“A package, sir,” said Raymond Archibald as he entered Louis Pasteur’s laboratory at Morgan Research Institute.
“Excellent, and not a moment too soon,” said Pasteur. The French scientist opened the small wooden crate and extracted a brand new microscope.
“Your Chevalier has served you well for years,” said Emanuel Ashbel. “Why change now?”
“Le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés. Chance favors only the prepared mind.” Pasteur retrieved his earlier sketches and notes and handed them to Ashbel.
Ashbel reviewed the tiny pairs of circles on each sketch. “We’ve looked at this a hundred times already,” he said with irritation. “We know what the bacteria looks like.”
“Ah, but do we? This microscope uses an Abbe condenser to optimize brightness and contrast. Observe and learn.” Pasteur wasted no time in preparing the samples obtained from the poor, enraged woman who had attacked them before. He then returned to the cultures prepared from Bryce Sovitch and prepped and stained them as well. One by one, he placed each slide under the microscope for observation, pausing only to make a new series of notes and observations.
Ashbel fanned the latest sketches across the wooden bench. He marveled that despite the bacterium’s tiny size and simplebauplan, Pasteur could capture minute details such as how the organism grouped together in chained strands.
“They are one and the same,” Ashbel said.
“Indeed, they are,” replied Pasteur. “No matter where the samples come from, no matter the condition of the patient, it is all one sickness, caused by one simple bacteria.” He indicated the slides still arrayed by the microscope. “Observe for yourself.”
Ashbel took the first slide and placed it on the stage and peered through the lens. He then exchanged the slide for the next in the series, repeating the process until he had verified that each of the samples matched both Pasteur’s new sketches as well as each other.
“They’re not pairs of spheres at all, but rectangles, and light pink in color,” Ashbel said.
“They are ever so tiny, and without accepting the purple stain, so very difficult to see. But I know these bacteria. I know them, oh so very well as Bacillus anthracis,” said Pasteur.
Ashbel gasped in horror. “Anthrax? Gomorra is infected with anthrax?! Why on earth didn’t you recognize it immediately?”
“I should have,” Pasteur said, pounding a fist on the table in frustration. “But this bacteria is changed, mutated somehow. Its expression is different, something entirely new … and terrible — no doubt the result of Hawley’s machinations — but at its core it is Anthracis just the same. I now have my answers.”
“We don’t need answers. We need a cure, and we need it now.” Suddenly, a series of explosions reverberated, shaking the building walls and causing the two men to run to the window. “Those weren’t from in here. They were from town!”
“Indeed … I fear that we do not have time for cures. But knowing the answer, I believe I have a solution.”