Authors: Laurence Dahners
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Genetic Engineering, #High Tech, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Hard Science Fiction
a Hyllis family story #3
Laurence E Dahners
Copyright 2015 Laurence E Dahners
Though this book
“stand alone” it will be
easier to understand if read as part of the series including
(a Hyllis family story #1),” and
(a Hyllis family story #2)”
I have minimized repetition of explanations that would be redundant to the earlier books in order to provide a better reading experience for those of you who are reading the series.
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
Table of Contents
Creating viral shells containing the telekinetic DNA caused a couple of significant delays in Dr. Ameil’s research, but Russ told Ameil the delays were due to a faulty reagent. He also had to stay late a couple of nights to do some work down in the lab where they routinely created viral vectors. He wondered to himself why he was putting in so much effort on something he couldn’t imagine actually trying…
Russ had his telekinetic DNA in its viral vector and all ready to go. He really should stop this… whatever it was. A frivolous mental exercise. An obsession for which he only had a partial solution. After all, the only way to adequately test the DNA would be to administer it to a human. The only human who could adequately evaluate the effects of the DNA was himself. He’d already broken all kinds of rules, breaking one more wouldn’t be the end of the world, but what if something about this DNA made the test subject sick…?
He didn’t really want to be the test subject.
Then Charles River sent the lab 101 mice instead of the ordered 100 for Ameil’s next experiment. It wasn’t an uncommon mistake; Russ figured the guys who filled the orders just didn’t count carefully when they were putting the mice in the shipping containers. Russ realized he could just give mouse #101
virus and claim he just put the mouse in as an “extra” in group C of Ameil’s study. Then he would say mouse 101 died prematurely and it wouldn’t even foul up Ameil’s research.
Mouse 101 turned out not to be a very good mouse anyway, almost immediately getting sick and losing weight. Russ was frustrated; deciding he would have to find another mouse to test the safety of the viral vector. He took the mouse down to sacrifice it. He had intended to kill it early anyway since it needed to be excluded from Ameil’s work. As he picked it up to put it in the CO2 chamber, he took one last look at it. For a moment he wondered if it could be sick
of the DNA insertion rather than just coincidentally. Could he have made an error in one of the steps intended to be sure there was no viral DNA in the viral shells?
Maybe the DNA I inserted combined with the viral DNA in some kind of…
The sick mouse sneezed…
The worldwide “super flu” pandemic has been traced back to a ‘case zero.’ Case zero was a Russell Phillips who worked as a research tech at the University of Pittsburgh. Although the laboratory where Phillips worked did use viral vectors for DNA insertion, Phillips apparently did not work in that part of the lab. It seems unlikely anyone will ever determine whether Phillips might have associated with someone who actually did use viral vectors because the exceedingly high mortality of the super flu has resulted in the death of every last person who worked in that particular lab. Even the hospital at the University of Pittsburgh where Phillips first sought treatment is now an empty shell.
It seems a moot point as this efficient viral killer has spread exceptionally fast and, no matter where it blossoms, it seems to kill approximately 95% of its victims. Somehow the virus got loose in the CDC and decimated the scientists there before they even began working on a means to control it. Medical facilities around the world have collapsed as physicians and researchers die or flee for their own lives.
Experts predict that about half of any survivors of the virus will be killed by the collapse of our civilization. If indeed the world’s population of 7 billion is reduced to 175,000,000, a population density not seen since about 1000 A.D., it seems unlikely that anyone will be interested in exactly who killed us all. They’ll just be trying to survive the end of civilization as we know it. Presumably, someday, if and when civilization reestablishes itself, someone may be interested in these words.
As I write this I’ve developed a headache and I’ve started to cough…
Kazy trailed behind the slender dark blond girl as they walked back towards Prichard’s farm. Since the girl had cut her loose from where she’d been tied, spread eagled, in the raiders’ barn, Kazy hadn’t let the girl out of her sight.
The girl’s name was Daussie. This seemed far too simple a name for someone like the dark blond girl who’d saved Kazy.
The raiders had appeared at Kazy’s farm to “levy taxes.” Kazy’s father and brothers had argued vehemently that the taxes were far too high. Kazy hadn’t understood the seriousness of the situation until her father had baldly stated they wouldn’t pay the tax. Swords appeared and within moments all the men in Kazy’s family were dead. Minutes later, her grandmother and mother were dying as well.
Kazy had thought her turn would come next when the men had turned to stare at her. However, their looks were
. Kazy had been told she was pretty, but had never had cause to
about it before. Her back to the wall of her family’s little farmhouse, her knees had turned to water as she began to understand what the hunger in the men’s eyes might mean.
Over the next days, her life had become a living horror, filled with rapes, beatings, and constant threats on her life. Eventually, she had decided she would rather die than go on. She’d begun fighting back against the men who took her, but this had eventually led to her being tied spread eagled and naked in the horse stall. The night had been cold and Kazy had thought she would freeze to death. Though she’d wanted to die, she was so miserable in the cold she prayed for heat anyway.
She wanted to die quickly, not gradually and agonizingly in the cold.
The misery of the cold had started to fade when a commotion burst out in the main part of the barn. It sounded like some kind of fight. She heard grisly sounds and sudden barked shouts. It ended with only the voices of women still audible, so whoever won the fight wasn’t a talkative sort. One of the raiders had been a big, mean, quiet type; maybe he’d killed one or two of the others? Kazy had wondered what could possibly have happened, but felt sure things could only get worse. She tugged at ropes she had already tugged on a thousand times, forlornly hoping that perhaps she might get free before whatever newly dreadful event was about to occur.
Kazy kept quiet in the hope that whoever had won the fight out in the main barn wouldn’t remember her. Then she worried that they might all go away and leave her there to slowly freeze to death if she didn’t say anything.
She hated the raiders… But she didn’t want to die of the cold.
A light appeared and the door of the horse stall slowly swung open. A slender young man stood there holding a lantern. He stepped in and Kazy stared at him with hate in her eyes. She waited for whatever new degradation would come.
A woman’s voice came from the man. “I’ve come to release you,” it said. Out in the main barn, a girl’s voice querulously said, “They’re
dead?!” at the same time.
Kazy couldn’t reconcile the young woman’s voice with the figure of a man standing before her and moved her head to try to see the woman
the man with the lantern. There was no one there, however. The man swung the lantern forward as he approached and the light struck his face.
An angelic girl’s face.
A strikingly symmetrical and pleasant looking face, surrounded by shaggy hacked off hair. The girl wore men’s clothing and, without hearing the voice, Kazy realized she still would have thought she was a man.
But she wasn’t!
Kazy felt herself relaxing and for a moment, the cold faded away. Then her teeth started chattering as if her body wanted to live again. Kazy started asking questions, “Who’re you? Did someone say those sons-of-bitches are dead? And why are you dressed like a boy?”
The girl knelt and began to cut away the ropes holding Kazy in place. “Yes,” the girl said, “they’re all dead. I’m Daussie, from a caravan that’s passing through.” After a pause, she finished, “And I dress this way to keep men like them from getting ideas.”
“Who killed them?”
The girl, Daussie, shrugged, “Somebody.” She glanced back toward the main part of the barn. “What matters is that justice was done. Here, let me help you up.”
Daussie had taken Kazy’s hand and pulled her to her feet. Then she went around, picking up Kazy’s clothing and handing it to her as Kazy struggled to put it on. Clothes on, Kazy still shivered. Daussie got a horse blanket and stepped in close to hug Kazy with the blanket draped around both of their shoulders.
After a few minutes to warm up they went out into the main part of the barn with the rest of the girls. Kazy practically worshipped the ground Daussie stood upon by then. A man could be seen in the distance occasionally, but to Kazy and the other girls it seemed like Daussie had freed them all.
Nyssa, the oldest of the raiders’ captives—or at least the oldest the raiders had kept alive—was familiar to the girls as she had become kind of a mother figure to them during the days they’d all been in the raiders’ hands. Kazy loved Nyssa, but she
Daussie. She only spoke to Daussie when Daussie spoke to her, and she tried not to intrude, but she never let Daussie out of her sight. When Daussie started to get far enough away that Kazy thought she might no longer be visible, Kazy’s heart started to pound and she found herself quickly moving closer. There was only one place Daussie could go that was out of Kazy’s sight and that was only because there was no way for Daussie to disappear out of Kazy’s life from an outhouse which had only one door.
Now, as Kazy walked along the trail through the woods behind Daussie, she found herself worrying about what might happen next. Daussie said she was from the caravan. The caravan was supposed to be at Prichard’s farm and they were heading that direction. Presumably, when the caravan moved on, Daussie would go with them.
Kazy didn’t think she could bear to be separated from the girl who’d saved her.
Somehow, Kazy needed to move on with the caravan, but she didn’t know how a person joined a caravan. What if the caravan didn’t want her?! Or they wanted to be paid for her passage?
They broke out of the woods and started walking across a field. In the distance Kazy could see Prichard’s large farmhouse. On the far side of the house she thought she saw big wagons, presumably the caravan.
They all walked single file through one of the farm’s fields. It didn’t seem like they were following a path Prichard had laid out, instead they appeared to be on a trail recently created by people crossing his field. Just short of the farmhouse there was a stream with a small wooden bridge. The men Nyssa said were guarding them, the ones they’d been following, had already crossed the bridge and it looked like a lot of excited people were greeting them.
Kazy looked behind her and saw their rearguard. Those men had been quite a ways behind the healer woman, but now they’d gotten a lot closer. Their approach made Kazy a little nervous, but not as much as it would have if they’d gotten close earlier that morning.
As they passed between the farm buildings and approached the crowd of people amongst the wagons of the caravan, Kazy moved closer to Daussie. She found herself wanting to pluck onto Daussie’s sleeve as various men got close, but managed to resist the temptation. Kazy looked around, careful not to let Daussie completely leave her field of view. She realized a number of the local farmers were mixed in with the caravaners, perhaps shopping or perhaps there to talk about how to deal with the raiders.
A couple of the girls behind Kazy ran forward into the arms of relatives. When this happened, the rest of the girls began craning their necks and looking around, hoping to see their own relatives waiting for them. All the girls Kazy had spoken to had lost their immediate families when the raiders had attacked their farms. However, Kazy was sure they were hoping to find uncles, aunts, cousins, or other relatives. Someone, somewhere to take them in.
The farming families around here were mostly interrelated, so Kazy assumed all of the rescued girls had good hope of finding at least
relatives. Everyone, except Kazy. Kazy’s grandmother, mother, and father had not gotten along with their own relatives and had moved to this area to get away from them. When the raiders had killed Kazy’s immediate family a few days ago, they had killed
blood relative Kazy knew.
Kazy’s family had friends among the other farmers here, but none so close that Kazy thought they would take her in. In desperation, she wondered whether some of the relatives her parents and grandparents had feuded with might take her in. Could blood be stronger than that old fight? From the way her parents had spoken of the feud, it seemed… unlikely.
With a sick feeling in her stomach, she wondered whether the only way she might be able to feed herself… might be by doing the same things the raiders had forced her to do when she had been their captive…