Excerpt from The Spartan: Pandemic preparations

Bad news comes in threes, and for those enlightened few still paying attention to the big picture, news that China had overnight banned all flights to and from the US was a shock. The Chinese publicly blamed a potential SARS-like virus emanating from the US. Privately, they were preparing themselves in case one of their rogue agents succeeding to letting off one of the plague bombs. And they were putting all their chips on the bet that at least one would succeed.
The public, being information poor, knew little better – as long as there was still NASCAR, the Lingerie Football League, soap operas, movies about boy wizards battling evil sorcerers, celebrity miracle diets and medieval-themed chain restaurants, life went on as normal. Yet the rich and powerful were alert and alarmed, antennae up. The smart money was short-selling American companies on the stock exchange. Important IPOs were mysteriously delayed. More than one American billionaire had tried to flee the country on “business”. Garin had had his men stop their Gulfstreams at the airport, cars with flashing lights blocking take-off, telling them they had to stay for reasons of Homeland Security. They had kicked up a stink – “don’t you know who I am?” – but to hell with them, Garin thought. You made your billions here, you dodged taxes here, you can die here along with everyone else if it came down to that.
Meanwhile, the nation’s finest content providers and establishment print media who sniffed Pulitzer material were pursuing the virus story with vigour. Were the Chinese right? Was there evidence of a SARS-style virus on American soil? If so, where? Was there a link between a potential virus and the raising of the terrorism threat level? What was the reasoning behind all military leave for soldiers stationed in the US being cancelled? Why won’t the president clarify the situation?
The President couldn’t clarify anything, knee-deep as he was in apocalypse planning. In the halls of US power, grim cogitations were taking place in secret rooms behind closed doors. (In the past one would have described those rooms as “secret smoky rooms”, where general puffed on cigars as they plotted nuclear trajectories, but now even the Pentagon was a non-smoking area. Smoking while discussing the apocalypse was a health hazard, apparently.)
Preparations for containing a civilian outbreak were continuing. A quick check of the plot space in the nation’s graveyards proved that they were woefully inadequate for the type of mega-casualties expected in the case of mass biological outbreak. Garin wondered if they’d end all up in a Doctor Strangelove-type world, living in mineshafts 100 feet under the ground, 10 women to every man, having mandatory sex to create babies and bring the population and GDP back up.
Plans for isolating entire cities in case of outbreak were finalised. Police were reminded to read their manuals for dealing with terrorist threats. News of the directive quickly leaked to the net: more fodder for the conspiracy theorists and Armageddon scaremongers. Beat cops were pulled away from handing out tickets and attending domestic disputes to search for the terrorists.
Meanwhile, the American empire busied itself protecting its overseas interests. Luminaries important to the US economy on the ground in China were quietly advised to leave the Communist state and return home, by private jet, boat or other means. Sprout wings if you have to, but get out of Dodge. Explanations had been suitably vague and dire. Other VIPs across Asia were told to be on a high state of alert.
Uncle Sam’s armed forces changed their posture accordingly. Nuclear-armed submarines were sent into position in South East Asia, missiles in range of the Chinese heartland. American aircraft carriers headed en masse into the region for “training exercises”. An express delivery of armed democracy. Spy satellites were diverted to orbit above China. Long-range bombers were given new orders, new flight paths. Allied countries were quietly tapped on the shoulder, reminded of long-dormant security treaties and commitments. You got rich on our watch, we protected you from the commies, now it’s time to pay Uncle Sam back. Important people around the world were shadowed by operatives: some with orders to protect, others with orders to neutralise if worst came to worst. The country’s defence readiness condition quietly slipped to DEFCON 2 – one step before DEFCON 1, or imminent war.
America suspected – in fact, knew – that China was mirroring many of its own actions. Its submarines had been tracked approaching the US east coast. Red satellites changed course. Critical members of the Chinese diaspora  were warned. Nuclear weapons were tested for readiness. Sleeper agents were activated. The drums of war beat louder. And if those plague bombs went off, it would only take a small push, or a regrettable incident, or an overzealous commander with his finger on the trigger for the world to go up in flames.

Keeping reading with The Spartan, now available as an ebook. Then follow the story in Game Of Killers: The Spartan, out as a paperback and ebook.

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