Dr. Abram Gesecke interacted with Frankie, Tilden and Collins on mostly a social level. He dismissed the minor surgical procedure as no more serious than taking a splinter from a finger. Bethesda Naval Laboratories had the technology to test muscle tissue function and culture the cells. He related the reason for Collins being here was to obtain the fresh muscle cells for immediate processing. They would then be free to roam the wonders of the nation’s capital.
“How come we have to get up at 6-o’clock? Wow, it’s as bad as a school day.”
“Frankie you can sleep in and we’ll come back for you – okay?”
“No, it’s all right. I know Matt would be there for me if I had to have an operation.”
At 6:30 Friday morning they were escorted to the third floor office of the general surgeon. Gesecke received them.
“Frankie, I want you to stay here in this waiting room. The receptionist will keep you company and you can watch the TV.” Gesecke motioned Collins and Tilden to go into the surgeon’s office.
Collins looked around the office. “Where’s my surgeon?”
“We have 15-minutes, Matt.” Gesecke turned to Tilden. “Mrs. Tilden–may I call you Nancy?”
She shifted in her chair facing him behind the surgeon’s desk. “Yes. Of course.”
“What I have to say remains in this room. You can speak of Matt’s situation only with him and no one else.”
“I knew it was more serious Matt.”
“Not serious but a matter of national security Nancy. Matt’s unit was ambushed in Afghanistan and exposed to a chemical toxin. It produced his neuromuscular condition. We know little about the chemical agent and less about what it’s done to him.”
“Is it going to kill him?” She clutched the arms of her chair with the words.
“You get right to the point. Good.” Gesecke looked at Matt and back to Tilden. “No. We don’t feel it’s a fatal condition. His body has been affected by the toxin only to increase the size and function of his skeletal muscle cells. He’s reached maximal muscle cell growth. We now need to culture his muscle tissue to test for its susceptibility to injury and its normal cell growth and replacement. That’s why we need the biopsy today and the Bethesda Naval unit is the only lab equipped to provide the answers.”
“I didn’t know they were using chemical weapons over there. Why isn’t the public aware? It would bring more home support to combat those terrorists.” Tilden paused and focused on Gesecke. “Does this weapon turn its victims into what Matt is? He wasn’t harmed. He’s turned into a more fit soldier.”
“What you are going to hear is top secret Nancy. Matt was part of an elite special operations group. The chemical toxin released on them was lethal. They all died–except Matt. They all had muscle paralysis and couldn’t breathe–except Matt. He was the only survivor. The secret of Matt’s being immune and actually getting stronger is paramount to our combating this chemical warfare agent. We need to be prepared in the United States for the Taliban, al-Qaeda or the Iranians when and if they use chemical weapons in a terrorist campaign.”
“Oh, my God. This is awful.”
“Yes, it is. You understand how important it is to contain this information until all the answers are in.” Gesecke looked at his watch.
“Yes. I understand.”
“Good. Matt, our surgeon is here.”
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