Chapter 2 Construction of The Armageddon Virus
Salem Achmed rubbed the fog from his faceplate so he could see more clearly. He hated wearing what could only be considered a space suit. The damn thing was so heavy and bulky. Nevertheless, since he did not feel like dying just yet, Salem found a way to tolerate the discomfort. Renewing his concentration on making sure the light brown powder he was working with did not spill, Salem poured it into the test dispersant container. When he was through with the transfer, he carefully sealed the container. He then dropped the deadly package into the nearby tub of disinfectant. The procedure was to make sure the other members of the staff could safely handle it, albeit very cautiously, and take it out of the level four biocontainment labs to the other levels of the lab for further testing.
Of course, Salem would not touch the container outside the level four area as he was too valuable to take that kind of risk. The disinfectant he applied, in theory, helped to ensure the safety of those who would be handling the dispersion device during the future testing.
Salem felt proud today. This afternoon the final stage of testing was going to begin on his creation. In spite of his excitement about the trials, Salem felt bad about this final stage of testing. Who wouldn’t feel bad about testing on humans? Salem salved his conscience by concentrating on the people participating in the final stage of testing. The subjects were some of the worst criminals taken from the prisons in Iraq. He did not believe anyone would miss these men, as they’d all been condemned to die anyway. Salem requested a few women be included in the testing, but none had been provided. It was really okay with Salem, though, as he did get a bit of a queasy feeling about women being involved. Besides, the reaction to the virus should not be different between genders.
He pulled the container out of the disinfectant, setting it inside another larger container that he would deposit into the equipment airlock to be picked up and taken to the test area. Salem, as he’d done hundreds of times before, contemplated his creation and the years it’d taken to get to this stage. What a tremendous feat of genetic engineering he’d accomplished. When the special weapons division of the Iraqi military asked him to take different viruses, and link three together as one, Salem had proved to be equal to the challenge. As testing had thus far shown, none of the viruses seemed compromised by the others. Salem knew a great deal of discussion took place before his being instructed about what viruses to merge into one. After years of work, he’d finally succeeded.
Salem thought how ingenious the creation was. The initial planning had focused on the Ebola virus. While finding the most deadly strain (Ebola Zaire) proved easy; the real problem for the scientists was to make the virus airborne. Therefore, the rhino virus was added to the mix. Then Salem decided the new plague needed something extra to boost the effective kill rate of the virus above the 90 percent achieved by the Ebola and the rhino virus combination. The introduction of the smallpox virus was the final addition to his genetically engineered masterpiece. For reasons unknown to Salem, the Ebola and smallpox virus did not fight each other, instead, they seemed to coexist well, without affecting the rhino virus. Of course this was the greatest thing about the common cold: it seemed able to exist anywhere and with anything while still being effective in infecting humans.
Having worked long and hard to link the three viruses together so wherever the rhino virus went, the Ebola and smallpox viruses would go also. Salem also worked on the aerobiology (dispersant systems for biological and chemical weapons) aspect to enable his newly created virus useable in an attack. This final step in making his creation a reality in warfare proved the most difficult.
The key came one morning when after working most of the night, Salem woke up to the sun shining through his window. He had been so tired when he had gotten back to his apartment that he had forgotten to close the blind. The sunlight revealed a column of dust, floating through the air in the morning sunlight. When Salem got to the lab, he started testing dust to see if a dust column could carry his genetically engineered virus. It’d taken several weeks, but Salem discovered each particle of dust could carry about one thousand particles of the new virus. In subsequent testing on monkeys, he discovered it only took a couple particles of the dust to infect one monkey. One infected, a monkey could infect any other monkeys that were breathing the same air.
So far, the testing had resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 monkeys, under all sorts of environmental and ecological conditions. The testing proved that the virus was airborne. Salem also confirmed that the virus was just as potent of a killer in its tenth generation of airborne infection as the first generation.
Salem stepped into the disinfectant spray in the decontamination airlock connected to the level four biocontainment labs. He reviewed some of the reports provided to him on virus penetration of a ten-generation virus targeting a human population.
The report’s had been obtained from the Soviet Union during the collapse of the famed Russian Army. These reports broke down what could be expected from all manners of biological attacks. The Iraqi government had obtained the reports more than two years before Salem found the need to review them. It wasn’t until after he created what they dubbed the `Sword of Allah’ virus that Salem sought out this extensive research on biological warfare. When Salem finally read the deadly projections, he found them impressive. According to the Russian research, one critical factor which would improve the penetration of the `Sword of Allah’ virus, was the time between infection and the onset of severe symptoms. So far, the monkey testing revealed this period to be approximately six to ten days. A monkey became contagious twenty-six to forty-eight hours after initial infection. The data suggested each infected human should have approximately five days of being relatively symptom free to spread the virus. After five days, the symptoms would be so debilitating that further spreading of the virus by the infected person would be reduced to a minimum. Salem searched for the right report to confirm his findings. All the tested factors concurred with the following report on population penetration of a ten-generation virus:
The generation time line heavily affected the population infected by each generation of the virus. Salem read the supporting documentation:
Salem found the figures impressive and felt relieved that he could use the Russian’s data. All the years he’d already spent developing the virus proved more than enough work for him without the added burden of projecting results. Salem glanced quickly over a reference to children when reading another report because he really didn't like to think about it. However, he did acknowledge that children as well as adults would die from his creation. Salem pushed the fact somewhere in the back of his mind and that’s where he chose to keep it.
Other factors considered during the development of the virus included estimates of how long the dust, once dispersed, would continue to be effective at infecting people. The problem with this testing is it could not be done in an actual outdoor environment for fear the virus would get loose in Iraq. Sending someone to another country was discarded. Iraq didn't want anyone to get a chance to develop a vaccine so the virus continued to be contained and studied within the research facility.
Salem felt the Ebola part of the genetically engineered virus was the weak link in the deadly dust. This seemed logical as the Ebola virus was the biggest unknown in the genetically engineered virus. Still, even with these minor problems they could expect that for thirty days at temperatures between 45 degrees and 110 degrees Fahrenheit the dust particles would remain effective at a 90 percent contamination rate.
Monkey testing showed how effective the generation chain of the virus would be in humans. No monkey ever failed to be infected when exposed to an infected monkey at any point between two and seven days of the original monkey's infection. The monkeys were even infected when exposed to a hot (infected) monkey during the three to six-day period of initial infection with less than fifteen seconds of exposure time.
Salem remembered the tests with a smile. The men who walked the monkeys through the room were terrified, even suited up in full protective bio-hazard suits. Each man hustled his monkey through the room quickly to minimize the time spent in the contamination area.
Now, finally, Salem proclaimed the trials at the point for human testing to begin. Would his creation be as effective on humans? Salem hoped so. He needed to be done with this before the law of averages caught up with him in the form of a direct exposure. He knew it would only take one accident to kill him.
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Ninety-seven days of human testing confirmed just how powerful the `Sword of Allah’ was. The first human victim succumbed on the fifteenth hour of day nine. By the twenty-second hour of day twelve, all of the initial ten test subjects were dead. The autopsies revealed liquified internal organs. This was a classic symptom of the Ebola virus at work. Also, all showed signs of severe brain damage, from the smallpox virus which caused bleeding in the brain and crystallization of the brain tissue itself. Salem could see the Ebola killing the fastest in his deadly mix. He also realized if, for some reason the infected found a way to fight the Ebola strain and won, at most the treatment would delay death for an extra two or three days before the smallpox would kill them. It’s like shooting two bullets at once, he thought, with Smallpox being the second bullet out of the gun.
Salem and his fellow scientists continued to carefully monitor and study each generation of the virus. During the study of the first nine generations of the virus, only one person did not become infected in the test group. This man was included in the tenth generation part of the study. Again he was not infected along with one other person in the tenth generation test.
Another disturbing result was that two of the people infected with the tenth generation of the virus managed to survive. As a result of the survivors, the testing continued for a full ninety-seven days. Salem read the final overall results. He found himself quite impressed. He insisted the two men not infected be re exposed to the dust directly on day eighty. One died but the virus had no effect on the other subject. This lucky prisoner was the only test subject whose life was spared as the testing concluded. Salem would use his blood to develop a vaccine. Always, it was wise to prepare for the unexpected.
Overall the testing showed the virus to be 99 percent effective in its kill rate through eight generations. The virus demonstrated a ninety-five percent kill rate through nine generations and 92 percent through ten. Infection rates through eight generations were 100 percent, and in the tenth generation only dropped to 97.5 percent. Overall Salem was ecstatic with the results. Salem concluded his job in the construction of this weapon. It met and exceeded all the expectations given to him when he started on the project ten years ago. Salem was pleased his time creating the deadly weapon was finally at an end.