The Contagion - Cover

The Contagion

Copyright© 2016 by Ernest Bywater

Chapter 02

The Next Few Days

Acting on the Admiral’s orders the surviving local commanders set good defensive positions in mountain passes to halt movement through the mountains. The defensive positions established as a northern block line also do well by stopping The Infected from going north. The military commanders in California establish a line across the valley near Red Bluff north of Sacramento and across the mountains to Whitehorn. Due to the loss of San Francisco and Los Angeles most of central California is soon overrun. By the time the fighting near San Diego gets too fierce the southern Nevada defences are set up with all of the verified non-infected citizens withdrawn into the zone, so the orders are issued for all of the south-west defenders to turn and race for Nevada, which they do while well ahead of The Infected. They make it to safety in the new safe zones.

For days people have been streaming north to safe zones established in mountain areas where local military commanders feel they can set up good barricades and defensive areas. The areas east of the Appalachian Mountains are being ceded to The Infected. However, major rivers are proving to be good barriers because they slow down the movement of The Infected. This allows the troops on the safe side to kill those building up on the other side. Somehow the Texas Militia have cleared out The Infected along their Gulf Coast to Orange while the US military in the area are holding their own along the Texas border with Mexico. They’re putting the idea of using the fire-trucks to spray The Infected to good use while all of the local fuel stores and production facilities are working hard to keep them well supplied. However, the border fence west of El Paso is not holding that well and it’s expected to fall soon.

With the flank open in California all border troops west of El Paso are ordered back to the new Southern Defence Line. It’s not yet finished, but there’s enough of it in place they think they can hold the rest while it’s finished. The line uses the topography as much as possible, and much of it is mountain ranges with the passes being barricade and defended, as well as the ends of valleys.

The Las Vegas line is actually further south, and is a jagged line across valley ends: Good Springs to just south of Sloan. They close off the mountain passes while following the range until it turns south-east to Searchlight. Then it follows the mountains down to the Parker Dam where the line turns east to use the same process along the mountains to pass north of Phoenix then to zigzag its way east to the Rio Grande and down to the Texas line at El Paso.

To the north a strong line south of Hudson, New York is holding well, mostly due to help from the Canadians wanting to keep The Infected as far from their border as they can. From there it’s east to Northampton, and a jagged line from there up to Dover. Apart from the Portland area Maine was clear. Very soon after the general alert was issued the senior officer in charge of the Maine Militia had troops out sweeping the state. He took the bulk of his troops to Portland where he set the city on fire. It raged for two days while killing all of The Infected. When the flames were put out a few uninfected people surfaced out of deep basements and shelters. The militia moved south and cleared the rest of their state. They now stand watch on their coast and southern borders.

In New Hampshire the militia have had similar successes, but they’re not able to advance their line east of the ranges west of Manchester and Dover. The numbers of The Infected are just too numerous for them to risk leaving their secure combat positions until they thin them out a lot.

The lower end of the east line is very fluid while they work to clean out the area and make it stable. The local commanders are using the mountains and major rivers as their fence line with the Alabama and Tallapoosa River systems as their main defence once out of the mountains west of Atlanta, Georgia. The Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas militia are working together to clear the way south to the gulf.

The bulk of the country is safe, if the lines hold, but a large part of the population is either already infected or trapped in areas controlled by The Infected, and thus likely to be infected in the near future. Not a nice situation, but it’s a lot better than the situation in Europe.

The Seventh Day

Just after breakfast Max is called into a meeting with many of the senior commanders. The Admiral starts the briefing, “Our current lines of defence are holding well. However, the research staff have brought a couple of anomalies to my attention, and I don’t think we can beat this until such time as we understand them.” He stops to make sure all are paying close attention. “Watch the time elapse map and you’ll see the two things the analysts don’t understand. This world map shows the spread of the virus.” The screen comes alive with a map of the world. The first cities with infected people show a light red. When the number of The Infected increases the shade of red goes darker. More places now show red, and go darker. The red spreads across Europe, Asia, and also Central America, and Mexico. On day seven a large number of locations in Central America and Mexico go red at once. Max had only looked at the first six days before, and thus he missed this sudden spread. It does explain why so many of The Infected are on their southern border. They watch the first ten days of the virus spread across the world.

When the display freezes the Admiral says, “We can’t work out why they hit South America and Mexico so hard, or why the only infections in the US are along the coasts. Any ideas?”

A few heads shake before Max says, “The spread in the US is easy. The time it takes to fly from Asia and Europe so any plane with The Infected on board as active people aren’t going to make it. They’ll crash in the ocean and all aboard are killed while their bodies are destroyed.”

The Admiral interrupts to turn to an aide while saying, “Find out how many, and where, planes and boats were lost in those ten days.” He turns back to Max, “That makes sense. Only those with people recently infected but not yet active landed, and they went active afterwards. I’m sure some were brought back by family for treatment here.”

Max goes to speak again, and is interrupted by an Air Force Colonel saying, “I’ll need to check the records for the date, but about that time we tracked three planes flying an odd pattern over Mexico and Central America. They went near to, but not into the landing patterns of many of the big airports. The one satellite view we had didn’t have much on them, but one person said he thought they were doing a parachute drop. It was ignored because while it did look like a single parachute now and then a parachute drop involves groups. But for dropping infected in a wide area single drops makes sense.” He stops to talk to another officer who immediately leaves the room.

A few people frown on learning this, and Max asks, “Colonel, did those planes come near the US border at any stage?”

“Yes. That’s why we noticed them and tracked them. They were on a line to cross into our airspace near west Texas and New Mexico. They were challenged by radio and then fighters were scrambled before they reached the border. When the fighters took a course directly at them they turned away to head south again. A little later they split up and did the funny flight pattern.”

Max grins and says, “I’d say they were sent to drop infected people into central USA and South America. When they saw they’d be shot down they turned back. However, they had a cargo they didn’t want to take home, so they dropped it in Central America and Mexico before heading back to base. I wonder where that base was!”

“We lost track of them over the Pacific, they suddenly dropped from radar so we thought they were trying to evade our radar. Now I’m wondering if they crashed.” A few minutes later they learn the date of the air intrusion matches the spread of The Infected in Central America and Mexico. Also, dozens of ships and over a hundred planes vanished in the first days of the virus spreading. The two anomalies now make a lot of sense.

Note: Militia is the State Defence Forces and state militia. It’s not the National Guard activated to work for the regular military forces.

Day of Destiny

Day eight dawns like many of the previous days, nice weather, and worries about the world situation. The mid-morning briefing has some good news, the militia and military have cleared to the Gulf coast all the area west of the Alabama Defence Line. All the lines are holding and are getting set with stronger defences. People are on their way to lunch when many alarms start going off, so they all end up running for their assigned combat posts to get ready, then to wait to hear what it’s about.

Max is assigned to the main NORAD War Room, so he grabs a Jeep and he races for his NORAD post, he only stops to pick up two others he sees and he knows are assigned to the War Room. Within five minutes he’s standing at his post as an advisor while he’s asking a nearby corporal, “What’s all that on the big screen mean, Dave?”

Dave continues to watch his monitor while he says, “The blinking red dots are missiles, the red circles are where they launched from, and the light dotted lines link the launch site to the missile they launched. The sites with a minus sign beside them are ones we didn’t know about before this launch.”

“Thanks, Mate. Do we know what their targets are?”

“No! That’s what we’re trying to make out, because they don’t match any profiles in our files. Though they aren’t heading our way.”

Everyone stands and waits for another minute. It takes time for an ICBM (Inter-continental Ballistic Missile) to leave the atmosphere then return to earth. Plus a bit more for the computers to track and extend their paths. Each missile has a letter and a number, on a side screen is a list of what the letters stand for. The missiles with a ‘C’ for China, ‘F’ for France, ‘I’ for India, ‘K’ for Korea, ‘P’ for Pakistan, ‘R’ for Russia, and ‘U’ for the United Kingdom all make sense, but it takes a moment for Max to recognise the reason for the ‘N’ on some are because they’re NATO countries with US nukes on ‘loan’ to them, thus adding Belgium, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and Turkey to the list of launches. The ‘Z’ for Israel throws him for a moment, so does the ‘A’ for South Africa. The last two aren’t supposed to have any nuclear weapons available to use.

The Admiral asks, “How the hell did the NATO countries get past the Permissive Action Links to launch?”

One of his aides says, “Sir, they’re only supposed to have bombs, not missiles. So where did they get the missiles?”

A technician to the side says, “Those missiles in the NATO countries show on the tech analysis as being Russian made. I suspect they’re some of the units that went missing when the Iron Curtain fell. What they’re doing where they are makes me wonder who controlled them. I’d also like to know who is in control of them all right now!”

The Admiral turns to look at him, he shrugs, and says, “Sir, there’s no one in control within the government of those countries at this time. Yet they all launched in all of the countries within seconds of each other. A single mind sent them on their way, but whose mind?”

By now the computers have done their tracking and cities are being circled in black with the number of a missile beside it while a dotted line to the missile shows where the missiles are heading. Max says, “It looks like most of them are own goals.” The Admiral frowns at him, so he adds, “I mean their targets are mostly within the country of launch, Sir.” The Admiral nods he understands, and they all turn to look at the screen.

The screen shows the hits by marking the target with a black blob. A minute or so for them to land on their targets. One man starts to speak, and a bunch more missile launches are detected from oceanic locations. It takes the computers a moment to identify the makers of the missiles from their launch characteristics and what they can detect of the weapons themselves. Most are Russian and some are from the UK, but all are from submarines at sea. They wait, and watch, and worry. Some of the launches are near South America and are well within range of the USA.

The new missiles all land on major population centres in Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, and the Middle East. Then all are surprised by twenty-six remote control US missile sites launching their loads. They all hold their breaths while they wonder who’s doing this and how, while they worry where these missiles are heading.

One technician shouts out, “Unable to alter US missile targets or activate an abort. They’re set for air burst over major US cities within the captured zones, Sir. The details of their targets are showing in our system. Unable to alter the targets. Unable to identify the authorisation code used for the launch, Sir.”

They all watch while the system shows the targets to be Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Charlotte, Atlanta, Columbia, Athens, Savannah, Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, Gainesville, Orlando, Tallahassee, Columbus, Charleston, Phoenix, and Tucson.

One of the staff sends a general warning to all commands about the launches and their targets so those near the target areas can take cover.

The Admiral says, “Get me some satellite images of the cities hit. I want to see what’s happening there now. Get some imagery for all the targets, and then start looking at the areas not hit.”

One of the Admiral’s staff says, “Sir, based on our last estimates the number of The Infected left after this last round of nuclear strikes will be in the order of only one or two percent of The Infected as of an hour ago. Most of those remaining will be close to our defensive lines. These strikes have taken out the major centres of The Infected all around the world. We need only to hold the line for a few days and then start on a clean up action. Mind you, it’s a world-wide clean-up, but the numbers are now at levels we should be able to manage with safety.”

Max asks, “Can anyone tell what sort of hit was made on Yulin?”

A short wait, and a technician says, “The research centre was hit with two deep penetration blockbusters then a low air blast. Whoever targeted it wanted to make sure nothing around there survived.”

Max says, “Whoever did this must have known about the centre! But few people outside of the top levels in Washington and China did know about it. They also had to know the location of the centre, and very few outside of China knew that. Interesting!”

One of the other analysts says, “I wonder if someone survived in Europe or Asia and they used the government systems to get into the others to set this off?”

“Maybe!” Max says, “But how did they get into the US system for the last round of launches undetected?”

Another technician speaks up, “Trace back shows the missile launch codes were sent from secure Pentagon computers, Sir.”

The Admiral turns to look at him, and says, “Double confirm that, and secure the recording.”

“Yes, Sir.” A moment, “Confirmed, two sets of codes sent from the computers of two senior staff in the Pentagon, Sir. Both are located in high security bomb-proof command centres. The holders of the codes aren’t shown on any of the records I can access, Sir. But they do show the codes as valid and current top level codes.”

“Right. Secure the records. Later we may need them when someone is able to ask questions about those launches.”

One of the technicians watching a side screen says, “Sir, screen seven is showing activity in Moscow.” They all turn to watch the satellite image of a giant door in the rock behind the remains of a building open. When it’s open wide they can see it’s a bomb-proof shelter. A squad of soldiers moves out to set up a secure perimeter, more troops follow. Soon a couple of companies are spreading out over the city while checking it out to see if anyone is alive. Another screen shows armed people moving about in London, they aren’t in military uniforms, but they have to have had military training to move the way they do. Views of other areas shows individuals and small groups of people moving about with weapons in their hands. It’s clear none of them are The Infected.

They switch to look at the satellite view of Atlanta, this is the hit city closest to the defensive line. The bomb went off on the east side of the city and the view shows a few of The Infected moving around west of the city but outside of the blast zone, because it was one of the smaller yield bombs used. Yet armed residents are now appearing from deep cellars and other deep hiding places. Some are taking command.

When this story gets more text, you will need to Log In to read it