Excerpt for Bioterror! (an Ell Donsaii story #14) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Bioterror!



An Ell Donsaii story # 14


By



Laurence E Dahners


Copyright 2017 Laurence E Dahners

Smashwords Edition



Author’s Note



Though this book can “stand alone” it will be much easier to understand if read as part of the series including

“Quicker (an Ell Donsaii story)”

“Smarter (an Ell Donsaii story #2)”

“Lieutenant (an Ell Donsaii story #3)”

“Rocket (an Ell Donsaii story #4)”

“Comet! (an Ell Donsaii story #5)”

“Tau Ceti (an Ell Donsaii story #6)”

“Habitats (an Ell Donsaii story #7)”

“Allotropes (an Ell Donsaii story #8)”

“Defiant (an Ell Donsaii story #9)”

“Wanted (an Ell Donsaii story #10)”

“Rescue (an Ell Donsaii story #11)”

“Impact (an Ell Donsaii story #12)” and

“DNA (an Ell Donsaii story #13)


I have minimized repetition of explanations that would be redundant to the earlier books in order to provide a better reading experience for those of you who are reading the series.


This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. 



















Preprologue


“Hey Stupid. What happened to your neck?”

Carley realized her hair must have fallen aside to expose the bruise on her neck. A year ahead of her in school, Johnny lived to bully kids younger and smaller than himself. When he’d gotten into the seat behind her she’d felt dismay. Trying to ignore him, Carley lifted a hand and combed fingers through her lank brown hair in an attempt to straighten it over the dark purple spot.

With dismay, she felt her hair being pulled aside as Johnny moved it so he could see her neck. Carley couldn’t keep from cringing aside a little. The kid said, “Gross. Don’t you ever wash your hair?”

Carley felt like she was dying inside. She couldn’t think how to respond, but her shoulders turtled up of their own accord to protect her neck.

Johnny said, “Ooh, gross. That’s a hickey, isn’t it?”

Carley didn’t know what a hickey was, but from the sound of Johnny’s voice it seemed like something even worse than a bruise. She slid lower in her seat, willing herself to disappear.

Refusing to let it drop, Johnny loudly asked, “Is it a hickey? You letting guys suck on your neck Carley?”

Suck on my neck? Carley thought in horror. Why would anyone do that?! She slid even lower in the seat, willing Johnny to climb back into whatever hole he crawled out of every morning.

Sounding like a klaxon to her ears, Johnny said, “I’m talkin’ to you Carley!” She realized he’d never let it drop.

Suddenly Carley’s younger brother Eli stood up in the seat beside her.

Eli turned.

Carley suddenly realized that things actually could get worse than being humiliated by Johnny Folsom. “No Eli!” she hissed, reaching toward her brother.

Too late. Eli’d already punched out with all the force he had.

Carley surged up out of her seat, ready to do what she could to protect her small brother from the much bigger Johnny.

To Carley’s astonishment Johnny had his hand up covering his nose. His eyes looked startled for a moment, then they welled with tears. A moment later he bent forward and buried his sobbing face between his knees.


As the years passed, Carley never quite knew what to make of the events of that day. Johnny never again said anything directly to her, which seemed like a plus. But she could tell he said things about her to others, spreading ugly rumors which may’ve been more devastating than face to face taunts.

Nonetheless, her younger brother had defended her and she loved him for it…


***


Carley woke to the sound of her mother screaming.

Trembling, she rolled out of bed. This wasn’t the first time her mother had screamed in the night, but somehow… somehow this time her mother’s cries seemed even more terrified than usual.

Carley found herself at the top of the stairs, heart thumping, knees shaking. She could barely understand her mother’s screams but thought they were begging the house AI (Artificial Intelligence) to call 911.

Carley leaned down to peer out into the kitchen from the stairs. Carley’s dad sat astride her mother’s torso, holding her mother’s AI headband out of reach. Mom’s face was bloody. Her hair was a mess suggesting that Dad had been manhandling her by a grip in her hair like he’d done before.

Like he did to Carley sometimes.

Carley’s dad laughed. In a slurred tone he said, “You stupid bitch. Think I’m dumb enough that I’d leave the house AI powered up when I came in to have this little talk with you?”

He pulled his fist back.

Carley started running down the stairs—to do she knew not what.

Her dad’s hand flashed forward and her mother’s head flopped to one side. It lay unnaturally still. He pulled back his other hand.

Carley turned to the closet where her dad kept his baseball bat.


***


Carley huddled on the stairs, her arms around a trembling Eli. She heard the woman say she was from Child Protective Services. The woman was talking quietly to a policeman and to someone who seemed to be the policeman’s boss. She thought they were talking quietly so Carley wouldn’t be able to hear them but she still understood them. The woman asked, “Is she dangerous?”

The man who wasn’t in uniform shrugged, “Pretty sure she’s the one that bashed the guy’s head in with the baseball bat. I guess that makes her dangerous, but it seems like she had just cause to do it.”

“The man was beating the woman?”

Another nod, “Bruises and tooth marks on his knuckles. Crushed facial bones and broken jaw on the woman. Probably a broken neck’s what killed her.” His eyes turned to Carley’s mother whose head still lay twisted unnaturally beneath the sheet. Carley still felt her mom’s unseeing stare. In a sad tone, the man continued, “Beat her mother to death before the girl bashed in his skull.”

“Is the man related?”

“She says he’s her dad.”

“Any other relatives?”

“The girl says the only relatives she’s ever known are her brother, mom and dad. Just the brother now I guess. Hopefully you can find someone else. Gotta hope that somewhere there’s someone decent in the family.”

The woman sighed and glanced at Carley. She said thanks to the policemen and started Carley’s direction. “Hi Carley,” she said in a friendly tone, “I’m Ariel…”


***


Carley sat at a table in the kitchen while Ariel talked to the couple in the living room. They were speaking quietly. Like that terrible night, they apparently thought Carley wouldn’t be able to hear what they said. This seemed to happen to Carley a lot and she often wondered whether people commonly misjudged each other’s hearing, or whether perhaps she could actually hear better than most people. In any case, she was able to hear and understand almost everything they said. The woman had her eyes on Carley, but turned them to Ariel. “She seems very sweet. Has she been a problem?”

Ariel shook her head, “No. She’s been very polite to adults and caring toward other children.”

“How’s she doing in school?”

“Her teachers say she does well. They think she’s smart enough to do far better. Unfortunately, it seems that kids at her previous school picked on her. She’s been clothed shabbily and wasn’t allowed to bathe very often… that probably had something to do with it.”

“Oh!” the woman said with a distressed glance at Carley, covering her mouth with her hand. “That’s so sad.” After a moment her eyes turned back to Ariel. “What’s going to happen to her brother? Will he come here later?”

Ariel looked at Carley as she said, “I hope so. Carley hasn’t seen her brother for weeks and she’s been pretty despondent about it. The judge though… He’s worried about keeping them together. Sibling rivalry and fights occur in even the most loving of circumstances and after what happened to Carley’s dad, he… he thinks she might be a danger to him.”

The man, who hadn’t been saying anything so far, glanced over at Carley then turned his eyes back to Ariel. “She killed her own father?!”

Ariel got a pinched look on her face, “While he was killing her mother, yes.”

“How?! For God’s sake, the girl’s a toothpick!”

Ariel looked at him for a long moment as if considering whether to tell him or not. Finally, she said, “She hit him on the back of the head with a baseball bat while he was kneeling over her mother and beating the poor woman to death.”

There was a long silence. Eventually the man said, “She doesn’t have to go to prison for that?”

Ariel slowly shook her head, “It’s called justifiable homicide…”


***


Mrs. Heune and the lady from the principal’s office walked Carley to her new class. Carley glanced over at her, thinking that she liked Mrs. Heune. Carley wasn’t sure about Mr. Heune yet. She thought he still worried about the fact that Carley’d killed her own father and wondered if he might be next. But Mrs. Heune, a little overweight and almost always pleasantly smiling, she seemed to like Carley. After spending her life being despised by her drunken father and distressed by her mother’s moods, Carley found Mrs. Heune pretty easy to tolerate.

In fact, Carley’d characterize her life as the best it’d ever been… if the judge would just let Eli join her at the Heune’s. She wished she knew where her brother was and how he was doing.

She wanted to see him again.

Very badly.

But, from what she’d heard the adults say when they thought she couldn’t hear, the biggest reason she and Eli weren’t together was the persistent fear that Carley might hurt him like she’d hurt her father. They didn’t understand how much Carley loved her brother, or how much she’d hated her dad. Carley worked every day to be a perfect girl. The kind of girl that they’d believe would never hurt her brother.

Maybe they’d allow a model child to form a family with her brother.

Mrs. Heune had gone to some lengths to get Carley some clothes that might help her fit in. They’d sat outside Carley’s new school last week and watched the other kids to see what they were wearing. Mrs. Heune had listened to Carley’s requests and had even taken her to a thrift shop so they could get her some clothes that didn’t look brand-new. New clothes were nice, but Carley thought that nothing but new clothes would seem weird. Instead of being embarrassed about her clothes like Carley’d always been before, today Carley felt comfortable in new jeans and an old but clean knit shirt.

And she was clean! At the Heunes’ Carley got to take a shower every day. Her hair glistened and bounced with a reddish tint Ms. Heune called auburn.

The lady from the office knocked on the classroom door and Carley felt her heart beat a little faster. A woman opened the door and gave her a bright smile. She said, “Hello, you must be Carley Bolin?”

Carley nodded and the teacher held the door wide. She said, “Come on in, we’ve saved a seat just for you.”

Once Carley sat down, the teacher told the other kids Carley’s name and asked her classmates to help her catch up with her schoolwork. The girl seated next to Carley whispered, “I can help. I’m Mazie Carter, maybe we can be friends?”

As a warm feeling flowed over her, Carley nodded again.


***


Shadan Farsq walked down the street carrying a reusable grocery bag, one apparently full of groceries. On top was a head of romaine lettuce and a bunch of bananas. If someone had lifted those out, they’d have seen a carton of milk. The fact that the milk had been dumped out and several pounds of smokeless rifle cartridge powder put in its place wouldn’t have been evident. Surrounding the carton of milk was a bag of marbles and dark glass beer bottles, each of which had had their beer poured out and replaced with kerosene. Someone would’ve had to lift out the wine bottle to realize it trailed wires into the milk carton and had a switch on its side to start its five minute timer.

Shadan walked up to the back of the crowd that was protesting a recent terrorist attack. He set his grocery bag down on top of a concrete planter just inside the edge of the crowd, surreptitiously flipping the switch on the timer.

He raised his hands into the air and took up the crowd’s chant, working his way through the press of bodies toward the other side. By the time the five minutes was up he had hundreds of bodies between himself and the bomb.

He stopped and turned his head toward the bomb so the cameras on his AI headband would capture the explosion.

Of course, the microphones would also pick up the sweet sound of the screams.

Islam Akbar! he chanted to himself.


***


Carley Heune’s knee jittered up and down as she sat on the stage and looked out over all the faces in the auditorium. Her mom, Martha Heune, the woman who’d served as her foster mother for two years and then adopted Carley, smiled happily up at her. Sitting next to her mom, Larry Heune—who she still tended to think of as Mr. Heune even though he’d adopted her as well—gave her a smile and a little wave. Over the years she’d learned to like him and even call him “Dad,” but she mostly did so because her mom asked her to.

Carley’s eyes drifted over the mass of other students. Mazie Carter’s curly bright-red hair made her easy to pick out. Mazie’d been her friend from that day so many years ago when Carley’d first arrived at the school. Over the years Mazie’d become much more than a friend. At college next year they were going to be roommates.

Mr. Bradshaw leaned closer to the mic. “And now a few words from our valedictorian.” Bradshaw turned to give Carley an admiring look then turned back to his audience. “Many of you know that Carley’s life was not always a bed of roses. Valedictorian by a substantial margin, she’s certainly blossomed here at Carpenter High School. She’s also been a member of the student council and a star on the softball team. She’s won a full ride Morehead scholarship and we expect her to do Carpenter proud at the University next year.” He turned and opened his hand toward her, “Carley?”


***


Adin Farsq stared sightlessly out over the cold gray sea, trying to remember the details of his son Shadan’s life. Though he did this often, to his horror those details just kept fading.

Though his name, Shadan, meant happy, the boy’d seldom been so. Small and slender, he’d been bullied in school. Devout in his Islamic faith, he’d been taunted for practicing it. A period of time during which he’d tried to practice his daily prayers in the school room had cemented his status as an object of the Christian boys’ scorn and physical assaults. The girls weren’t any better Apparently they’d ignored him as if he weren’t there, or worse, moved to avoid being near him. Though Shadan had started out as a friendly child, he’d slowly withdrawn into his shell as repeated adolescent emotional traumas gradually destroyed his spirit.

When Adin’s introverted child reached manhood and abruptly declared himself to be one of God’s warriors, Adin had been as surprised as anyone else. The quiet son, now suddenly and frighteningly intense. The son who’d once asked Adin why he believed, now become the son so fierce in his own faith that Adin was ashamed to express his own doubts.

Adin had thought his son was merely strong in his faith. One so devoted that he refused to stray from the dictates in any way. Someone who might occasionally embarrass Adin for his own weaknesses. Someone who’d chastise others when they strayed from the path.

Adin’d had no idea that his son intended to take up arms against the nonbelievers.

Then Homeland Security came to Adin’s door.

At first Adin thought they’d made a mistake. That his son couldn’t have been involved in the ways that they claimed he’d been.

He couldn’t have been planting the bombs Adin had read about with horror, not knowing his own son’d been the one building and setting them.

But the agents forced the Farsq family’s computers to give up their secrets. An agent showed Adin that his son had visited Islam Akbar’s websites. A hyper violent Islamic splinter group, Islam Akbar advocated terrorism as the solution to almost every problem. Almost every other group in Islam had repudiated and distanced itself from the crazies that populated Islam Akbar.

They were hated everywhere, by everyone. They were despicable human beings.

Shadan had spent a great deal of time on websites that advocated horrifically violent holy war. Men from Homeland Security showed Adin the files his son had downloaded. Files describing methods for bomb building amongst what seemed like a thousand other heinous means of attack.

Homeland Security showed Adin communications between his son and others. Men who’d exhorted his son to consider more and more violent attacks on those who believed in false gods. They wanted him to join the holy war against the idolaters who’d been at war with the true believers for centuries. At first Adin had hated those who’d led his son onward, but as he read through some of the communications he came to realize that his son had been goading the others as much, if not more, than they had pressed him.

The men from the government had taken Adin’s son away, leaving black despair in Adin’s soul. Adin had hired good lawyers who’d told Adin the evidence was overwhelming. They’d work toward a short sentence but could not even hope for a dismissal of the charges. If Adin’s son could be an exemplary prisoner, perhaps he could be out in a decade or so.

Grasping at that straw, Adin visited his son frequently, encouraging good behavior and talking of what they’d do after Shadan was released.

But then Adin’s son was dead…

He’d attacked a guard, they said. Shouting Allah’s name and suicidally attacking one of two armed guards. He’d tried to take the man’s pistol.

The other guard had killed Shadan, Adin’s only son, leaving Adin’s soul impoverished and bleak.


It’d taken months for Adin to realize that his son had been a warrior till the end.

Even prison hadn’t been enough to blunt Shadan’s will. Even from prison Adin’s son kept attacking his enemy as represented by the nonbeliever guards.

After much soul searching Adin decided to take up arms in his son’s war himself. Surprisingly Homeland Security hadn’t removed the material his son had downloaded onto their house AI. Adin disconnected that AI from the Internet and bought another one to replace it. Then, keeping the old AI isolated from the Internet, Adin used it to learn about Islam Akbar and God’s fiery will without going onto the net himself.

Adin would take the place of his son as one of God’s warriors. He’d do it in such a way that Homeland Security wouldn’t ever realize what was coming.

The sword Adin could wield was mightier than any that’d ever been forged from steel.

Adin was a virologist…


Prologue


Paris, France—Another cheating scandal erupted at the Tour de France today when officials discovered that yellow jersey rider Emile Vargas had oxygen transmitting ports glued to the back surface of his molars. Initially angry at Vargas, when the doctors for the Tour insisted on inspecting their teeth as well, several of the other riders then objected that it was an invasion of their privacy.

Seven other riders were also found to have oxygenating ports…



Adin walked down the hall with Jerry Scott, one of the techs who worked in the BSL-4 (Biosafety Level 4 lab). They’d been talking about soccer, a favorite pastime of both of them though Adin preferred to call it futball. Adin rattled on about one of the players while Jerry coded in his password. The keypad had a shield to keep people from watching password entries, but Adin had practiced watching videos of people’s hands while they entered passwords. He’d gotten pretty good at telling what password was keyed from the way a hand moved.

As Jerry said goodbye and went on into the BSL-4 Adin recited the password in his mind to be sure he’d remember it.


A couple of weeks later Adin stopped back by the lab late one night—not at all unusual behavior for him. An hour later he palmed the door plate so his implanted RFID would key him out of the building. Pushing the door open he jammed it with a shoe and stepped back inside. He attached a thin steel plate to the magnetic door sensor so the building’s AI would think the door had closed again. The plate had a thin, Kevlar string hanging from it. He put a piece of duct tape over the latch on the door so it wouldn’t lock when it closed. Knowing his AI’d have had a handshake with the building’s AI as he left, he walked all the way to his car. There he was far enough from the door that the building’s AI’d lose direct contact and think he was completely gone from the campus. Shutting off his own AI, he changed his clothes, put on a hood and pulled on some blue lab gloves which would both prevent fingerprints and disguise his skin color. Sending his car home, he returned and reentered the building. The duct tape on the latch meant he didn’t have to use his RFID key to get back in.

He had a copy of Jerry’s fingerprint that he’d lifted off a glass. Adin’d glued copies of the fingerprint to several of the digits on the lab gloves before he left home. He made a quick detour to where everyone kept their white coats on a line of hooks in the hall and took Jerry’s badge. Jerry, squeamish about needles, had never been RFID implanted so his RFID was in his photo ID badge. Jerry was supposed to keep the badge with him at all times, but he was well known to forget it. Adin knew Jerry’d left the badge on his coat because he’d been looking for it every day when he left work for weeks. Adin always hung his own coat on the hook adjacent to Jerry’s. The presence of the badge was the reason Adin was here on this particular night. Arriving at the BSL-4, he tapped the palm pad with Jerry’s card, carefully holding the card in his left hand so the pad couldn’t sense his own RFID. Then Adin applied the glove finger with Jerry’s fingerprint to the sensor next to the pad. Finally, with a little shudder of nerves, he keyed in what he believed to be Jerry’s password.

Adin exhaled in relief as the door unlocked. Inside the BSL he stepped over to the -80o freezer. He’d been in the room last month with one of the other investigators, so he knew what to expect. Pulling open one of the freezer drawers he looked in the back of it where a door was locked over the bin containing reference cultures for highly pathogenic organisms. Adin used a screwdriver he’d brought to scrape the frost away from the front edge of the bin.

Adin didn’t have a key, but the screwdriver also served to pop the door open. As he’d known from studying the freezer in his own lab, the latches on the locked bins were pieces of crap. He lifted out a rack of vials and studied their labels, wondering whether there’d be something dangerous enough in the bin to justify the risks he’d taken to break into it. To his astonishment he saw one of the vials was labeled Variola major!

Samples of Variola major, or smallpox, thought to have been eradicated in the wild, were only supposed to be kept in the CDC in Atlanta, and the Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Russia. As a disease, smallpox spread rapidly from person to person and had a mortality over thirty percent. With trembling hands he lifted out the smallpox culture. After a moment spent staring at the innocent looking vial of death, he dropped it in his pocket and put an empty vial into the bin in its place.

Back in his own lab, Adin quickly scraped the smallpox label off the vial and covered it with a label for adenovirus B-28. Such a virus didn’t exist, so he could be relatively sure no one would come looking for it and take his vial by mistake. On the other hand, if someone found the vial and wondered about it, they’d probably just assume that someone had been told to write out a label for D-28. It’d be easy to understand how they might’ve heard B instead of D and written B-28 on the label instead.

Hustling down the stairs he went over and picked up the Kevlar string dangling from the steel plate that was spoofing the magnetic door sensor.

Pushing the door open, Adin trailed the Kevlar string from the magnet out through the gap in the door. He pulled the duct tape off the door latch and gently closed the door. Once the door was shut and attracting the sensor itself, he used his Kevlar string to pull the magnet off the sensor and out of the door gap.

Taking a deep breath, he started the long walk home. His car had, as instructed, driven itself home shortly after he left the building the first time. This’d give him an alibi if, or rather when, someone detected his second spate of activity in the building. At various locations on the long walk home he disposed of the mask, the fingerprints, and the gloves, each in separate trash cans.


***


Carley looked around Dr. Barnes’ lab, wondering if she could ever learn how to use all the equipment in it. She’d done very well as an undergraduate at UNC, getting bachelor’s degrees in both biochemistry and microbiology during the four years covered by her Morehead scholarship. She’d decided that her real interest lay in the study of DNA, so she’d applied to Duke University’s PhD program in genetics.

When she started her first semester of grad school she’d been hoping to get into Dr. Hodges lab. She’d been disappointed when he hadn’t accepted her. Instead she’d wound up with Dr. Barnes who’d been her second choice. As she’d learned more about the two researchers however, she’d decided that fate had smiled on her. Hodges was supposed to be quite the jerk. Apparently, he seldom accepted women grad students and most people thought he was pretty misogynistic.

And just plain mean.

Barnes had a great reputation for being very nice. Nice or not, everyone said she was a genius.

Carley hoped she could measure up to Barnes’ standard.


***


Adin opened the -80o freezer in his lab. It’d been a couple of months since he’d stolen the smallpox sample and so far no alarm had been raised. At first he’d feared someone would notice the broken latch on the bin containing the pathogen reference cultures. However, it hadn’t happened. He suspected that, since no one in the lab had worked with high end pathogens for years, no one’d had an occasion to try to open the bin and thus notice its latch was broken. Even if they did, the frost in a minus eighty freezer could sometimes jam up a bin so that it needed to be pried open anyway. They might attribute the broken latch to their own efforts in opening it. Now that months had passed, if someone did notice it’d take extensive detective work to even determine when the freezer had been broken into, much less track it to Adin.

As well, when he’d pondered why a sample of smallpox still existed in their freezers, he realized that there was a good chance no one’d been in the highly pathogenic organism drawer for years, possibly decades. If anyone knowledgeable had seen the Variola major label they’d have known that the lab wasn’t allowed to store it. On the other hand, he supposed it was possible someone was simply flouting the law.

Adin felt a little bit nervous working with such a dangerous organism when the biosafety set up in his own lab would only qualify as level 2. However, he’d spent some time upgrading the filters and seals in the safety cabinet and had purchased high quality disposable protective clothing. In his own mind he thought of his lab as a level 3. It met most of the standards anyway. Besides, Adin was immune.

Like most people born since the early 1970s, Adin had never been vaccinated for smallpox which would’ve made working with the sample particularly dangerous. However, he’d also found a sample of cowpox. Cowpox was a milder virus which was used to vaccinate people for smallpox since immunity to cowpox provided immunity to smallpox. Thus, after growing up some of the cowpox, he’d been able to vaccinate himself with it.

Now it was time to sequence the Variola major virus. As unbelievable as it might seem, a few decades ago, he could’ve avoided all the cloak and dagger required to steal the actual virus and just downloaded its DNA sequence off the Internet. However, in the past decade a significant effort had been made to remove such sequences from publicly available databases. Adin suspected that if he’d searched the web hard enough he might’ve found a sequence hidden away on some server somewhere, however, he also suspected that the NSA kept a careful watch for people who were making such searches.

He’d just have to get the sequence the old-fashioned way…


***


Carley’d stolen some time to do yet another web search for her brother Eli. Eli’s name might be unusual, but there were plenty of Elis to sort through considering that she had no idea what his last name would be now. Searches for Eli Bolin hadn’t turned up anything so she assumed he’d been adopted and changed his last name like she had. Requests to the court system for information about her brother’s current name or location had all been rejected.

She looked up as Alice dropped into the lab chair near her. Alice was a more senior grad student who Carley frequently looked to for advice. She looked excited so Carley said, “What’s up?”

Alice lifted an eyebrow, “Know where Dr. Barnes is this afternoon?”

Carley shook her head.

“D5R!” Alice said in an awed tone. “She said she had an appointment with Ell Donsaii herself.”

Carley stared for a moment, “Are we going to be working with extraterrestrial DNA?”

“Maybe?” Alice said. “I can’t imagine why else Donsaii’d want to talk to Dr. Barnes!” Alice leaned closer and lowered her voice a little, “Better yet, Dr. Hodges came by in one of his moods. He buttonholed me, wanting to know where Reggie was. I got to tell him that she was out at D5R talking to Donsaii. You’d have thought I’d shit on his shoes!”

Not wanting to encourage it, Carley suppressed a giggle over Alice’s crudity. She’d learned to dislike She’d already learned to dislike Hodges though, so she couldn’t help but smile at the image. “ET DNA,” she said, pretending that was the reason for the smile. “Wow, that could be very cool.”


***


Adin Farsq leaned back in his chair and admired the results of his labors. In the months since he’d discovered the smallpox sample he’d managed to get himself established as an Orthopoxvirus researcher—Orthopoxvirus being the genus which included the smallpox, cowpox, monkeypox, buffalopox and camelpox species. Ostensibly, he was working on them because of the health and economic problems caused by cowpox and camelpox. Cowpox, or Variolae vaccinae was actually what the practice of vaccination was named after. In 1796 Jenner’d begun advocating the inoculation of people with material from cowpox lesions in order to prevent smallpox. Cowpox could attack an unusually wide range of animal hosts—in fact the cows it was named after were one of the animals it least frequently attacked—and vaccine derived versions of cowpox had spread all around the world during the efforts to eradicate smallpox. Camelpox caused trouble in various nomadic communities which depended on camels.

With this as his justification for studying the Orthopoxviruses, Adin had been growing up cultures of the various species, decoding their DNA and manipulating them in ways that he posited might make them less pathogenic to their hosts. This was in keeping with his desire to develop a milder form of cowpox that he could use to vaccinate the faithful before he began to spread his weaponized version of smallpox. The original use of cowpox as a vaccination had been much more dangerous than subsequent modern vaccinations for other diseases. It invoked substantial risks because it was a live virus which caused a substantial illness in a small percentage of people vaccinated with it. A small percentage of those vaccinated actually died from cowpox. The risks of being vaccinated had contributed substantially to the argument for stopping vaccinations once smallpox had been eliminated—other than in the laboratory. If there had been a safer vaccination, the presence of smallpox in various biowarfare stockpiles might have caused countries to continue vaccinating their citizens.

There were, however, some downsides to stopping smallpox vaccination because the vaccination provided some level of protection from HIV. In fact, though it wasn’t clear why, asthma, malignant melanoma and various other infectious disease hospitalizations were lower in people who’d been vaccinated—both asthma and HIV having notably become much more of a problem in the decades subsequent to when the smallpox vaccinations were stopped. In fact, even after smallpox had been eliminated; in low income countries, adults who had smallpox vaccination scars had a substantially lower overall mortality than adults who hadn’t been vaccinated—for reasons that were not fully understood.

Thus Adin had been able to couch his proposals to study Orthopoxvirus species in terms of the economic benefits that might be achieved from a camel vaccination program and the human health benefits that might be achieved through development of a less dangerous cowpox vaccination for humans.

Hidden amongst his viral specimen and viral genomes were the specimens and genomes of smallpox. He’d mislabeled them Variolae vaccinae GER-1999, a version of cowpox that didn’t exist. Because the cowpox and smallpox viruses were related, it’d take a high level of suspicion and a concerted effort for someone to prove that his GER-1999 was in fact smallpox or Variola major and not Variolae vaccinae.

Now he felt safe beginning the work of developing a safer version of cowpox and a more lethal version of smallpox…



Chapter One


Vanessa knocked on the frame of Dr. Turner’s open door. When he looked up inquisitively she said, “It’s about Zage.”

“What’s he done now?”

“As he’d anticipated, his peptide made the obese rats lose weight.”

Turner barked a frustrated laugh. “When’s that kid going to hypothesize something that doesn’t prove to be true?!”

Vanessa shook her head, “Damned if I know. Wish it’d rub off on me.”

Letting out a sigh, Turner said, “You going to help him write up a paper?”

“Already done.”

“Whoa, you got right on that.”

“I didn’t do it. Zage just sent it to me this morning.”

Turner shrugged, “You up to whipping it into shape then?”

She shook her head, “Nothing to whip that I can find. I wish I could write that well.”

Turner laughed again, “The kid’s going to drive me to drink! Send it on to me. Hopefully I can find something to change. We don’t want him getting a swelled head.”


After Vanessa left, Turner thought, I suppose we’d better file that peptide with the University’s patent office…


***


Adin’s AI chimed a reminder and he got up to put the book back on its shelf. As he made his way out of the medical library he took care to do nothing that might bring attention to himself. Leaving before it got so late that there were few patrons left was the first step of this. Adin did have library access, but when he entered the library he waited for the approach of another patron and followed closely enough behind them that he could slip in without extending his hand and letting the library’s AI read his RFID. So far, only one person had frowned back over their shoulder at him as if they thought it odd that he’d followed them so closely. He exited the building in the same fashion.

Adin took great care not to use the library’s electronic resources. He never asked the librarian for advice. He avoided the employee’s eyes. He spent his time in a corner on the third floor, reading about smallpox and cowpox in printed versions of textbooks and journal articles. Though sadly the library stocked fewer and fewer journals in print form as the years went by, every one he found in print meant one less electronic access that might be tracked by Homeland Security if they were watching for someone who was too interested in smallpox. Fortunately, they seemed to still be stocking new versions of major textbooks.

Adin used an elderly tablet on which he’d disabled the internet connection to take photographs of pages he thought he might need to refer to in the future. The tablet was encrypted, an encryption for which he used a very long and highly secure password.

All these efforts—reading only print versions, staying off the Internet, keeping documents on a single encrypted and unconnected device—were directed toward keeping any government surveillance systems from recognizing how intently he was studying the two viruses. When he did have to search for information he couldn’t find in print form, he used AIs at the public libraries around town, signing in as any one of a number of other people. He’d invested significant effort in watching for and committing to memory the sign in information of a number of complete strangers.

Though his soul felt impatient, he regularly reminded himself that he was playing the long game and should never be rushed.

Instead of walking directly to his car, he detoured and stopped at a corner. There he looked at three different directions as if puzzled, then hesitantly turned to the north. After walking about thirty feet, he stopped, looked about, then started back to the south. Fifty feet to the south, he turned between two buildings and stopped.

Ten minutes later, another man entered the other end of the gap between the two buildings. As agreed, they met in a dark alcove. “Harvey?” the man said.

To complete the query and response, Adin said, “No, Marley.” He stepped forward and felt the man’s head to make sure he wore no AI. Then he handed the man the end of a length of surgical tubing and mimed putting it in his ear. Once the man was holding it in place, Adin spoke quietly into the rubber cup at the other end of the tube. “You’re from Islam-Akbar?” The man nodded, a puzzled expression on his face. Adin continued, “Speak to me through this so we can be certain no microphones pick up our conversation.” He handed the cup to the man and took the end of the tube to insert hold to his own ear.

The man said, “You are ready for jihad?” He held the cup out to Adin

Without taking the cup Adin merely nodded, slipping his left hand into his coat pocket and around his pistol.

The man lifted the cup again, “Are you willing to wear a suicide vest?”

Adin shook his head and took the cup. “I’m building a weapon much, much more powerful than a suicide vest,” Adin said. “Can you deliver it?” In the dim light he couldn’t assess the man’s reaction and wondered once again how he could be certain the man didn’t belong to Homeland Security. True, Adin had found him through one of his dead son’s contacts, but of course he couldn’t be sure that the contact hadn’t been the one responsible for his son’s exposure, capture, and death. Adin slid off the pistol’s safety.

After a long pause, the man took the cup again. He said, “A larger bomb?”

Adin shook his head.

“Chemical or nuclear weapon?”

Adin shook his head again.

“A disease?” the man breathed.

Adin nodded and took the cup, “It’ll kill billions of the unbelievers.”

“It will kill believers too, no?”

Adin shrugged as he took the cup again, “Yes, some noble sacrifices. We’ll vaccinate our people before releasing it.”

The man stood motionlessly for minutes as Adin’s finger tightened slowly and inexorably on the trigger. Finally the man took the cup. He said, “I’ll have to talk to others. Contact me again in a week.”


***


Adin felt proud as he walked down the street, thinking that the research phase of his task might well be done. After extensive review of every relevant piece of printed literature that he could access, as well as careful perusal of a few papers he could only find online and therefore’d had to read in various public libraries, he believed that he’d identified a pivotal enzyme produced by both Variola major and Variolae vaccinae. Different isoforms of this enzyme seem to be associated with the virulence of the species in which they were found. A highly virulent smallpox virus isolated in Bangladesh in 1975 had an isoform at one end of the spectrum while the most benign form of the vaccination version of cowpox had an isoform of the enzyme that fell at the other end of the spectrum.

A second fruit of his investigation had been recognition that one of the proteins coded for by the viral DNA in both viruses was associated with respiratory expression and therefore communicability.

A little genome editing should produce a more benign cowpox and a more malignant smallpox, both of which were more easily spread by respiratory transmission.

Finally, he knew which proteins the two viruses shared and believed that he’d identified the ones on the external surface of the virus which were recognized by the human immune system. He could cut out and insert modifications of the genes for those proteins in his more lethal variola strain and simply insert modifications of the proteins in his milder Variolae vaccinae. When his version of smallpox began to ravage the nonbelievers, it wouldn’t be recognized by antibodies created by vaccination using old Variolae vaccinae strains that various governments might have on hand and attempt to use to save their people. His own Variolae vaccinae strains would produce immunity in believers to both the old form of smallpox and the new. Thus he could produce documentation of the success of his research into a new means for vaccination with his Variolae vaccinae and talk it up as a safer, better strain for vaccination. He could even justify growing up and freeze-drying large quantities of it. He’d just have to be certain that it didn’t actually get released to any governments.

He adjusted his scarf so that it covered the lower part of his face before he turned in to the burger joint. He stood and briefly appraised the menu before approaching and speaking to the pimply faced kid behind the counter. “Sorry, the PGR chip on my AI seems to have crapped out. Can I place my order here at the counter?”

The pimply kid behind the counter produced a surly looking nod. Adin stepped close to one of the microphones suspended above the counter to pick up requests from the employees and spoke quietly. Since all of the employees appeared to be busy and no other customers were at the counter, the first thing he did was to ask the AI to send a message to a number Adin had memorized. Once it acknowledged that request, he rattled off GPS coordinates as a simple string of numbers that ran right into a string of numbers for the date and time. He’d meet his contact at a spot one block south of that location, one hour before that time. Because he’d practiced reeling off the numbers, it took him well under a minute. Then he placed his order almost as rapidly and turned to find a seat.

Adin casually kept an eye on the worker bees behind the counter. When a large cluster of people entered the restaurant, passing between himself and the counter, he exited behind them without getting his food or paying. Paying would’ve left behind identifying numbers with which he could be tracked. A pit formed in his stomach over the fact that if someone did track the call to the restaurant, they could presumably go over the surveillance video and acquire Adin’s face. He’d tried to keep his face turned away from the cameras he knew about, but even a side or overhead view might let them identify him.

He sternly reminded himself that such stores tended to record over the files from those cameras after a few days. After all, the employees tended to be unhappy if big brother kept a permanent record of their hijinks and misadventures, often erasing drives themselves if it wasn’t scheduled.


***


NASA, Houston, Texas—D5R and NASA reported today that Phillip Zabrisk—the first person to have been transported by port when he was returned from Mars after an injury—has survived the experience without apparent ill effects. The results of extensive testing have not found a reduction of his intelligence, a feared consequence of porting that had been noted during animal testing.

Before you get your hopes up that you might soon be porting to exotic locations, please know that extensive preparations including an extended period under general anesthesia were required to achieve this result. It has been the conclusion of all investigators studying Mr. Zabrisk’s outcome that porting of human beings should be reserved for emergency situations in the foreseeable future…



Adin watched uncomfortably as Ibn Sinar brought the hard-looking man into the room. Ostensibly, Adin was at this lawyer’s office to write his will. Since the death of his son, he had no one to whom he wished to leave any of his worldly possessions. Therefore, the writing of his will was of virtually no consequence.

This lawyer had assured him that it was quite normal for a client and his attorney to have multiple meetings during the drafting of a will. Those meetings would provide a cover for his meetings with this man who’d serve as Adin’s conduit to the great jihad which Islam-Akbar was assembling around his virus.

The attorney bowed and left the room. Adin turned to the other man, “Hello, I am…”

The other man cut him off with a gesture, “Let us dispense with pleasantries. We are here on the business of jihad and should not waste time on other topics.”

The man’s gaze was intense. Adin committed himself to a holy war and told himself that he cared nothing for his own life but that it contribute to the elimination of nonbelievers. Nonetheless, he found himself swallowing nervously. What if I am found wanting by this man? he wondered as he nodded.

The man said, “You’re sure that your virus will kill large numbers of people?”

Adin shrugged and spoke truth, “Fairly certain. It needs to be tested in cynomolgus macaques.”

“Sinna what?”

“Monkeys. Cynomolgus macaques are used in a lot of laboratories and they’re susceptible to smallpox. They’re a pest in Southeast Asia so it shouldn’t be hard to obtain some.”

The man narrowed his eyes, “Why haven’t you tested it yourself?”

“If I ordered some monkeys and started killing them with smallpox I’d be in prison. I wouldn’t be much use to Islam-Akbar there.”

“So what, we gather some monkeys and inject them with this smallpox you’ve grown?”

Adin studied the man, wondering whether he was sophisticated enough to understand what’d need to be done. “I’ll explain what needs to be done in general. This plan can be modified depending on what materials you can get access to.”

The man nodded slowly.

Adin continued, “You’ll need two boats, twenty monkeys, and someone with some medical training. Both boats should have radio controlled explosive breaching charges. They go far out to sea with ten monkeys in each of two separate rooms on one of the boats. Everyone on board the boats and ten of the monkeys get vaccinated with the protective virus. Five days later all twenty monkeys get injected with the smallpox virus. Twelve days after that the ten monkeys that didn’t get vaccinated should be dead. The other ten monkeys and all of the people should be fine. If so, the people return in the second boat and the explosive charge sinks the boat with the monkeys. If the people complain of getting sick, you sink both boats and I start over. This way you’ll have proof of the effectiveness of the vaccine and the danger of the virus.”

“And then you think we’re going to go around the world injecting the virus into all the billions of nonbelievers?”

“Monkeys are much harder to kill with the virus than humans. Humans should catch it if we spray it into the air, then they should spread it from one to another by coughing and touching.”

The man studied Adin for a few minutes, then he said, “This virus of yours, it’s different from the smallpox virus that killed people in the past, yes?”

Adin nodded, “The original smallpox killed about thirty percent of people it infected. This one should kill a significantly higher percentage.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

Adin shrugged, “Then I’ll need to change it.”

“So, it needs to be tested in people?”

Adin nodded.

“Where’re we going to do that?” He curled his lip, “We don’t have a prison where we can do such experiments on the inmates.”

Adin said, “Drop an aerosol sprayer from a helicopter onto North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal. It’s populated by the Sentinelese who’ve avoided contact with other peoples for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. A flyover a few weeks later should tell you whether there’re any survivors since they generally come out and shoot arrows at any helicopters.”

The man seemed surprised to learn that there were people so isolated, but then Adin himself had been surprised to learn of them. After a moment, he said, “And how do we check to be sure the vaccination provides protection?”

“If it works in monkeys, it should work in people.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“If you want to be sure, you’ll need to test it in some people. I’ll leave that to you, but realize that if the smallpox gets out of your control before the day we’ve chosen to release it, someone may be able to create a vaccine quickly enough to make all our efforts pointless.”

“Why can’t they do that when we do release it?”

“When we release it, we’ll do it using D5R’s damned ports. Before the release, you can place them by the thousands in the cities of the unbelievers, all around the world. We’ll release the deadly virus by blowing it out of those ports as a highly concentrated aerosol, everywhere, all at once. I’m sure they will eventually generate a vaccine, but not until after hundreds of millions… and more likely billions are dead.”

The man stared at Adin and this time he was the one who swallowed as if in fear. After a long pause, he continued, “And what’ll we tell the believers when we’re going around vaccinating them?”

Adin shook his head, “We won’t tell them. You shouldn’t tell anybody or there will be leaks. Your warriors will drop off ports all around the world without knowing why, or even knowing that they’re fighting a battle. You could even give them a false story that you’re using the ports to sample the air to determine whether the nonbelievers are fouling it. Months ahead of time we’ll place the same kind of ports in the major cities of the faithful and, elsewhere, just in the mosques. They’ll release the vaccine virus slowly in low concentrations so that it won’t overwhelm anyone.”

The man drew back, “But then it’ll protect some of the nonbelievers… And some of the believers won’t be protected by it!”

Adin shrugged again, “You’re right, it won’t be perfect. Some will sacrifice their lives in this great battle, as in every other battle since the beginning of time. Every war has unintended casualties and fails to kill all of the enemy, but the world will be a vastly different place afterward.”

The man sat back thinking for a time. He leaned forward, “You say we’ll release the vaccine months ahead of time?”

Adin nodded.

“Why? It’s just more time for the great Satan to realize what we’re doing and respond.”

“The severity of an illness produced by exposure to a virus depends to a large degree on how many viral particles you’re exposed to. If we expose people to just a few particles of the lethal smallpox version, many of them will survive. On the other hand, if we release the vaccine virus in high concentrations, even it will kill some people. If people start dying, the medical establishment will investigate and likely figure out what’s happening. They may even be able to develop a vaccine to prevent our vaccination version that’ll protect people against our smallpox version. Therefore, we must release the vaccine version in low concentrations over long periods of time so that people can develop immunity to it without becoming overtly sick. Even at this low concentration, some people will become ill. Health agencies will eventually begin to respond and, when they do, we must be prepared to release the great death immediately.”


***


Feeling a rising sense of his own power, Adin sat down to wait for his next meeting with the man from Islam-Akbar. When he’d last met the man, Adin hadn’t told him that Adin’d only worked out a plan for modifications to the two viruses and tested of some of the steps. Now however, he’d actually successfully excised and replaced the genes for the virulence factors and the protein coat in both viruses. Growing the viruses in the immortalized HeLa line of human cells, he’d to his delight proven that a modified enzyme he’d inserted into their genomes rendered both viruses resistant to tecovirimat, cidofoviran and two other antiviral medications that were active against the pox viruses.

Finally, with what he thought of as a stroke of genius, he’d inserted a gene sequence into the vaccination virus. When this version of the cowpox virus infected human cells, it rendered them incapable of replicating the virus in the presence of the bovine thyroid hormone which was present in bovine serum. Since culture of the human cells in which the vaccinia virus was generally produced was usually done in bovine serum, this’d mean that they’d have to be grown in a different medium. However, if someone recognized that Islam-Akbar had released the vaccinia virus in Islamic areas to protect its own people and they tried to grow up that virus to protect their people, they’d almost certainly try to grow the virus in bovine serum. When it didn’t grow, he hoped that it might take them weeks or even months to realize that bovine serum was the problem.

He’d vaccinated himself with modified cowpox virus. Doing so was dangerous, yes, but he’d decided that working with his highly malignant modified smallpox virus when he had no resistance to it was even more dangerous. The vaccination site had produced a pox scar on his inner thigh as expected.

He’d even named the two viruses.

The man from Islam-Akbar entered the room and said, “Are they ready?”

Adin nodded. “Do you have access to the monkeys and the boats?”

The man nodded and held out his hand.

Adin placed two vials, one wrapped in padding, in the man’s palm. Pointing out the one in the padding, he said, “This one I call ‘Vengeance.’ If you break that vial, you and likely millions of others will die. I’d recommend that if you break it, you wash the area where it broke with Clorox, burn down the building, and kill yourself. He pointed to the other one, “This one’s ‘Guardian,’ if you do loose Vengeance upon the world, before you kill yourself, tell anyone who might have been contaminated to vaccinate themselves with Guardian. Reaching in his pocket, Adin pulled out a folded sheet of paper and handed it to the man as well. “Here’re the instructions, in the cipher we agreed upon.”

The man simply nodded and left. Adin felt frustrated, having expected the man to be cowed by his dire instructions.

Now Adin must sit and do nothing for the remainder of the hour that his scheduled appointment with the attorney would’ve lasted. He leaned back and began to plan out how he and Islam-Akbar would replicate the viruses in the enormous quantities that’d be required.


***


Dinh had read the instructions that came with the two vials and collected the materials he’d need to mix up the preparations, even out at sea. He shook his head, wondering what the disease was that they were testing a vaccine for and why it was being tested on, of all places, a boat. He shook his head, it didn’t matter. The boat was pulling away from the dock so he drew up the solution to reconstitute the first vial.


Vaccinating the monkeys was difficult. First, he had to move from the main boat to the monkey boat in a small, outboard-powered inflatable boat that made him nervous. Then the men assigned to handle the monkeys had to catch the animals so he could give them their injections. He was glad that the monkeys were all wearing different colored collars. The monkeys didn’t like the injections and they squealed and fought, bounding around the room they were kept in. If he hadn’t been able to check off the colors on his sheet, he’d never have been able to figure out which ones had already had their injections and which ones still needed them. He felt grateful that he only had to vaccinate the monkeys in one of the rooms.

Dinh’s next problem arose when it came time to vaccinate the men on the boat. They didn’t screech and run around like the monkeys, but two of them simply refused to have their injections. He didn’t know how to handle this, eventually returning to the main boat. All but one of the sailors on the main boat accepted their vaccinations, though Dinh had a feeling that if they’d believed they could refuse, many of them would have.



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