He sat at his desk, watching the infection models as they spread out across North America and the world, and wondered how long they really had before they found out whether or not the Mayday Army had managed to destroy mankind—with the help of Dr. Alexander Kellis, of course.
“Cheer up, Will!” called one of his colleagues, passing by on the way to the break room. “A pandemic disease that makes you healthy isn’t exactly the worst thing we’ve ever had to deal with.”
“And what’s it going to do to us in a year, Chris?” Dr. Matras shot back.
Dr. Chris Sinclair grinned. “Raise the dead, of course,” he said. “Don’t you ever go to the movies?” Then he walked away, leaving Dr. Matras alone to brood.
* * *
The Centers for Disease Control have issued a statement asking that people remain calm in the wake of the release of an unidentified pathogen from the Virginia-based lab of Dr. Alexander Kellis. “We do not, as yet, have any indication that this disease is harmful to humans,” said Dr. Chris Sinclair. A seven-year veteran of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, Dr. Sinclair graduated from Princeton…
July 2, 2014: Denver, Colorado
Janice Barton knocked twice on the door to Dr. Wells’s office before opening it and stepping inside, expression drawn. “Do you think you can see three more patients today?” she asked, without preamble.
“What?” Dr. Wells looked up from his paperwork, fingers clenching involuntarily on his pen. “I’ve already seen nine patients since four! I’ve barely finished filing the insurance information for Mrs. Bridge. How am I supposed to see three more before we close?”
“Because if you’ll agree to see three more, I can probably convince the other nineteen to come back tomorrow,” Janice replied. For the first time, Dr. Wells realized how harried his normally composed administrative assistant looked. Her nails were chipped. Somehow, that seemed like the biggest danger sign of all. A man-made virus was on the loose, Marburg Amberlee was doing…something…and Janice had allowed her manicure to fray.
“I’ll see the three most in need of attention, and then I have to close for the night,” he said, putting down his pen as he stood. “If I don’t get some sleep, I won’t be of any use to anyone.”
“They’re all in need of attention. I can’t choose. But thank you,” said Janice, and withdrew.
She was gone by the time he emerged from his office, retreating to wherever it was she went when she was tired of dealing with the madhouse of the waiting room. On the days when it was a madhouse, anyway. This was definitely one of those days. The gathered patients set up a clamor as soon as he appeared, all of them waving for his attention, some of them even shouting. Dr. Wells stopped, looking at the crowd, and wondered if the other doctors involved in the Marburg Amberlee tests were having the same experience.
He was deeply afraid that they were.
The trouble wasn’t the patients themselves; they looked as hale and healthy as ever, which explained how they were able to yell so loudly for his attention. Their cancers were gone, or under control, constantly besieged by their defensive Marburg Amberlee infections. It was the people they had brought to the office with them that presented the truly alarming problem. Husbands and wives, parents and children, they sat next to their previously ill relatives with glazed eyes, taking shallow, painful-sounding breaths. Some of them were bleeding from the nose or tear ducts—just a trickle, nothing life-threatening, but that little trickle was enough to terrify Dr. Wells, making his bowels feel loose and his stomach crawl.
They were manifesting the early signs of a Marburg Amberlee infection, during the brief phase where the body’s immune system attempted to treat the helper virus as an invasion. That was the one stage of infection that could be truly harmful; when Marburg Amberlee was hit, it hit back, and it was more interested in defeating the opposition than it was in preserving the host. These people were infected, all of them.
And that simply wasn’t possible. Marburg Amberlee wasn’t transmissible through casual contact—or at least, it wasn’t supposed to be, and if the trials had been wrong about that, what else could they have been wrong about? Pointing almost at random, he said, “You, you, and you. I can see you before we close. Everyone else, I’m very sorry, but you’re going to have to come back tomorrow. See Janice before you leave, she’ll set you up with an appointment.”
Groans and shouts of protest spread through the room. “My baby’s sick!” shouted one woman. A year before, she’d been dying of lung cancer. She’d called him a miracle worker. Now she was glaring at him like he was the devil incarnate. “What are you going to do about it?”
“I’m going to see you tomorrow,” said Dr. Wells firmly, and waved for the chosen three to step through the door between the reception area and the examination rooms. He retreated with relief, the feeling of dread growing stronger.
He honestly had no idea what he was going to do.
* * *
Rumors of an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in and around the Colorado Cancer Research Center are currently unsubstantiated. The center’s head doctor, Daniel Wells, is unavailable for comment at this time.
July 4, 2014: Allentown, Pennsylvania
The streets of Allentown were decked in patriotic red, white, and blue, symbolizing freedom from oppression—symbolizing independence. That word had never seemed so relevant. Brandon Majors walked along, smiling at every red streamer and blue rosette, wishing he could jump up on a bench and tell everyone in earshot how he was responsible for their true independence. How he, working in the best interests of mankind, had granted them independence from illness, freedom from the flu, and the liberty to use their sick days sitting on the beach, sipping soft drinks and enjoying their liberty from The Man! They’d probably give him a medal, or at least carry him around the city on their shoulders.