Edmund sat at the desk, absently chewing his thumbnail, while he scanned the data streaming across his desktop's monitor. He found himself wishing, for about the hundredth time, that they would at least let him smoke in his own office. The whole world was dying of the flu and there was still a concern about secondhand smoke? Christ.
With his hands laced behind his balding pate Edmund stretched until he heard an angry creaking sound. At five foot eight and pushing two hundred and fifty pounds he was being awfully hard on the office chair's plastic rollers. He sat forward and rubbed his vaguely cherubic face vigorously with the heels of his palms. This was the third time he had gone over his most recent report to the CDC. He wasn't worried that any of those idiots would catch a typo but this secured transmission was about to become a historical document and he didn't want to be remembered as the guy who spelled vaccine wrong.
It was exactly the kind of thing Jay Leno would have had a field day with if he hadn't succumbed to the flu back in May.
Edmund grinned, relishing the giddy feeling that washed over him every time he thought about what had been accomplished. He had done it, by God. He had found not just the cure for the flu but the cure for everything. He had come to the rescue in the nick of time, just like that mad bastard Windish said he would. Edmund Campion was about to become immortalized with the likes of Sauk and Fleming. He wondered what the elitist assholes that kicked him out of Harvard Medical would have to say about that.
He wondered what the historians would have to say about the fact that he had been sitting on his couch, drunk as fuck and watching an old rerun of Night of the Living Dead, when the solution to defeating EC319 had struck him like a thunderclap.
Mainly he wondered why his partner was running late. Windish had his faults but tardiness was not one of them. The corners of his mouth twitched briefly in a smirk. Edmund had plenty of faults himself and tardiness had only been the tip of the iceberg when the two men met back in mid-March.
He had been working in Atlanta as a consultant with the CDC during the early stages of the flu. This was back when the CDC still thought they would be able to keep things under control by telling folks to wear dust masks and wash their hands a lot (sorry Mr. Leno). The job was the very definition of gravy and the pay was outstanding, nearly to the point of being obscene. It had also allowed Edmund to tell the he various pharmaceutical companies he freelanced for (and despised) to go and very leisurely fuck themselves.
On a flawlessly beautiful early Friday afternoon he had been leaving Mulligan's, one of downtown Atlanta's finest dives and his second home since coming to Georgia. Edmund's head was humming from a purely liquid lunch and he was nearly an hour late getting back to the lab. He was vaguely pissed at himself for letting the time get away from him. Normally lunch was three or four drinks and at least a sandwich to wash them down with. Today the first three or four beers had treated him so well that he had skipped the sandwich and washed them down with another three or four and let's not forget the shot of Maker's Mark for dessert. Definitely gotta remember to grab some Altoids on the way back, he thought as he made a wobbly beeline for his car.
He had been in the delicate process of trying to make the key to his apartment open the door to his charcoal gray Taurus when a quiet and oddly compelling voice behind him spoke.
"Sir, may I have a moment?"
Startled, Edmund dropped his keys. He bent quickly to retrieve them, drunkenly muttering a colorful and culturally diverse string of curses under his breath. His forward momentum, as well as his overindulgent lunch, introduced his head to the Taurus' door. Hard. The recoil would have sent him backwards on his ass if the voice's owner hadn't caught him by the shoulders and steadied him. He shook off the helping hands, grumbling that he didn't need any fucking help, and bent once again to get his keys. This time, using the exaggerated amount of care reserved for drunks and the elderly, he was successful. He turned to face the voice's owner.
"Can I help you?", he asked, knowing full well he wished to do no such thing.
The man standing in front of him was solidly built and looked to be in his late forties. At a little over six foot tall the stranger's faded blue eyes looked down at Edmund from under a severe blonde going to gray flat-top. Half lit or not, his internal alarm system immediately began blaring. This guy was government, all the way from the polished black wingtips to the tailored gray suit that was nearly the same color as the Taurus he had just bashed his head in to. Government meant they hadn't bought his bullshit promises to never do it again. Government meant he was about to get busted drinking work hours again for the last time. Government meant he was fucked. Goodbye CDC.
"Edmund Campion?", the man asked and, although the inflection was there, it wasn't really a question at all.
"That be me", answered Edmund in an attempt to be glib he immediately wished he could take back. God, he had to reek of Budweiser.
The man smiled and his face broke into a thousand laugh lines. He reached out and grabbed Edmund's hand and began to shake it heartily.
"Dr. Campion", he said, "My name is Micheal Windish. How would you like to help save the world?"