His mama hadn’t really named him Malice. She intended for him to be named “Malik” but spelling wasn’t her strong suit. What went on the birth certificate is what the school went by. His mama spelled out the name M-a-l-i-c-e and that is what he was known by.
Malice didn’t know why sweat was rolling off of him. Sure, the night was one of the first really warm nights of spring but it wasn't that warm.
Johnson and his baby-mama were camping in a park near downtown Ann Arbor. The park had been turned into a "sanctuary" for the refugees that were suddenly flooding into Ann Arbor.
Maybe Ann Arbor wasn’t handing out fried chicken and bacon but the nice ladies from the church were bringing all kinds of food to the folks in the park. Some days it was only cornbread. But it was hot and there was plenty of it and on a good day, they had butter to go with it. It beat pushing aside desiccated corpses to root around in an unlit basement for cans of green beans and tuna fish.
Malice couldn’t stand the blankets or the warmth radiating from his girlfriend’s body. He couldn’t stand the stillness of the tent or the sounds of his girl and their child breathing.
He got up, carefully zipping the tent flap shut to keep out the clouds of mosquitoes. There was a tiny bit of breeze, just enough to make up for the mosquitoes and a bit more. Malice decided to sleep on a bench. He wasn’t the only one. Nearly all the benches were inhabited.
Kristen Shomsky was Omar Sayed’s political officer. As a devout Muslim, Omar paid no more attention to her than an insect buzzing in his ear.
Sayed went to Bicklebaugh’s war council to tell them what he needed to conquer the Buffer-Zone and then food-rich lands to the west.
“They have us figured out” Sayed informed the council in a peremptory manner. “If it has a motor and runs on wheels, they kill it.”
“Bullshit!” one of the second-tier advisers exclaimed.
Sayed gave him a look dripping with contempt. “I have data. My predecessor lost nearly 200 vehicles generating data. How many more vehicles do you want to squander before you admit you are wrong?”
Koivun brushed aside the objections. “What do you propose and what do you need from us?” he asked. Aimo Koivun had campaigned to get Sayed into his current position. It was in Koivun’s best interest to see that he was successful.
“I propose that we march infantry into battle without benefit of motorized transport” Sayed said. “Think of it as being mid way between the American Civil War and World War One.”
“Without vehicles, the barbarians we are fighting will lose a big part of their strategic advantage” Sayed said.
“I also need an airplane and a pilot. My troops told me that the barbarians have an airplane. I suspect that is directing artillery. I need a plane to kill that plane and then to direct our artillery” Sayed said.
Bicklebaugh seemed lost in thought. There had been a side-discussion before Sayed had been ushered into the room. Certain agreements had been made and Sayed’s proposals were in conflict with those agreements.
“What kind of losses do you anticipate?” Bicklebaugh asked.
“Does it matter?” Sayed asked. He was an eminently practical man. “Even if we lose ten-to-one, the barbarians cannot withstand those loses for long while we can sustain them almost indefinitely.”
Bicklebaugh cleared his throat. Ann Arbor’s precarious logistical situation was a tightly held secret. “The issue is that there are economic...penalties...if this conflict continues indefinitely. It needs to be wrapped up in a very timely manner to not trigger those, um, penalties.”
Sayed stared at Bicklebaugh, “So I suggest that you not drag your feet. I need 2000 foot soldiers and weapons for them.”
Bicklebaugh had been glared at by better men, and women, than Sayed. He was not intimidated.
“We will try it your way first. But if you slip any farther behind schedule, Political Officer Shomsky will direct you to activate certain weapons” Bicklebaugh said.
Sayed was not concerned. With two-thousand fighters flooding across the West Branch, he would crack the barbarians like an egg shell.
Keagan took his last breath three hours after the Ann Arbor troops were beaten back across the West Branch.
There was not much the medics of the Buffer-Zone could do.
Keagan was bleeding out, internally. They sealed his wounds with tape. They gently evacuated where air had infiltrated between his right lung and the chest wall, which prevented the lung from inflating.
They replaced lost blood with saline solution and prayed that the blood vessels that had been severed by the bullet were small and would clot shut.
It was not to be.
He slowly bled out. The tube that had pulled out the air pulled out bloody liquid.
They pushed fluid to maintain volume, but it was a losing game.
Eventually, Keagan didn’t have enough red blood cells circulating to carry sufficient oxygen to his heart and brain to keep him alive.
With a shudder, Keagan slipped his mortal coil while his buddy Wyatt held his hand.
As Malice Johnson slept fitfully, a mosquito of the grex Aedes vexans landed behind Malice’s ear and bit him. As she started to suck, Malice rolled over and batted at his ear. The mosquito flew off.
There are about sixty species of mosquitoes native to Michigan. Aedes vexans and related species are a group of species that blur from one to the next and sometimes hybridize.
This mosquito had overwintered as an egg beneath maple leaves in the park. Before Ebola, crews of workers would have raked the leaves and they would have been carted to a facility that composted them. Likely, the egg that developed into this mosquito would have also been carried away and composted.
The melting snow and torrential spring rains had washed her into a low lying area that flooded by virtue of the drain being plugged with the same leaves that had not been raked. There, she progressed through the various stages of wrigglers, growing by fits-and-starts as the water was warmed during the infrequent sunny days.
She shed her juvenile form just as the crabapple trees were blossoming. Malice was her first bite. She needed the protein so she could produce eggs. Malice had not given her enough protein. She would have to bite another mammal before she had enough.
Malice had given her more than a tiny bit of his blood. He had also given her a strain of Ebola that had evolved to where it could live in the salivary glands of mosquitoes just like her.
That particular mosquito would lay three sets of eggs in her life. Each raft of eggs required another meal of blood. She was not the only mosquito to bite Malice that night, nor the next.