Authors: Joe Nobody,E. T. Ivester,D. Allen
Tags: #Mystery, #Dystopian, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Medical, #Thriller & Suspense, #Science Fiction, #Thrillers, #Literature & Fiction
The Ebola Wall
Copyright © 2014
Kemah Bay Marketing, LLC
All rights reserved.
E. T. Ivester
This is a work of fiction. Characters and events are products of the author’s imagination, and no relationship to any living person is implied. The locations, facilities, and geographical references are set in a fictional environment.
Other Books by Joe Nobody:
Forward by Joe Nobody
We intentionally held this title until the Ebola scare of 2014 had played out. While the justifications for that decision were many, our primary concern was to avoid confusing this offering’s main storyline with the numerous other efforts trying to cash in on the viral unease sweeping the world at the time. Being lumped-in with that stampede would have masked my true objective, and perhaps cheapened this work.
Our foundational, inalienable rights are such fragile, precious things. They can be evaporated by the signing of a law, eroded by a politician’s order, or denied by a judge’s gavel. Threats, either real or perceived, can also turn liberty and freedom into mere wisps of concept, shadows of reality. In this regard, I found our nation’s reaction to the arrival of Ebola on U.S. shores revealing. The entire affair was thought provoking, perhaps offering a small preview of what could one day become a harsh reality.
Ebola isn’t the protagonist in this novel, its role is neither heroic, nor villainous. Instead, I used the virus for what it really is – a catalyst enabling both the best and worst mankind has to offer. In reality, I could have used any number of diseases, strains, or mutations, and the story would have been the same.
This book is about hard decisions, unintended consequences, and retribution. At its core is the age old struggle - liberty versus safety. This is not a new conflict for mankind. Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
As you read this work, please consider old Ben’s logic. I think you’ll find his wisdom sage, but even more difficult to reconcile today than it was in Mr. Franklin’s time.
“An American city surrounded by a wall of armor and infantry,” noted the new sergeant, irritably gesturing toward the map. “I thought I’d never see the day.”
Captain Norse nodded, “It’s difficult duty…. Morally, it presents more of a challenge than any other assignment I’ve been given. But orders are orders, and you’ll get used to it. Always keep in mind that the good of the many outweighs the needs of the few. Time to mount up; we have to be at our post in 15 minutes.”
A pained expression flashed across Sergeant Clark’s face. Looking to make sure none of the other crewmen were within earshot, he leaned in close to his new commanding officer. “Do they still try, sir?” he whispered. “Do they still try to escape?”
Norse had anticipated the inquiry. Everybody asked the same thing. “Not so much anymore, Sergeant. And before you ask, yes, we occasionally have to fire upon American civilians. Sleep doesn’t come easy after those nights – no matter how long you’ve been here.”
“Captain, I’m…. Sir, I’m concerned about my reaction… I mean, if it comes to that.”
It was Norse’s turn to make sure their conversation was private. After pausing for another soldier to pass, he responded with an uncharacteristically soft tone. “I know, Sergeant. Everybody feels the same way. You have to look at those people like you would suicide bombers. They may not have 15 pounds of C4 strapped to their chests, but they can kill hundreds, if not thousands, just the same. Trust me on this; it’s the only way to deal with it. Visualize your family back home with Ebola. Picture their suffering, and you’ll be able to pull the trigger.”
Clark was a National Guardsman, but no rookie. When notified of the incoming replacement, Norse had studied the man’s record, and it was impressive. Multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, two purple hearts, a bronze star, and pages of accolades from former commanders. “Definitely not a pussy,” the captain had determined.
Yet the officer could tell his new crew member wasn’t convinced. Regardless, Clark nodded his thanks for the man-to-man advice and then pivoted to join the others climbing aboard the tank.
The officer watched his crew taking their positions, noting every detail of their pace and attitude.
I need to keep an eye on my new sergeant
, he thought.
He’s going to struggle with this assignment, just like we all did at first.
Once they were rolling, the movement of air felt good against the captain’s face. Riding with his upper body protruding from the M1A2’s turret, the officer had grown to appreciate even the smallest of comforts. The Abram’s air conditioner had succumbed to the Texas humidity almost two weeks ago, and the mechanics were still waiting on a replacement part. Despite the discomfort to the crew, the CO had determined the machine wasn’t injured seriously enough to pull the unit from the line. The men riding in the sweltering, uncirculated atmosphere below surely would have liked to debate the colonel’s logic.
The entrance ramp to Houston’s Grand Parkway was already showing signs of abuse. Deep cuts and grooves had been worn into the pavement. It was a reminder that the city’s outer-most loop was designed to handle millions of commuters and commercial trucks, not the tracked drives and colossal weight associated with machines of war. Norse wondered if civilian automobiles would ever ply the road again.
The driver knew the route by heart. They entered the expressway just south of Tomball, Texas, the combat team’s bivouac since the government had ordered the quarantine of the Lone Star State’s largest city. Captain Norse ignored the parade of abandoned gas stations, strip malls, and vacant businesses they passed, so accustomed to the melancholy images that he no longer paid them any heed.
Other than her air conditioner’s untimely failure, “Havoc” was running well tonight. Norse listened as the tank increased its speed, a duet of mechanical voices splitting the otherwise quiet evening. The American Army’s frontline battle-tank sported a turbine engine, the power plant’s high-pitched voice offset by the accompanying baritone of the rubber-like pads covering her tracks. It was music of a sort, the consistency comforting to the officer’s ears.
Traveling east along the six-lane highway, Norse lifted the binoculars from his neck and began to scan what had been one of the world’s fastest growing cities until just a short time ago. The circular image displayed through his optic now told a completely different story.
Remaining in the passing lane, they soon encountered one of Havoc’s cousins, the dark green shape of a Stryker fighting vehicle manning its assigned position in the grassy median separating the two ribbons of pavement. The captain quickly scanned the area, finding the troop carrier’s rifle squad deployed right where it should be.
A gloved, masked figure rose from the waist-high weeds lining the west-bound shoulder, a casual wave indicating all was well. The tanker didn’t envy the infantry troopers, 12-hour shifts in the chemical/biological suits complete with gas masks was tough duty. The Texas humidity dog-piled even more punishment, the temperature inside the protective clothing often registering over 115 degrees. Still, few of the soldiers complained. Miserable, sticky, sweating bodies were preferred over the alternative
Havoc raced past, Norse confident this section of his unit’s assigned perimeter was secure.
Turning his gaze back toward Houston, the first oddity that met his eye was the seemingly endless lines of abandoned cars. When the president had first ordered the quarantine, millions of evacuees had taken to the roadways, desperately trying to make it out before the iron curtain of enforced isolation could be implemented. Few had made it.
Next were the burned out hulks of what had been homes, farms, and the occasional business. The riots had begun just two weeks after the chief executive’s order. They had been bloody, vicious, and extremely violent. Texas was known far and wide for its well-armed population – citizenry that didn’t appreciate being trapped in a city where Ebola was spreading like wildfire.
All of that had occurred before Norse’s 7
Cavalry had been deployed from Fort Hood, a move that had been required due to the heavy losses experienced by the state’s overtaxed law enforcement agencies.
Ebola had staked its first claim on U.S. soil in Dallas, Texas, roughly 200 miles to the north. Despite some early setbacks and rookie mistakes, the public healthcare system had all but contained the imported killer. Eventually the virus had mutated, morphing into an airborne demon with a voracious appetite.
Despite its cosmopolitan personality and diverse economic engine, Houston was still an oil town. The city was thick with the industry, legions of tool providers, engineering firms, rig workers, and heavy equipment manufacturers calling the Bayou City home. The world’s largest enterprise, Exxon-Mobil, was just putting the final touches on its newly relocated world headquarters when the outbreak occurred – the now-empty, massive complex not more than 10 miles from where Havoc rolled along the pavement.
Being a mecca of energy meant the nation’s fourth largest city was also a hub of international travel. That translated into oil field workers, equipment shipments, sailors, and executives commonly visiting West Africa, one of the world’s current hotbeds of fossil fuel exploration and development.
According to the reports Norse had read, the first documented case of Ebola-B involved an elementary school. A family had traveled overseas to spend the spring with their father, a petroleum engineer stationed in Liberia. Upon their return, it was only natural to reenroll the children in their old school. While the mother waited for the registrar, the kids wandered to the library, gym, and cafeteria, anxious to re-engage old friends.
Between a sneeze here and a cough there, over 700 children were exposed. That number spiked a few hours later, parents, siblings, and playmates joining the exponentially increasing ranks of the exposed. By the time the first symptoms were diagnosed, the CDC’s disease detectives were attempting to track 4,800 people. When it was discovered that the index patients had visited two regional shopping malls, a Tex-Mex restaurant, and a popular park that same afternoon, the task became formidable.
Once the news flashed that the stable, well-known Ebola virus had enhanced its lethal structure, absolute bedlam erupted.
The Texas metropolis made a heroic attempt to contain the outbreak, the extensive Harris County public health apparatus kicking into high gear. But Ebola-B was too easily transmitted, the initial radius of exposure too widespread. One test indicated the new strain could survive outside of a mammal’s body for up to 60 hours, another determining that merely sharing the same air transmitted the new killer.
Within five days, the mayor and governor requested everyone shelter in place and stay home. Nurses and doctors did exactly that, as well as a significant number of EMTs and police officers. Three days later, the National Guard had to be called up.
On day 10, the president of the United States declared martial law, ordering the entire city of Houston be quarantined.