. Emile
Chambord, who sat working alone at his computer keyboard on the
otherwise unoccupied second floor of his building. His lab was
large, as befitted one of the institute's most distinguished
researchers. It boasted several prize pieces of equipment,
including a robotic gene-chip reader and a scanning-tunneling
microscope, which measured and moved individual atoms. But more
personal and far more critical to him tonight were the files near
his left elbow and, on his other side, a spiral-bound notebook,
which was open to the page on which he was meticulously recording

His fingers paused impatiently on the keyboard, which was connected
to an odd-looking apparatus that appeared to have more in common
with an octopus than with IBM or Compaq. Its nerve center was
contained in a temperature-controlled glass tray, and through its
sides, one could see silver-blue gel packs immersed like
translucent eggs in a jellied, foam-like substance. Ultra-thin
tubing connected the gel packs to one another, while atop them sat
a lid. Where it interfaced with the gel packs was a coated metallic
plate. Above it all stood an iMac-sized machine with a complicated
control panel on which lights blinked like impulsive little eyes.
From this machine, more tubing sprouted, feeding into the pack
array, while wires and cables connected both the tray and the
machine to the keyboard, a monitor, a printer, and assorted other
electronic devices.

Dr. Chambord keyboarded in commands, watched the monitor, read the
dials on the iMac-sized machine, and continually checked the
temperature of the gel packs in the tray. He recorded data in his
notebook as he worked, until he suddenly sat back and studied the
entire array. Finally, he gave an abrupt nod and typed a paragraph
of what appeared to be gibberish-letters, numbers, and symbols-and
activated a timer.

His foot tapped nervously, and his fingers drummed the lab bench.
But in precisely twelve seconds, the printer came to life and spat
out a sheet of paper. Controlling his excitement, he stopped the
timer and made a note. At last he allowed himself to snatch up the

As he read, he smiled. "Mais, oui."

Dr. Chambord took a deep breath and typed small clusters of
commands. Sequences appeared on his screen so fast that his fingers
could not keep up. He muttered inaudibly as he worked. Moments
later, he tensed, leaned closer to the monitor, and whispered in
French, ". . . one more . . . one . . . more . . . there!"

He laughed aloud, triumphant, and turned to look at the clock on
the wall. It read 9:55 P.m. He recorded the time and stood

His pale face glowing, he stuffed his files and notebook into a
battered briefcase and took his coat from the old-fashioned Empire
wardrobe near the door. As he put on his hat, he glanced again at
the clock and returned to his contraption. Still standing, he
keyboarded another short series of commands, watched the screen for
a time, and finally shut everything down. He walked briskly to the
door, opened it onto the corridor, and, observed that it was dim
and deserted. For a moment, he had a sense of foreboding.

Then he shook it off. Non, he reminded himself: This was a moment
to be savored, a great achievement. Smiling broadly, he stepped
into the shadowy hall. Before he could close the door, four
black-clothed figures surrounded him.

Thirty minutes later, the wiry leader of the intruders stood watch
as his three companions finished loading the black van on the rue
des Vo lontaires. As soon as the side door closed, he appraised the
quiet street once more and hopped into the passenger seat. He
nodded to the driver, and the van glided away toward the crowded
rue de Vaugirard, where it disappeared in traffic.

The lighthearted revelry on the sidewalks and in the cafes and
tabacs continued. More street musicians arrived, and the vin
ordinaire flowed like the Seine. Then, without warning, the
building that housed Dr. Chambord's laboratory on the legendary
Pasteur campus exploded in a rolling sheet of fire. The earth shook
as flames seemed to burst from every window and combust up toward
the black night sky in a red-and-yellow eruption of terrible heat
visible for miles around. As bricks, sparks, glass, and ash rained
down, the throngs on the surrounding streets screamed in terror and
ran for shelter.


Diego Garcia Island, Indian Ocean

At 0654 hours at the vital U.S. Army, Air Force, and Naval
installation on Diego Garcia, the officer commanding the shift at
the control tower was gazing out the windows as the morning sun
illuminated the warn blue waters of Emerald Bay on the lagoon side
of the U-shaped atoll and wishing he were off duty. His eyes
blinked slowly, and his mind wandered.

The U.S. Navy Support Facility, the host command for this
strategically located, operationally invaluable base, kept all of
them busy with its support of sea, air, and surface flight
operations. The payback was the island itself, a remote place of
sweeping beauty, where the easy rhythms of routine duty lulled

He was seriously contemplating a long swim the instant he was off
duty when, one minute later, at 0655 hours, the control tower lost
contact with the base's entire airborne fleet of B-1B, B-52, AWACS,
P-3 Orion, and U-2 aircraft, on a variety of missions that included
hot-button reconnaissance and antisubmarine and surveillance

The tropical lagoon vanished from his mind. He bawled orders,
pushed a technician from one of the consoles, and started
diagnostics. Everyone's attention was riveted on the dials,
readouts, and screens as they battled to regain contact.

Nothing helped. At 0658, in a controlled panic, he alerted the
base's commanding officer.

At 0659, the commanding officer informed the Pentagon.

Then, oddly, inexplicably, at 0700, five minutes after they had
mysteriously disappeared, all communications with the aircraft
returned at the precise same second.

Fort Collins, Colorado Tuesday, May 6

As the sun rose over the vast prairie to the east, the rustic
Foothills Campus of Colorado State University glowed with golden
light. Here in a state-of-the-art laboratory in a nondescript
building, Jonathan ("Jon") Smith, M.D., peered into a binocular
microscope and gently moved a finely drawn glass needle into
position. He placed an imperceptible drop of fluid onto a flat disk
so small that it was no larger than the head of a pin. Under the
high-resolution microscope, the plate bore a striking--and
seemingly impossible--resemblance to a circuit board.

Smith made an adjustment, bringing the image more clearly into
focus. "Good," he muttered and smiled. "There's hope."

An expert in virology and molecular biology, Smith was also an army
medical officer-in fact, a lieutenant colonel-temporarily stationed
here amid the towering pines and rolling foothills of Colorado at
this Centers for Disease Control (CDC) facility. On unofficial loan
from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious
Diseases (USAMRIID), his assignment was to continue basic research
into evolving viruses.

Except that viruses had nothing to do with the delicate work he was
watching through the microscope this dawn. USAMRIID was the army's
foremost military medical research facility, while the CDC was its
highly touted civilian counterpart. Usually they were vigorous
rivals. But not here, not now, and the work being done in this
laboratory had only a peripheral connection to medicine.

Smith was part of a little-known CDC-USAMRIID research team in a
worldwide race to create the world's first molecular-or
DNA-computer, therefore forging an unprecedented bond between life
science and computational science. The concept intrigued the
scientist in Smith and challenged his expertise in the field of
microbiology. In fact, what had brought him into his lab at this
ungodly early hour was what he hoped would turn out to be a
breakthrough in the molecular circuits based on special organic
polymers that he and the other researchers had been working night
and day to create.

If successful, their brand-new DNA circuits could be reconfigured
many times, taking the joint team one step closer to rendering
silicon, the key ingredient in the wiring of current computer
circuit boards, obsolete. Which was just as well. The computer
industry was near the limits of silicon technology anyway, while
biological compounds offered a logical-although difficult-next
step. When DNA computers could be made workable, they would be
vastly more powerful than the general public could conceive, which
was where the army's, and USAMRIID's, interests came in.

Smith was fascinated by the research, and as soon as lie had heard
rumors of the secret joint CDC-USAMRIID project, he had arranged to
be invited aboard, eagerly throwing himself into this technological
competition where the future might be only an atom away:

"Hey, Jon." Larry Schulenberg, another of the project's top cell
biologists, rolled into the empty laboratory in his wheelchair.
"Did you hear about the Pasteur?"

Smith looked up from his microscope. "Hell, I didn't even hear you
open the door." Then he noticed Larry's somber face. "The Pasteur,"
he repeated. "Why? What's happened?" Like USAMRIID and the CDC, the
Pasteur Institute was a world-class research complex.

In his fifties, Schulenberg was a tan, energetic man with a shaved
head, one small diamond earring, and shoulders that were thickly
muscled from years of using crutches. His voice was grim. "Some
kind of explosion. It's bad. People were killed." He peeled a sheet
from the stack of printouts on his lap.

Jon grabbed the paper. "My God. How did it happen? A lab

"The French police don't think so. Maybe a bomb. They're checking
out former employees." Larry wheeled his chair around and headed
back to the door. "Figured you'd Larry to know. Jim Thrane at
Porton Down e-mailed me, so I downloaded the story. I've got to go
see who else is here. Everyone will want to know."

"Thanks." As the door closed, Smith read quickly. Then, his stomach
sinking, he reread . . .

Labs at Pasteur Institute Destroyed

Paris-A massive explosion killed at least 12 people and shattered a
three-story building housing offices and laboratories at the
venerable Pasteur Institute at 10:52 P.m. here last night. Four
survivors in critical condition were found. The search continues in
the rubble for other victims.

Fire investigators say they have found evidence of explosives. No
person or group has claimed responsibility. The probe is
continuing, including checking into recently released

The identified survivors include Martin Zellerbach, Ph.D., a
computer scientist from the United States, who suffered head
injuries . . . .

Copyright © 2002 by Myn Pyn LLC. Reprinted by permission
of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved.


The Paris Option
by by Robert Ludlum