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February 14 , 2008

Cards in the Cloak


How hard should we strive to fulfill the mission of a dead stranger? Somewhat hard? With minimal effort? Not at all? What if that mission is to provide a cure for a deadly epidemic? Somewhat hard? With maximum effort? Until it basically kills us?

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Norman Jensen is sent to fight at the front lines of World War I during the waning days of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, when a fellow soldier, Maxie McWalter, shows him the discovery of the ages, a cure for influenza. Maxie doesn’t offer him a pill or a vial of medicine to try for himself, but a cluster of strangely organic objects wrapped in a leaf. Norman is reluctant to try it at first, but he’s standing in an environment where he’s got nothing else to lose, so he takes the combination. His headache immediately goes away, and he’s convinced that Maxie has made an awesome discovery. Maxie’s plan when he gets out of the Army is to sell his “cure” to a pharmaceutical company and stop the flu epidemic in his tracks. Then he dies, right before Norman’s eyes.

Norman has no idea what to do with these ingredients, or even what they are, but because he’s tried the cure, he knows that it works, so he’s dead set on getting the formula out to the public on Maxie’s behalf. But when he finally gets out of the Army and returns to France to collect the package he left safely behind, he realizes that the ingredients are decaying, and if he doesn’t identify them soon, the rest of the world may lose out on the most important medicinal discovery of the 20th century.

He immediately goes to work retracing Maxie’s tracks, doing all that he can to identify the mysterious ingredients used in combination to cure the flu (not just treat or prevent it). But work and family must still go on, and he soon discovers that some priorities can greatly jeopardize those other priorities made of equal and opposite force. And it all becomes more challenging, if not impossible, when Norman realizes that the clock on his own life is always ticking, and the cloaked phantom responsible for taking him out of this life must keep to a strict schedule, no matter how much he does or does not accomplish.

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