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Two floors below the earth's surface, a lab technician waited for DNA results. He had no idea why the blood sample he'd been told to analyze was so important, nor did he completely understand the gravity of the results. He was to look for a sequence; that was all--a particular order that must exactly match the code entered into the computer two hours earlier by a man he hadn't recognized, but who wore the credentials of Dr. L.M. D'Italia that bore the hospital administrator's personal seal. Had it not been Christmas Eve he might have sought clarification on the matter from his direct superior, but he was alone in the lab and his supervisor wasn't answering pager or phone. And since the stranger had been sent, it seemed, from the administrator herself, he thought it was in his best interest to perform the test without contention.
The computer chirped, and the technician turned his attention to the monitor. Cool blue light washed over his face as he studied the left side of the screen, where a three-dimensional image of a double helix twisted in a frame like a barbershop pole. The colored spheres embedded within the strands clearly showed the specific pattern earlier entered into the program by the doctor. In a frame to the right of the image was a continuous stream of data from the blood analysis, as the software struggled to configure a second three-dimensional double helix.
A moment passed and the new double helix appeared in the frame to the right. The technician typed in a command from the keyboard, before double-clicking the new image with his mouse. The computer overlaid the three-dimensional double helix images. The combined framesimmediately flashed red, indicating an exact match.
"Perfect," the technician breathed. He pulled a handheld computer out of the pocket of his lab coat and fingered for the stylus. Tapping the contacts button, he scrolled through a list of names and telephone numbers, searching for the extension Dr. D'Italia had instructed him to call as soon as he obtained the results of the analysis.
At the telephone on the opposite wall the technician entered in the extension number on the keypad and waited for someone on the other end to answer.
"D'Italia," a man's voice answered.
"I've just gotten the results of the blood analysis."
"There's a match."
"An exact match?" the doctor's soft voice demanded.
"I would say so."
"For your sake, I hope you're correct."