Saturday, April 04, 2020

Part 2 of All Extracts from Silent Lips about a virus in New York City - just for you!

Part 2 of All 43 extracts from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadlly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 CENTS!)
For Part 1 (posts 1 to 32) check the earlier post.
Click here for Part 1.

Post 33 - BEYOND DOUBT

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

It is my considered judgement, Mr President, the general's flat voice had said softly a few minutes ago, that we are licked. If this was a declared war with another nation then I would unhesitatingly recommend that we sue for peace, at any price.
He sighed and turned back to the spare figure of the officer.
The black lined report lay on the table between them. 
"General, you are recommending an act of aggression against the Russians that amounts to an act of war without any declaration of war, something we have never done before."
The man opposite him nodded.
"If your basic assumption that the Russians have been responsible for the introduction of the disease into the country is incorrect, then your proposal would lead to a spread of the disease from our land to the rest of the world."
He bent forward, his large head shadowed, and stared sombrely at the military man.
"We would be responsible for the end of the world if it is unchecked."
"Yes, sir. I have considered that, sir. But there is a better than even chance in my mind that they did bring it to us and that they do have an antidote."
The President flipped through the report until he found the summary.
He read it again and then stared at the general. 
"You are proposing that we introduce the disease into Russia and see whether they have an antidote. If they do then we will insist on its being provided to us or we will declare war on them, using all weapons at our disposal."
General Holcroft nodded. 
"All the contingency plans are ready, sir. We have selected the Russian personnel in the jails in Europe to be used to carry the disease back into the country. Our own people are also on standby. As you know, sir, some of our troops in the city are infected. We would be using them.  Some have volunteered; they know they are going to die. We have had dry runs in the past, sir. They have all worked out. All the men we slipped into Russia came back. The routes are all planned and are all still available, despite the fact that the Russians have tightened up their security on their borders. The last team came out a few hours ago."
The President pushed his chair back and strode to the window again.
He spoke with his back to Holcroft. 
"What if we are wrong, general? What if they did not do it?" 
He turned, his eyes burning into the other man's. 
"We have not established beyond doubt that they did. If we had, then I would authorise the operation. I would have no other choice. You told me that you thought others might have gotten to the Russian monument and perhaps introduced the toxins into it, if it did come from the monument. How do we find out?"  
Holcroft smiled thinly.
"I believe we might try one last thing, sir."
He leant forward in his chair and explained his plan in some detail.
The President listened in silence, then he stood up signalling that the meeting was over. 
"It is the lesser of two evils, general. You are authorised to implement it immediately.  Just make sure it works."

Post 34 - THE HIGHEST PRINCIPLE

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

He stared at the steel shuttered window, his hands busy sealing the tape on the girl's arm.  "Fuck you, Marshall! You know she would bleed to death if I didn't do something."
The impersonal voice came over the speaker: "You know the rules. You are supposed to avoid contact as much as possible." 
It died away and he waited, knowing what would come.
Several seconds passed.
"I am sorry, Schmiedli." 
Marshall's voice was quieter, the anger gone.
"We have sealed the area off. You will have to be tested to see if you are infected before we can let you out. Please strip and lie down on the spare table."
Johan Schmiedli stared at the closed window, the words still repeating in his mind. He knew the routine; he also knew there was no appeal against it.
It had all been spelled out to him when he started here: the highest principle was to keep as many of the doctors healthy as possible, because they were the only hope in the search for a cure.
Slowly he stripped his clothes off, dropping them on the floor. He tossed his wristwatch on top of the untidy pile and swung his feet up onto the table.
"Your glasses."
He took them off and threw them onto the clothes; now he really felt vulnerable and naked. He twisted his head and watched the artificial arms, moving towards the table.
"We will be going through the usual tests. You must help as much as you can." 
There was a pause as the first arm dropped slowly to his arm, the needle entering his arm.  He winced and forced his arm to stay where it was, resisting the urge to tear it away. 
"We are going to use the anaesthetic now. A general one."
The second arm holding the gas mask dropped towards his face and he forced himself to look up into it as it fell. It sank over his face and he heard the slight hissing of the gas; the metallic voice of Marshall came over the intercom, sounding a little apologetic.
"I'm sorry, Johan."
He felt the world slow down and a heavy weight fall on his body as the gas took hold.

Post 35 - MY TRADE

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

"I come for my trade," the boy said. He had his hands under the seat of the wooden chair, and lifted it a bit, moving it towards the table.
"What trade?"
"I sold him stuff." 
The chair moved another fraction closer to the bill.
"Who did you sell to?"
"The man." The little boy gestured at the room.
"I see." 
Burton reached for the bill and moved it closer to the table's edge.
"A young man?"
"Yeah. That's him."
"What did you sell him?" 
The chair scraped closer to the table.
"Blood."
Burton took out a ten and placed it on top of the twenty.
"What blood?" 
"My blood."
"How much did you sell him? When? What did he use it for?" The questions escaped his control and burst out.
The boy seemed nervous. He hesitated a bit before answering.
"A bottle full, about every two weeks." He leant forward casually, resting his hand on the table, keeping it a little way from the two bills.

Post 36 - THE UNTHINKABLE

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):
The priest held the torn piece of newspaper up to the light; it was creased with constant folding and unfolding  he had read it many times over in the darkened church as he prayed and kept vigil for the city.

The reporter had started the article with a mention of one of the scientists who had described the experiments with the shotgun, and mentioned that the probabilities of genetic engineering leading to such a disaster was an improbability built on an implausibility.
So many things had to happen before an accident could occur.
He glanced at the heading, The Last of the Mohicans, and passed by the opening paragraphs describing the happening of the improbability built on an implausibility.
He found the paragraph he wanted and tilted his head a little as he read her words to the congregation.
And if the unthinkable happened; if we did die, if mankind did cease,here on earth.
Then the experiment would be over, never to be repeated elsewhere.Man would not start elsewhere. The probabilities of the same combination of chance developments and mutations occurring again in a similar environment as had happened so many billions of years before are too low.
We are truly the last of a great breed - the last of the Mohicans.
He stopped reading. Soft sobbing filled the silent church. He looked at the strained, saddened faces.
"May God preserve us," he said softly.

Post 37 - SOVBASE

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

The train had speeded up and the soldier straightened, resuming his seat. "It's all clear from here on in, general."
Grant sat down. 
The train slowed as it  entered Grand Central, the choppers swooping up and away, their job done. 
They left the train and strode down the station, amongst the piles of supplies and machine gun nests. Bales of medical supplies and food packages littered the platforms and stairways.  
Grand Central Station
Grant stripped off the vest and handed it to the sergeant, then he strode up the stairs to the huge hall, skirting the piled goods and walking rapidly across the hall, his shoes clacking on the floor.  He checked his watch against the large Newsweek clock and then stepped outside the door, noting the machine gun nests and accordion wire that surrounded the entrances to the station. The elevator to the top of the Pan Am building was also heavily guarded, and he rode up with one of the guards who handed him over to the chopper pilot at the top.
The takeoff was easy, and the pilot set course across the rooftops, gaining altitude and watching the ground carefully. The gunner cocked the guns and peered down as well, tension in the creases in his face. 
"You expecting anything?" Grant shouted and the gunner grinned, his eyes still on the roofs.
"No, sir.  Just careful, sir.  We were told some of the bastards have ground to air rockets and might try to take us out, sir."
Grant peered out of the side window at the giant supply choppers roaring in and out of the brightly lit parking grounds outside the Metlife Stadium.
The chopper touched down inside the stadium itself.
Grant and the other passengers stepped down, bending to avoid the rotors, and made their way through the piles of food and equipment stacked all over the floor. Similar piles were ranged up the sides of the stadium; trucks came and went loading and unloading. The stadium was one of the main food gathering and distribution points in the city.

Post 38 - IF THEY WANT A WAR

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):
Certain places were natural focal points of their occupation of the city: Grand Central Terminal, with its coppery green roofed forty eight covered acres and one hundred and thirty three tracks on two levels, had a massive main concourse that would be a logical assembly hall, especially now that the trains were not to move except to bring in troops and food.
And on top of it the Pan Am buildings, fifty nine storeys that soared 808 feet above the streets of the city and that made an ideal observation post for the Army; one of the many it needed in order to control the streets below.
The jeep slowly passed by the long lines of patient people waiting for the free bibles given out each day by the American Bible Society headquarters at Broadway and 61st Street.  Hundreds of thousands of bibles had flooded into the city from all quarters of the world, each with its own little handwritten message of love and hope and encouragement on the inside cover.  By Presidential decree the bibles had been given priority passage in certain cargo drop areas and a dozen large Army trucks ran a perpetual delivery service from those drop zones to the Society.  The jeep skidded to a halt and Webb nodded to Hooker, watching him enter the building.
Hooker punched the elevator button and it rose swiftly.  The doors opened and he stepped past the two soldiers guarding the observation post on that level. The windows were lined at regular spaces with troops, each one hunched over the tripod supporting his binoculars. He noticed that many of the men had sniper scopes.
Hooker saluted General Grant and took the chair the officer had indicated with a brief wave of a blunt hand. They had worked together several years ago on a hostage incident in Europe.
"Listen, colonel, those bastards out there are killing my boys." 
Grant swept the curtains aside and gestured down at the streets with one huge hand. 
"They're gunning them down like dogs down there." 
He dropped the curtains and turned back to Hooker. 
"Now you better tell me what to do to stop this crap before I turn my men loose on those bastards. If they want a war, they will get one."

Post 39 - THE GOVERNOR’S GIFT

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

The chopper flitted over the junction of Wall and Broad Street and Governor Ethan Allen Cobb thought of President Washington when he had taken up office as the first president of this lusty nation. Down there, in Federal Hall where Congress had met, Washington had visited Congress in fitting style:  riding in the official cream coach drawn by six white horses sent by the state of Virginia.
The Governor smiled to himself: he was coming in one of the modern coaches, one that flew. He touched the rose in his lapel, the symbol of the state of New York that he wore as his badge of office.
The Governor smiled at Naomi Jacobs, holding the package out to her, his arm braced against the tight turn of the chopper.
She took it and opened it, exclaiming with delight when she peeled off the last layer of paper and revealed the solid crystal apple, the round stalk protruding from the top   a Steuben's crystal apple.
She cupped it in her hands and stared into it, at the distorted image of her hands below it. At the bottom the clearness was broken by the folds of the crystal. It was about four inches high.
"Oh, Governor!" she breathed, and he shared her delight with a sudden chuckle that wiped the strain from his face.
"It's yours," he said softly.
"An apple for the woman who so loves the Big Apple."
The chopper pilot circled the building carefully before bringing the chopper in for a slow landing on the white square with the red circle in the middle on top of the tower. The sides of the building fell sheer to the streets below. Away in the distance a B52 was cruising across the city, its engines muted with distance. Supplies suddenly spilled out of it, parachutes blossoming in the clear sky.
Governor Cobb ducked his head under the whirling rotors and helped Naomi down the stairs.

Post 40 - YES, MR PRESIDENT!

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):
There were tears in his eyes, running down his cheeks.
"I thought about it and I knew the answer had to be Yes! Yes! a thousand times Yes! We have been called to fight a war against an enemy more terrible and more dangerous to our country than any in our glorious past. I asked myself: if this had happened in any other great city in this fair land of ours would I expect them to say anything else than Yes! Yes, Mr President!
"Shut us in so that we can grapple with this scourge and beat it down!
"Let us help you and our fellow citizens throw a wall up against the spread of this terrible thing. Let us help you save the millions who are outside and so far are safe from it."
The crowd was on its feet now, cheering the old fighter.
"One of our great Presidents went to a city that was in danger from another kind of enemy and told them: Ich bien ein Berliner! Now I say to you, I am proud to stand here and tell you and the world that I am a New Yorker!"
The singing had started in the corner of the hall and was spreading.
"If the only thing I can do in this terrible, terrible time is to wait this side of the wall and if necessary lay down my life for my fellow citizens, then I say: Take me! Take me! Take me!" 
He grabbed the microphone in both hands and joined in the song, starting at the beginning, his powerful voice roaring out Oh! Say can you see in the dawn's early light ...   and the crowd stood and sang with him, the pride they had shining in their eyes.
This, they were saying, as their massed voice rang through the huge hall and out to the nation through the television cameras, this is our moment. Tomorrow, in the cold light of the dawn, we will live with our fears again, but now we are marching with that wild, crazy, proud old man. Now we are living our commitment to that wild, crazy, proud country of ours.

Post 41 - MEMORIES

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):
"Moonshine starts over there, at the bridge, and stretches to the end of the park," he shouted over the roar of the wind through the open window.
"We'll sweep it about a dozen times today, to impress you with our thoroughness," he laughed. 
He jabbed the buttons and she heard the hissing start behind her, turning to watch the spray whirling behind the planes as they moved across the city. The spray kicked and bucked in the turbulent air; they were flying so low she could see it settle on the buildings and roofs
behind them -  a shiny sheen of wetness as they swept past. 
Jess came over the quadrangle and suddenly saw the wedding party a little off to one side, posing near the fountain for photographs. 
"Hey, Baby!" he shouted loudly, kicking the controls lightly and heading towards them.  The spray twisted in the turbulence behind his AgCat.
"This is gonna be a wedding you'll never forget!" 
He whooped and cut his engine, slowing the plane to a near stall.
"You can't!" Naomi exclaimed, her face concerned as she watched the ground swinging up towards them.
"Watch me!" Jess howled, flashing her a cocky grin.
The wedding party had seen him, and they broke now, running helter skelter across the green grass.
He cheered the bridle couple on, leaning out of the open window and waving frantically as he headed after them. They ran away from the main crowd, the bridegroom looking over his shoulder as he checked the path of the AgCat. 
"Tell this to your grandsons!" Jess Hungate yelled down at them as he swept over them.  He glanced back, laughing as the spray descended on them, covering the woman's white dress. 
He turned the AgCat and flew back to them.
The bride was sprawled on the ground, weeping; her mate stood staring up at the approaching AgCat, his face green from the spray.
"Honey, it's for your own good," he roared out of the window as he neared them.
The bridegroom thrust his fist into the air, his right hand slapping his upper arm.
"That's the stuff, my gay young cockerel! You do that to her tonight and she'll never forget the happy ending. You'll be a goddam hero!"
He turned to Naomi, yelling over the engine's noise.
"All gotta get it, Journalist. Think of their memories!"
She twisted in her seat and watched the wedding party disappear behind them. 
"Memories," she shouted, and then suddenly they were both roaring with laughter as the small plane sped between the buildings. They had flown three sorties in the morning; this was their first one of the afternoon.
Naomi Jacobs left after two more trips, her eyes alive with merriment and cheeks flushed.  As she shook Jess's hand, she said Memories, and they laughed together.

Post 42 - NAOMI HOPE PROCESSIONS

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):
There never seemed, in retrospect, to be any one single starting point for the Naomi Hope Processions that took place in the city; somehow it just seemed that they were not there and then the next night they were.
People poured into the streets as dusk settled over the troubled city; solemn processions marched in subdued silence from all points of the city, converging on Central Park.
Traffic stopped and the troops and police stood quietly as the crowds flooded over streets and across squares, little lamps made from a sawed off broomstick and a metal box with a candle inside and the shape of an apple cut into its four sides swinging in rhythm with their strides, the glittering candlelight skittering across the pavement and sidewalks, merging into other little gleams and parting, swinging back and forth, back and forth on the way to the park.
The city had come to wait in vigil for the woman lying in the Parklab, silent flames framing anxious faces, eyes which no longer hid their grief focussed on the bright buildings behind the barbed wire fences.

The silent vigils sprang up in cities across the world, with apple lanterns casting beams over the pillars of St Mark's Cathedral in the Vatican; the tall pillar of Nelson in Trafalgar Square; the grim walls of the Kremlin; the rutted streets of Peking; the grandeur of the Parthenon; the moving waters of the canals in Venice; the grey cobblestones of the pedestrian mall in sombre Frankfurt; the steep sides of the tamed River Seine; the small circle of the Dam Square in Amsterdam; the gleaming  tramlines curving through the centre of Zurich; the tulip mouthed opera house in Sydney harbour; the pink walls of the stately Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town.
Then, one by one, the cities switched their lights off when the Naomi Hope Processions started.
Hour after hour the streets filled with the lights of candles crying to a seemingly indifferent God for mercy, for the stricken city and for the, stricken half girl, half woman lying unconscious in the brightly lit Parklab.
Each night the processions grew in size, each one fed by the previous one and by the news of similar processions in city after city throughout the world.
Dense masses, many in the black of mourning, moved through them led by muffled drums, moving to ease  the tension of the grief that seemed to go on and on without any relief.
Their sadness and fear welled out, unspoken but palpable; they were waiting for the inevitable.

Post 43 - GETTYSBURG

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):
A mosquito landed on his hand and he let it bite, watching it and thinking of the second day of battle, when two armies of Americans had faced each other,  both occupying little ridges:  blue coats on Cemetery Ridge, and, a mile away, across a shallow  valley, another ridge, Seminary Ridge, with its massed grey coats.
Americans killing Americans, he thought, his finger still busily tracing the numbers in the stone.
One o'clock:  the intense artillery barrage, metal whining over rock and
through trees, so loud, so loud. He lifted his head and, stared through the trees at the silent battlefield, dark and deserted now.
So loud that the cries of the dying were never heard.
Then the lull, and the incredibly beautiful, heartbreakingly beautiful sight of the grey uniformed Confederates marshalling for their attack on the Unionist forces' strongest point.
Aim for the clump of trees, there in the middle, General Robert E. Lee
ordered his veterans and the thousands of men drew themselves upright and wiped sticky, sweaty hands on the grass and on their uniforms. They would follow this little man to hell, they had said before, around flickering campfires on countless battlefields; now they prepared to enter hell. Out of the woods they came, into the open; slowly, proudly, unconcernedly, fighting for a cause that had already been lost. They lined up, shoulder to shoulder, checking their weapons, battle flags dipping and waving in the sunshine. General Pickett waited until his Virginians and the others in the ranks of the doomed were ready and then he marched them off, towards those trees, across the plain.
And the guns fired once more.
And the muskets snapped and snarled at the marching line of grey. And the two armies caught at each other's throats on the edge of Cemetery Ridge. And the South died and the American nation was forged under that merciless sun as Pickett's bloody charge was beaten off and beaten back.
The President caressed the cold stone one last time and rose, walking slowly down the path, watching the sudden flashes of brief light of the fireflies between the white stones.
Sudden yellow firefly flashes at his feet, on the ground. He thought of the strength he found most telling in Lincoln: his uncanny foresight. Before that harsh, bitter tragedy had ended, long before the killing had halted, he was looking forward to the peace to come, reaching out to shape the peace even before the battle was over. 
Now, he, too, like Lincoln, would have to look forward, beyond the killing of Americans by Americans, beyond what had to be done, to shape the future.
He stood in front of the memorial to New York State, staring at the column; then he knelt in front of it and pressed his face against the cold step. New York had suffered then, in that war of Americans against Americans; she had lost men, young men, in those bloody battles.
Should she sacrifice now?
Tom Watts watched the slumped figure of the President in front of the memorial and a cold shudder shook his body in the hot night.
Holy shit.
The man was going to do it.

Part 1 - Extracts from my novel Silent Lips about a virus attack on New York just for you!

Part 1 - Extracts from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined and a desperate search for a cure in a ParkLab laboratory set up in Central Park. The President has to make a decision, soon! (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents).
Note: First 30 posts here, next 13 in next post
Click here for Part 2.

Post 1 - NEW YORK CITY QUARANTINED

Covid19 has struck New York City and it is reeling with the impact.
The Governor is calling on the President to use laws to force manufacturers to produce medical equipment so desperately needed to treat the sick.
A few years ago I wandered through Central Park and wondered how the city would react if a virus was let loose inside it.
How would it cope?
I then wrote Silent Lips, at thriller about NYC struck by such a disease.
The President orders the city quarantined, and the Army sets up a Parklab in Central Park, where doctors from inside the city frantically try to find a cure for the spreading disease.
Other doctors fly into the city, knowing they will be unable to leave it, but coming to help.
You can read excerpts of Silent Lips at my Amazon Author Page at this site (click on the eBook Silent Lips picture to see the excerpts): https://www.amazon.com/author/glennashton
Here is the chapter describing the setting up of the Parklab.
The ParkLab, Central Park
The sweeping of Central Park started at nine at night, with the first troops driving into the middle of the Great Lawn next to the lake in jeeps and half tracks, and fanned out from this central point, pushing towards the boundaries of the Park.
They formed lines three deep and moved through the trees and bushes, their handheld lights probing every bush and behind each rock, their fixed bayonets forcing the people they found out from the Lawn, towards the edges of the Park.
Lights were spaced at regular intervals around the lawn and the edges of the Park, facing outwards.
Further back, batteries of searchlights were mounted with their beams at low angles to allow them to cover the ground.
 Behind the sweep teams, other troops unrolled the barbed wire that was to be strung along the Park's boundaries to keep the New Yorkers out of the area. 
Moveable steel barriers were erected in front of the barbed wire to keep the crowds that were expected to arrive the next day off the barbs of the wire.
By seven an area a half-mile square had been secured, and teams of sappers started throwing up the guard posts every hundred yards apart. Made of metal cylinders with firing slits cut in at three heights, they had their own independent backup generators to power their lights in case of a general power failure. Each one had a telephone link to the central command post that was situated to one side of the Great Lawn, as well as portable radio communications.
Their fields of vision overlapped so that the whole perimeter  of the Parklab was under surveillance. 
 
Central Park, home of the Army's ParkLab
A three-man complement filed into each guard post: one radio operator and two guards with night scopes on their rifles. Each post had its own supply of gas grenades next to the grenade launchers that poked their snub snouts out from the metal canisters; the launchers could be swivelled up and sideways to cover the zone allocated to the post.
Other troops patrolled between the double strands of barbed wire, in groups of three.
There was only one entrance into the cordoned off area of the Lawn, and it had two sturdier metal cylinders on each side of the steel gates.
A steady stream of vehicles filed into the Park through the gates, bringing the tents and buildings that were needed by the support personnel.
One section was marked off for the ambulances which drove in just after ten that night, their lights on dim and sirens silent. Their crews settled into the prefabricated huts hurriedly erected alongside the parking zone.
At midnight the exodus of surplus builders and troops started  and by two that morning only the permanent staff were left in the base.
The second wave of activity started at three with the arrival of the massive helicopters with their cargoes of laboratories. Five huge complexes were winched down to the Great Lawn and slotted together to form a square with one central building connected by tunnels to the four corner buildings.
The Parklab was ready.

Post 2 - CLOSING DOWN NEW YORK CITY

Shutting down New York because a virus has  been released inside it, from my novel Silent Lips (click here for more information):
"There were seven men in the room when he entered, all from Washington.  Three of them were in uniform, including the five star general he had spoken to earlier.  All looked concerned. 
He studied General Grant. He was a tall, straight man, with a lean, fit-looking body, and he spoke in a careful, precise voice, glancing at all the attendees from time to time. He was not as young as McGroarty had first assumed; there were deep lines down his cheeks and his lips were thin, the grey eyes severe. 
McGroarty liked the man's message even less than he had expected. 
So, there had been an outbreak of some kind of disease and several people had died in the past day or so, but there were always things happening in large cities like New York.
The way the general was putting it, somebody  somewhere in Washington had a special group - formed soon after the terrorist attack on New York of 9-11 and the unsuccessful scattered bio warfare attacks that had followed it  - that investigated these kinds of things, independently of the local authorities, and these people had units stationed in every city and town, often disguised as ordinary commercial firms. One such unit had started tracking the outbreak in New York as soon as the second case had been admitted to hospital. 
This unit believed that the disease was a brand new one. 
They weren't sure, the civilians said, but McGroarty noticed that General Grant seemed to have bought their conclusions; he did not look like the kind of man who bought crap easily. 
The group also believed that the disease was growing at a rapid rate; according to their calculations it was due to start a phase of exponential growth within the next day or two, and the thing could go out of control unless it was checked, or cured.
Or contained.
Everybody had nodded when the last option had been mentioned;  McGroarty didn't need to have it spelled out which option the seven gentlemen around the table thought was most feasible.
He had made his first interruption about ten minutes ago: on whose authority had they called this meeting? 
It was General Grant who answered. 
The President of the United States, acting on the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
It was then he really started worrying. 
A lot of people were taking this thing very seriously indeed.  If it started to spread like they said it would, he could understand the  concern about keeping order in the city. It would be a madhouse. 
The civilians' computer model of the spread of the disease showed different possible scenarios, all of them of varying degrees of complexity, but all of them bad.  If they were right the city was in for a tough few days or perhaps even weeks. The local police would have to control the situation; if they needed help there was a special army group trained in such things that could be called in. 
They were on the way into the city now.
They had unfolded a large map and spread it on the table. It showed a series of concentric circles, based on New York.             
Some were irregularly shaped, using natural lines provided by the geography of the land, such as the rivers running between New Jersey and Philadelphia and around Delaware Bay, running up the river into the Appalachian Hills, ending at Connecticut.  McGroarty leaned over the table, hands astride the large map, his tunic unbuttoned because of the stifling heat. The map was a large sectioned one of the coastline on the eastern seaboard from Virginia to Maine.
They were proposing a fallback plan which assumed that a cure was not soon found and the disease did not show signs of abating: to divide the surrounding areas into five zones, with boundaries between each zone. 
Guards would man the boundary crossing points."
Click on the Silent Lips picture at my Amazon author page to be able to read a few pages – and the eBook costs only 99 cents! Tell your friends!

Post 3 - THE GOVERNOR'S REQUEST


An extract from my thriller Silent Lips about a virus in New York City - more extracts to come!
Naomi Jacobs rolled the page into the battered Underwood her uncle had  given her on her eleventh birthday and pulled the crumpled pack of  cigarettes closer, selecting one and lighting it with a flaring  match from the untidy pile in the crystal saucer next to the  typewriter. 
 
 Naomi's 11th birthday present
The smoke coiled up past her head and she screwed one eye shut as she typed, thinking with disgust of her attempts to stop smoking. She hated the smell of smoke in her clothing and the sour smell that lingered in the apartment in the mornings after a late night's work, but she needed the swift adrenaline kick of the nicotine when she was excited.
Besides, hadn't somebody found out that nicotine helped one's concentration?
She pulled the page from the roller and held it in one hand, noting the yellow stains on her fingers where she held the cigarettes.
What would the ancient Greeks have thought if they could have seen this world city of ours, this city state writ large in the turbulent world of this century, so much more complex than anything they could possibly have imagined?  

Would they have appreciated that America's sprawling millions were not really a nation in the modern sense, but rather a collection of city states; city states that gave it its richness, and its diversity and its incredible energy? Would they have understood that Americans were moulded by their cities, fashioned closer to the heart's desire by these huge cities?

I believe the Athenians would have grasped this.
She stopped reading and thought about the Governor and their meeting last night, in his penthouse overlooking the broad Hudson River.
He had stood with his back to her, looking out of the window at the city below, a drink in one hand. Above the city, the fighter planes had moved in graceful flight as they patrolled the outer Zones to prevent any escape attempts.
He had spoken to her, his face turned to the window but his words clear and calm.
"You must write it up, Naomi. Tell them about us. Tell the world about us: how we lived, the greatest city the world has ever seen. The only rival to Athens in all our history on this planet. Tell them about our pride. How we survived that cowardly attack in September 2001, when the terrorists thought they could break our spirit by striking at our tallest buildings. How our brave men and women rushed to help our people then, and died by the hundreds doing so. How we gave so much to the nation and to the world. Record our last dying moments, as we die in a slow, dignified manner. How we lived proudly and beautifully. We made the world a better place." 
Strain had thickened his voice, but his measured tones continued.  
"We contributed; we were the essence of our culture. Without us nothing. After us, the flood."
She had laughed. 
"Sounds a bit like an obituary to me, Governor."
He had turned then, and she had been shocked to see the tears on his cheeks, the lights glinting in them as he unashamedly let them flow. Far away, in the distance, one of the B 52's had curved up sharply, its bomb bays open and the parcels falling in curving flight to the dark ground below, the parachutes snapping open above them.
"Yes, it is an obituary, Naomi. But what a task. Preserve us for them so that they will remember us in our moments of glory, of pride, of accomplishment. The laughter. The applause.  The tragedies and the farces and the triumphs. Preserve us. Not as we are now, frightened and helpless and cowering, waiting for our silent Gotterdammerung, but as we were." 
She blew the smoke out her nostrils, thinking of the white haired Governor and his strange request.  In terse, bitter sentences, he had outlined the full gravity of the crisis to her and solicited her help in keeping the city calm and dignified if things worsened, as the authorities expected them to. 
He had frightened her.
She continued reading her article.
Inevitably, if you were good, you drifted to New York. It was the magnet of this boisterous nation; the top of the totem pole; the lightning conductor, attracting the high energied people amongst America's tens of millions.
It was big enough to insulate itself against the bizarre. New York's surface would barely ripple when the bizarre came to it and entered it.
But this, these steel helmeted troops, these young lions with their hard eyes and bronzed faces and casually held weapons - these were different.
They were alien.
They were trying to impose themselves on New York and the city knew this.
So these young men - in their camouflaged uniforms and field green fatigues, with watchful, hard eyes - these men the city watched as carefully, not letting them slip away into its monstrous maw and accommodating them.
It was wary of them.
Wary, but also curious: for they were alien; here and there were flashes of similarity: the buzz saw tones of the Bronx; the softer tones of the wooded suburbs. And so the city watched them, silently at first.
Waiting.
Deliverers or conquerors?

Post 4 - HARLEM, NEW YORK CITY

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, about a virus that leads to New York being quarantined:
He swung the shovel into the soft ground under the single, scraggly tree there, straightening to wipe the sweat off his face with the back of his shirtsleeve, then he stood erect and stretched painfully, hands guarding the protesting muscles in the small of his back.
Another eight inches should do it.
 He glanced around but there was no one nearby; the lot was empty and dark, protected from the night lights of the city by the darkened hulk of the deserted apartment block looming over the empty land between the two buildings.  
He spat on his hands and picked up the shovel again, swinging it up and over his shoulder and into the earth.  It struck something hard, jarring his arms.
He dropped to the side of the hole, wriggling the shovel. The blade had cut deeply into the roots of the small tree.
He muttered something under his breath and tugged it free, then he dug for another twenty minutes before he was satisfied. 
Standing the shovel against the tree trunk, he bent and unrolled the sacking before spreading it on the bottom of the hole.
He turned, knees on the soft ground piled next to the hole, and grunted softly as he lifted the first little body, swinging it into the hole and straightening its limbs gently.
The second body followed, then he spread the second sheet of sacking over the bodies, tucking it into the sides of the inert forms, digging into the dirt to secure it around them.
He leant back, hands on his thighs, and looked at the little pile shrouded by the coarse sacking.
So long, boys.
He scooped up a handful of dirt and let it trickle onto the  bodies.
He filled the grave, tamping down the dirt until it was level with the ground at the bottom of the little tree and dragged some debris from the lot over it.
"Vector Victor," he said softly, smiling, his thoughts still at the little tree with the twisted branches. 
He saluted the black and white photograph of the scientist with untidy hair and carelessly knotted tie, with his cigarette, and glanced around at the small room, half-surprised by its grimy walls.
He picked up the syringe and glanced briefly at the point before he thrust it into the rubber masking the neck of the small bottle.
 He rolled up his sleeve and fisted his left hand, waiting for the veins to swell before slipping the point of the needle into his arm and depressing the plunger slowly.  The liquid slid down the syringe  and into his body.
He dropped the empty syringe onto the desk and stared at the small drop of blood welling from the puncture mark on his arm.

Post 5 - RUSSIA

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, about a virus that leads to New York being quarantined:

For twenty days the Vertical 8 payload of Cosmos 130485 had circled the glowing sphere of the world in its 406 by 226 kilometre orbit, its exposure to the world carefully controlled at 62.8 degrees, the instruments within its recovery module ceaselessly functioning. 

Data was originated, corrected, manipulated and despatched to earth.

Small packages were opened, shaken, stirred and closed. 

Shining vials were exposed to the sunlight and to the invisible rays streaking through the thin space above the earth, their exposure measured and noted before the windows letting in the rays were closed.

Now it readied itself for re entry. 

Gradually its orbit changed as it dropped closer and closer to the limits of the earth's pull, until it regained its weight and dropped faster and faster to the earth.

At 95 kilometres the recovery pod parted from the payload and went its own way, gradually nearing the earth. Its multi coloured parachute snapped out behind it, filling instantaneously and slowing the pod's descent. 




Cosmos 130485



It struck the ground softly, rolling a little before coming to a halt. The parachute crumpled on the dusty soil, its identification symbols, in four languages, hidden in the folds of the light cloth. Within minutes the recovery crew had surrounded it. The dust from their vehicles' tracks settled slowly in the warm shafts of the afternoon sun.

Post 6 - The Infector Pool

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, about a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined:

"At present we do not have enough hard facts."
Colonel Ernest Marshall was leaning forward as he spoke, his clipped words had a slight Boston accent. 
"The  infector pool could be a dynamic thing.  It could swell whenever someone new is infected and ebb when someone dies. Our objective in such a case would be to achieve a negative balance by reducing its entrants." His voice was emotionless. "We would have to let the infected ones either heal on their own or die out. It could be a war of attrition until a cure is found."
McGroarty's mind lingered on the speed of the disease the colonel was speculating about:  he had never heard of anything that moved as fast as this thing did. Like a sidewinder in soft desert sand. 
"There are a number of things we have to concentrate on." 
Marshall held up his hands and ticked them off on his fingers. 
"One: we know that infectious diseases are communicable and that an agent spreads them. Two: the agent could spread it directly through the air - viruses love the air - or through contact, whether primary or secondary. Droplets could cause it. You have it and you sneeze and the person next to you gets it. Or it might be through faeces or urine. Three: the host and the agent might meet fortuitously or the agent might be inherent in man, like some kind of parasite. Is it spread by an outside agent, a vector? A mosquito spreading malaria? Or through touch? Through food?"
General Grant, seated opposite the Commissioner, shrugged, his face expressionless.
"We don't know the virulence of the disease  yet. It seems pretty sure to provoke a strong response from man. Nor do we really know the resistance of the host," Marshall went on softly. 
"Will some people get it and others not? Most immunities are type specific; the fact that some get it does not mean they will not get a variant. Will it transmute? We don't know yet. It might well have, for all we know."
Marshall cleared his throat and sipped some water.
Why should a colonel who looked like a fighting man know so much about disease?  McGroarty wondered idly, watching the man's cold blue eyes and controlled movements.
Pushing his glass away, Marshall leaned forward across the table. 
"If it is a new disease, as this one seems to be, then we can expect to see a continuation of what we have been seeing. A fresh agent in a new community that has not built up immunity to it usually results in an epidemic; sometimes in a pandemic." 
Marshall stopped and there was a pause while everybody considered his flat statements. 



Post 7 - Naomi Jacobs

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for only 99 cents):


Back in his office, Commissioner McGroarty had just sunk back in his armchair when the phone rang. He listened silently, finally growling: "Send her in."
A young woman walked in, limping slightly; he noticed that she wore a brace on her left leg.  She had a neat brown skirt with a matching silk blouse; her coat was unbuttoned, the belt hanging from one loop only. She turned and held out her hand, her dark eyes gleaming with an inner excitement he found curiously attractive.

"I'm Naomi Jacobs," she said cheerfully. Her hand was cool and wiry. He was surprised by the firmness of her handshake.
"Please sit down, Miss Jacobs," he said.
"Thank you."
She sat down carefully, bending her left leg with a brief touch of her hand. The brace squeaked as it bent. He stared at her for a long while and she held his gaze, a half smile on her lips. Finally, he said: "The Governor thinks highly of you, Miss Jacobs. He says I am to cooperate with you to the extent possible."  He sighed, thinking of the work he had to do, and she laughed. He sat back, startled, and she composed herself.
"I'm sorry," she began. "You looked so forlorn at the prospect of helping me." 
He stared at her, really seeing her for the first time. Her hair was short and swept back from her face, with two longish tendrils straggling down before her ears, leaving her small ears uncovered. Her eyebrows curved above slightly almond shaped, widely spaced brown eyes which gleamed mischievously at him. She had a soft mouth, the lower lip a little fuller than the upper one. A dimple creased and uncreased as she spoke. Her eye teeth were a smidgen crooked and one overlapped the tooth next to it. A puckish nose above the pointed chin. Her hands were never still, tugging at the sleeves of the blouse or touching her hair in an unselfconscious manner or gently pulling at an earlobe.
"The Governor says you will be writing about the city; something about trying to form a bridge between the authorities and the people. To open channels of communication, he put it."  His tone conveyed his opinion of the exercise. "I am to take you with me unless to do so would expose you to danger, and to help you see and talk to whomever you want to in the city."
She shrugged expressively, a slight smile on her lips. "I don't want you to think you have to nursemaid me, Commissioner.  I will stay out of your hair, I promise.  Just tell me those things you think might interest and inform the zany inhabitants of this city; if you miss anything, I'll ask questions." She settled her notepad on her knee and waited; he caught a glint of humour in the brown eyes.
He shook his head unconsciously. This was the last damn favour he was going to do for the Governor for a long, long time, he thought.

Post 8 - THE WHITE HOUSE

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):


President Charles E. Stanton thought back to the calls he had received from the emergency team in New York during the past few hours.
The number of people who had been hospitalised with this strange new malady had grown explosively even in the short time since the first two cases had been isolated, and no matter what the tests used, there was no indication at all of what the disease was. It bore no relationship to any known diseases. The team had examined each person, and they were unanimous: they all had the same symptoms. 
The team's recommendation was terse, and strongly worded: the city of New York had to be quarantined. 
All indications were that the disease was spreading so fast that it could break out of the city and travel elsewhere.
He remembered the discussion, and the expression used by one of the experts. We have to erect firebreaks and turn the disease back on itself, let it burn itself out, consume itself. 
You mean wait until all the trees are burnt, he had commented wryly, and the answer had come: Yes.
Until all the people die, he had pressed, and again the answer: Yes, if necessary.
Their views had been backed up by a rush team one of his top aides had put together, and by the Cabinet Minister in charge of Homeland Security, the new post established by President Bush after 9-11. Stanton had always believed in double checking the opinions of experts, and this decision was no exception.
Charles E. Stanton's White House
The aide's voice when he reported back had almost been enthusiastic; not overly so, but certainly discernibly so. He and his team had done their homework well. New York was the centre of the greatest concentration of population in the United States, with the major concentration of the nation's poor. It was one of the sixteen giant metropolitan areas with more than two million people. Unlike the other major areas, the people of this city were principally centred in the city; only one third lived in the suburbs.
Wealth followed that distribution, as well: more than half of the wealthy homes were there, away from the noise and grime of the city proper. One in three of the homes was in the upper economic bracket, an incredible concentration of wealth.
A city the size of Sweden.
President Stanton stared moodily at the file on his desk, his mind on New York. There was no other way out, he thought. It was a threat to the whole megalopolis, the huge string of cities running along the eastern seaboard like beads on a string.  The very proximity of all those millions of people could mean their death warrant.
It could spread -  was spreading - and there was no isolation, no natural barriers such as a desert or wide open spaces to bar its progress.
Instead, if the forecasts of the emergency team were correct and the cure was not found in a very short period - in hours rather than days - it could leapfrog all over the cities, spreading from person to person, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, suburb to suburb; they had needed a barrier, a man made barrier, a man made dyke.
So he had taken the decision to freeze all movement and ordered the blockade of the largest, richest, urbanized area in the world, effective as of half an hour ago.  



Post 9 - OPERATION STARLING

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):
 Major Timothy R. Hopkins watched from the La Guardia control tower as three giant Lockheed C 5 Galaxy Airlifters of the 436th Military Airlift Wing roared down the runway, blue smoke puffing from their wheels as they touched down.

They wheeled off the runway towards the cargo dumps set up on the edge of the tarmac, parking in a line abreast as the huge noses lifted up on their hydraulic rods and the floor dropped to the tarmac; two battle tanks crept from the nineteen foot wide belly of one while several trucks loaded with  stores eased down the ramps of the other two. 
He swivelled his chair around and punched numbers into the computer terminal that linked him to Global Command and Control System.
He now had direct access to the computers at military bases or in underground vaults in  sites across the country, and could communicate with any one of them through the elaborate coding system that linked them. There was now a permanent crisis watch throughout the country and the information poured into the system where it was sorted and processed. Global Command and Control System allocated troops to the city and would decide on the order and staffing of the food shuttle that fed the city.
He punched in a five level code and sat back, waiting for the system to grant him clearance to the information he needed.  The messages ran across the terminal.  He pressed the keyboard and the messages suddenly clattered onto the printer.
He was not aware of it, but he had just initiated Phase One of Operation Starling.
Stack them and then bring them down, nobody is going out from here on, were the orders, and the stacking had started early on and continued, the planes layered above the triangle that stretched eight miles from La Guardia to Idlewild and sixteen miles to Newark airport.  Cargo planes heading to these airports before continuing on their trips to foreign countries; passenger planes streaming in from Boston, Chicago and Washington.
They came in, stacked, and were guided down:  just in case some of the passengers had been in New York in the days before the orders went out. Many had not, but they were the unlucky ones:  trapped in the city because they happened to be there at the wrong time. The wrong people at the wrong place at the wrong time. 
The net had been cast and they had been caught.     
The airports were the first to be closed because they were the gateways for the staggering traffic in bodies and cargo out of the city: more than forty percent of the country's overseas traffic and close on sixty percent of the total exports from America. 
The President of the United States of America had decided: he would not allow the disease to be exported.

Post 10 - THE CHAPEL WHERE IT STARTED

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

Richard Burton pushed the file across the table to Sheila Shain and smiled at her. She was a tall brunette with attractive features and intelligent eyes that gazed steadily at him; when she spoke her voice was low and pleasant.
He had heard of her work; she was rated amongst the top ten biochemists in the world, had been for over eighteen years. Unlike many of her American peers, she had not rushed to join one of the genetic engineering firms that had sprung up in recent years, preferring to do pure research in London.
"I worked at the University of Wisconsin," she answered, her eyes calm behind the glittering half squares of her modern spectacles.
"With Gobind Khorana?" 
She nodded. 
"Brilliant work: combining chemical synthesis and synthesis using enzymes as catalysts. Did you work on that with Gobind?"
"Yes."
He smiled at her. 
"Good!  You'll get a chance to give nature a gentle nudge here as well. We can use your experience in the Pubunit."
He watched her long stride as she left, his mind going back to the Chapel where it had all started for him, the redwood chapel at Asilomer, more than a third of a century ago. 
Monday morning, eight o'clock, on February 24, 1975. 
He had not been actively involved until after that four day conference, close to the sea at the tip of the Monterey Peninsula in central California. It had been very beautiful there, he remembered: the rocks on the shoreline of the Pacific, the white dunes shining in the warm sun, the cypress and pine and redwood trees surrounding the buildings. 
Gobind Khorana
He remembered the walks down the beach in the early morning, his footprints slowly filling in behind him as the waves washed ashore, the salt spray spun off the breakers as they plumed off the rocks, and were brought ashore by the wind.
He had feared the future, there in the shadow of the redwoods; feared the unbridled enthusiasm of his colleagues who gathered in the longhouse and the social centre.
They had wanted to go too fast, he had felt, watching their faces in the old chapel.
Too fast.
The dark haired man waited at the door to Burton's small office, hesitating.
He had come in that morning, part of the steady stream of scientists now pouring into America to help their colleagues master this strange outbreak.
Redwood Chapel at Asimoler, Monterey
They were hastily cleared by HomeSec, who kept records on most scientists in the world in case of need, and the army's emergency medical teams, and sent into the city itself, reporting to research centres deep within the blockaded city.
Many research laboratories, both within and without the city, had been taken over under the emergency legislation when the military had not received the degree of cooperation they had asked for. The President was considering a recommendation of HomeSec for the temporary nationalization of all private laboratories in the country, if this was needed to find the cure soon. 
Some of these scientists reported for duty in the Parklab, joining Richard Burton's Kindergarten in either the public portion of the Parklab, nicknamed by some bright spark the Pubunit, or the segregated portion, the Segunit. As they arrived they were met by Colonel Marshall and his team of military doctors and shown their quarters before being taken on a tour of the Parklab.
In the Parklab, airlocks blocked access to each building and straddled the corridors within the buildings as well. The generators were installed next to the central building; their humming was a constant background noise.
Each of the five buildings was a self-contained unit linked by its corridors to its neighbours and to the central one, but with its own backup power supply. The outside walls were made of a dark plastic while the internal walls were clear plastic, specially toughened to withstand shocks and even explosions.
Only the Pubunit - the largest of all the units of the Parklab, which was closest to the single gate that now guarded access to Central Park - was open to scientists and researchers who could leave and continue work in other hospitals and laboratories in the city.  Richard Burton had made this his headquarters.
Some of those researchers who had come into New York from outside the city or country, were based in the Segunits, and would be there for the duration, without any access to the city.  The intention was to preserve them in case their colleagues who could move freely in the city were exposed to the disease and died.
Burton became aware of his presence and lifted his head.
"And you...?"
"Johan Schmiedli.  From the University of Zurich."
Burton examined the man. Early sixties; balding hair at the forehead; sharp blue eyes hidden behind thick lenses. He was wearing a shaggy sports coat, with flaps over the pockets.  Several sheets of paper were stuffed inside the shirt pocket.
Charles Weissmann
"Haven't we met before?"
"Yes. In Zurich. We celebrated with Professor Charles Weissmann, when he produced human interferon from bacteria. You had come to visit him at the time."
Burton stared at him for a while trying to place the man.  It had been so long ago ...  Suddenly he had a vision of the group of men and women surrounding the professor in front of the functional square glass and steel buildings of the university. They had gathered in front of the pool; several had plastic cups in their hands.  Weissmann had offered him a cup of champagne as well and he had joined in the toast to the future. He could remember Schmiedli, standing quietly in the circle, drinking a toast. He had been a key member of one of the supporting teams.
He motioned to a chair and they spent several minutes talking about the experiments that Schmiedli would be doing. Then Burton rose and accompanied Schmiedli out to the corridor, pausing to discuss the various methods being used in each of the separate units.
They were attacking the disease on multiple fronts.

Post 11 - What if there's no limit to it?

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

Naomi Jacobs edged past General Grant until she had a clearer look at the maps on the computer screen. Colours chased each other across the screen, slowing down when the operator broke the scrolling action for a more detailed study.
"The secondary attack rate means the number of cases among the family members or other close contacts that occur within the assumed
incubation period," Stanley Levine's soft voice went on, taking up his earlier comments to the knot of observers in front of the bank of screens. 
"We have rates for it, but there is no apparent pattern."  His eyes were fixed on Naomi's face, full of curiosity.  "We tried to work backwards from our data about contacts to see if we could match infections with timing and so get the incubation period but we've had no luck so far."
"What's the significance of the incubation period?" she asked, and the researcher turned from the soldiers to her, grateful for the question; he seemed more comfortable with her than with the military people in the room.
"Well, you see, we don't know the persistence of the disease. Even if we could cure this outbreak, we have to ascertain how long it will last in the community. Some diseases just seem to hang on grimly; the carriers may be ill or totally unaware that they are carriers. It might be in the incubation stage and only show up a week or a month later. It's like a forest fire, sometimes." 
Naomi, watching the expression in his intelligent eyes, felt suddenly disturbed. Stanley Levine was an intent man, in his mid thirties, and his concern seemed far deeper than she had expected. She resolved to spend some time with him to find out more about this threat that worried him so much. 
"Little flames glowing amongst the blackened trees; along comes a wind two days later and the whole thing flares up again. We have to find the time parameters. How long between the first contact and the flare up? How long to incubate?"
"I see," she answered. She pointed at the screen. "What is that map showing?"
"We're looking not only for the times and places but also any common factors. Ages; foods; occupations; blood groups; prior diseases; movements through areas. These maps," - he tapped the console - "show the superimposition of some of those facts on the areas where the disease is the heaviest. These are age groups; these others are dates of first identifiable cases.  Most epidemics never become epidemics because there are too many in the community who are immune. If two out of three are immune, the disease gradually dies out. We don't know if that will be the case with this disease. We don't even know who is in the community, really."
He shut the desk drawer irritably, making the computer screen shimmer.  "What if people - everybody, every single one - belong to the community susceptible to the disease?  What if there's no limit to it? No boundary?"
  



Post 12 - WE HAVE TO FEED THE CITY


Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

General Holcroft walked briskly into the briefing room, stopping in front of the huge map which had the five zones in different colours and the locations of the different bases throughout the country that were being used in the blockade.
He faced the assembled crews of the huge B-52's and described their role in feeding New York, now that the land traffic that could enter could not exit while the blockade lasted.
"This operation will not be a picnic," he went on.
 "Please do not underestimate either the importance of your missions or the amount of work you will have to do. We have to feed that city. Your planes will not be going in but over the city and so you gentlemen will not have the pleasure of spending your next vacation in New York." 
Soft cheers and groans interrupted him and he held up his hand again. 
"You and your planes are recyclable. You will drop supplies by parachute. You will drop them at designated spots and then return for more."
B52 Stratofortress
Wilbur Hassler's helmet slapped gently against his thigh as he walked towards the B52, approaching it from the front. Its thrusting nose with the windows above always reminded him of an aggressive hawk, wings open and claws down.
It was a huge aircraft; the sheer size never left one. Graceful at six hundred and fifty miles an hour at fifty thousand feet, it never seemed capable of becoming airborne when he saw it on the ground. The Stratofortress had a wingspan of 185 feet, longer than the body's 157 feet, and the four pods of joined twin engines seemed to drag the wings down.
He swung into his seat and put his helmet on, nodding at the others.  These supply runs had one major advantage: they were better than the flight simulators that seemed to have taken over from the real on hands experience in recent years. His crew would now have the chance to clock up more than two thousand flying hours this year, closer to the average yearly flight times in the sixties and more than twice what they usually got now.
He glanced at the wings. The aircraft felt somehow naked now, without the familiar cluster of bombs underneath the wings, just in front of the first engine.
"Whitebelly Four here," he said into the radio, flipping the switches in preparation for takeoff.  Behind him in the dim red light of the navigation bay the navigator had inserted the data transfer cartridges into the transfer units and was reading out the details of their mission from the light green screen, his fingers darting over the integrated keyboard.
The bomber thundered down the runway and swept into the air, heading for New York.  Low clouds lay upon the land.
Within minutes they were over the top half of the island, looking down on the bridges linking it to the mainland. From this height the island looked like the huge irregularly shaped deck of an aircraft carrier. Down below, a huge jet of water plumed from the fountain on the island in the river.
"Prepare to drop," he said into his intercom.

Post 13 - NO CHOICE

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

The persistent shrilling of the radiophone dragged Richard Burton back to the little room.
"What's wrong?"
"The nurses are scared, doctor Burton. They're staying away by the dozens."
"They can't!" he exploded, anger darkening his face. "Where is it happening?"
"All over."
He dropped his hands to the table. "That's all we need. No bloody nurses. No bloody hospitals." 
He strode down the corridor to the office where McGroarty was organizing the stepped up guards for the Parklab.
"Commissioner? My nurses are starting to stay at home because they're frightened. What can I do?"
"I told you to keep them in the hospitals. This time I hope you'll listen to me. They are going for them, out there in the streets. The word is that they are the cause." 
McGroarty licked a cigar and thrust it into his mouth, tilting it at a belligerent angle, but did not light it. Smokers ran a greater risk of dying from the Bug; the earliest analyses had shown that.  Suddenly, overnight, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers had quit smoking, cold turkey; but he kept on. If it was going to get him it was going to get him with a cigar in his mouth, blowing smoke in its face. 
"The street thinks they give it to anybody who comes close to them. They are called the Angels. In some places its called the White Death because of the uniforms the nurses wear.  Somebody out there in the streets put two and two together and figured out that there were getting it here in the hospital. Two and two make four, so they're going for the nurses. Three so far."
He walked across to the window and pulled the blind down, staring at the city. 
"My men have spotted signs painted on the streets, with stencils; on street corners. Kill them. The Angel Killers, they call themselves."  He shook his head and swung around, his angry eyes catching Burton's. "They're after your nurses, doctor. All of them. You had better keep them off the streets if you want to keep them alive. I can't guarantee their safety. Keep them indoors."
Burton shook his head. 
"I can't do that, Commissioner. You know I can't keep them here. There's no room.  We're full up with patients. There aren't any beds. And, anyway, they wouldn't stay. They have families and friends out there. They wouldn't stay here."
"You don't have any choice, Burton."  
The Commissioner's head had dropped and his smouldering eyes stared at the doctor from under his dark brows. 
"It's going to be a war out there: those bastards against your people, with only my men and the army between them. I've spoken to General Grant and we are going to have sweeps done on a random and targeted basis, to track those Angel Killers down. My men know the ground, and Grant has the firepower we will need. We're going to put the word out in the streets that we have declared war on those bastards. I must warn you: when we start, it might get very bloody.  You will kill your people if you send them out there. I am going to call them up." 
"Call them up?"
"Draft them into the army. That way they have to stay where you tell them to. I want a list from you of all your medical personnel, doctor."
"All personnel? We're only having trouble with the nurses."
"Now!" The Commissioner cut in brusquely. "I'm going to draft every damn person. No exceptions! The paperwork's ready; I expected this. You can tell all your personnel that they're working for the United States Army."
The two men stared at each other for several seconds, then Burton turned and left the room, his face set. 
He passed through the airlock into the next section of the Pubunit, and walked over to where Jean Francois Vasseur was working at a lab bench. He watched the French scientist move a tray with eggs in it to one side and pull the clear vials of the colourless interferon closer. Beside him a technician was shaking salt into a goldfish bowl to separate out interferon; they were making some themselves, now.
Vasseur looked up at him and smiled his welcome.
"How is the interferon treatment working?" Burton asked, and Vasseur motioned for him to follow, leading the way to an isolated unit.
"You see the after effects clearly in this patient," he said, moving to the window and pointing to a middle-aged woman lying in a clear plastic cylinder inside the theatre.
The cylinders were sealed, with rubber tubes ending in gloves so that the researchers could treat the occupants without handling their bodies. This limited the contact between the patients and the now scarce resource inside the city: the doctors and researchers.  
Into the container
"See the sores on her lips? They're typical reactions to interferon. The other reactions we find are fever and loss of appetite, but the more serious ones are alterations of the liver enzymes."
"No unusual reactions? It was a possibility, as you know. The disease might have produced a new result when we used interferon."
"None that we could see; only the expected reactions. The results haven't been good, either.  There has been no improvement of a lasting nature from using interferon."

Post 14 - ZERO AREA

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

She shrugged, the frustration of their search showing clearly in the deep grooves running from her nose to her mouth. When she spoke, her voice was flat with disappointment and fatigue. 
"We keep on trying and trying, I guess. What else can we do? We're striking out into uncharted territory with the scale and types of things we're doing here."
She shrugged again, trying to hide her uncertainty.

"I wish it was a well blazed trail so that we knew just what the hell we were doing."
He dropped into the chair. 
"I've been trying a different tack," he explained.
"I've asked Schmiedli to continue trying to restore the mutant gene to its wild or original type. I thought he might try to come up with a second mutant gene, which would cancel the effect of the first mutant."
He squinted at the laser beam, sighing. "So far we've had no luck in finding anything remotely like a suppressor mutant."
Burton turned to leave just as Alex Webb came through the door, holding out some papers for him. 
"Here's the list you asked for, Richard. You remember, we were working backwards from the earliest subjects and we are still searching the Zero Area."
"Zero Area?"
"Oh, its the codename given by the boys to the ten blocks  in Harlem where the thing seemed to have started. They're doing a third house to house search in the area." 
Burton took the file and walked to the door.
"Oh, Richard," the lieutenant called, before Burton stepped out the door, "one of the earlier subjects was a biological scientist in a lab downtown, but we don't seem to have traced him to this area. Name of John Raymond."
The police in the nearby precinct had received a call, he explained, and had recorded it: a tortured voice that begged for help and gave an address. The patrol car had not found anybody there; John Raymond's body had been found in the grass nearby. There were marks on the ground that showed he had crawled there. There were always dead bodies there, in that part of town, the lieutenant explained, matter of factly. Another one was no big deal. 
"God knows what he would be doing in the area, anyway," he went on. "There's nothing in it except some rotting buildings and a trash heap and that damn Russian monument."
Burton stopped, his face thoughtful.
"Russian monument?"
"Yes. You remember, that orb with the moon rocks that they gave to the city. It's marked on the map."
"Thank you." Burton said. "And John Raymond was found near it?"
Alex Webb nodded. 

Post 15 - DISINFESTATION

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

Burton spent several minutes updating his old friend and mentor about the steps being taken in the Parklab and other research laboratories, both within and without the city. No luck so far; they were increasing the types of experiments to a level unheard of prior to the disaster, at the President's express orders.
The only thing they knew for sure now was that it was associated with a defective gene.
But despite all the frantic efforts of the researchers, they did not know how the defective gene entered the body, or what caused the defect.
In fact, he mused, they knew very little about the Bug except that it was killing more and more people, and apparently faster and faster. 
As Sheila Shain had remarked a few days ago: "If we've had a qualitative change in the amino acids, caused by this disease, how do we kill it?" she had asked rhetorically. "We have to kill the viruses and the bacteria too, as well as the amino acids. But the acids have a high melting point, more than two hundred degrees centigrade. To kill them with heat we would have to douse the world with fire." 
Central Park cremation pyres
Burton reflected on this once more. How could they disinfect the  city? Disinfestation usually meant the destruction of small animals such as rodents, present on the person or clothing of the people or in their physical environment.
How did one disinfestate a whole city? Destroy the carriers... But the carriers were people in New York. So it must be impossible...
Hospitals were overflowing with the dead and dying, and military units were now making periodic sweeps of homes, block by block, to locate the dead and take them away for disposal. There were no longer any burials. Bodies were cremated.
The temporary cremating ovens in the grounds of Central Park had been tripled in size in the past twenty-four hours, to cope with the people who died in the Parklab.
In various places throughout the city, several huge centres had been established to burn the bodies of the dead; daily convoys of military trucks trundled through the city's neighbourhoods, guarded by troops, ferrying bodies to the new crematoria.
Some bodies were being burnt even before identification, if there were any delays. They were simply photographed and there were queues of people lined up before police precincts to check the books in search of missing friends or relatives.

Post 16 - PANDORA'S BOX

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

Adam Huntingdon closed his eyes, and leant back in the chair, letting his thoughts drift freely.  It was overcast outside and the cellar was almost completely dark.  He had lit the candle on one of the shelves and its flickering light formed a small pool in the dark room.  His frail shoulders were stooped as he slouched in the chair, and his restless hands pulled at the rug he had spread across his knees.
Beside him the chess pieces waited mutely for his attention.
The problems facing Richard Burton in the beleaguered city had preoccupied him for the past days, ever since the first call.
There was nothing he could do, sitting in a cellar beneath the sea on the Californian seashore, to isolate the causes of the disease, but he could help Burton by acting as a sounding board. They had worked together many years ago, after their first meeting in 1957 at the Asilomer conference in California. Both were geneticists, both were superb researchers, but he had retired five years ago while the younger man had continued his work.
He had come to a conclusion, and now he dialled the number in the Parklab and waited for the young man to answer.
"Burton."
"Richard, I have an idea," he said without preamble. "Your methods will have to be dramatically different from the normal ones you would use."
"Why?  And how?" Burton's voice was clipped but not surprised.
"You do not have the luxury of time," the soft voice went on. "I have mulled over the progress of the disease since you first reported to me.  It's moving very fast. Time is against you. You will have to abandon isolated treatments and go for as many and as varied as you can."
Burton gave a short laugh. "We seem to be on the same track. I've started that already.  But..." his voice trailed off.
 "What's the problem?"
"The military here is rather insistent," Burton replied, his voice soft over the line, and Adam felt a pang of sympathy and sorrow for him.
"Colonel Marshall insists on us trying any possible treatments on the sick. Even the tentative cures. He says he has the authority to order whatever he thinks fit, and wants us to skip normal testing procedures. If we even have a hint that something might work, we must try it.  It's a bit like experimenting on humans..."
"And?"
Again the short laugh.
"I'm a bit reluctant."
He seemed to be measuring his words.
"I've never done that before."
Adam thought carefully, then he said emphatically: "I was going to suggest that to you, Richard.  I don't see how you can avoid it. The colonel, Marshall, is right: there are too many in danger for you not to use a few to try to save the rest. I know you will resist it, but I really cannot see how else you can do what has to be done." 
Burton interrupted. "Adam, I know you appreciate what you are saying. I have to choose, that's part of the problem."  
"Would you rather the military made the choices?" the older man's voice was remorseless.
"No."
The waves made a rushing sound as they swept over the glass roof of Adam's cellar.
"I will do it, Adam. I'm afraid it might develop a momentum of its own, though. We might not be able to control it once we start experimenting. You understand my concern?"
Huntingdon paused while he sipped the wine.  The bottle was almost empty now. 
"Yes."
There was another brief silence, and then Adam broke it. 
"You have been thrust into that position, Richard, and the hard decisions will be yours to make. It's a little bit different from your normal activities but so is the crisis. Some of your patients will die because of your attempts. Perhaps many will," he said softly. "You have to weigh their numbers against the larger number of stricken victims." 
His blue veined hands pulled at the rug across his knees.
"Your group is probably their only hope. You must do it."
 "Thanks."  Burton's voice was relieved.  "I'll call you later." 
The old man poured another glass of wine and sipped it, his eyes closed.
Burton would need his help more now, once the stepped up experiments started. Once Pandora's Box was prised open, he thought. Open the box's lid, lift it even slightly to peer inside, and the contents spread out, sliding over the edges.
You could never put them back in again.
Like this modern plague, in this city.

Post 17 - THE PRIEST AND THE NEW EDEN

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

The unseasonal mildness of the Washington air seemed to trail behind the priest as he mounted the pulpit, chilling the air a little. He stood there, the Bible open before him, then he hesitated, hand on the book.
"Tonight we will not read from the Scriptures. Instead, I wish to share with you the words of a young woman, by name of Naomi Jacobs, with whom I'm sure you are all familiar.  In that stricken city she labours, a little light, in her corner. And tonight she  touched me, as I am sure she will touch you."
He adjusted his cassock and peered through the half moon spectacles at the press clipping in his hand, then he began to read it softly. Below the pulpit, not a soul moved in the dense crowd.

Had this inquisitiveness, this gift of curiosity, led the Creator to a new phase? Was this all a new apple? A new temptation? Did He sit somewhere looking down at his creatures and say to Himself: You have grown in knowledge, but not in understanding or in wisdom.

Behold!  Another gift I give you.


Another Eden beckons!
 The priest lowered his voice and stared across his glasses, little shards of light bouncing off the pillars from the gold rims.
 
Another choice for you to make. Choose wisely and you shall live in My world forever; choose unwisely and you shall forfeit it all.
 He paused, nodding.
"She is a little light, come to lighten the darkness that surrounds her fellow New Yorkers, to cast away some of the shadows that surround them today, but I know she speaks also to the rest of us, who from a distance watch that great city suffer, unable to help them except by raising our voices to the Lord for their deliverance. As they walk through that valley of darkness, we hear her voice call out to them to fear not. We see in a corner the small, flickering light she holds aloft to guide them through the valley, and we feel deep within us the love that goes out from her to them."
     He bowed his head.  "Let us pray.”

Post 18 - GOOD BLOOD AND BAD BLOOD

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

Stanley Levine handed a document to Naomi Jacobs, emptying the filled ashtray into the wastebasket, and she placed it in the centre of the desk.
At her request, he was bringing her up to speed on developments in genetic engineering and the methods they were using in the city to find a cure.  He had sketched out a set of topics which he could cover with her whenever she and he had the time.
"Eco R1 is simplicity itself in action. It cuts diagonally through the spiral DNA and leaves what we call sticky ends which we can use to join DNA to. It really was a breakthrough by Herbert Boyer's group of San Francisco. It checks the nucleotide sequence of the invading DNA and cuts it off at certain points. Of course," his blunt hand chopped the air, "its own DNA has its own immunity to Eco R1 otherwise it would cut itself to pieces."
He tapped the diagram in the document. 
"For the first time we could take two kinds of DNA and cut them by adding Eco R1 to each one; then we could stir them together and use a little bit of the glue   the DNA ligase   to help the sticky ends join together. And voila! We have a new, home grown DNA hybrid!"
His tone changed and the bitterness was there again, mixed with resignation.
"We use our chemical cutters   the restriction enzymes   to chop up the DNA of an organism and then recombine them with others. We insert the combination into a host cell of the E Coli and then we feed the E Coli cells with nutrients so that they can grow into colonies."  
Herbert Boyer - Eco R1 sticky ends
Suddenly he thought of Richard Burton's comments about his time at Asimolar again, when he used to walk along the warm Californian beach and worry about the enthusiasm of the geneticists gathered there.
He glanced up. Naomi was staring at him. She lifted a half amused, half quizzical eyebrow, then, when he said nothing, she smiled.
"How do you control what results you get? How do you know what you will get doing this?"
He shook his head, matter of factly.
"There is no way to do so. We used shotguns instead of rifles. Shotguns can make a bigger mess than a rifle can. We used E Coli and put little pieces of DNA into the ecoli so that they could be duplicated. We have built our libraries and stocked the shelves with biological masterpieces of unknown properties, playing God, creating with gay abandon, and  on the seventh day, when we should have rested, perhaps we created this."  
He stared at her, his eyes bright with his anger at himself and his colleagues.  
"Oh, how we loved creating!" he burst out passionately. "We will second guess God!  Or so we think." He muttered, almost under his breath: "...new kinds of viruses, with biological activity of unpredictable nature, may eventually be created..."
"What did you say?" she asked.
"Nothing. Nothing of consequence. I was thinking of something I read once, long ago..."
He talked then about blood, human blood, and the way that sickle cell disease affected it. 
The Bug had remarkable similarities with sickle cell; nobody could explain why, but they were pursuing the commonalities with several teams. One of his colleagues, Clay, led one team; others in other labs throughout the city were duplicating his experiments, and carrying out their own. 
He could imagine his cell's membranes pushed and stretched and contorted by the crystals forming inside them; the cells sticking together, clogging his veins... 
"This is the only difference between the good blood and the bad blood in this city," he explained.  "A single amino acid substitution in the B chain." 
He drew on the board, the chalk shrieking in protest as he slashed the letters. A large B to indicate the beta chain, then the figure, to indicate the position in the chain; the word GLU was followed by an arrow pointing at the next word, VAL, to show the change in the amino acid.  Then he wrote GAG, another arrow, and GUG, to show the nucleotide change.

Post 19 - A ROBUST CLOD

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

As he read, the thought crossed his mind that he could be spelling out his own death warrant: if he was right in his initial impressions that it was spread by contact, then here, handling the notebooks, he was in contact with the possessions of one of the first victims, one of the first links in the chain of invisible death.
He stared at the palms of his hands, knowing that it was a silly gesture, that he could not see the disease in the creases of his palms even if it was there.
   Burton pulled the notebook with the huge number seven towards him and opened it to the last four pages to re read the entries that had puzzled him before. Raymond had written the same peptide chain over and over again, in neat rows, quite unlike the other sprawling impatient entries in his journals.
Each chain showed the same first eight links of the haemoglobin, and each chain had a carefully drawn line beneath the sixth base. 
Why had he done it?  What was the significance? 
He flipped a few pages further on to another entry. The opened page of the diary had several short sentences written with varying degrees of spacing between them. Some were short sentences, others phrases only. Burton had scanned them swiftly.
Mainlining with ecoli.
Direct attack.
Proximity to rbc.
Work in marrow to convert ss rbc to new ones.
If rbc meant red blood cell, he mused, then ss could be sickle cell.
Burton flipped through the third book, rereading passages he had already read in his first plunge into the notebooks.
One caught his eye again: unlike the usual comments, which were either tersely factual or else showed Raymond's impatience, this one was more humorous. 
Burton had encircled the two entries: they seemed to contain two thoughts to him.
The first was a query:
Sometimes v. invades the bloodstream.
He had assumed that the V stood for a virus; it was a fact that sometimes viruses did invade the bloodstream. 
Had young Raymond searched for that means of access to the blood?
Burton dropped his pencil point to the second entry; a collection of phrases:
Strain 137/A/92 not OK.  Probably too fastidious. Need a cruder one.  A robust clod.  A peasant.
What did that mean? Burton wondered. Was it a reference to ecoli that Raymond might have been using in some experiments? 
Perhaps he found the K12 strain too weak?
But that was the whole point of K12   to prevent it living if it should escape from the laboratory. 
Ecoli K12
And if he had been using new strains of ecoli for recombinant DNA, there was no guarantee that the hybrid bacteria so produced might not have more characteristics than expected.
Who knew what could be created in the process.
An unidentified gene could possibly be created and passed on to the host, much like an anonymous passenger in a freight train that was being shunted in a marshalling yard. You might end up with the freight train and the passenger without realizing what you had.
Could this have happened in some of Raymond's experiments? 
Was this the origination of the Bug?
Did he cause it, somehow?
The ecoli is ideal for this, Burton thought. It's a boundary crosser   it hops about transferring genetic material inter species and intra species.
Not a shy little thing, this ecoli. No hanging of the head; no shamefaced aw shucks shuffle of the feet hangdog look. This is not a yokel - it's a tough, streetwise city kid, living in garbage, smart assed and tough.
A real mixer.

Post 20 - A CELEBRATION?

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

Both men had lost weight; exhaustion had cut deep grooves into each face and etched permanent blue patches below their eyes. They worked well together, each man recognizing the other's strength and commitment.
"My people are working on the diaries," Grant said at last. 
"We've got fourteen teams, three inside the city. They're breaking all the entries down and trying to put them into matrices, so that we can see if we can duplicate whatever he did." 
He smiled. 
"When you're desperate ..." He shrugged. "Not much progress as yet."
Burton nodded his thanks. 
The soldier suddenly grinned. 
"We found John Raymond's private laboratory," he went on. "During that house to house search you asked for. It's a small one in a tenement building close to the spot where he died.  I have a personnel carrier outside ready to take you there. You will have to go through a sniper zone to get there, so you'll be safe inside it." 
***
An old faded picture of Gregor Mendel hung on the wall, the wire twisted behind the wooden frame to support it. Burton took it down and absentmindedly wiped the dust off with a finger. Next to it, pinned to the wall, was a photograph of a double helix, torn from Scientific American. In the bottom right hand corner was a picture of James Watson, taken in the early fifties: shaggy hair piled up on the right side of the head and bursting outwards from the other side of the parting; a half smile on the thin face.
 Suddenly the resemblance between the biologist who had sat in this room and James Watson struck Burton.
Gregor Mendel
 He stood in front of the table in the second room. The remains of lunch lay scattered on it: a brown paper bag with the last third of a carrot cake slice still resting on top; a plastic glass and a wine carafe. 
Burton picked up the carafe and sniffed at it. Paul Masson Rare Premium Californian Chablis, proclaimed the label. Under the heading the fine cursive print read: This is a dry white wine with zest and personality. 
He replaced the bottle and looked down into the waste paper basket. A silver lid for the carafe with the words The California Carafe on it and a crumpled note. He smoothed the paper out; it was empty. He straightened up and stared at the battered wooden table.
Had it been a celebration?
What had John Raymond been celebrating? 
The report prepared by the special combined CIA and FBI team following up on the earlier victims said he was a teetotaller.
There were so many natural obstacles the death agent the New Yorkers had taken to calling the Bug had to cross to be effective, he mused, crumpling the note and tossing it back in the wastebasket. It could not enter the body that easily. Just what did that mean to the researchers in the Parklab and elsewhere? That it was not accidental? That it was  deliberate?
Were they back to the Russians?
     Or could it be someone inside the city itself?


James Watson and Francis Crick with the first DNA model
He stared at the bright light on the table, squinting until it narrowed into a thin pinpoint.  If it was in the city, then where and who?
He pulled from his briefcase the large scale map of the city and looked again at the initial survey results of the spread of the disease. The map tracked the victims. They had assumed there might be a carrier or carriers and wanted to find his or their location.
But what if the location of the victims was a clue to the location of the maker of the bug, assuming it was made by someone and not a naturally occurring mutant? John Raymond's small laboratory was right in the centre of the initial area, in Zero Area.
Did it start here?
He leant back in the chair, teetering its legs. John Raymond had been here where it started. 
Had he carried it to the other areas? 

Post 21 - GET THE LEECHES

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

He switched on the electron microscope. 
"I'm going to a fifty thousand magnification," he said. The picture changed suddenly on the screen.
"I always get a kick thinking that at this power I would be about fifty miles tall," he said quietly. "Makes me feel like a giant. Some machine."
"There, that's the one," Shain said, pointing at the photograph on the four foot square screen. "Those are the results I was talking about." 
The computer had taken the photographs of all the experiments made in the laboratory: each time it had paused above a cell, with a bacterium inside it, the machine had peeped and taken a photograph, which had been allotted a code and stored inside the memory banks for later retrieval.
The samples of blood that had been taken from the patients inside the canisters was pumped from the room to another for analysis and experimentation with heat, oxygen, and pressure. The tubes ran from the canisters along the walls into the next room; the blood flowed in a steady stream, pushed along by the small pumps.
He bent forward and threw the switch, to cut off the microphone: the moans of the patients inside the canisters disturbed his concentration. 
"What happened?"
"The Bug seems to have upset the delicate equilibrium. The stuff grows so many red blood cells in some patients that something goes wrong and the brain is starved of oxygen. Their blood is too thick."
"Have you tried thinning it?"
"It doesn't seem to work." She shrugged. "We've tried just about everything except leeches. I almost had some delivered, just for kicks."
"Do it."
She stared. 
"What?"
"I said get the leeches. Who knows if they'll work or not? If it does, you'll be a hero. If it doesn't ..."
He moved away, grinning.  
"Then you'll be a dodo, like the rest of us."

Post 22 - EX AFRICA SEMPER

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

He thought of the vicious female mosquito: long legged death.
Breeds in pools of water warmed by the African sun; little pools that collected after rainstorms. 
Plenty of them. 
From the pools to man, their favourite food.
They really loved man: he was one of their delicacies.  They fed on his blood; engorged themselves. 
Those areas of Africa below three thousand feet   there she and her sisters lived with man, in his houses and kraals, close to her food. 
Above three thousand feet they lived outside, in the fresh air, and fed on the livestock.  
They moved by preference in the early light of the day and at sunset, in the softer light of the sun, landing quietly on a man's arm or neck or shoulder; they shunned the bright light of midday.
She would sink her proboscis into the flesh and suck up the blood; with her saliva would go the sporozoites, into the bloodstream, coursing through the body to their resting places in the liver and the spleen and the bone marrow. Ten days later  little red rings were born and spilled out of their breeding places into the bloodstream of their host. They penetrated the red blood cells and from each captive cell more and more spilled out and  captured still more cells.
As they developed and ruptured they triggered the terrible cycle of fever and sweating and cold in their host that so typified malaria.
Hot to cold; cold to hot.
A two day cycle.
The host became anaemic; the red blood cells stuck together  forming little clots, little red clumps of death. Often the host's kidneys or liver could not survive these red clumps and they, too, collapsed, killing the host.
 Edward Clay had examined the proboscis of the mosquito under the electron microscope, and he knew what it looked like; how beautifully shaped it was for its purpose: like a syringe, with an outer shell protecting the thin inner needle, it easily punctured human skin, the first line of defence of man, sliding below the tough outer scales into the body, the sharp point with its hollow tubes probing for blood; the thin hairs surrounding the inner tube pumping out its anti coagulant to stop the thickening of the blood, breaking down the cells and making it easier for them to be sucked into the passageway in the tube and vacuumed into the mosquito's body. If the host's natural reflexes were not stopped, the thin tangles of fibrin like skeins of wool would clutch at the blood cells, binding them into a gelatinous mass that could not be sucked up.
"Ex Africa semper..." he muttered. "Always something new." 
His eyes were shut and his heavy voice drained by exhaustion.
He almost seemed to have forgotten the presence of the reporter and the researcher.
"For us Africa gave us life. And this."  

Post 23 - A PIECE MISSING IN THAT PUZZLE

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

"General, this report" - he had closed the document and now laid a hand on the cover - "says that the disease seemed to start in the area where the new Russian Ambassador recently unveiled the moon rocks. It also says that the statue or whatever the damn thing is was taken away and examined but no conclusive evidence of contamination was found. Any news since the report on those tests?"
"No, sir. We found no sign of any exit point. The orb is tightly sealed. Of course, that doesn't mean it did not come from the orb. The material from which it is made is selfsealing, and any exit could well have been closed after the germs escaped."
"Escaped or were deliberately let out?"
"Yes, sir."
"The report also says we traced the manufacturing site to one of Russia's biological and bacteriological manufacturing units. Is there any doubt about that?"
"No, sir. USNS Observation Island was on station near the Kamchatkin Peninsula and she tracked the payload's re-entry."
The President nodded. The report had a photograph of the sleek ship with the markings T AGM 23 on her prow and her two big radar domes amidships, with the large box shaped housing of her shipboard radar array on the flat stern. She had been stationed off the Peninsula because the giant radar based on Shemya Island could not see the last 400,000 feet of the Russian missile touchdowns.
USNS Observation Island
"Our satellite surveillance confirmed the numbers and codes of the payload as the same as one that had been observed and recorded at the research station at Novosibirs," Holcroft continued.
"It's about two thousand miles east of Moscow, a pretty remote spot in Siberia, sir. They had a nasty accident there a long while back, sir. A few thousand residents were killed by a strange disease. The authorities closed the area down and denied the outbreak but they shipped some of the dead back to their relatives in sealed coffins. We managed to get a few photographs of the corpses in some of the coffins and it's pretty clear they were killed by one of their latest biological weapons. The bodies were covered in brown patches."
"Tell me, general, do you think they would try this way to attack us?"
Holcroft pondered a moment before answering carefully: "Mr President, I've thought about that ever since the disease started. As you know, sir, the whole region has been far more stable for the last few years, compared to the period when Gorbachev was pushed out by Yeltsin and his other buddies. But I can’t think what they would gain from attacking us. I think there’s a piece missing in that puzzle, sir. That dog don’t hunt for me. They have benefited from peace and the end of the cold war."
He sat back in his chair, his eyes thoughtful.
"So, I think there are probably others behind it. If the toxin came from the monument, I wonder if it is the Russians who put it in it? Perhaps someone else got to it? We just don’t know right now. We are going over the movements of all Russian personnel in our country for the past few years to see if they had contact with any enemies of ours. Still a lot of work to do in this area, though: there’s so much data we have it takes a long time to scrutinize it all. So far we have not isolated any such meetings."
The President nodded. 
General Holcroft drew a deep breath. 
"I believe it is a distinct probability that there are groups out there who might try to destroy us if they believed they could do so with impunity." 
He held the President's gaze for a long while; then Stanton sighed and pushed his chair back from the desk, preparing to end the discussion. 




Post 24 - A GREEN CAT

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

Naomi Jacobs laughed as she recalled the energetic, jerky movements of Stanley Levine's thin arms. She turned back to her typewriter.

So what they, the investigators, are probing so carefully is a simple ladder,a sugar and phosphate ladder. 
The two sides are made of a bit of sugar and a bit of phosphate - like the familiar, old knitting patterns   as if nature had decided to knit a ladder - knit one, pearl one; pearl one, knit one; knit one, pearl one.  The steps of the ladder are bases, four types of bases, joined in the middle by hydrogen. 
The spiral staircase of Life. And they must ascend this,each tortuous step after the other,to find out if there is a key at the top of the ladder, and,if there is,if it is the right key to unlock the cure to our affliction.
She leant back in the chair, her back stiff, thinking of the Governor's sombre words. 
Don't panic them. 
Think of the consequences: ten million people without hope. Cry fire in this crowded theatre and we will crush each other as we scramble for safety. 
They will crush us, he said, pointing out the window at the thin line of troops marching down the street, and she understood him. Loud and clear, oh master!

So there is hope.How soon,we do not know.But hope there is.The sharpest minds in the world are focused on us, working with us and for us.
She lit another cigarette and sat back, her mind going back to the Parklab, and to Stanley Levine. The intense man who struggled to give her a crash course in genetics so that she could understand what was being done in this sad city by all those men and women who had come there and who spoke in the strange tongue of this new science.  She remembered his words.
"Those are the bases." He laughed suddenly, his face softening at a memory. "I used to memorize it easily by thinking of a green cat, and then the order of the bases was easy." 
"A green cat?" she exclaimed.
"Yes. GCAT. G for green and CAT for cat. So   a green cat. That's the order of the bondings between the bases. GC together  as the first two and AT together as the last two. GC. AT." 
She looked at him, a half smile on her face. There was something endearing about him when he became so enthusiastic. She thought: last night I saw a cat in a tree smiling mysteriously down at me. A green cat in a tree like the Cheshire cat.
He stopped waving his hands. 
"How can I explain it? It's" - his hands gestured helplessly -   "it's as significant as the atom's discovery. Like tapping the power of the atom, only less explosively. It's akin to that, because we delve into the very processes of life itself, to tap the power, the life force, there. It is momentous."  
DNA double helix
His hands reached for a pad. 
"The cell is the basic building block of living things. Inside it there's a nucleus."  
He rapidly sketched an oblong shape with irregular wavy sides. Inside it was an oval with a round blob in its middle. 
"This is the cell. This is its nucleus." 
He sketched another rim around the nucleus. 
"This is the nuclear membrane. This stuff here between the nucleus and the cell's sides is the cytoplasm. The blob is the nucleus; inside it we find the chromosomes and inside them the DNA. It's a library. A storehouse of information. Life's memory."
He stared at the diagram. 
"Why do the cells grow? Why do they stop growing? What tells them? We don't know.  There are a lot of mysteries in this miniature world." 
He stood up. 
"Come, I'll show you the DNA."
They walked down the corridor past the laboratories  in the Segunit.
She had access to the Pubunit but not to the Segunits. Even if all scientists died in the Pubunits, those in the Segunits could continue. A safeguard, Colonel Marshall had mentioned proudly. 
Levine stopped at a bank of computers and tapped in a code to retrieve a file.
The computer model of the DNA molecule was breathtakingly beautiful: the cross section showed the delicate tracery and the colours for identification purposes were striking   blues and greens in the heart; pinks and reds on the outside. As she watched the model revolved for a side view, the pinks and reds predominating.
Like a snowflake, she thought; a magnified snowflake.
"The numbers in this microscopic world we delve into are astronomical," he went on musingly.
"We have sixty trillion cells in our bodies and an equal number of DNA. There may be six million genes in a single human cell, one for every kind of process in the body. Of course" -  a hand waved dismissively - "only about a hundred thousand may be active.  A mouse " -  again the dismissive gesture  - "has a hundred thousand genes while a bacterium has two thousand."
He punched the keyboard of the computer and the picture changed. He hunched his thin shoulders in the green smock and stared at her, thinking; then he suddenly changed the subject.  She was used to his mannerisms by now: his mind hopped from thought to thought like some energetic sparrow beak darting for a crumb here and a crumb there.
"Every twenty minutes a DNA replicates and a new cell is born. Three hundred and sixty thousand times the DNA turns as it untwists so that it can separate and then the right chemicals pair with the split strands to form base pairs identical to the original DNA strand. It needs more than three million bases to make a copy of a DNA strand. They are joined by the hydrogen. The precision and speed is incredible."
He grinned.
"My grandmother used to tease me that I should do something socially useful. Be a poet, she used to say. I think of the DNA and I know that in a strange way I am seeing physical poetry more wonderful than mere words."
He touched her on the shoulder, guiding her out of the room.
"I prefer these words to any Shelley or Frost. I understand their mute messages and their beauty."

Post 25 - A SILK COCOON

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

He strode up and down the room, his hands waving restlessly.
"We need a killer which will lie in wait, in ambush in the body, waiting for the virus. For this we need a vaccine, and for the vaccine we need the real thing first. That's why we study the virus. It's nature's smallest hypodermic syringe," he said. "It is built a bit like a golf ball, with the nucleic acid thread tightly coiled inside the protein outer layer. It worms its way into the host cell and the enzyme strips off the protein package and that lets the thread of nucleic acid loose. It then merges with the host -  in this case the ecoli cell -  and you cannot see it in this phase. We call it the eclipse phase. It injects its thread into the cell."

Viruses attacking a bacterium
She stared entranced at the cells and the viruses, thinking of the virus in her gut, crouching on the bacteria like a small single purpose beast of prey; a receptacle emptying itself into the host, legs gripping the host tenaciously.
"This little parasite then takes over the cell, forcing it to make new nucleic acid according to its own instructions. It takes over the factory, if you like, and orders the production line to change a bit and produce a new product -  itself." 
He laughed loudly behind her.
"They make the old cuckoo look like an amateur when it sticks its own eggs inside another bird's nest. They go straight to the heart of the matter, these little buggers. I admire their no-nonsense approach, I really do. Get in there and take over. No wastage with these little syringes! It secretes an enzyme to break up its host's DNA and then also uses that old DNA."
He peered over her shoulder at the screen.
"The viruses are so small that we cannot use ordinary microscopes to see them; the wave lengths of visible light flow around them."
The ecoli cell was visible with dark blobs of DNA inside it and the little deflated balloons of viruses sticking to its rough edges; emptied of their poisons.
"So we plated them with vaporised metal -  put them in little metal armour suits - and we could see them then."
She peered into the electron microscope, fiddling with the knobs to focus it. She could see it now, a box shaped head with little spidery legs underneath. 
He switched to another slide.
"Here's a virus attacking a bacterium cell."
The one cell looked like a dirigible, or a silk cocoon. The attacking virus were much smaller, little pinheads with tails going inside the cell. Next to the cell was another - a trail of viruses spilled from its broken hulk; one end had disintegrated entirely.
She felt a bit sick, thinking of the viral spiders clinging to the coli cells deep inside her gut.

Post 26 - A MISSION OF MERCY

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

"Some of you have probably heard of the troubles that our neighbours have in that shit hole they call New York," he began in his gravelly voice, and they nodded.
"It seems they cannot solve their problems so they're coming to the Canadians again," he went on. "They need planes to spray disinfectant onto the city. And pilots to fly the planes.  Seems there not too many men around who can handle that kind of a job, so they want us to send as many volunteers down."
There was a sudden buzz of speculation, and he raised his voice, cutting into it.
"There will be double pay for any man who goes."
He waited for the hum to drop.
"And a job for every man who wants to come back to me."
He paused, his eyes flinty.
"Before you all think it’s going to be a picnic, you had better hear this."
The silence came fast.
"Once you go there you can't get out again until it's all over. If you try to fly out you will be shot down. They're not bluffing," he said into the silence. "They will pay for my planes and a certain sum for any pilot who goes down, but there will be no payment to any pilot's family if he's chopped in an escape attempt. Now," he cleared his throat, "who's going with me?" 
Slowly, one by one, all the men raised their hands.
The Chief sniffed disdainfully.
"Alright, heroes, let's get down to the details."
Seven hours later the fleet of cropsprayers rose into the air, led by the Chief, and set out southwards, their tanks full. At the border they were met by an armed USAF escort and the two groups altered course, heading directly for La Guardia and their voluntary exile. The escort waited until the last plane had landed before they flew off again.
"Major, there're eight small planes coming in over the border. They're not responding to our warnings, sir."
Major Hopkins grabbed the mike and growled into it.
"Where are they headed?"
"Straight for La Guardia, sir."
"Scramble some jets and take a look at them. Keep them on course, and keep in contact with me."
"Yes, sir."
They waited a few minutes and the radio crackled.
"Major, we have a visual, sir." 
There was a new voice, now, younger and calmer.
"I have a visual on the eight bandits.  Each has a single pilot. No passengers. I'm circling in closer now, at slow speed." 
There was a brief silence. 
"The son of a bitch's making the sign of the cross to me!"
A short silence and then the stunned pilot's voice rasped: "It's a priest!  A goddamn priest! I can see his collar!"
"You sure?" he rapped out and the young voice was emphatic.
"Yes sir! They're all priests!"
"Listen to me! Don't shoot! Guide them down to me. Don't let them get away but don't shoot."
They waited and the pilot replied: "Got them. They're all coming in straight as an arrow, sir. We're tagging along, just in case."
They came in slowly across the bay, in a tight V formation, eight single-engined single prop planes, sweeping slowly across the airfield and then curving out across the bay before making their approach, in the same tight V formation, none breaking formation as they touched down and sped down the runway, gradually slowing and wheeling until they taxied up to the terminal, between the rows of troops.
They braked to a halt and gunned their engines in unison three times before switching off. 
The leader swept his cockpit canopy open and swung down to the ground, a broad grin on his face, his cassock snapping in the stiff breeze that chased across the tarmac.
"Gentlemen! We have come!" he shouted as he strode to the group.
"My brothers and I have come to join you in this magnificent struggle!"
He beamed at them and thrust his hand out.
 "I am Father Leo Hamman."
He swept his hand at the rest of the pilots who had joined them.
"We are the Flying Padres, on a mission of mercy."

Post 27 - SPEED THEM UP

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

Wearily, he pushed himself up and went in search of the conference room, arriving after the meeting's beginning. Colonel Marshall was talking.
The meticulous preparation that had gone into the Parklab had surprised Levine when he had become more familiar with it.
At first he had thought it was a hurriedly prepared complex, designed and built for this emergency, but this was not so. It was clearly planned well in advance. Some of its features were very advanced, more so than many private facilities.
Why was the Army so prepared? What had they anticipated?
Worse still was the nagging thought that they had others like this, hidden throughout the country, and to be used for what   purely defensive actions or did offensive actions also play a role in their planning?
He knew that HomeSec had been preparing for years for all sorts of eventualities, but if this was their creature, it was far more complex and advanced than he had heard of before.
The sophistication of the personnel the Army had brought into the Parklab was impressive. They were more than up to date in knowledge of biological engineering; in many ways they were ahead of the men from the private sector.
While Marshall briefed them on developments in labs across the country, and on further measures to be taken within the city, he watched the colonel carefully.
The man was wound like a spring; he was permanently watchful and never seemed to laugh.
Marshall rapped the wall of the Pubunit with his knuckles.
"This is the safest we have."
"I hope it's better than your Fort Dietrick in Maryland, colonel," Levine interjected, almost despite himself. "Didn't you have hundreds of accidents there? And a few deaths too?"
Marshall shot him an angry glance and then disregarded him, turning back to the visitors.
"These doors shut automatically if there is any leakage from the sealed area into the working area. Sensors in the wall there trigger them."
Marshall moved to a lever next to the door.
"They can also be shut manually."
He pressed the lever and the door slid shut with a hissing sound.
"The window is an inch thick and cannot be broken. The door also cannot be opened from inside if the sensors have reacted to leakage. If you are caught this side you will have to wait until the all clear and then someone will open the door from the outside once disinfection has been completed."
The visitors left and they entered the briefing room to join the other researchers. Levine took a seat between Schmiedli and Shain.
"We have tried all the conventional ways," Marshall began. "Now we will try everything we can think of. And I mean everything. Mix up the treatments. Speed them up. Push conventional methods to their extremes. Try everything. I know that will not sit well with many of you, but we do not have the time."
Marshall raised his grey face and stared steadily at the team.

Post 28 - COLONEL FLINT

Extract from my novel Silent Lips, which deals with a deadly virus that leads to New York City being quarantined (available as an eBook for ONLY 99 cents):

Levine picked up the bottle and tilted it for another drink, mutely offering one to the Frenchman, who shook his head wearily, pointing to his own almost finished bottle on the table. 
Levine grinned lopsidedly and drank half in one long swallow, and then leant back on the bed.
"I don't understand it; the speed of the mutation. It's usually so slow," Vasseur said tiredly. "What is it in nature -  one mutation in a gene in a million?"
"Like good old Queen Victoria's daddy," Levine said.
"What about her father?"
"Don't you remember?"
He laughed tipsily.
"The good old Duke of Kent had a mutated gene. In his testicle. Way back in 1818. A normal allele of the haemophilia gene, changed into the haemophilia allele." 
He waved the half empty glass in a circle. "Gammy balls, that's what done them in."
"I remember now." Vasseur nodded slowly; the drink and the heat of the laboratory was affecting him, as well. The walls seemed to be doing a slow motion slide past him. "Which one?"
"Which what?"
"Which of Edward's balls was it?  The left or the right?"
"I don't know."
He sat down clumsily.
"It doesn't matter, anyway."
"Course it does. Matter, that is."
Stanley Levine reached forward carefully and leaned his hands on the table, smiling across at his colleague. His hair was matted; little rivulets of sweat ran down his cheeks.
"In the interests of science, we have to know. Does the Royal family come from a mutated left ball or right ball of Vicky's daddy? For the sake of scientific precision, we gotta know."
He thrust his hand into his shirtfront and crooned in a high falsetto.
"Dear Diary, I am the queen but daddy's left ball was wonky."
He paused, blinking.
"It must have been the right ball."
"Why?"
"Not a leftist among them," he said solemnly, his face collapsing into a roar of laughter. 
He hugged the table, his sleeves in the spilled whisky.
"Right ball, right thinkers." He dropped his head to his arms and howled his delight. 
"Like the colonel," he continued, his face suddenly solemn.
"Who?"
"Colonel Ernest E. Marshall," he said carefully, stressing the first word. "He must have had gammy balls in his family."
"Why?" Vasseur asked. "I do not understand."
"Rock balls. Great grandfather had rock balls," Levine explained. "That's why he's like flint. Colonel Flint. Our very dangerous leader."
He twir