Edward Baikov. Epiphenomenon
The world news agencies report:
“A group of researchers from the international expedition declares to have discovered a “lost world” in the tropical forest of a mountainous region in Central Africa. The area dubbed “The Garden of Eden” is said to be the habitat of previously unknown animal and plant species. The scientists have found more than 30 species of unknown frogs, six species of butterflies, seven new species of palms and a variety of plants yet to be classified”.
* * *
François Perrier was sitting on a folding chair and watched the bustle around him with a pent up smile. His colleagues, all those zoologists, ornithologists, entomologists and botanists, brought to mind molecular movement. They scampered about in the camp with their jars, cages, barrier bags and other transportable receptacles, crying in several European languages and one Chinese dialect that meddled in the general hubbub.
He was a microbiologist and his outfit weighed a trifle: water bath, a dozen of vials with specimens of soil, water and pieces of plants…
The expedition, international as it was, had been contrived by the Americans, and they outnumbered all the rest, both in field personnel and in management.
Those blasted Yankees! Perrier could not bear them with their brazen impudence, ostentatious cheerfulness and daunting calculation. However, the fact remained that it were they who paid money and a fair amount at that. François got just as much in this expedition in a month as he had in his own Pasteur Institute in Paris in a year.
What is more, he was invited to work – or maybe to stay forever? –by serious people who sponsored many microbiological programs in the US. No doubt, they called him to the expedition because they knew that François Perrier from Paris was not a sleazy prof in a third-rate institute. The patrons of Jenner Institute already tried to lure him to London, but what can you expect of them, the dwellers of Foggy Albion?
That is settled then! Back home he will get his duds together, say “adieu” to his Institute chiefs and poop out to America, first to Harvard Center and then to a cooler place. Welcome to defense behemoths, sir! There will be a shower of “grand grants” and, hey ho, the fat-bottomed Yankees! The bucks will make up for everything. And then, they are also humans who have two legs, a pair of eyes and thirty-two teeth. And their girls…
He vigorously chuckled to himself, which caused a side-glance from a passing Chinese ornithologist, and slapped his bony knees – time to hit the road! Glory and a heavy purse for life is awaiting us.
* * *
John Lindgram has once again verified all calculations, which left no doubt. What was left were days and hours of life. The life of all Earth dwellers.
He contacted the CEO of their deep underground Research Center in Arizona. The executive showed up immediately: Lindgram was the second man after him (if not the first) in the staff of thousand members.
– Sit down, please, – said the host gesturing to a chair. – I’m going to tell you something that will make you forget anything and everything. In the strictest sense of the word.
Having waited for the guest to be seated, he continued:
– A month ago, we received the specimens of new microorganisms. Of those brought by the last expedition from Central Africa, well, you know the story…
The visitor nodded.
– So, as you know, these tiny congeners in life turned out to be totally new species, never seen before. This is not in itself a thing without precedent, but this time we managed to isolate, among others, the variety whose morphological and physiological properties, if these terms are applicable in this case at all, significantly, if not to say, fundamentally differ from all other members of Vira kingdom.
– Did you manage to find out what is the difference?
– Oh, yes, I immediately took the matter in hand and was right in so doing, though it does not matter now…
The microbiologist looked examiningly at his guest. He knew the man to have the rank of general, although he always spend his time out of uniform. Thus, his military stamina must help him to bear up what he was going to hear.
– And you know what? – continued Lindgram. – This virus is the most dreadful anthropophagite, human killer, of all, which ever existed on the Earth. Agents of smallpox and plague, which took away millions of lives, as well as AIDS virus are paltry weaklings compared to our virus. But that is not the main point. The problem is that this virus affects all the tissues of human organism and propagates with tremendous rapidity envenoming everything around him: in several hours all human cells are damaged by the virions. Certainly the subject dies earlier through intoxication. That is, the infected cells soon become dead.
He fell silent thinking of something and cast a glance on the portrait of the current president. Then he shook his head and spoke again:
– My closest associates, who worked with the strain, kept the fact of being infected with this virus off the radar from the rest of the personnel…
– But did not you used all usual precautionary measure?! – cried the executive.
– Of course, we did, sir, same old procedures, but this time the germ is not ordinary. This virus penetrates all obstacles, if he “feels” a human for a kilometer around, we’ve checked all that. Glass, concrete, metals, polymeric fiber and films – nothing is capable to protect from the killer.
– But what about that expedition, then?..
– I got in touch with all members or, rather tried to get in touch, because they were all dead by that time.
– Shit! And nobody said anything.
– Right, the authorities of their countries hide the truth, because they do not know what is going on: the virus immediately leaves the host after death and “evaporates”, morphs into a fine pseudo spore, to be more precise, which is impossible to detect, that is, isolate, if you do not know about the virus. But it has already started its fatal march along the planet.
– But most members were Americans and the Pentagon would have already known and informed me in the first place…
– All these folks do not work for government, but for private research centers and the latter suspect nothing. Nobody, except us, had access to the culture of the isolated agent. Listen to other things, because we are short of time. All my people, who had contact with the strain, are already dead or will soon die, including me and now you as well. And the whole of our Center. And nothing can be done: there is neither vaccine nor antidote.