Friday, June 5, 2020

Quest: Refugees

Dr Sam Wilder visited Steve and Sally early the next morning. It was the middle of February.

Steve and Sally had been seen as they traversed Capiche and it took a few hours for the word to spread. It was the middle of February and darkness still came early and Sam decided to let them have some time to settle-in before dropping in to see if they had made it all the way to Iowa.

Dr. Sam, John Wilder and Rick Salazar dropped in with some provisions:

The big question, of course, was “Did they bring back a vaccine?”

“We made it to Iowa. Dr Soo-kwan Bae sends her regards. And yes she did have a vaccine but it is complicated” was Sally’s response.

It became much more complicated when it turned out that Dr. Sam Wilder was not familiar with the methods of Velichko, Tsai and Hallquist. All she had to go on were Sally’s notes and what Sally remembered from conversation with Dr. Bae.

One major point of contention was the possibility that the virus expressed in the bacterial DNA rather than the cell wall. If that were so, then the cells needed to be ruptured to release the DNA soup.

One key point that Sally had not noted in writing but remembered from verbal conversation was that Dr. Bae had also embedded resistance to an antibiotic to make it easier to sort for individual bacteria that had accepted the “kiss” from the DNA transfer organism.

That antibiotic resistance would also make it easy to “recover” the genetically engineered kimchi bacteria if the cultures were contaminated

Sally reluctantly removed the lanyard she had been wearing since leaving Ames, Iowa. It had to two, 10ml sample tubes attached to it.

Sally also handed Dr. Sam the small envelop of seeds. “Dr Bae was 95% sure regular cabbage would work for a culture as long as you added enough garlic.”

Rick Salazar called ahead to Kate’s store. He knew that she had garlic cloves in stock but she might have to start calling around to get some heads of cabbage.

Dr. Sam was already sketching out what she would need for a HEPA-filter-and-hood. Frankly, she was stunned that not only had the expedition made it to Iowa, but that they had found her friend and Dr. Soo not only had a vaccine but it was one that they could (probably) replicate with the primitive level of technology that was available to them.

And, quite frankly, the two vials with the bacterial cultures were a million times more valuable than their weight in gold. If the protocol that Sally remembered worked, then it had the potential to make Ebola as rare as diphtheria or the mumps.

It also had the potential to be a powerful, political lever as long as Capiche was able to maintain a monopoly on the vaccine.


Chris and Craig and the two children trudged west toward the buffer-zone.

It was a bit disconcerting. Slogging through the slush, moving at a snail’s pace. Chris was certain that they had been seen from at least a half mile away. Nobody came out to greet them or offer them a ride.

The two guards told them to “Halt” when they were within 20 feet of the roadblock.

The older guard asked “What is your business?”

“We are political refugees” Chris said. “My husband and I are seeking asylum.”

“Do you have family here?” the guard asked.

Chris looked at Craig. Craig made an infinitesimally small, nod of his head. Both of the men appeared to be in their late-twenties or very-early thirties.

“Yes, we have family here. We are political refugees” Chris repeated.

The two guards had watched the two men and children walking toward the frontier. The two men walked with a loose-jointed shamble that bespoke of somebody who was not intent on covering long distances efficiently.

The men were beyond handsome: They were beautiful. Their coiffured hair was unsullied by toque or bomber hat. Their clothing showed no signs of wear and their faces and teeth were porcelain perfection.

The boy, who appeared to be twelve but was, in fact, seventeen was video recording the entire exchange on his smart-phone.

The girl, who appeared to be nine but was fifteen, was silent; a fact much appreciated by the guards.

“Tell me the name of your family” the guard said. “You cannot come in unless they vouch for you and are willing to take responsibility for your well-being.”

That is when Chris coughed up a hair-ball.

“I can’t remember their names. But we are political refugees and you have to let us in. My daughter is hungry and tired. We have been walking for twenty miles.”

Something did not add up for the guard. The men had been walking with a curious posture. Their backs had been arched, their shoulders thrown back and the pelvis forward. It was a gait that puts tremendous stain on the quads in the thighs and the abdominal muscles. It would be a killer to walk more than a few hundred yards. The guard did not get the luxury of having enough time to string those thoughts together.

On cue, the girl started crying and she sank down into the slush in a bone-less puddle. She was not going to move another foot.

The guard noted that the girl was better-fed than nearly all children in the buffer-zone of Capiche proper.

The guard called on the radio “Hey, boss, I need you down here. We have a situation.”

The boss responded “I am busy. Just handle it.”

“I am sorry” the guard said. “You have to go back. We don’t have a place for your or your family.”

“You wouldn’t stop me if I walked in, though? Would you.” Chris challenged. “I mean, what would you do? Shoot me?”

Fortunately, the guard had been one of the fighters chosen to be a “subject matter expert” for unarmed combat. Subject matter experts were trained by Tomanica and then they were expected to train the others.

For example, one of the techniques they learned was the proper way to kill with a garrote. While it was unlikely that any of the fighters would find themselves in a position where they would need that knowledge, nothing drives home the point that fighters who failed to efficiently select and hit targets with their ammo load-out would have to fall back on methods that were much more intimate.

After attempting to garrote a hog (which wore a padded collar) the fighters were true believers in making every shot count.

“If you attempt to enter the buffer-zone, I will be force to detain you” the guard said. There was no way he was going to tip his hand and reveal just how that was going to happen.

That is when the encounter turned into a shit-storm. Craig took off running. Chris got all hinky and the older guard used his batton on the side of Chris’s knee. The boy kept filming. The girl was sobbing.

The Wastenaw County news media played an edited version of the event for weeks. It played hourly in every bar and on every cable channel. A critical viewer might have noticed that the snow was slush in some scenes and not-slush in others.

The Public Service Announcements featured coverage of broken teeth, scalp and face lacerations and massive bruising of the children's faces.

What Quinn, Gimp and Chernovsky noticed was that the Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean ski leggings were not wet around the ankles. The “family” had not walked for much more than a mile. The forces guarding the buffer-zone had been "had" and there was very little they could do to preventing it from happening again.



  1. This brings up the question I've been wondering about - how does Washtenaw county have enough electricity, and have it reliably enough, for email to work, TV stations to run and be seen, and enough gasoline for pizza delivery to go on?
    I can see nuclear providing the power, but even then it would be rationed to spread far enough - and that doesn't account for plentiful gasoline for pizza, lots of military truck usage, etc.