An attempt to save American lives inadvertently releases a weaponized virus a thousand times worse than Ebola through a series of unintended consequences.
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waning days of World War II, an American destroyer sinks a Japanese
submarine near the coast of Korea carrying bombs packed with a deadly
hemorrhagic fever virus. Intended for a last desperate attack on the
United States, one of the bombs survives the fire and sinks to the
sea floor. Ocean currents slowly carry it south while its seals
generations later, CDC virologist Dr. Kristin St John investigates a
suspected outbreak of the Reston stain of Ebola in the southern
Philippines. The only type of Ebola that spreads through the air, the
one thing that prevented a staggering death toll when the first
outbreak killed monkeys near Washington D.C. in 1989 was its
inability to infect people. Kristin's fear that the Reston strain has
acquired this capability seems to be realized when people start dying
in nearly villagers. Later she learns the new virus is a transmuted
cross between the rare Reston strain and a type of hemorrhagic fever
that killed hundreds of American soldiers during the Korean war.
Zharmakhan, an al-Qaeda Ph.D virologist, learns of the new virus and
travels to the Philippines to obtain samples. CIA investigator Colwin
Lark interviews Kristin concerning its potential to be turned into a
bioweapon. As their relationship becomes romantic, Zharmakhan is busy
trying to make that nightmare real.
CIA closing in, Zharmakhan destroys his secret lab in Kazakhstan and
flees to Jakarta, establishing a larger facility to produce his far
deadlier version. The CIA sends cruise missiles to take out
Zharmakhan and his new lab. When Kristin learns of the attack, she
tries to stop it, but it's too late.
unintended consequences of the explosions are far more horrific than
even Kristin had suspected. With no vaccine and no cure, is the end
of humanity at hand?
August 1945, Japanese occupied Manchuria
Two hours after receiving the telegram from Tokyo, Lieutenant General Kahshara Futaki remained at his desk, still struggling with the words. The order came from the High Command. He must obey it, but he could not bring himself to pick up the phone to set it in motion. How could he? Doing so would mean the end of his life’s work. There had to be something wrong, some mistake, perhaps a word he’d missed or had not understood. For the tenth, or maybe the hundredth time—he’d lost track—he reread the brief text:
To: Kahshara Futaki, Commanding Officer, Unit 731
From: Koiso Kuniaki, Premier and Commander-in-Chief
Despite the Imperial Army’s valiant struggle, the Russian invaders will overrun your position within forty-eight hours. The weapons you have stockpiled and the buildings and equipment used to manufacture them cannot be allowed to fall into enemy hands. The secret you have guarded all these years must remain. You are therefore ordered to obliterate all traces of the facility you command and return to Tokyo. No sign of your operation is to remain by the time the invader arrives.
Again, General Futaki found no hope. The order left no chance that he could save anything. He would be shot unless he obeyed it. But it seemed impossible. How could he destroy 150 buildings in less than two days, one of them with eight-foot-thick double walls? How could he make the bodies of more than a thousand prisoners vanish in such a short time, plus all the animals and the tanks of the various agents, not to mention all the specialized equipment? Maybe the High Command did not understand what was involved, even though he kept them fully informed.
He looked up at a soft rapping on his door. “Enter.”
His adjutant, Colonel Akira Tumobuchi, stepped into the room and saluted. “Sir, a new shipment of logs has arrived.”
Why did Tumobuchi report such a routine event? The Colonel must have seen the bewildered look on Futaki’s face since he added, “You said you wanted to inspect the next shipment of prisoners to choose some for a special project.”
“So I did. How many logs did we chop today?”
“Over a hundred, but the day is young.”
“How many in the shipment?”
Colonel Tumobuchi spoke without hesitation, “Three hundred and eighty-seven. Mostly Chinese, but also thirteen Russians and two Americans.”
“So all together we have thirteen hundred prisoners. Tell me, Colonel, what would be the fastest way to eliminate them all?”
Now the Colonel had the puzzled look on his face. “Sir?”
General Futaki motioned with his hand at one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Tell me what you think of this.” He handed the telegram to the Colonel and watched his face turn grim as he read it. “Sir, after all you have accomplished, I can’t believe this order. Can the Russians really be here in such a short time? There must be some mistake.”
“I will of course telephone for confirmation, but I fear it is correct. Answer my question.”
Colonel Tumobuchi thought for a moment. “Hidden inside the outer building, the prison has no windows. We pipe air in from the outside. If instead we piped in methane gas, all would perish in a few minutes. This is the most practical way given the short time frame.”
“And the rest of the order?”
“We have an ample supply of dynamite for the buildings. We could stack artillery shells where the walls are thickest. The explosions will start fires that will consume all our stockpiled agents. The methane will explode when the fire reaches it. We could infect the animals with plague and let them loose. Chinese will die for years to come.”
General Futaki stared at his desk and listened as the Colonel detailed how to destroy his life’s work. He knew the man was right, but still he could not bring himself to give the order.
The Colonel continued, “Sir, surely the order does not include our new hemorrhagic fever virus. The bombs are loaded, and the pilots for the seaplanes will board tonight right before the boat sails. The submarines are in route.”
General Futaki considered it. If the Colonel was right, he could save part of his work, the most important part. He had overseen the new viruses’ development by infecting logs and culturing their virus-riddled organs, then using them to infect more logs. The procedure had been repeated through numerous generations of virus. It now caused massive bleeding, a scorching fever and often death. It could be spread by rats and was more infectious than the plague. Best of all, there was no treatment. He considered for a moment directing the question to the high command, but he decided against it. Let the Americans learn first hand how horrible war could be.
“The order does not mention aborting this mission. Get the pilots on board now and inform Captain Matsui to get underway. Make sure the demolition here does not affect his mission.”
Colonel Tumobuchi saluted and marched from the commander’s office.
Captain Matsui slowed his vessel as he approached the coordinates near the Korean coast and started signaling. The water was calm and the early dawn light gave promise of clear weather. His journey down river in what appeared to be just another fishing boat had been uneventful. The boat carried two 12.5 mm machine guns hidden under netting for warding off pirates that operated in the area. The heavy guns would not help if the enemy attacked, but they would have no reason unless they caught the boat rendezvousing with the submarine.
Through Toko 10x60 binoculars, he saw the outline of a submarine break the surface two kilometers ahead. He ordered the helmsman to increase their speed. The sooner he could get the bombs unloaded and the pilots transferred, the safer he’d feel. General Futaki’s orders prohibited anyone from approaching the bombs except the five men he placed aboard who had trained for that purpose. They wore protective suits and stayed below where the bombs were stored throughout the night. Something far too lethal to imagine must be in those bombs for them to be given such special treatment. He'd heard rumors that plague-infected flea bombs had been dropped on the Chinese killing perhaps a few thousand peasants. Captain Matsui hoped never to experience what these new bombs might be capable of when they exploded.
He watched the deck crew of the submarine preparing to secure the vessel alongside. There was urgency in their movements and he felt the tension. As the distance closed, Captain Matsui slowed his boat and ordered crew members to lower the big rubber fenders. The five “bomb sitters” came on deck to ready the crane for the transfer. The pilots stood along the starboard railing looking at the sleek gray warship.
Captain Matsui reversed his engines in preparation for throwing a line over when he saw the deck crew of the submarine disappear inside the vessel. An alarm squawked and she started sinking into the water amidst a cauldron of huge bubbles as air erupted from her ballast tanks.
He didn’t have to wait long to find out what was wrong.
Two huge columns of water erupted on both sides of the submarine, one of them so close it threatened to capsize his small boat. In the distance beyond where the submarine had been, he saw three bright flashes of light erupt from a ship just visible on the horizon. He assumed it was an American destroyer, but it might be Russian. He ordered a 90-degree turn to port and full speed just as the shells fell. Two of them exploded exactly where the submarine had been only seconds before. The third one overshot the target and fell onto his boat. It punched through the deck and exploded near the engine.
Captain Matsui last sensation was of a blinding flash of light, a violent shaking and searing heat. Before he could react, the wooden vessel turned into an inferno killing him and most of his crew.
Constructed from molybdenum steel, the casings of the bombs withstood the initial blast. With fire all around them, it took only a few seconds for the first to explode, and others quickly followed. The flames consumed their payload of hemorrhagic fever virus.
Fire licked at the last bomb, but cold seawater doused the flames as the shattered boat sank. The dense bomb, the first debris from the boat to hit bottom, landed in the soft silt of the Yellow Sea. Triple seals of butyl protected its deadly contents from the corrosive salt water.
As the years passed, the cold current that flows south between China and Korea nudged and tugged at the heavy bomb, but was able to move it only a little. The relentless salt water never ceased its attempt to reach the less dense compartments containing explosives and the virus. Except for mud stains and attached barnacles, the casing remained pristine, but the rubber seals deteriorated. Their destruction was too slow to see except as viewed from a vantage point of many years, but give way they did, first the outer seal, then the middle and finally a pinhole opened through the innermost barrier. At first, the almost invisible flaw kept the virus trapped, but little-by-little, it enlarged, until at last the virus was free of it long confinement.
The warm Kuroshio current circulating in a gigantic clockwise vortex carried the virus out into the Pacific and back around through tropical waters toward Southeast Asia. Unable to find a suitable host, untold billions of virus particles perished during the long journey
Always seeking survival, a tiny fraction of the virus mutated in ways that even the scientists who created it could never has imagined. An even smaller number, but still millions, reached a warm beach of an island in the southern Philippines.
Their long journey in search of a host that would allow them to grow ended as the surf drove them against the sandy beach.
Unable to colonize the bacteria in the sand, a lucky few came to rest on sweet morsels of fruit that had fallen into the water. Soon a troop of monkeys happened upon the fruit and ate it.
At last, General Futaki’s virus found a host.