Human Touch | Chapter 3 - Final Chapter

Read Chapter 1 here: http://storiesbyizzy.blogspot.ae/2013/07/human-touch-chapter-1.html
Read Chapter 2 here: http://storiesbyizzy.blogspot.ae/2013/08/human-touch-chapter-2.html

"Press your index finger here."
A long, orderly line of people queued behind three different desks. The administrator at each desk gave the same commandments.
"Now write your name on this list please."
Officers and security surrounded the blast bunker. They could be seen from every angle, quietly monitoring the crowds.
"Wait over there for further instruction."
The person in front of the desk would have a tiny blood sample drawn from their index finger. The machine on each desk would indicate whether the blood contained the virus. If it did, the women behind the desks would direct those people to the back of the blast bunker. If not, they were sent home. This particular man was being sent to the back. However, he already knew that.
He stood for some time among a few other's, they hadn't a clue what they were in for.
An officer approached them, covered in protective gear.
"A bus is here, ready to take you to your next destination."
"And where might that be?" The man asked, but he already knew the answer.
The officer pretended not to have heard him, and called to several other people in protective gear to escort this group to the bus. They went as instructed and boarded the vehicle. A couple of bold women spoke up to repeat the question, "where are we going?"
"To another shelter," the officer answered. Lies.
The bus was in good condition. The man noted the reinforced glass separating the driver from the passengers. He assumed the windows were made of the same material.
He watched as people tried to wave to their family members and loved ones before boarding the bus. They had been given no warning and had no chance to give proper goodbyes. He could almost punch the officers for acting so inconsiderately. Clearly, fear had clouded their moral compass.
As he looked around for a seat he studied the faces of these poor victims and thought of the cruel ending that the government had planned for them, as well as hundreds of others.
A middle-aged woman sat next to her young daughter - who couldn't be more than 10 years of age. The little girl was clinging to her mother's clothing with wide eyes, afraid and unsure. Behind them, a young man sat staring angrily out of the window, his eyebrows furrowed together, shadowing his eyes.
Near the back of the bus, there was a spare seat, and the man settled into it just before the bus door closed and the driver began the engine. As the bus jolted forward, he removed his sunglasses, revealing deep brown eyes.

"I can't do this!"
"You don't have a choice."
"So I should just murder thousands of my own people?"
"More would die if you didn't."
"Couldn't you just send them to some uninhabited island where they couldn't touch anyone?"
"Look... you know as well as me that we can't do that. We have to destroy the virus. This is the only way. Anyway, if it all goes well, no one will know. And the world will be saved. You'll be regarded as one of the greatest leaders of all time."
The President was hunched over in his chair, guilt was overwhelming him. Innocent people would be trusting him to help them and instead he was murdering them. Hundreds had been sent to the designated hospitals. They would die instantly and without pain.
Sebastian was a logical thinker. He did not allow emotion to dictate his decisions and he lacked respect for those who did. Here was the President, and his feelings were making him weak. However, he knew what had to be done and as long as Sebastian was there to make sure everything ran smoothly, then the virus would be eradicated.
The President had grown weary of arguing. There was no going back now. He loved his country but he also knew his people well. Word would get out and spread like wildfire. He would try to explain he had no choice. He would face the wrath bravely because there was no other way. He was doing the right thing... wasn't he?
The bus was taking a route that he had not been on before but he knew where it was headed. It was an empty road, and not worn enough to have been travelled on very often. He decided that this was the time.
He closed his brown eyes and took in a deep breath. He exhaled slowly, relishing in this last moment of relaxation. Then Samuel stood up. Heads turned.
"You know why you're on this bus," he addressed the rest of the passengers. "You've all been infected." Now, he had everybody's attention.
"The government is trying to destroy the virus. They're going to destroy us along with it."
A little girl started whimpering.
"You don't know what you're saying."
"There are children here!"
"Sit down!"
The other passengers were reluctant to accept what Samuel was telling them. They shouted over him.
"Stop!" The woman with the daughter silenced the outcry. Even Samuel was taken aback by her authoritative tone of voice.
"Let him speak. He knows more than any of us."
"I'm not lying to you," Samuel began. "But I need your help if any of us wants to live. We need to head South. The Southern States were evacuated during the war and abandoned. We can hide there. I've already communicated with other people who should be on their way there now."
His spoke confidently and clearly - like a leader. The others were afraid but they believed what he was saying.
He looked over their heads at the driver, protected by a wall of glass. He had headphones on, and was ignorant of the uprising occurring in his bus.
Martha rested in the shade of an unfinished building. She was afraid of herself and what she had done. She was a murderer. Martha looked down at her child and pushed the thoughts out of her mind. Andrea depended on her to stay strong. At least she was far from human contact here. She had been near to collapsing after running as fast as she could from the scene when she came across the wrecked construction site. Clearly, the workers had not returned to the area - neither had anyone else from what it looked like.
Suddenly, Andrea began to cry. Martha desperately tried to silence her but it was no use.
Rummaging could be heard a few metres away. She tried to stand up and move but her legs were tired and felt as heavy as lead. A figure emerged from the shadows.
"Don't touch me!" Martha cried out, afraid for the stranger's life.
A face come into sight. A young face. Male. A teenage boy. He was smiling.
Martha was confused by his presence.
"You have the virus," he said it as if relieved.
"I'm Jack," he stretched out his hand to shake hers.
"What are you doing?!" She reeled back in astonishment.
"No, no, don't worry, I have the virus too. You can't hurt me."
"Martha..." Gingerly, she reached out a shaking hand and greeted him. "And this is Andrea."
She had stopped crying and was observing Jack with a serious expression on her face.
A police siren could be heard wailing in the distance.
"We need to get out of here!" Jack began to run towards the exit. He paused and looked back. Martha struggled to her feet before collapsing back down to the ground.
"I can't run anymore."
He jogged back to her and held out his hand to help her up.
"I have a car," he smiled, mischievously, took hold of Andrea and guided them to the car.
Tinted windows, leather seats, matte black exterior... this was a nice car. The communication system, cameras, and tracking devices had been torn out, leaving a rather blank dashboard. Martha noticed the lack of keys... this was a stolen car.
Jack jerked the car into reverse before a violent spin set them in the right direction. A smooth change of gears, and the car bounced forwards. They gained speed quickly and Jack skilfully manoeuvred between the thin roads. The sound of the police siren began to fade until it couldn't be heard over the roar of the car's engine.
Martha clutched the side of the seat as the surroundings blurred together.
"Where are we going?!" She screamed and held tight to Andrea as the car rose into the air after a collision with a bump in the road. Jack swerved off the paved alleyways onto the smoother concrete of the main road.
The town grew smaller in the rear-view mirrors and buildings were replaced by bushes and shrubbery as the car sped down the highway. Jack smiled, his eyes fixed on the road, and responded to her question.
Broken glass scattered the floor of the bus. The driver's fear of the virus meant he had responded quickly to all of Samuel's commands. The man now sat on the side of an empty road, hoping another bus would come this way shortly.
Meanwhile his bus was far away and heading towards where the main border control building for Florida once stood. Now, the state had been demolished by countless bombings and fires. It was too far from renovation so the government had focused on other areas of the country - making it the perfect place to hide and meet with the rest of the runaways.
The journey would take at least 12 hours. As long as they kept driving at this rate, they would make it before midnight. Then they could rest in the bus and wait for the others to arrive.
Samuel's thoughts wandered. He considered Martha and prayed that she was on her way too. Perhaps they would be together again.
As he tried to stop worrying about her, he turned around in the driver's seat and looked at people behind him. They were depending on him to keep them safe but their expressions were sad. He knew they would be thinking of their homes and families - of loved ones they could never embrace again. It was time to lighten the atmosphere. Samuel fiddled with the draws and compartments by the drivers seat. Sure enough, there was a CD. Elvis. He never went out of fashion. Slotting it into the CD player, Samuel pushed several more buttons and Elvis Presley's smooth voice erupted from the speakers. The rest of the bus applauded and immediately the mood was uplifted; a couple of woman began to sing along. Soon, the whole bus was helping Elvis and filled the bus with off-beat clapping and rather croaky notes, but it put a smile of everyone's face.
The hours went by quickly. Someone had found a deck of cards in one of the compartments in the bus and strangers had turned into friendly faces. They were met at the border by a couple of other buses and Samuel greeted fellow companions - including several men who had gone on the mission with him more than a year ago.
More buses arrived as the night grew old. Samuel franticly searched each one for Martha. As the first rays of sunlight peeked over the horizon, he began to give up hope. All of the men he had informed were here. Unless they had told others, this was the last of the buses. A wave of grief swept over him as he came to the conclusion that Martha was gone.
In the distance, a cloud of dust rose and the roar of an engine could be heard. This wasn't a bus engine. Samuel motioned for the others to hide and everyone ran to the buses. Was this the authorities? How had they discovered their destination so quickly?
The matte black car sped towards the direction of the buses. Samuel braced himself for an unpleasant encounter. Tinted windows shielded the people inside from prying eyes. The car parked close to the buses. The door swung open, and a rather harmless looking and unarmed teenage boy stepped out of the driver's seat. Seeing that he wasn't a member of the government or officer, people flooded off the armada of buses and came to greet him. They crowded the car as the second door swung open. Samuel made his way through the flow of people the greet the newcomers. The cry of a baby could be heard among the murmurs of the crowd. He reached the car and stood frozen as the woman with the baby turned around. Martha and Samuel gazed into each other's eyes longingly. Samuel rushed towards her and wrapped his arms around her. Tears were streaming from Martha's face as she introduced Andrea to her father. Samuel was overwhelmed by the reunion and he looked down at his child lovingly.
The reunion was bitter-sweet. The next few years would be a fight for survival. They would have to avoid contact with the authorities and find refuge and food in these demolished cities. For now, though, his people were safe, and Samuel found himself savouring the moment as he marvelled at the beauty of his daughter - so much like her mother.


Human Touch | Chapter 2

Read chapter 1 first: http://storiesbyizzy.blogspot.ae/2013/07/human-touch-chapter-1.html

He wouldn't say it out loud, but as he read the article that China had spread across the world, he came to the understanding that Chinese scientists were, in fact, quite smart.
Why hadn't he thought of that? Ok, so these scientists were brilliant. Clearly they had captured and analysed one of the spies sent to them a year back. Their discoveries were fantastic, as well as dangerous. The pathogen injected into the young men last year had reacted with the hormone, adrenalin - something the scientists had not tested for - and at the time when the virus was meant to die, it became inactive and was absorbed into the genetic material of the men who contained it.
As he continued to read, he calculated how he could fix the problem he now faced. His boss would not be pleased with this discovery, unlike himself, who was enraptured by the issue. Viruses were clever, evolving things.

The scientist started to piece together how the virus had changed in the past year. It still transferred via skin contact, however the symptoms were prolonged as it gave victims a chance to pass it on to other unsuspecting people before death. This allowed the virus to protect it's original host as well as transfer itself more effectively. The scientist smiled to himself. After all, he had created these smart microorganisms.


"Sebastian, I'm not sure if you understand the severity of this situation." The Secretary of Defence had to force himself to maintain a collected tone of voice. He was about to lose it with this man, who was too caught up in the science of it all to have any regard for human life.
The scientist was lost in his thoughts, he was back in the board room. Only a week had passed since the last meeting and the fears had come true. The nation was in panic, they had isolated themselves, too afraid to come in contact with other humans. He marvelled at the effect that such a tiny organism had on this previously strong, brave country.
"People are dying!" Sebastian's lack of cooperation had finally driven the General to outrage. He yelled across the room, confounded and frustrated by the scientist's air of calmness.
"I have a new theory," Sebastian was quite oblivious to the man's fury. "I was wondering why the virus has appeared in almost every state despite the fact that the men who had received the injections were only living in three."
The Secretary had been wondering this himself so he allowed Sebastian to continue.
"I believe that every human the original men had come in contact with were passed on the inactive virus. This allowed them to become immune to the effects however they also become hosts as the virus empowered specific skin cells, but not enough to show any signs. Clearly, the virus has activated itself in some of these people, a year after contact."
Stunned, the officials in the room began to sum up the meaning of what had been said.
One of them spoke up, "So, you're telling us that there are thousands of people out there who, after who knows how long, will be able to kill others with one touch... and they don't even know it?"
Sebastian nodded, pleased with his discovery.
"Oh, and another thing!" He was getting excited. "The virus can be passed onto the offspring as it affects the genetic material of it's host."
The Secretary of Defence stared at his scientist with a mixture of utter disbelief and dismay - at both the man's attitude and the words he was saying.
Suddenly, heads turned as the President rose. Calmly, he directed his gaze onto Sebastian.
"How do we cure them?"
At this, Sebastian paused. Someone with such a virus as this can not be cured. Viruses spread. They take over cells. If a virus was destroyed, the cells and body of the host would be destroyed along with it.
"Mr President, Sir," Sebastian began. "The question is, how do we kill them?"


The motel staff were kind and checked on the woman and her baby at every chance they got, quite unlike the manager who - along with the rest of the population - became paranoid and suspicious of everybody around him, particularly this mystery woman.
She had checked into the hotel three months ago, paid regularly, and came by the name of Martha Bell. However, she had not spoken to anyone, and no one knew where she had come from or how long she planned to stay.
"Can I get you anything else?" The motel waitress placed a tray of food on the bedside table. Martha shook her head, her eyes fixed on the baby.
"She's gorgeous," the waitress cooed and reached towards the child. Protectively, Martha pulled the girl closer to her and glared at the waitress.
"Sorry," the woman looked away, embarrassed. Martha had not allowed anyone to touch herself or the child in the last week. She was smart and aware of what was going on in the rest of the country. Although the news was vague, she recognised the symptoms of the disease from the stories that Samuel had told her. She knew that he had been injected with a virus that caused the symptoms. And she knew that he was the father of this baby.
The waitress knelt by the dusty television set and played with the buttons on the side until the screen came to life. Although the picture was fuzzy, the sound was good quality so the waitress was satisfied with her handiwork and left the room.
Martha listened to the TV, scientists were quarrelling about the virus. It was all anybody talked about since the first few deaths. She became uninterested and lay down, ready to sleep. The baby was already asleep and had barely cried since birth. Martha was thankful for the child, so quiet and observant - just like her father. A loud, commanding voice rose from the speakers of the TV, catching Martha's attention.
"Urgent Announcement: Everybody must report to the nearest blast bunker as soon as possible to be registered and checked for the virus. Those who are not registered before the 1st of May will be found and arrested. Urgent Announcement: Everybody must report..."
The broadcast repeated endlessly. Martha checked the date on her watch. It was the 16th of April. That meant two weeks for the whole of the American population to get registered.
It wasn't unreasonable. Since the beginning of the war, blast bunkers had become plentiful, even small villages had one. Furthermore, almost everyone was connected. Tracking devices were within every piece of technology available and cameras were hidden on every doorway and streetlamp. The government claimed they were using them to locate spies and terrorists - a statement conspiracists loved to attack - but Martha knew, just as well as everyone, that such devices would and could be used to track anyone they wanted.


"Everybody in this motel, get down to the reception area. We're heading to the blast bunker. I trust you heard the announcement. So get moving!" The manager stormed down the corridors, barking orders into the small rooms.
It was only a little motel, and not very popular. Almost all of the occupiers of the building were down in the reception area within a few minutes. The manager called out the staff names. Satisfied that his crew were all here, he began the names of the guests. It wasn't long before he called out for Martha and received no reply. He muttered under his breath. One of the cleaning maids offered to go get her and quickly scuttled off.

With one arm cradling the baby, and the other packing all her belongings into a small, shabby backpack, Martha could not work quickly. The maid rushed in and quickly swooped to Martha's side to help out. Before Martha could react, the women had taken a hold of the baby to allow Martha both hands to pack her bag.
"No!" Martha turned in panic towards the maid, afraid of what would happen next.
The lady simply looked back at her and chattered in the fashion of an old woman.
"Don't be silly, dear, she'll be quite alright! You get on with your packing. And hurry now, they're all waiting in the lobby."
Martha was stunned. How was it that this woman was not writhing in agony? How had the virus not affected her? Was it possible that the baby did not possess the pathogen?
""What's her name?" Asked the maid, rocking the girl in her arms.
"Andrea. It means brave."
"Yes, in Spanish," the lady smiled at Martha.
Having finished her packing, Martha struggled with the zip of the old backpack. The maid leaned forward to help, and her hand brushed Martha's. Again, Martha held her breath but in vain. The women was fine.

They all stood at a bus stop, along with several other anxious members of the town. The arriving bus would shuttle them to the blast bunker, in the centre of town - a brief 20 minute journey. As Martha waited, a tingly feeling passed over her - similar to a shiver. Dismissing it as a reaction to the cold, Martha waited to board the bus. As she stepped forward, a man behind her rudely pushed in front, bumping her arm with his elbow. All of a sudden, he fell to the ground with a cry of pain. Martha froze, shocked, her eyes fixated on the man. Perhaps it was just a twisted ankle. The man began to foam at the mouth and the skin around his elbow turned raw and red. He reached out to the people around him, who were quickly backing away from the scene, and managed to grab hold of an old woman's leg. She screamed and was immediately overtook by similar symptoms. Having ensured they were well clear of the victims, the spectators turned their eyes on Martha. She recognised these symptoms. She knew what this meant. Pulling Andrea close to her chest, Martha took one look at the frightened and fearsome faces around her and ran.



Human Touch | Chapter 1

Exhausted, the woman picked up the crying new-born and cradled the baby in her arms. The bangs on the door were getting louder and she could hear the wood splintering. She smiled down at the precious child and analysed the features. She could see him in the deep brown eyes and memories flooded back to her, only to be torn away with a sudden crash. The door flew open and a couple of bellboys stumbled in.
Behind them a shout could be heard.
"WHAT is going on in here?!"
The source of the cry stormed into the little motel room, crowded by a huddle of anxious staff members. He took one look at the bloodied bed sheets, the naked baby, and the pale mother who had not yet lifted her gaze from the child's face, and he took a deep breath, sucking all the life out of the air.
The rest of the staff stood tense, struck silent by the scene before them but the manager held a composed look on his face.
"If you had simply told us you were going to give birth, we would have been quite happy to transport you to the nearest hospital," he calmly uttered - a hint of weariness hidden in his otherwise authoritative tone of voice.
Belatedly, the woman looked up, as if only just noticing the group, crammed in the room and peering through the gap where the door once stood. She finally allowed herself to take in the immensity of the situation and broke down into a series of gasps and wails.
The manager looked embarrassed by her reaction and quickly turned to the staff, whose eyes were riveted on the poor woman and her child. He ushered them out the room and turned back to close the door, only to find his hand grasping for thin air. He frowned at the splinters of wood strewn across the floor, as if cursing their existence - that would cost him more money he didn't have - and marched away down the shabby corridors, followed by echoes of the woman's cries.

The war had taken it's toll on everybody, and although a year had passed since it's end, America was still fighting. This time, however, the enemy was within their country. A plague had struck the states and was slowly conquering the US and the rest of the world. As planes and modern transport speeded up the process and enabled the disease to attack other countries, scientists fought desperately to keep it at bay.
The president's board room was hot with debate and accusations flew as officers and generals made their case.
"You told me that this wasn't possible!" The Secretary of Defence slammed his fist onto the polished oak table. His top scientist turned away from him, sighing, and repeated what he had already said.
"I told you, Sir, the tests we ran clearly showed that the virus would die in the blood stream twenty-four hours after taking effect."
"Well then, please, explain to me why this is showing on the front of every newspaper in every country in the world," the Secretary pushed the newspaper that had since occupied the centre of the table towards the scientist. He did not turn around, he had already read the article several times: Unknown Disease Claims More Victims.
Another official spoke up, "I'm sorry to interrupt this little chit-chat but until we know how to deal with this, China has the advantage over us. They know what this is, and now there is nothing stopping them from spilling."
All heads turned towards the speaker as they took in the reality of what he was the saying. Whispers broke out to marvel at the effect this could have on the public. Widespread panic. Riots across the states. Or worse, another war.
Suddenly, the room went quiet as the President's Personal Secretary rushed in. Her panicked eyes explored the faces until she made eye contact with the President - who had been quietly monitoring the previous conversation.
"S-s-s-sir," she stammered. "China, they've leaked everything. It's all over the news."
More than a year back, American scientists finally finished the tests for a drug that would give them the upper hand in the war. Casualties were high, and the US were low on supplies and men. Furthermore, the Southern states had been wrecked from countless bombings.
A new batch of spies were sent into the lab. They were all given the injections and briefed on their mission.
"You have 10 days before the drug takes effect," the officer scowled at the young men. As the casualties were increasing, they couldn't afford to be choosy and these boys hadn't had nearly enough training or experience to confidently assign them to such a task as this. Pushing down his anxieties, the officer continued.
"After one week, you will be dropped into enemy territory and you will get yourself as close to the Chinese officials as possible. Three days after that, the drug will kick in, and you will become walking, talking pathogens. You will transfer the virus to anyone you touch and they will die within seconds of contact with you. This ability will last exactly twenty four hours. I repeat, twenty four hours... That means you have one day to do as much damage as possible and get out. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, Sir!" the men shouted in unison before departing for further instruction at the training camp.
Samuel glared into the eyes of his captor. According to his calculations, he was minutes away from activation and exactly where he wanted to be. The Chinese Emperor paced in front of him, a grin plastered on his face.
"I can see America is short of men," he stopped in front of Samuel - who was in chains and bleeding - and laughed to himself. "You're making it too easy... Tell me again why you're here?"
"To kill you." Samuel spat at him, leaving a blemish on the Chinese Rulers' polished shoes.
One of the men standing beside Samuel dealt a blow to his jaw.
Outraged by his act of rudeness, the Emperor grabbed Samuel, crushing his throat to suffocate him.
As Samuel struggled for breath, he counted down the seconds left.
5... 4...
"This should teach you..."
"...not to disrespect..."
"...your elders!"
Samuel felt his body shake violently as it begged for air.
He began to feel light-headed and his eyesight began to fade.
Suddenly, a pained expression crossed over the Emperor's face and his grip loosened.
Samuel gasped for air and watched, mesmerised, as the Emperor struggled on the floor, foaming at the mouth, the skin around his hand raw and red. Then, seconds later, his movement ceased.
The journey home had been one of celebration. More than 40 of the 50 men who had taken part in the operation had survived and found their way to the site of departure. Almost all of them had success stories to tell. However, no one could quite match Samuel, and even the officers were impressed by the young man's achievements. But he could not focus on the accomplishments of the team. Instead, Samuel looked forward to their landing, because he know Martha would be waiting for him. They would have three precious months left together before his family would be expecting him home.
It was just how he pictured it. He walked into the arrivals waiting area in the small airport and easily spotted Martha. Their flight from base camp had been delayed due to a long de-briefing session and Martha had settled down in a coffee shop, captivated by the newspaper she was reading. He quietly approached and stood behind her. Feeling somebody's presence, Martha turned in her chair abruptly, looked into Samuel's deep brown eyes and rose, almost in a trance, to be met with a tight embrace.
The next three months were filled with passion but Martha was relentlessly haunted by what she knew lay ahead. As border controls continued to tighten and migration between states became close to impossible, she understood that these three months would not last, and Samuel would soon be obliged to return to his home and family.


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