April 12, 201X
Dr. Megan Davis ran her fingers through her long red hair. Usually, it was kept in a tight bun at the back of head, but it was after midnight now as she poured over the latest reports coming out of Afghanistan. She adjusted her reading glasses on the end of her nose as exhaustion made it even more difficult to focus on the words.
She realized that at forty-two she looked exactly like every man's fantasy of an old maid librarian. It was not too far from the truth actually, except for the librarian bit, of course. Megan was a psychiatrist. Her specialty was PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and she had spent the last decade working as a civilian contractor for the military, helping returning service men and women to process the ravages of war that they had seen.
It was a job close to her own heart. Her father, what little she could remember of him, had been a victim of what they still called Shell Shock back then. His time in Vietnam had eventually cost him not only his wife and children, but his life at the end of his service revolver. Megan was determined to do her best to keep other children from the same fate.
But what she had never counted on was this latest, a new plight that was baffling the best scientists. They had not even been able to agree on a name for it. Instead it was simply called Codename Zombie. The Center for Disease Control was working along experts from all branches of the military to identify the pathogen, but with no luck. Bacteria, virus or chemical agent, no one could decide.
It was called The Zombie sickness because of its unique physical symptoms. From what little, the doctors could find out it began almost like the common flu with a high fever, body aches, chills and a killer headache. But unlike a flu from which most people recovered this illness progressed rapidly. The soldiers quickly showed signs of memory loss and lowered inhibitions, psychological symptoms which necessitated her skills.
But worse was to come. Boils brook out across their bodies that burst and seeped pus. Their core temperature dropped to something that would usually be incompatible with life, the low to mid fifties in Fahrenheit and their skin took on a greyish appearance. Over the course of a couple of days, the subject's mental faculties deteriorated to the point that they were more like our primate cousins than the honorable men they had once been.
And that was the other thing, the disease seemed to only effect males. At first everyone had assumed that it was because the strict military combat restrictions prevented females from coming into contact with whatever anti-gen was causing the illness. But this new report noted that two women had been in the same platoon as the latest victims of the disease, but they showed no sign of developing the sickness.
Megan stretched and rubbed her hand across her face. She should go to bed, but she could not. While she might play a minor role with this team, her job merely to find some way of communicating with the victims once the disease progressed so that the other scientist could collect as much data as possible, it was a task that weighed gravely upon her. What she could not forget was the ultimate outcome of the disease, autopsies showed that the frontal lobe, the portion of the brain that made us uniquely human, capable of higher level thoughts and moral reasoning, was virtually liquefied in the final stages of the illness.
Megan stared at the report forty-seven deaths to date, another two dozen in various stages of the illness, and five missing and presumed dead. The numbers might seem small, the whole thing top secret and hidden as of yet from the American public. Even the families were not told how their loved one had died. The military simply explained their deaths had been so horrific it felt it best to cremate the bodies. She shook her head, a couple of families had protested that it was unprecedented, but they had been silenced somehow.
Her vision blurred for a moment, whether from tiredness or the tears that landed on the dark green folders spread across the table she did not know. She knew she was past the point of logical thinking, she would do no one any good in this state. She opened the top three buttons on her plain white silk blouse, her ample breasts straining against the soft material of her bra. They ached.
It had been days since she had even partook in her ritual of nightly masturbation. She knew she should do so now, but she was too tired even for that. Promising herself she get her fix of endorphins when she woke, she stretched out on the couch in her office. A quick nap, a fast orgasm and her head would be able to focus better upon this problem, she promised herself.
July 5, 201X
The whole facility was abuzz. The medical teams had managed at last to transport one of the victims to their Level Four Biohazard facility. All previous attempts to transport a subject for testing had been considered too dangerous or had resulted in death during the process, except for one any way. That subject had escaped during ground transport from Andrews Air Force base to Fort Detrick, but that had been months ago. Major Martin Littlefoot, an Army doctor woh had first disovered the sickness, had been one of its earliest victims and was presumed dead.
This subject was a young corporal, who was still relatively early in the disease progression. He had not as yet even completely lost his ability to use language, although according to the report his speech had reverted to something closer to a two or three year old, simple three to five word sentences without proper grammar. But it was hoped that by bringing Megan into the research process this early she might find a way to communicate with him even once expressive language faculties were gone completely.
Because most of the subjects exhibited super human strength and speed as the illness progressed, it had proven extremely dangerous for the doctors and researchers to collect samples. Two men had already been killed while trying to collect blood and urine samples, their necks broken like twigs. Of course, the scientist had tried to sedate the victims but Diazepam, Ketamine, Thiopental and even Rohypnol had all proven ineffective.
Now it was up to her. Megan needed to find some way of calming and soothing the subject in order to collect the samples that the scientist hoped would offer some clues to the cause and possible cure for this disease before it was too late. Its spread was accelerating. Two-hundred and fifty-two deaths and another one-hundred and four diagnosed in the past two weeks. If something was not done soon, the fear was that news of this new sickness would leak out to the media.
Megan sighed as she walked into the specially prepared room. It reminded her too much of something out of a bad Hollywood movie. The first room was full of computers and monitors, half a dozen of her colleagues milled about looking at the screens and talking quietly amongst themselves.
Against the far wall was a tiny eight foot by ten foot room. It had only the basics, a bed built into the wall like those used in prison and a shiny metal toilet. In fact, the area looked very much like what she had seen in the Super Max prison where she had once visited a patient before his execution for murdering several civilians in a dissociative state brought on by extreme PTSD.
She nodded to her colleagues as she walked across the room. She watched the young man pacing nervously like a wild animal within its cage. As she approached the creature, man no longer seemed to accurately describe what she saw, it raised its head and furrowed its brows as if sniffing the air. She smiled at him, it, as she approached the thick Plexiglas that she knew served as a biological as well as physical barrier for the positive pressure facility in which the subject was enclosed.
"What's his name?" she asked her colleagues without even turning around. The young man seemed focused on her as he walked slowly across the few feet separating him from the thick barrier.
"Jason, Corporal Jason Winters, ma'am," replied the Lieutenant in charge of investigating possible viral causes.
"Jason," she purred as she lifted her hand slowly to the thick plastic. She pressed it against the cold surface just as she had seen done in televisions shows where loved ones visited inmates in prison. She shivered.
This whole thing seemed too cruel suddenly. This creature was not a criminal. He had done nothing wrong. He was merely sick. A young man that had given his all for his country, almost certainly dying, and this was how he would spend his final days. She closed her eyes and fought back the bile that rose in her throat.
As a scientist, she logically knew that the positive pressure facility offered the best possible protection for those trying to find the cause and cure for this mysterious disease. She knew too that the sparse facilities limited the man's abilities to harm himself or others. But as a human being, she found it all too barbaric and disgusting.
It was not her job though to make those calls, 'above her pay grade' as her military comrades would say. All she could do was her best to find someone of making this young man's final days as comfortable as possible and keeping those she worked with safe from any harm he might unknowingly do.
"Jason," she whispered once more as he came closer. As he extended his hand to place it against the other side of the glass, she noticed the redness and swollen pustules on the back of his hand. His skin was the translucent grey-blue that she had seen only on cadavers. Her stomach did another flip as she realized that in a few days that would be what this young solider was, another cadaver to be dissected and studied before his body was cremated and returned to whatever family he had.
She wanted to turn and run at the thought, but she would not. She had a job to do, just as this creature had once stood honorably to fight for his country. It might be too late for him, but perhaps through his sacrifice they could find a way to help others like him. Save their lives.
She looked up into his eyes. They had probably once been blue or grey, but were now thickened and covered with what appeared to be cataracts.
He tilted his head at an odd angle as if studying her just as she was supposed to be studying him. Then he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
The creature grunted, then growled. The hand against the plastic barrier knotted into a fist that began to pound at it until it shook. The sound echoed around the room as the creature raised its other hand, both fists pounding at the barrier. One of her colleagues pulled her back as the creature screamed, "Smell good."
Megan could see the barrier bulge forward under the raw power of the young man's assault. She automatically stepped back. One of her colleagues pressed the red emergency button and his voice boomed through the room, "Code Blue, code blue in Level Four observation facility. All security personnel report immediately."
She felt the Lieutenant's hands on her shoulders as he pushed her behind him. His body another layer of protection should the Plexiglas one be breeched. It shook even more and sound of pounding vibrated throughout the room as the creature began to pound its head against the glass as well.
"Do something," she screamed as she looked around the room. "Someone do something. He's going to hurt himself," she pleaded as she tried to push past her protector, but the Lieutenant merely wrapped his arms about her, restraining her when she would have rushed to the subjects side.
The doors slid open and several fully armed Marines and SEALs rushed into the room. The lead researcher's voice commanded, "Get her out of here. Now!"
Before she could protest, she felt herself being passed to another set of strong arms. The last thing she saw as she was dragged from the observation room was the young man collapse on the floor, his body contorting and shaking with a tonic-clonic seizure.
October 13th, 201X
Megan was exhausted. She knew that she should go home. Get what little sleep she could. But she fought that at every turn. The nasty truth was that Dr. Megan Davis, MD, PhD and MPH, who had dedicated over fifteen years of her life to the study of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, had fallen victim to its effects.
Since that night three months before, she had not been able to close her eyes even once without seeing the tortured face of the young corporal. Corporal Jason winters had died that night. The autopsy had shown that he suffered a major stroke. And it was all her fault.
There had been some discussion of transferring her to another facility, perhaps to Bethesda or another veterans' hospital. She would have almost welcomed the return to her original passion, PTSD, especially given her new perspective as a victim.
But the truth was that no one left this facility. It was too dangerous. Each staff member, military or civilian, that was entrusted with this top secret material was monitored. Their phone calls, emails and every movement carefully watched.
Even then the government was unlikely to be able to keep the situation under wraps for much longer. Over five thousand soldiers had died of the mystery illness with only a single survivor.
A young woman, a Marine, the only female to date to be infected with whatever agents caused it. Hers had been a relatively minor case, but still she was left incapacitated, most likely for life. She had gone from a bright young officer to something closer to autistic, barely able to speak and seemingly locked inside her own head.
And like Corporal Winters, she was often ravished by tonic-clonic seizures, several times a day. None of the traditional anti-epileptics seemed to have any effect and it was feared that one of these events would prove as fatal as the disease itself had to her male peers.
She was the only one of the half dozen specimens, as they were now inhumanely called, with which Megan was allowed any contact. Of course, she was given access to most of the files. She had become driven in her search for some answer. She knew she was grasping at straws, but she had noticed something in Lieutenant Jane Doe's, as she was called for security, medical reports. The woman had unusually high testosterone levels. Was this perhaps the key to why the disease affected only males?
Megan could not be certain and she was not ready to take her hypothesis to her superiors. It would be yet another excuse for them to inhumanely poke and prod these brave men, who did not deserve this horrible fate that was proving worse than war. But she had a plan to find out.
She checked the clock on the wall. It was after three o'clock in the morning. All of the civilian personnel would be gone and most of their military counterparts as well. Only a handful of the specially trained and armed security team would be on duty at this hour. She scanned their files on her laptop, finding the newest member of the team, a SEAL on his first watch at the facility.
Picking up her security pass and hiding the syringe in the pocket of her white lab coat, she drew in a deep breath. She built her courage. She knew this was dangerous, but she could no longer be pushed to the side-lines of this war with an invisible enemy that was taking a higher toll on our brave soldiers than the war in Iraq had.
As she suspected the halls were empty as she made her way back to the observation room. Her stomach clinched and she fought back nausea. Why did it have to be this one? A dozen new positive pressure prison cells had been created over the past three months as they transported more and more of the sick and dying to this facility.
The clock was ticking, most likely they were already on borrowed time, the snooze alarm winding down on disclosure. More and more families were demanding answers. The military's excuse of a new wave of insurgent attacks no longer satisfied some of them.
But the best minds in the country, now the world as British scientist joined the team, the disease spreading to their forces as well, they were all baffled. No closer to an answer than they had been almost a year ago when the first Marine had come down with the disease.
Megan's hand trembled as she pressed the plastic card against the metal box. She was uncertain if it would even work. Had they changed her clearance? But she saw the green light flash and the thick metal door begin to open slowly.
The man in black fatigues and t-shirt paced back and forth just inside the door. He held a gun that Megan knew was no longer loaded with tranquilizers, but with hollow point bullets meant to cause the most damage and bring down even the largest prey instantly.
"Ma'am," he nodded as she entered. "What are you doing here at this hour?" he asked.
Megan smiled and hoped her story made sense. She had practiced it a hundred times in her mind. "At ease, Petty Officer," she added noting his rank. "I am just here to collect a couple of samples. The brass thought it might be easier when the subject was quieter," one thing their research has showed was that the victims required next to no sleep, usually less than an hour, somewhere in the early hours of the morning. But when they did go down, they slept more deeply, an almost comatose state it seemed, which was why Megan had chosen this time for her expedition.
The man nodded towards the enclosed area. "He just went down, ma'am." He reached for the walkie-talkie on his belt, "But my orders did not say anything about any samples, ma'am. I'll need to check things out with command."
Megan shifted uncomfortably. It was not like she had not anticipated this. She merely hoped her ploy would work. "Go ahead, Chief, but I'm not sure if the orders will even be in the system yet. They come from the top, the Secretary of Defense herself called Dr. Edwards at home. He knew I was the only one still here and so he called me directly," she lied.
The man frowned as if weighing the situation. Megan held still, lifting her chin and meeting the man's assessing gaze. When she did not back down, he nodded and moved to the control panel. "I'm sure you know the procedure, doctor. Change into the hazmat suit in the ante-room, then wait in the pressurized chamber for the green light before entering the cell. Get what you need quickly, then do the reverse on the way out. Don't forget to shower carefully though. Discard your suit in the incinerator," he rattled off procedures that Megan was familiar with from her visits to Jane.
"Yes, Petty Officer," she smiled as she pulled open the heavy metal door that would lock her in with the creature, seal her fate should something go wrong with her plan. For a moment, she hesitated, reconsidering her choice, but the image of Corporal Winters convulsing on that same floor drove her on.
She changed as quickly as she could into the thick white suit with rubber gloves and hood. Her heart pounded as she waited to the door to the positive pressure room to open. The seconds and minutes ticked by, she was loosing precious time. If he awoke, it would be virtually impossible for her to get the blood sample she needed, at least not without risk to her own life. The death toll to personnel at this facility now numbered almost two dozen, including the Lieutenant, who had held her back that night. He had been killed a couple of weeks ago, while preforming almost this same task.
She heard the click and saw the green light above the door. It took a great deal of strength for her to push it open. She stepped through and turned towards her guard, giving the man a thumbs up and a smile she was almost certain he could not see. She moved as quickly as she could in the suit.
The man was still sleeping, she noted with a sigh of relief. She picked up his thick arm that she noted was covered in the pus filled sores. She felt for a pulse, frowning when she did not find one at first, but she noted the slight rise and fall of his expansive bare chest. She counted his respirations, just two in a minute.