The Apocalypse Bug
Part 3: With But One Shrouded Catholicon
Kelly fliped the switch on the radio and sat back. Her eyes seemed to glaze over as her thoughts enveloped her. They'd done it. They'd actually released it. It shouldn't suprise her, but even now after she'd heard the news story, she couldn't believe it. She had to see the victims, had to autopsy the bodies, learn whatever she could about this lurid disease. She heard footsteps on the porch behind her, but didn't stir. The images of the diseases she'd seen before pounding her consciousness. The outbreaks of Ebola in Zaire and Sudan, the children bleeding and experiencing pain no child should ever have to bear. They had been almost too much for her to stomach. Now, a disease a hundred times worse would reek havock on all mankind. She shuddered at the thought and tried to hide her tears and pain from whomever had walked up behind her.
"Eddie found the quatrain that fits this. He says it's
Life must end before it can begin
Pestilence befalls all
With but one shrouded Catholicon
In the anals of a clan sojourned long ago." Cade stopped and looked at her for a moment. "You okay, Kelly?" He asked. He knew there was something wrong by the rigid way she was sitting.
She swallowed hard, finally speaking, her voice cracking with the words. "They did it Cade. Deep down in my heart, I didn't think they would. They released it in Alaska, it's a test. It works there, and then they'll release it in California, New York, Texas, everywhere."
"Then we've got to stop them."
"Easier said than done. You haven't seen what these diseases do. You haven't seen the effects they have on people."
"No, but I've seen what these aliens can do. I've been the subject of one of their 'experiments.' All we are to them is guniea pigs, test rats..."
"The Rats of NIMH."
"It's a novel. It's about doctors at a National Institute for Mental Health. The rats were given telepathy and the ability to read by experiments the scientists performed. They used the intelligence to escape and build a world of their own. They were underestimated."
"Then you'll help?"
"I've never given up on anything before in my life, I'm not going to start now. But, it's not going to be easy. I have to see the bodies."
"They're in Alaska, aren't they?"
"They sure are. So, I guess we'll have to go to Alaska, too. Anchorage to be specific."
"How are you going to get close enough to those bodies?"
Kelly grinned for a moment. "We'll go as USAMRIID. United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases. They hate the CDC, and it's mutual. So, we won't run into anyone I know. But, just in case. You'll go as the doctor. I can be your nurse." She saw the flash of doubt and laughed. "I can cover for you if they ask any questions. And, you'll tell them the autopsy is a 'Q' clearance, no unauthorized personnel allowed in the room. Then, I'll play Scully and autopsy the body." Kelly watched Cade for any reaction, she hoped her face didn't show the turmoil going on beneath the surface.
"Oh my gosh!!" Kelly giggled as she slammed the door into the scrub room. "I think that doctor was getting a little fresh!!!" She reached up, pulling off the blonde wig. "I guess blondes do have more fun."
"Now, that we're in, what are you going to do?" Cade looked around the OR scrub room that had been converted into a "biosafety level 4 prep room." There was a large radiation bath set over one wall, and three space suits on the other. Kelly walked to a cabinet and began pulling things down.
"Okay, you're going to go with me, so I hope you don't have a weak stomach. First, and foremost, we have to talk about the suits. You can't have anything touching your skin, no underwear, jewelry, nothing. Your first layer is scrubs, then another pair of scrubs, a biosafety level 3 suit and finally the space suit. You need a minimum of three to four pairs of latex gloves on underneath the suit. Under no circumstances do you take off the suit without my telling you it's okay. If you breathe the air in there, you die. If you rip your suit, you die. If you puncture your glove, you die. If you do anything without my okay, you die. You got that?" Cade didn't say a word, only picked up the suits and walked into one of the adjoining locker rooms. Kelly dressed quickly, she was used to the drill. But, she never allowed herself to go blindly through it. Even one mistake, no matter how small, could cause her death. She waited at the door to the morgue until she saw Cade emerge. Perhaps if the occasion had not been so somber she would have laughed. He looked like a fish out of water. Only a few years ago, that would have been her. Now, this bulky suit was like a second skin.
Kelly took one deep breath before entering the room. It looked like any other morgue she'd ever seen, but immediately she sensed the difference. The man lay on the examining table. Even through the layers of protective clothing she could almost smell the stench of wrotting flesh. She picked up a metal clipboard on one of the counters and handed it to Cade. "Read this, we need to learn as much about him as we can." Her voice came through the intercom connecting the two suits. The connection was a little staticy but Cade understood what she ment. He took the chart from her hand and began to read.
"Looks like the guy was an archeaologist. Specialized in the Mayans."
Kelly turned around, even through the suit, Cade could see her confused visage. "Mayans? Are you sure?"
"That's what the background says, somebody could have filled it in wrong."
"No, it just doesn't make any sense. The Mayans were in South and Central America, why would he be here?" She didn't wait for Cade to give her an explanation, instead she turned to the body.
Her hands didn't shake as she placed the edge of the scalpel onto the man's chest. With the demeanor of a professional she made the "y" incision. She didn't have to the break the ribs to get into the man's chest. His ribs looked almost spongy. It took little physical strength on her part to bend the ribs back with her hand.
She flinched as she saw the state of his organs, each one mangled and chewed to the point where they could hardly be recognized. His heart was probably half the normal size and rittled with holes, like swiss cheese. His liver was rock hard and a slightly gray color. Some of his other organs had turned green, or completely liquified.
After several minutes with the cranial saw, she was able to the state of the brain. The fragile gray and white matter had blurred,forming an almost jelly-like material. She kept working dilligently, taking samples and recording information. As she worked, she said a silent prayer.
Kelly sat down in the doctor's lounge her mind trying to understand all that she had seen in the morgue. Cade took the seat beside her, watching her carefully. "It isn't good is it?" He asked.
Kelly glanced down at her hands, and realized they were shaking. "I don't know. I don't even know where to start. The only thing I'm sure of, is that there is way more to this than meets the eye."
"Well, Eddie gave me his address. We could go question his wife. She's got to know why a man who studies Mayans is in Alaska."
Kelly looked up at Cade, her mind still reeling. "Okay, but we're going to take the biosafety suits with us. You never know when you're going to need one."
Jessica Graham couldn't have been much over forty. She sat rigidly, staring bleakly at the two people seated in front of her. Her eyes were swollen and blood-red. Anyone coud tell that she was taking her husband's death badly.
Kelly tried to force a warm smile. "Hello, Mrs. Graham. We're from USAMRIID. We want to ask you a few questions about your husband's tragic death."
Jessica looked at them suspiciously. "USAMRIID?"
"The United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases." Cade answered.
Kelly tried to mask her surprise as she gave Cade a questioning look.
"I wouldn't talk to the man who came to question me before, and I won't talk to you."
"Who came before?" Cade asked, sounding a little paranoid.
"Some black man. He said he was going to ask me some questions. I wouldn't talk to him. He was no doctor, even I could tell that." She gave Cade a hateful look. "And neither are you."
Cade's suspicions were confirmed. Kelly saw him tense when Jessica mentioned the man who had come before. She took a deep breath, and decided to take a chance. "Listen, Mrs. Graham. Maybe he's not a doctor. But, I am. I specialize in things like this. I need to know how you're husband got sick. Please. There is something terribly wrong here. That disease, it isn't natural. Someone created it, and I need to find out how he came in contact with it." Kelly pleaded.
Jessica watched her for a moment. "You are a doctor, I can tell. You knew about that disease. You knew it wasn't natural. But, my husband told me not to speak with anyone unless they had his gift with them."
Kelly stared at the woman for a moment, and then reached into her pocket, pulling out the amulet Nissa had given her. "This, this is what he told you to look for isn't it?"
Jessica nodded. "Yes, so you're Dr. Kelly Loren." Kelly stared at her for a moment, looking slightly uneasy. Jessica smiled. "My husband knew he could trust you. When he found out what the heiroglyphics said, he knew he had to find a doctor to trust. You were the only one. You are the foremost authority on these diseases. He gave the amulet.."
"He gave the amulet to Nissa!" She interrupted angrily. "He gave it to her, and she ended up dying for it! What kind of man kills someone that innocent. He killed her. By giving her that amulet he killed her."
Jessica paled and tried to remember what her husband had told her. "Dr. Loren, I am sorry. I know how much she meant to you. I assure you, my husband didn't want her to get hurt. But, you are a woman of science, like he was. He knew if he approached you, you would think he was crazy. He gave the amulet to Nissa. He told her to keep it safe. She wasn't supposed to give it to anyone but you."
"And she didn't. She ended up dying for it. I hope it was important enough to die for!" Kelly replied, her voice still ringing with slight hatred.
Jessica sighed. "The only thing I can do is give you his research, and let you decide for yourself." She stood up slowly and walked out of the room.
Kelly sat back down, still clutching the amulet in her hand. She slowly turned it over, staring at it. It was probably three inches in diameter, made of solid copper, and with some kind of strange animal carved on the front of it. Finally, she turned to Cade. "Who was here? You know him, who was he?"
"His name's Joshua. He's an acolyte, a Gua assasin."
"Why would they send an assasin to interorgate Mrs. Graham?"
"Because of this." The voice came from the hall way, making both Cade and Kelly jump. Jessica handed Kelly a packet of papers. "Here. Everything you want to know is in there."
Kelly opened the packet and stared at the papers. Cade peered over her shoulder and frowned. "What's it written in? Is it some kind of code?"
"No, it's Latin. I guess he hoped the Gua wouldn't be as well versed in it as I am." She smiled. "It helps to know Latin like the back of your hand if you are going into medicine. Let me see if I can translate it." She began with the first page, translating the papers aloud for Cade and Jessica.
"If you are reading this, then, I fear the worst has happened. I am dead. I knew when I found the relic here in Alaska that my death was near. I guess I couldn't escape it. No doubt, Dr. Loren, you are wondering why an archeologist who specializes in the Mayans is in Alaska. I will try to explain.
Perhaps you know about the strange similarites between the ancient cultures of the world. The similarities in Mayan, Druid, and Egyptian hieroglyphics, or the strange coincedences involving myths of these cultures. It has been my life's work. I have been trying to find the reason for these similarites all my life. I am afraid now, that I have found it.
A group of archeaolgists here in Alaska discovered a 'Rosetta Stone' of sorts. They called me up to look at it. With the help of this 'stone' I have decoded the writing on one of the pyramids in Guatemala. What it says will make your blood run cold.
The pyramid tells of a 'travelers from the stars' who came to our world thousands of years ago. They promised to teach the people of the world their own technology. They did, too. But, they did it for themselves. They learned how backward the people of our planet were. These 'aliens' believed they could dominate these people and claim our world for their own.
They created three diseases. The first disease they released in Africa. They wanted to see how the virus would react with humans. It killed them, but it could take twenty years for the virus to finally attack the host. They considered this disease a failure and buried the victims deep in the jungle. It is my belief that this virus resurfaced as AIDS.
Their second virus was supposed to be improved. They released this virus into the the African Velt, too. But, this virus didn't kill everyone it infected. So, they destroyed the victims and buried them in the jungle. I believe we know this virus as Ebola.
Finally, the most frightening virus of all. It killed all it infected in less than one day. The 'aliens' had found their perfect pathogen. They released this virus on the Mayans. Many of the Mayans died, leaving only a few uninfected. The Mayan priestess went deep into the jungle and fasted, praying for a vision to save her people. She recieved a vision about the virus. It showed an animal, a feathered reptile. The vision told her to collect the blood from this animal and use it as a medicine. Only this would save her people. It also told her to dry some of the blood, fill a jade urn with the blood, and lock it safely in a tomb. According to the dream, this virus would resurface, and human race's only chance would be this miraculous cure.
The priestess did as she was told and saved her people from the disease. I found the urn only weeks ago. It has only one key, an amulet. I sent this key to you, Dr. Loren, in the hopes that you will act as our priestess and save us from this plague. I think I exposed myself to the virus when I opened the tomb. I don't know how long it takes for someone to get sick with it. Please, do what you can. The urn is in the museum here in town, in an air tight container. Take it, use the blood, you must stop these new 'travelers from the stars' from using the virus created by their enemy. Please, I beg of you. For me, for Nissa, for mankind."
Everyone sat quietly for a moment, allowing the words to sink in. Finally, Kelly broke the silence. "It fits the quatrain perfectly. A disease kills everyone, with only one hidden cure in the records of a lost tribe visited long ago."
"Are you sure he said NEW travelers from the stars?" Cade asked.
Kelly nodded. "Yes, that's what he said. Do the Gua have any enemies? Another alien race perhaps?"
Cade thought for a moment and nodded. "I think Joshua said something about an alien race that tried to conquer their home world. They defeated them, and took the name Gua. It means 'the strength to overcome.'"
"Then, they came here first. This 'apocalypse bug' is the other alien race's." She turned to Jessica. "Can we get into his office to get this urn?"
"Not until tomorrow morning. They lock that place up like Ft. Knox."
Kelly nodded. "That's okay. I want to do some research back at the hospital anyway. I want to check Dr. Graham's notes with some of my own data."
Cade looked at her and spoke softly, "I can get that urn for you if you need it."
"No, better not. The last thing we need right now is for something to be stolen from a local museum." She smiled. "Go back to the hotel, get some rest."
Kelly sighed. She'd been pouring over the volumes of text books the hospital had, comparing this data with Dr. Graham's translations. She pressed her fingers against her temple, massaging gently. She had a headache. But, it was only to be expected....She stopped looking up at the mirror across the room. "No," she laughed nervously. "You're just being a hypochondriac, that's all." Slowly she rose to her feet. She took slow steps across the room, not sure if she wanted to see her own reflection. She stood perfectly still, staring at the image before her. Her eyes were bloodshot and the veins were slowly getting bigger, ready to burst.
"My God!" She whispered. "But how? How?" She circled the room trying to think of her mistake. Then she saw it. The ventilation shaft. She pushed a chair up to it and removed the grating. She could actually smell Dr. Graham's wrotting body in the morgue only two rooms away. "They didn't seal the shafts. It's airborne, and they didn't seal the shafts."
To make sure her suspicions were correct she removed a few ccs of her own blood. She placed them on the slide, and, hesitating, she peered into the microscope. There they were. The sheppard's hook. The cells of the 'apocolypse bug' rapidly multiplying. Only now, they appeared to be a Grim Reaper's Scythe. It was the harbinger of her own death.