Authors: Arthur Bradley
|Author:|| ||Arthur T. Bradley, Ph.D.|
|Email:|| ||[email protected]|
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the author.
Illustrations used throughout the book are privately owned and copyright protected. Special thanks are extended to Siobhan Gallagher for editing, Nikola Nevenov for illustrations and cover design, and Joe Hobart for his guidance regarding amateur radios.
© Copyright 2013 by Arthur T. Bradley
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013905437
ISBN 10: 148274631X
ISBN 13: 978-1482746310
eBook ISBN: 978-1-63002-615-8
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
ike every novel, the work herein is the stuff of fiction; adventure and escapism are its underlying elements. With that said, the story is not as farfetched as many would think. While it is highly unlikely that the world will suddenly end tomorrow as the result of a pandemic, it is not impossible. There are numerous viruses that are mutations away from decimating the human race, including SARS, Ebola, and the avian flu. Even as this book is going to print, there are reports of both a new strain of avian flu, as well as a deadly “SARS-like” virus that may be transmitted from person to person.
Viruses are quite diverse with over 100 million different types known to exist. In fact, there are more viruses on this planet than all other life combined. They can remain viable even under the worst possible conditions and have been found under the polar ice caps, in hydrothermal vents, and even in salt lakes. Consider that a single liter of sea water contains over ten billion viruses. There is simply no escaping these cell-destroying, self-replicating particles.
The list of illnesses caused by viruses is long and varied, including the common cold, influenza, measles, cholera, smallpox, HIV, and hepatitis. Throughout history, mankind’s existence has been repeatedly threatened by viruses. Many don’t realize that smallpox, which has thankfully now been eradicated, killed about 300 million people in the twentieth century alone. Another 75 million people have been infected with HIV, of which roughly 35 million have died from AIDS.
Modern medicine has developed vaccinations against many viruses, but new mutations are discovered every year. If an untreatable virus was to mutate such that it could be passed through airborne transmission, the number of dead could reach into the billions before a treatment could be developed and administered. Consider yourself warned that the world is not as safe as we would all like to believe.
“Every dog, we are told, has his day, unless there are more dogs than days.”
William Barclay “Bat” Masterson November 26, 1853 - October 25, 1921
ankind had become a parasite in the strictest definition of the word: an organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host. In other words, it had become a professional dinner guest.
Dr. Victor Jarvis had this revelation while flying home from the annual
Conference of Molecular Virology
held in Los Angeles every fall. He stared out the airplane window and marveled at the endless sprawling cities, each with roads and railways stretching out in every direction like the pseudopods of an amoeba. Factories spewed toxic pollutants into the air and sea; forests were clear-cut to the point where the planet’s life-supporting atmosphere was in danger; and the ground itself was defiled in search of precious metals and fuels.
Like a virus, man would continue to replicate himself and his associated destruction until the host would eventually die. No corner of the globe would be unaffected, from the deepest oceans to the tallest mountains. Mankind was ever expanding, ever consuming. It was on a course not only to destroy the land and deplete its resources, but also to subjugate or annihilate every living species on the planet. While Dr. Jarvis was not a religious man, he knew with certainty that this revelation was beyond a mere understanding. It was an undeniable truth, an epiphany that had been voiced by the supernatural. Whether it was God, an unknown cosmic power, or simply Mother Earth whispering in his ear, he could not be certain.
Moments of clarity are rare for anyone, and Dr. Jarvis understood that if he did not act quickly and decisively, this newfound truth risked becoming clouded by rationalization and excuse. It was perfectly clear what must be done. Someone must destroy the parasite. For many, such a task would prove utterly impossible, a vain effort that would end with little, if any, effect. The madness would march on to its undeniable end with the attempted intervention yielding nothing more than a footnote in mankind’s apocalyptic history. Dr. Jarvis, however, was not one of the many, nor had he ever been. Gifted beyond most people’s understanding, he was a pioneer in microbiology and virology, a true genius by any measure.
Along with his prowess came a unique access to the cure. And it truly was a cure: an end to the spread of a deadly disease. He fully accepted that perhaps he could not kill the parasite entirely, as life always finds ways to adapt and survive, but he could at least retard its growth long enough to give the Earth and its other natural species time to recover.
He glanced around the airplane as if to subliminally announce his idea for everyone to consider. Children poked at one another for their turn to use a handheld game console. An old woman carefully penned a letter to the family she had just visited. Businessmen smiled and drank small bottles of vodka while talking about growing opportunities in Latin America. Others napped, content to let time pass quietly. If his plan were to come to fruition, these people would all likely suffer and die through no particular fault of their own. Dr. Jarvis held no malice toward these or any other specific individuals. Like a single
, they neither understand nor cared that they were part of a larger destructive organism. That ignorance, however, could not serve as either excuse or justification for their salvation.
Should he be discovered, his actions would be considered murderous, and perhaps even those of a madman. Dr. Jarvis was confident, however, that future generations (should there be any) would recognize him as the bravest of men, one with a vision that was both necessary and noble. He was, after all, acting out of a broader sense of duty; from what some might even recognize as love.
As with countless experiments that he had conducted in the past, Dr. Jarvis would take his time considering the steps needed for a successful outcome. There were four critical components: a viral agent, a host, broad exposure, and time for the agent to spread. Not only did he know of the perfect agent, he knew precisely how to gain access. As for the host, no one but himself could be trusted. He certainly couldn’t ask another to bear such a burden. The issues of exposure and time were closely linked. If the exposure was too limited, or if an early warning was provided, the parasite known as mankind would simply retreat until the threat had passed. Likewise, if the virus manifested too quickly, it would be discovered and contained before it achieved its full potential.
He looked down at a glossy brochure he had picked up from the conference. It was for the upcoming
Global Influenza Research and Development Symposium
that was to be held in Washington, DC, in March. He hadn’t planned on attending, but it was too perfect of an opportunity to pass up. Members from more than forty countries would be in attendance. Nearly all of them would have returned home before the infection could be discovered. With careful delivery, he could ensure a global distribution while only having to make a single appearance himself. Surely it would be one of history’s greatest ironies that the mechanism for the outbreak would be hundreds of experts in the area of virology, but, as he had said many times, the world was not without a sense of humor.