Preservation and Protection
Central Florida in springtime can be a good place to live. Orange trees give off their fragrance that can even get through the auto exhaust fumes. George and Jane Amodon got up and started their morning routines. Jane got the kids ready for the school bus to take them to elementary school while George finished his routine having already said his goodbyes and kissed each of his two children. Jane wasn't working because George's new job afforded them enough money to make that possible. She had picked up a part-time job to give them some extra money and keep her busy. George and Jane shared a cup of coffee together, talked about the kids' school and the coming summer. It was time and George rose, kissed Jane and left for work.
His work at the plant was top secret and he took that seriously. He had been an officer in the army trying to develop counters to biological terrorists' potential attacks. Now, out of the army and working for a contractor, he had been working on countering a particularly nasty bug called SL47. It was an airborne virus that seemed to have a life of its own. It had been created by accident in a European lab and, when George left the army, it was natural that he would gravitate to working on a solution.
George went through the security procedures and entered his lab. His lab partner, John Engals, greeted him with his usual hearty good morning and they got down to work. Today, they would be trying a new vaccine. Over the last year, they had determined that there was no antidote. That was not surprising for a virus. Even the common cold has no antidote. With the flu, doctors would work on the symptoms and you get better as your body reacts to the virus. With the SL47, your body didn't have time to develop its antibodies before the virus killed you.
George thought that they had a promising vaccine that they were hoping could be administered as soon as a contagion was known and be effective. There was much work to do but it seemed that they were on the right track. Today, John and he would test it on a mouse.
John enjoyed his humor and had named all the mice after well-known lawyers. There was an old lab joke that one lab had started to use lawyers instead of mice because there were some things a mouse just wouldn't do and the technicians didn't get attached to the lawyers. It was an old joke made constantly funny by our number two man at the plant, who was a lawyer. M. Loyd Webb was not a funny individual and tended to be pompous. However, he made sure things ran smoothly hurtling any administrative blockage to keep projects going.
He rarely entered a lab but, when he did, there was a good reason. John said, "We will have a visitor this afternoon. M. Loyd will be coming by. There has been some discussion about adding a third person to our lab. His concern is that more people won't help though he will do it if we want it. Anyway, that's what he said as we came in together."
It was just after ten o'clock when the accident occurred. We were transferring a vial of SL47 from our storage to the testing point. We would allow Perry Mason to be infected, then use our vaccine and await results. It was an important point in our experiments. The vial dropped when the holder that John was using broke without warning. As it slipped down, a sharp point punctured his suit. His face went ashen. Almost immediately, the alarms went off and our lab was sealed.
The alarms continued to ring with the gas alert. Suddenly, a new alarm note started. The external breach alarm had started meaning that something was detected going into the atmosphere! I knew that John was dead and, unless there was a lot of luck, I would not survive either, as the lab might not be flushed before my air supply ran out. That second alarm meant something really bad was happening. Containment was supposed to be total. I had almost decided to open my suit. John had already removed his and was treating his cut. Neither of us said anything about the virus. There really wasn't anything to say.
Then another deeper booming tone began to sound. This was the nuclear alert! There was something wrong with the nuclear pile to the point at which radioactive matter was leaking out.
I looked at John and said, "What the hell is going on? None of this is supposed to be able to happen. We have safeguards." He nodded in agreement and I heard a rumble and felt a blast of heat and pain and then felt nothing ever again.
Jim Edwards was working on a house in Winter Haven. He had his own remodeling company with two employees. He looked up as he felt and then heard a rumble in the distance that became louder and louder. He thought to himself that he had moved from California to avoid earthquakes. He got ready to move over so he could look toward the sound when the world went white with a flash like the largest lightning bolt he could imagine. Even behind shelter, his eyes hurt. He could hear his helper screaming. "Joey, what's wrong?" All he heard was screaming as the light gradually became normal.
He went to Joey. Joey had slowed his screams to a painful whimper. Jim looked in horror to see his skin red from a burn. He couldn't see Joey's eyes because he was holding his hands over them. "Joey, move your hands. Let me see what's wrong."
Joey didn't answer but his hands went away from his face as he passed out. Jim realized, to his horror, that Joey hadn't passed out but had passed on. His eyes were open and expressionless seeing nothing and looking like there had been something very wrong with Joey's eyes. He looked around the corner of the building where his other helper, Mac, was now slumped against a wall. He went over to Mac and could find no pulse.
Jim began to shake and then realized it was the ground not just his body. He fell to the ground as the shaking became worse. He could feel the ground moving under him and fell. As he fell, he saw the houses across the street topple over and vanish into the ground. He could feel a rushing of wind and a roaring sound when the house he had been working on fell and he was knocked out by a piece of wood.
He woke slowly and pushed some of the wood off his body. He felt the various parts and realized that he had bruises and cuts on his legs, arms and back. He heard a roar and struggled to free himself from the rest of the wall that had landed on him. He finally broke free and stood shakily and looked west where the roaring noise was originating. His eyes widened as he realized he was looking out and up at a wave that was at least a hundred feet high and bearing down on him and the rest of the area around him. He didn't even have time to turn and run before it was on him slamming him into a truck. He felt something pierce his back as his head hit hard on the roof of the truck as the water tore him from the truck ripping his back and abdomen open. He died never knowing what had really happened to his world.
A portion of the SL47 had entered the atmosphere and was blown upward by the blast. In the atmosphere was nitrogen, which the virus used to reproduce and then, as it reproduced rapidly, it began to fall back toward earth to be spread by the winds. The air was now doubly lethal.
The explosion was picked up at monitoring stations immediately. Protocols were followed and crews readied. Almost on top of the explosion were the seismologists' reports of an earthquake that split Florida asunder. In Tallahassee, the EMA was notified and began to try to make sense of the damage. The damage was beyond anything for which planning had been performed. Since the blast was ground level, the pulse was minimal. The damage was catastrophic. A nuclear blast west of Orlando had occurred and no one knew why. The reports of Florida being split in two were just coming in. All of Florida south of Orlando was severed from any land-based communications from the rest of the state.
As the ditch along the fault line widened and the water continued to rush in, the third result of the blast delivered a final blow to central and south Florida. From the earthquake and fault line splitting Florida came a tsunami, first outward and then back. South Florida was inundated and terribly damaged. The Bahamas simply ceased to exist as a viable place for habitation. Many Caribbean islands were severely damaged.
With south Florida and Miami no longer responding, all efforts centered out of Atlanta for control purposes. It's central location and excellent transportation facilities made it the logical choice. Within thirty minutes of the explosion, jets were in the air for reconnaissance. The pictures brought back were horrific. No one was prepared to even look at what was shown on the pictures. People with various types of expertise were called to review information and develop reports.
The location of the explosion was pinpointed and more alarms went off because of the sensitive nature of the installation in Polk City. A nuclear reactor just didn't explode and scientists were scrambling to figure out an answer when all theory indicated that there was no solution other than the fact that it, the reactor, or something exploded at that site. At Florida State University in Tallahassee, two seismologists and three geologists proposed a theory that there was a previously unsuspected fault running across central Florida. Even those presenting it admitted that they had doubts but nothing else was available. The initial reports were that millions were dead. The blast was bad but the earthquake and tsunami would account for most of the fatalities. They were the lucky ones. The survivors would face the SL47 virus.