Friday, June 7, 2019

Seven Skinny Cows: Chernovsky's Campfire Talk on Animal Zombies

Chernovsky was picking up the vibe that Loren, one of his younger fighters, was as nervous as a whore in church.

“What’s biting your ass?” he asked, not unkindly.

“Them birds. I think they are zombies.” Loren said.

Most of the fighters called the potentially Ebola infected raiders as “zombies”. It was a way of emotionally distancing themselves from young men who were really not that different from themselves.

Chernovsky looked up at the flock of starlings in the trees. “Why do you think that?” Chernovsky asked.

“I seen them pecking at the corpses in the road and they ain’t afraid of us.” Loren said.

That helped explain the skittishness of many of his younger fighters. It was starting to effect operations so Chernovsky knew it was time to address the issue.

He ended up making several long calls back to Kates Store. He talked to Nyssa because she was a nurse. She called him back after looking at various books in her family’s library.

It took several conversations before he could explain the dynamics of virus reproduction in his own words.

At the evening’s campfire Chernovsky broached the topic in his own delicate way. “I’ve been hearing that some of you pussies are worried about catching Ebola from animals. I’m gonna talk about that tonight.”

That got the fighter’s attention. Not because he called them pussies. That was an everyday thing. It was the topic of catching the zombie disease from animals, a issue that every watcher of zombie movies knew to be “fact”.

“I ain’t gonna say there is no risk. But I am gonna say that it is a very, very low risk.” Chernovsky said. “But you ain’t gonna believe me unless you know a little bit about how virus make baby virus.”

“A virus ain’t much more than a shoe-lace made of protein. It isn’t sophisticated enough to make itself. It steals bits and pieces from the host and sticks them together to make a copy of itself.”

“It drills into the animal’s cell and find DNA or RNA or other strings of protein. It starts at one end and looks for patterns of protein. Once it finds a string that looks like what the next piece needs to be, it cuts that chunk of protein...think of it as being like beads on a string...out of the host’s string and sticks it on the end of the baby it is making.”

“Simple, right?” Chernovsky asked.

Several of the fighters were nodding.

“It is like cutting words out of a magazine to make an anonymous letter you are sending to the police. Don’t ask me how I know.” Chernovsky said.

It was intended as a joke but only a few of the fighters laughed, nervously.

“The problem is that the virus is stupid and cannot check its work. It might be looking for the word “Then”, it sees a “T” and an “n” in the right places and cuts out the word. But what if the word is Than or Thin or Thing or Tennis. The virus don’t care. It cuts it out and slaps it on the end, close enough for government work.” Chernovsky said.

“That is not much of an issue for the virus if it stays within a species. The chances of it finding ‘Then’ when it is looking for ‘Then’ is almost 100%.”

“The problem for the virus is when it is not working in its home species. That is when it cannot find ‘Then’ when it is looking for ‘Then’. Almost all the time, the substitute word makes the virus less capable.”

“Think about it, this virus has been mutating for brazillions of generations, evolving. The weak die. The strong survive. The chances of a random mutation making the virus running the table stronger is almost zero because the random mutation really isn’t random. The virus already tried that word the last six million times it infected a blackbird or crow or buzzard and it hasn’t worked yet.”

“Almost.” Chernovsky said.

“Suppose you shot a couple of blackbirds so you could have some meat for lunch. You still have to worry about the blood on the birds’ beaks or feet. And there is a very, very, very small chance that the virus got stronger when it cooked in that bird and made babies.”

"Fact of the matter is" Chernovsky said, "scientists still are not sure what species Ebola lives in between outbreaks. Some scientists think it might be bats. Others are not so sure."

"The biggest risk is from human blood. That is why you have to tell me or your Team Leader if you have a cut on your hands or your face. That is why we leave the bodies. We don't take ANYTHING!" Chernovsky said.

"If the locals want to sell us something they have to be boiling it in a kettle of water when we get it. I don't care if they picked it off a dead hostile or pulled it out of their basement. It has to be boiled. We bring our own stick to fish it out of the pot. They take the risks." Chernovsky said. "We don't."


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