Location: Bolshaya, Lubyanka
Subject: Investigation of the Destruction of Komsomolskiy Island Research Station
Investigator’s name redacted for reasons of state security.
REDACTED: Comrade Captain, you are making this difficult.
Captain Kerensky: I am sorry you find torturing me so tedious, Comrade Chief Investigator.
REDACTED: I’ll ignore that remark Comrade Captain.
Captain Kerensky: How decent of you.
REDACTED: Why do you keep lying to us Kerensky. What you claimed to have seen happening on the island is physiologically impossible.
Captain Kerensky: I am quite aware of that Comrade Chief Investigator. In point of fact I am much better qualified then you, to point out all the reasons why what I saw was impossible.
REDACTED: So why do you keep repeating this ridiculous claim of yours?
Captain Kerensky: Because I am physically incapable of lying coherently and consistently while being drugged, sleep deprived and professionally beaten. I am telling you the truth about the Phase IVs because I don’t trust myself to give you a more believable lie and stick with it. Trust me I wish I could.
REDACTED: We’ll start again Comrade Captain...
A sharp, hard rap on a very decorative, lovingly restored vintage front door. Followed by an outraged bellow, “Stop damaging the paint! There is a perfectly functional door bell.”
There was a second set of knocks.
“Use the fucking doorbell!” the voice rose to a howl with a decidedly thickening slavic accent.
There followed a mutual passive-aggressive pact of dead silence.
The silence thickened with intensity for an entire eighty-seven seconds before it was finally ended with short angry jab at a button.
“ding-dong...” The doorbell somehow managed to cut itself off in angered embarrassment at having given up first.
A loud low grumbling sound rose from an old man leaving a high end leather recliner. Then by an angry foot shuffling. Which was followed as his legs warmed to their assigned task of movement by actual stomping.
A decorative front door with a huge unfashionable glass oval in it’s center. The woman framed in the oval had her back to the door. Her short very curly salt and pepper hair was going from mostly pepper to mostly salt. She has her hands clasped behind her back, one has an octagonal bamboo thigh high walking stick, branded with Japanese kanji glyphs gripped in its fist. The other hand is clenching and unclenching
So are the old man’s who is scowling at her back. He finally decides that he can’t reasonably pretend she isn’t there. And unlocks the door.
“Ah Dee, so glad you come to pay me visit, most overdue you know,” Maxim Kerensky said inventing some pidgin slavic along the way. “You’ve been in Michigan, what two days now?”
The woman turned and hesitated just a bit before smiling, feigning that it was just a bit a of a bother. “Ah Max, my Lapochka. Is good to see you after all these years!”
“That is the wrong term of endearment,” Kerensky adopted his reflexive professorial scowl.
“Of course it isn’t,” General Sertorio replied while stepping into his house more spritely than she could generally manage these days. She leaned in to kiss him on the cheek Russian style.
He returned the gesture, exchanging cheeks while both of them tried to win the hug. By placing theirs arms as high as possible on the other. It was less than graceful. Ultimately Dee lost. First because she was carrying her Mount Fuji walking stick and secondly because she wanted to lose the hug. Maxim Kerensky was going to need to some special handling. Best to give ground where it didn’t matter.
He tried to lead her into his home office, she tugged just a bit harder on his arm directing them both to the kitchen where he would not have a desk separating the two of them and putting him in the dominant position.
Although Maxim’s house was a rather large modern ranch style, his late wife had insisted on a kitchen that featured an actual kitchen door, separating her domain from the rest of the house. That door had enraged their obnoxious, NYC grad school architect, Maxim felt that that alone had entirely justified its existence.
“How has life turned out for you my friend,” Sertorio asked with a friendly smirk, “as an American university professor?” .
“I will refrain from churlishly throwing you into the alley behind my house for asking such a question.” His slavic accent had considerably diminished since inviting her into his kitchen.
“What do you mean you?” Dee asked as sweetly as she was intrinsically capable. “It was what you wanted. You were able to leave the Soviet Union for America.”
“Bah! In Soviet University, America leaves you,” Maxim grumbled. “If I had stuck it out in Russia for just a few years longer I’d be a big swinging dick, in a long black leather trench being driven around Moscow in a Mercedes 600 S class.”
“And looking mighty sexy doing it ,” Dee chuckled.
“Bah!” Max growled. “Heart condition cannot support Viagra. So what is point? Harem is no longer of functional damned use to me!”
“Poor, poor thing,” Dee attempted a sad clown face for Maxim. Again not a huge success. Her facial expression was not supported by her life experiences.
They stared at each other silently. What passed for pleasantries had been exchanged. It was the best either of them could manage. Well now to business.
“Did you like my present?” Sertorio asked. “The one for your daughter?”
Maxim’s massive eyebrows lowered. “Most thoughtful, sending an accused rapist to guard my little baby girl.”
“Those charges are in the process being dropped, even as we speak,” Sertorio smiled reassuringly.
“Heard about that,” Maxim said. “Such a lucky for break for your young man. The girl so conveniently, casting off her hooves, right before the trial. Nothing suspicious there. Nothing that would draw negative attention at all. Clearly as pure as the white driven snow that young man. Purest luck, obviously.”
“You say that like a man who doesn’t believe in luck,” Sertorio eyes matched his.
“He appears to have a proper Notice of Alibi. My daughter having in fact provided it. However this Styles girl, went to the better of two worlds, I will not ask awkward questions,” Kerensky was clearly not pleased. More than a few nasty bits of Russia had followed him to America. “So, you have at least thoughtfully intended to provide a protector for my child while I am wasting my time in Atlanta.”
Major General Darlene Sertorio had only just arrived to take charge of the Special MAGTF she had set up. Naturally the day after she arrived, frantic contradictory orders from Washington had arrived ordering everything packed up and transferred to Atlanta. It was one the reasons she had avoided coming out to Lansing until the last possible second. Timing was everything.
Theoretically, she could protest the interruption in his work but the truth was there was nothing they could do about his transfer to the CDC. The Center for Disease Control had like any other government agency, drifted way off mission. So much so that they no longer had a good handle on their job.
“I will regardless need my Oksana with me, while I am at CDC,” Maxim said.. “Doctor Kerensky the Younger is actually better at my work than I am myself at this point.”
Dee nodded. She had been wondering about that. Her reports from Shocker had indicated his own suspicions on this point. Acting as a large but extremely intelligent fly on the wall.
I hadn’t actually given him orders to spy on the girl. So, why was Shocker doing it? Dee asked herself. And why was he doing such a bad job of it? No details on anything really important regarding the girl.
Probably to get information from me in passing she surmised. Good idea, she thought, pleased with herself. I taught him the way to ask questions by answering them a long time ago. Supply a little information and it makes your opposition hungry for more. It will make them ask you questions. And you can learn always learn more by the questions you are being asked, then by answering them. When someone wants to know something specific, you get a very good idea what that something is.
Pointless in this case though. Everything is so damned pointless now. All the usual stupid political games that everyone keeps trying to play with me.
Which reminded her, she needed to check in on Allwhite. He would be getting rather edgy just about now. He was going to need to have his pee-pee petted again. She granted herself a small sad sigh. Brandon was proving to be a ridiculously high maintenance asset.
There was an upward limit to how useful he was likely to be. She had known that from the first moment she had met him. Her opinion hadn’t changed with time.
However, slightly useful was still useful.
General Sertorio had wanted to click her nails on the table but didn’t want to risk chipping them. That thought annoyed her enough that she started clicking her nails hard on general principle.
I don’t have time for this and I have to make time for this. She pulled out her cellphone and checked her twenty first century pocket watch for the fourth time. She now had sixteen new messages, nine of them she needed to look at and she had now been kept waiting for fifteen minutes.
Allwhite doesn’t usually keep me cooling my heels this long. He must be feeling really important today. Must been allowed to give The One a few extra tugs this morning and left the One with a big smile on his face. She gave up and opened the report from Experian.
Kerensky, Maxim, 555 68 9173 address, ya-da ya-da. And...hoo boy. Credit cards maxed, second mortgage just taken out on the house in Lansing and the vacation cabin in Charlevoix. Four new credit cards opened and also maxed out. That was just yesterday.
So either Max has been the victim of identity theft or he has figured it out.
He has likely liquidated his 401K but that will take five days to process. Assume he will be headed for the hills in about...damn, I have put him on the no-fly list, now.
She had started typing out that directive, just as Allwhite finally entered the room.
An amateur would have spent a moment or two finishing the message before pretending to notice Allwhite. Sertorio on the other hand rose crisply to the Position of Attention.
“Good morning, sir.”
If Allwhite had known anything about military protocol. He would have been offended by the fact that she was wearing dress blues for this meeting. Marine Corps Dress Blues are a social uniform. It was like wearing a tuxedo to a business meeting. Clearly the wearer had other things to do than bother with this silly shit.
General Sertorio did have other things that needed to be done. All of them, extremely urgent.
Her dress blues were just her way of saying, goodbye.
Or more accurately. Fuck off.
She had served faithfully and at the kind of personal sacrifice that the smirking, smug, twit facing her not only would never understand but would openly hold her in contempt for having made. Three children carried in her body and barely seen after they left her womb. Two fine sons and worthless whore of a daughter. Three grandsons whom she knew found her to be on the high side of terrifying. A husband who...who ... No time to mourn (not that she could have) just a few, ‘you have my sympathy Sertorio,’ now get your ass back to work, remarks. She had given one hundred ten percent of her life in service to her country. As had two of her children.
Malinvestment always liquidates.
Ah well, when the ship leaves port, all debts are paid. It was all over. It had all been for nothing.
And now if have to waste my time with this contemptuous smirking little imbecile.
“Sorry I’m late General,” Allwhite smirked, “I had a meeting with POTUS...”
“Apology accepted, we need to get started immediately,” Sertorio curtly interrupted him. She turned and started tapping on her laptop.
Brandon’s face turned beet red, nostrils flaring wide. Though he also appeared to be just a little bit happy, clearly he had long since been hoping someone in uniform would disrespect his auth-or-tay, “General Sertorio!”
“In two weeks somewhere between twentyfive to forty percent of the population of the United States will have contracted, the syndrome popularly known as Sudden Onset Dementia.
Having secured his attention, Sertorio feigned acknowledgement of his righteous indignation, “Sorry sir, you were about to say something?”
Sertorio had proceeded with brief and then waited for the inevitable meltdown to begin.
“You have known about this all along,” Brandon’s voice sounded distant to his own ears. This is just like the Andromeda Strain. The military knew all about this, all along. Knew it every inch of the way. You planned this, YOU PLANNED THIS!”
“Why in Hell would we plan this? Think about that for just a moment sir.“ She continued before he could actually think about it. It wasn’t like he would think of anything useful.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL US IMMEDIATELY!” Brandon’s voice was a high shriek.
“I’VE BEEN TRYING FOR DAYS!” Sertorio roared back, drowning out Allwhite’s inexperienced shouting.
It was clearly the first time Allwhite had been yelled at in his life by someone who did it for a living. He was in shock.
Sertorio started again more calmly, “I realize you are feeling a little emotional about this. But, America...” Sertorio then stopped herself again, considered Allwhite’s political orientation and continued, “The People need you, sir. The People need you desperately. This is your hour, Mister Allwhite. This is what your life has been leading up to.”
The bitch is right. Brandon was clearly thinking to himself. This militaristic psycho bitch is right. He took a deep breath and held it and then exhaled slowly.
Brandon finally opened his eyes, “I will need...I will need...to present...a one page overview, allowing the President to focus on the most salient points.” Start with a known template if you have nothing else to go on, start with that.
General Sertorio nodded, “I was anticipating that sir.” She slid Allwhite a folder with an orange Top Secret/SCI cover sheet stapled to it.
First known incidence of syndrome designated ZT952 Nigeria 1966. Outbreak contained by mass culling of the human population of the Igbo region.
Second known incidence of syndrome designated ZT952 First Burundi incident 1972. Outbreak was contained by culling the human population of the Martyazo region.
Third known incidence of syndrome designated ZT952; Ethiopia in 1978. Outbreak was contained by culling the human population of the Ogaden region.
Fourth known incidence of syndrome designated ZT952; Second Burndi incident in 1993. Outbreak was contained by culling the human population of the Rwanda region.
Sertorio interrupted her litany of horror. “I should emphasize. This last is a suspected rather than a confirmed outbreak.”
“Why didn’t we know about this before?” Brandon stopped reading for just a moment. “How?” He paused then, “How...?”
Comb’s face was completely neutral, “all of these culls were known at the time. And with the Exception of Rwanda all happened during the Cold War and within the Soviet sphere of influence of Africa. They were conducted at the pressure, insistence and finally instigation of the Soviet Union. Though of course there were a number of political and tribal factors that entered into them. These massacres might well have taken place anyway they were just better organized and better funded than would have normally been the case. The media for whatever reason chose not to highlight these events.
“But you knew about this all along, didn’t you,” Allwhite’s eyes narrowed. “Didn’t you!”
“No sir, we didn’t have a clue until 1993. When the Hutu’s leadership claimed that ZT952 was the reason they were slaughtering the Tutsi’s on a large and gory scale. At first we said, bullshit and started making plans for an intervention.
But the Hutus’ said, ‘no, no we are totally serious, ask the Soviets about it.’ By then of course the old Soviet Union had been turned by the magic of history back into Russia.
Brandon muttered, “tragic.” Nearly under his breath.
Sertorio momentarily stuttered, “W-we, uh then,” she recovered hoping he wasn’t referring to the fall of the Soviet Union but not entirely sure on that point. “Then asked the Russians if there was anything at all to this obviously bullshit story and they said, Dear God not again. We said give with the details and they gave.
ZT952, was the designation the Soviets gave to a syndrome that was first encountered in Nigeria during the 1966 civil war. The designation has no meaning, other than they needed to call it something, that wouldn’t betray any information about it.
Symptoms were first noticed amongst the Igbo population. Stage I; Sudden high fever Stage II; delusions invariably of ancestral memory. Stage III: hyper violent and permanent dementia. This was during the Ogbo Revolt. Which the Igbos were losing rather badly at the time. It was rather surprising it was spotted at all. Regardless It caught the attention of Doctor Anatoly Koralev who had a special interest in the nature of the delusions.
This is from an interview with, an Igbo woman named Mary M’balla,” At a raised eyebrow from Brandon, Sertorio added, “The Igbo are christians.”
Allwhite appeared to reflexively scowl slightly at the word.
Mary’s son David was afflicted with ZT952, during the early stages of the syndrome and I quote, “David spoke to me with his father’s voice and looked at me with his father’s eyes. He said things to me that only his father should know. A demon possess him! For he knows of me those things that only one man should and that is his father. He asks me, why I have grown so suddenly old and acts afraid when I tell him he is my son.”
“This is what initially caught the attention of the Soviets. At the time there was a good deal of speculative interest in RNA as a possible transmitter of memory. General Nicholi Chernyshevsky, a member of the politburo at the time, had a near occult fetish about it. He was certain that a correctly engineered RNA transfer could bring about the New Soviet Man.” Allwhite appeared to be slightly curious about that as well as terrified.
Doubtless Allwhite is wondering if there is something that can finally be done about the Tea Party, Sertorio thought.
“Consequently, the Soviets put a great deal of resources into studying ZT952 in country. And then put even more resources into exterminating the carrier population. They didn’t want word about the disease getting to us.
However they could never get a handle on the causative either. It wasn’t viral or bacterial, it wasn’t fungal the transmission didn’t seem that reliable either. Oral transmission was the most reliable vector but it appeared to be airborne as well. Cutaneous transfer was a possibility. The truth was they didn’t know because they were looking for a virus and ZT952 is not a virus.
But critically important it did not at first appear to be communicable to non-negrotic peoples. That was the second reason the Soviets were interested in it. Bioweapons that affected only an ethnic negrotic population would prove devastating in the United States.
“They wouldn’t do that!” Allwhite blurted.
The naked contempt on on her face appeared to sting Allwhite. She could almost read his thoughts. All right, all right. he was clearly thinking. They might just might have done that. It was war after all. The Soviets were doing what they had to, to survive. Obviously the United States was simply too malignant a force in world politics to play nice. But it felt so racist! And from the Soviet Union?! It clearly felt utterly wrong to him. They had their failings...sort of. But they were the ones trying to bring Marx vision to the world. ‘From each according to his ability to each according to his need.’
Sertorio eased back a little. Maybe I’m being too hard on him. Then she saw his lips mutter, “fucking Bush, man.” Fine she’d called it completely right after all, she was used to that.
Allwhite gathered himself. Sertorio hadn’t stopped speaking during her weighing of him.
“The Soviets attempted to isolate a pathogen after the native carrier population was liquidated. A number of living specimens (read natives) were taken to the Soviet biological research station beneath Komsomolskiy Island . It was there that they discovered. That ZT952 could in fact cross racial boundaries after all. A test subject got loose and bit one of the doctors. Saliva turned out to be an excellent transmission vector. for it Once introduced, the pathogen would immediately spread throughout the new host population.
Following emergency protocols. Komsomolskiy station was immediately sealed and then sterilized by an implosion device in the twenty megaton range. That was our first clue that ZT952 even existed. Underground nuclear tests are legal of course but we thought it was more than a little odd at the time. The why of it caught our interest.
When the Burundi outbreak occurred. There was a more concerted attempt to study it in situ.
There were more efforts to study the apparent ancestral memory as well.
Sertorio tapped her computer and the overhead started an MP4 with a Soviet Captain with medical insignias on his uniform trying to calm a coal black, native african wearing a khanga and drenched with sweat.
Captain (3trd rank) Kerensky: I’m sorry Herr Oberstleutnat, the restraints are for your own protection.
Ntezahorigwa: Bloody cheek of you sir! Bloody damned cheek indeed! Do you know who I am you damned Russian bastard? If bloody Tsar Alexander thinks he’s getting anything out of me...
“The man’s name is Rémegie Ntezahorigwa. He a non-englishing speaking member of the Tutsi people of Burundi. He is under the impression that it is 1897 and that he is Oberstleutnat Joachim Von Strosser. There were actual records and pictures of a Oberstleutnat von Strosser and his family available. German father and English mother. Educated as an engineer in Edinburgh Unviersity. He correctly identified von Strosser’s picture. Then named and demanded to see von Strosser’s wife and children. He went catatonic when presented with a mirror.
Within hours he slipped into a what is now called Stage III SOD.”
Allwhite, reeled backward from the howling red eyed demon, suddenly leaping at the screen. The pops and crunches of its joints dislocating at it tried to break its restraints were audible.
“Okay,” Allwhite breathed deeply, “okay, okay.” He held his breath and again slowly exhaled. “What do you want from me? You are trying to scare me. Okay fine, it worked I’m scared. But why are trying to scare me? Oh God...you can’t be serious!
“Sir?” She asked. She was always serious about something.
“General Sertorio you were making some pretty big claims about how far and how fast it would spread. Real end of the world, we’re all gonna die stuff.”
“Essentially correct sir,” Sertorio remained cold as a rock with morning dew on it.
“I assume, you are arguing that we use Soviet methods, on American citizens to contain SOD?” Allwhite asked in distant incredulous voice. “Give it to me straight General. I can handle the truth.”
Mister Allwhite she thought to herself. You can’t even handle the lie. She was keeping the horror of the Stage IVs under wraps. There was no point in telling him something he was incapable of believing. “Those were the low end figures, Mister Allwhite,” she said.
“Soviet methods would accomplish nothing at this point. Containment is now impossible.”
However, I am only too happy to accommodate her bodyguard,” Kerensky continued, “but he will need to know he is under my orders.”
Oh, Sertorio thought to herself, so that’s it. No wonder he’s not mad about the no-fly list. He never cared about it in the first place. He was counting on being sent to the CDC.
As long as he appears to be going like a good and willing little lamb to the slaughter, I won’t put the ball and chain on his leg.
Now what the hell does he want in Georgia? Sertorio wondered.
Does he plan to escape to sea? Easier to do from Georgia than Michigan, I suppose. The water will be warmer. Desalination technology is more advanced than a boiling pot these days. Plenty of protein readily available if you happen to have a net. He was a Navy man. It’s not a bad plan, she granted. There is the problem of the Big Bad Wolf I have prowling around his daughter.
Does he think his daughter has that problem in hand?
Why does he believe that?
Shocker sighed deeply and prepared his mind for an extended bout of boredom. He was by nature an impatient man. The Marine Corps greatest gift to him so far as he was concerned was the simulation of patience he had had to learn.
Standing at attention for hours in formation at San Diego MCRD. Sweat soaking his arm pits, making his cheap short sleeve, uniform charlie shirt, itch, while not twitching a muscle. His hands gripping an M-16A2 whose black polymer had been cleaned to a bright finish and now burned hot in his hands from the scorching sun of southernmost California. The sweat soaking his garrison cover gripping his head, with oily, salty rivulets pouring down his forehead and burning his unblinking, unmoving eyes.
Lying prone in a sniper’s hide, near Fallujah suffering patiently from a desert heat that was so dry no sweat could form on his skin. Followed by the bitter cold made worse by the thinness of the dry air. Occasionally exercising one set muscles by pitting their strength against another set. First one arm, then a leg. The fabric of shirt slowly grinding sores into his elbows and knees. All the while remaining unmoving.
Quietly eating fried manti in a cafe in Izmir, Turkey. The sharp, acrid smell of heating coal smoldering filling the streets. Feigning an American tourist’s fascination with an alien culture and wondering if his contact was going to show or if he had betrayed him.
Not that he really thought about any of these things or at least he didn’t think of them a lot. These experiences were simply a collective school of hardknocks where he learned how to simulate something that was unnatural to him. Waiting.
All of which was barely adequate so far as he was concerned to survive a game of football.
One team was winning and one was losing was losing today and everyone in the stadium had a stake in it (except Shocker). Pride, glory and honor were the prize. A chance to blow off steam. A moment to remember past triumphs as well.
the crowd roared it’s approval of the ball being moved a few meters in one direction instead of another. Shocker summoned a career enlisted man’s vast reserves of ennui and despair.
The formidably beautiful girl beside Shocker adding her voice to the crowds. Wild eyed in delight.
Oksana Kerensky was exceptional to be certain but he had known other exceptional women and he hadn’t found them to be as interesting.
He had known quite a lot more average women who all thought they were exceptional. There were those two from last week, Shocker recalled.
Well he thought to himself. Maybe I should try to appreciate the game, so long as I’m stuck here. In the distance he could just make out the lyrics to The Touch by Stan Bush.
You got the touch.
It could be worse of course, he thought to himself. It could be baseball.
You got the pow-wer
Oh shit, that’s John’s ringtone, Shocker thought as he dug out his cell. What was he calling about?
A moment later he grabbed Aux Kerensky by the shoulder. “Game’s over. We’re going. Now!”
Terry Jackson shook his head trying to clear it. Blood was launched in a small crimson arc out of his nose. It was bleeding from getting punching in the face by the steering wheel’s airbag.
“Oh no please! Please work!” Terry moaned. The Zombie that has been in the bed of the truck was starting to get up.
He stamped on the accelerator again but this time the engine only gave a breathy roar. It hadn’t moved at all there was just a horrible metal grinding sound.
The drive shaft was broken.
The zombie in the trench coat was on it’s feet now and was limping quickly towards him. The rest of the hoard was fast approaching. A tight packed wave of fury.
“Please,” he prayed “Please!” He threw it into four by four and stepped on the gas again. More lightly this time.
There was more metallic grinding from underneath the truck but the front wheels lurched into motion.
He pulled away from the hoard leaving the guy in the trench coat behind. When Terry saw his face he was suddenly a little apprehensive.
He’d seen a few things on the news about them. Zombies weren’t supposed to look like that were they? His eyes were clear. And he was on his feet not all fours.
When the Zombie in the trench coat flipped him the bird, he knew the truth of it. He had screwed up again. No taking this one back. It was too late for that.
It wasn’t a better him then me thing. Terry felt sick about it. But he couldn’t go back. It was beyond him. It just wasn’t in him to do it.
His F-150 scrabbled for purchase ran down the street at diagonal crab crawl. Just fast enough for the Zombies chasing him to easily keep pace. All the way to Spartan Stadium.