It was Thursday, March 17, 2011, and Spring was in the air. It was beginning like any other day. In central Florida, David Abrams and his wife, Joan, woke up and went through their normal morning routine. David was a biologist working at the facility along with his wife, Joan, an administrator. They had been married for two years and were contemplating starting a family in another year. On the way in to work, they discussed their plans for the weekend.
The plant was located close to Polk City and, though it had over one hundred employees assigned, it was unknown to anyone other than those employees. With bio-hazard and nuclear issues, publicity was not desired. Other than a simple guarded gate, there were no overt precautions being taken to secure the facility. However, the security was quite tight. The company was concerned with protecting its people and the environment. There was a heavy emphasis on verifying identity and being sure the wrong things did not leave the complex. Much of the security was concentrated on permitting someone to get in to a point at which they could be safely apprehended. Natural boundaries were used to dissuade casual trespassers.
David and Joan were sitting together talking quietly during the morning coffee break when the alarms first sounded. It was probably no one's fault. Three things all happened very quickly. The facility's roof was breached as an experiment went awry with a small explosion. Next door, another accident occurred when a flask was dropped at the sound of the boom from the explosion. Air whooshed out of the facility drawing blowing air out. The virus, SL47, was in the dropped flask and left its protective environment escaping into the air. The wind was gusty that day and a steady breeze blew the SL47 out and north of the facility. The lab personnel were horrified knowing that a deadly virus had been released to the outside as well as to themselves. Their job had been to find a cure or antidote for cancer and there was promise despite the deadly effect the virus had on people. Most of them were more upset by the outside exposure than their own impending deaths. They, too, were now exposed.
The second accident, located in the nuclear plant, evidenced itself ten minutes later. There were faulty dials and measurement failures that compounded into a catastrophic explosion as the plant went critical and then exploded. This was not supposed to be possible but too many failures in the system came at once and no safety system could have handled them.
David and Joan rose up from their seats in the lunchroom hearing the sirens warning of a breach in the outside of the facility. Within seconds, the bio-hazard alarm started sounding, also. It warned that one of the dangerous substances was loose in the facility. Doors started to close to partition the facility. The third warning sounded announcing a nuclear accident less than three minutes later. In less than a minute, the pile went critical and exploded vaporizing the facility and all within it. David and Joan had reached for one another but did not have time to kiss before they were gone.
The explosion that blew a large portion of central Florida into the air along with the SL47. High in the atmosphere, the SL47 found free nitrogen it needed for growth and began to multiply rapidly.
In Atlanta and other places, monitoring stations recorded the explosion in Florida. Through all of Florida, an energy pulse destroyed electrical systems. Those within the blast radius almost had enough time to be surprised before the blast overtook them. This area of central Florida had many lakes and a number in the immediate area were vaporized and joined other particles in the atmosphere. A few moments later, central Florida was engulfed in a deadly rain. The explosion had another effect. It opened a previously unknown fault line through Florida. An earthquake rumbled through the ground. Many persons injured in the explosion were now faced with a further terror as the earth shook again. It was to be a short-lived fear. Water poured in from the Gulf on the west and the Atlantic on the east drowning them and creating a small tsunami when the water crashed together. At first, when the water arrived at the blast site, it became steam adding to the atmospheric problems. Most of South Florida survived the blast and the incoming water to the north but was cut off from the rest of the country and was without communications because of the pulse. Many were killed on the beaches when the water came rushing toward them. It would make little difference in the end. SL47 was deadly in five days maximum. There would be few to come bask on the beaches. Those tanning on South Beach in Miami were inundated with water and debris from the explosion. For those who survived the shock and the water, it would be a race between radiation sickness and infection from SL47 to determine the cause of death.
North of Orlando, shock waves were felt in Atlanta and as far north as Washington. In south Georgia and northern Florida, the explosion and earthquake caused many wrecks as cars suddenly jumped. There were some lucky persons killed instantly. They would not go through radiation or virus sickness. Government agents could not believe the initial magnitude of the disaster and could not locate any communications coming from the area. Two reconnaissance jets were dispatched from a base in Maryland to make a pass with cameras and radio in their findings. There were no satellite passes available at the moment.
The planes flew high and quickly over the blast area and the leadership of the country was stunned as they viewed pictures of the separation of Florida. No one could understand the devastation that had occurred. Two groups were aware of most of what happened. Telemetry from the plant went to the Oak Ridge Institute and to the coordinators of the facility in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They realized that, as serious as the obvious problems were, another and more serious problem existed because of what had occurred just before the plant was blotted out of existence. Those at Oak Ridge knew there were bio-hazard issues as well as nuclear but no more.
In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, James Woods was sitting at his desk talking to his fellows and superiors. They were most concerned about the roof breach and bio-hazard warning that had followed almost immediately. They started a replay in slow motion of the events that had been recorded. They saw the small explosion and noted that a breech had occurred in the roof at the junction of the wall in the experiment room and the SL47 room. The next event was from the SL47 room. It was the most serious. In it, they could determine that SL47 virus had escaped into the facility and from the camera shots had likely escaped through the roof breach into the air outside. That much they now knew. The question was, "Did the SL47 survive the nuclear blast?" The answer to that question could have deadly consequences far beyond the damage from the explosion. James and his two co-workers were afraid that it had or, at least, could have survived. If it escaped and was blown upwards, reaching free nitrogen in the upper atmosphere would be catastrophic. There was no antidote for SL47 other than for the virus to die out. The facility was trying to utilize a variant which attacked cancer cells in searching for a cure to many cancers as well as develop an antidote. There were many other projects at work there, also.
The corporate leadership of the facility was never given the chance to warn people because James and two co-workers decided that a warning would be useless. Either SL47 escaped and survived or it didn't. In the first possibility, it would matter little because people would die quickly regardless of precautions. In the second, it would not matter because nothing would happen. James, Ralph and Dora were not happy with their decision but felt that nothing else was viable at the moment. They needed more information though they realized that any warning would probably be irrelevant.
The SL47 escaped, survived and prospered in the open atmosphere. It began to infect persons as it fell from the sky unseen and unsuspected. Those persons were spreading the contagion immediately and unknowingly by their very breath and touch. The sickness began within twenty-four hours. At first, it seemed like radiation sickness but James and his people quickly realized that it was already too widely spread and virulent to be radiation sickness only. James, Ralph, and Dora began measuring the air in Chapel Hill. Although it was barely measurable in parts per million, the SL47 could be detected. The three of them looked at each other knowing it likely that they would die soon.
"Can we tell anyone who can make a difference?" Dora asked.
"There's nothing anyone can do. Even if there were a secure facility still able to function in a few days, it could not accomplish anything in time to save people. It will happen too quickly." Ralph said. He rubbed his hands together in his classic sign of a problem that he could not handle. "I'm going on vacation. My wife and I will be together when it comes. Work is suddenly not that important."
"However, I think we should tell people." Dora said, " There may be somebody somewhere who can do something or at least people will know."
"Go ahead," said Ralph, "It won't hurt. The only fear I have is that panic might make it worse."
"Everyone dying can't get much worse." said Dora.
"Okay, we are agreed." I said, "Telling people probably won't help but it's what should be done. We know there is an issue with the SL47. We have records that may help people figure out what to do. That being so, who should be told?"
"The CDC for starters. We should also pass the word up our chain, also. I hope someone will know of someone who can make a difference. We should also inform Oak Ridge. They were monitoring and would know more happened than just a nuclear accident. Eventually, everyone should be told though it will accomplish little."
With that, we prepared an information packet to the CDC and sent it off. An identical packet went to Oak Ridge. They took a third packet to their superior. She was not pleased.
"You are sure of this data?" she questioned them.
"Yes," James replied. "The numbers are unequivocal. The SL47 is spreading. It is here and will probably spread world wide. We must move this data further up. More people in government should be notified other than the CDC and Oak Ridge."
"You have already notified them?" she responded querulously.
"Yes, ma'am," I said. "Under our job profiles, we are to advise Oak Ridge and other obviously affected agencies immediately. We only delayed long enough to document our findings to them with this packet. Now, we need to move up our chain for a wider disbursal of the information."
"You're nuts!" she exclaimed. "It could cost us our jobs!"
"Madam," I said, "We are probably going to die! Our jobs are not that important by comparison. Remember, there is no antidote at this time. The sooner more people are working on it, the sooner there might be hope. This won't stay secret. I would expect obvious signs of sickness tomorrow and fatalities starting two days after."
"Is there nothing we can do?"
"Not much. It's airborne so containment is almost impossible and its disbursed already. This thing is deadly to humans. We must get the information out to have scientists everywhere trying to work on a cure and to allow health workers to try and, in the meantime, not become quickly infected. As bad as it is, the nuclear blast is the lesser of our worries."
"I must think."
"No. This data must travel to the highest levels in our company immediately for there to be any chance at all."
"Okay," she said after a moment, "We can jump levels and go to Charles Anderson who is in charge of this facility. He will have to take it higher." She called him and told there was an emergency regarding the Florida facility. She was told to come to his office immediately. On the way, she told me I would be spokesperson.
"Mr. Anderson, this is James Woods of my section. He has vital information to give you regarding the disaster at the Polk City facility."
I told the story and what had been done in the way of notification. Anderson called his superior and lined up a video conference with the officers of the company in one hour. All five went into the conference room and the technicians set up the connection. I was introduced again and went through the story. The CEO agreed with what we had done though admitted that it may be in vain. "At least, we can know we tried. Do we have people in your offices who can make an attempt on an antidote?"
Charles Anderson answered, "Not really, sir. However, those that have any ability along that line will be brought into the loop immediately after this call. I would suggest that James be available here for further discussions with the parties who you contact."
"Very good. James, can your colleagues handle briefing inside your facility?"
"Okay, one of you get in further contact with the CDC and the other talk with others there to start them working. I agree that it's a long shot but we must try."
For me, the rest of the day and early evening went by in a whirl of conferences with reports from my two colleagues on their progress. The CEO of the company stayed with me all through that afternoon and early evening until the flow slowed and stopped. It was time to go home. He thanked me and asked for his appreciation to be relayed to my team. The connection was closed and people went to their homes dazed. The entire building was aware of what was going on and the low hope for a cure.