01/08/2013

Human Touch | Chapter 2

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

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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.

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"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?"

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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.

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"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.

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