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The Melanin Apocalypse
cover artwork 2005 Kurt Ozinga.

 

 

A man-made virus is killing all the blacks in the world. The African continent is devolving into total and complete chaos. Blacks in America begin rioting and killing Whites. China prepares to invade Taiwan now that America is overwhelmed with racial warfare and sick and dying blacks. Israel and the Arab states go to war again. The oil fields of the Middle East and Africa are up for grabs...
Darrell Bain's most controversial novel since "The Sex Gates."

 

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The Melanin Apocalypse

 

Darrell Bain

 

 

 

...Scientists have declared that in ten years they will succeed in creating a radically new type of biological weapon. This weapon would be capable of infecting people according to a genetically predetermined marker such as skin color or eye shape. Infection could have a delayed effect or only begin once a certain type of medicine was taken. A recent closed seminar held by the CIA.....

...the most terrifying new possibility is the hypothetical biological weapon that could infect people according to genetic markers. Not only would it allow for genocide; it would be created specifically for that purpose. A recent report by the British Medical Association stated that "the rapid progress in genetics could become the basis for ethnic cleansing on an unheard of scale in the near future.

Excerpts from article in Gateway to Russia, March 2004 by Vasili Sychev

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

On his hospital bed in the city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Benjamin Imhonde barely had the energy to raise his arm, but that was enough to see that his skin was becoming lighter. Several weeks ago it had been ebony black. Now it was several shades paler. He wouldn't have minded so much except that as his skin color faded, he became sicker...and sicker. Benjamin made an effort and turned his head toward the bed next to him where his wife lay sleeping, exhausted from expending what little energy she had left in the simple act of using the bedpan. She had cried out weakly from the pain caused by her movements, but now she was silent.

Sleeping? No! She looked more like...He didn't want to think what she looked like. He tried to raise his head but a wave of pain coursing through his body dropped it back to the pillow. A tear leaked from Benjamin's right eye, then another, and one from his left. He felt them trickling down his face and tried to rein in his emotions. Even crying hurt now. I'm going to die, he thought. I've known ever since they moved us to the isolation ward. But no one would tell him what kind of disease he and his wife had! Just before the transfer, he overheard talk that the sickness was sweeping through the city of Port Harcourt. Then an orderly told him yesterday--or was it the day before?--that only blacks were becoming ill, and even more ominous, that no one was recovering. That bit of information had been bought from the orderly, but Benjamin didn't mind; he could afford it. He was even willing to pay for more, but the orderly never returned.

Benjamin Imhonde tried one more time to move, to stretch his hand out toward the body of his wife. His arm barely twitched. That was his last conscious movement. An hour later the orderlies came to remove the bodies. They were Catholic nuns. They were white. They showed no symptoms of illness.

***

Doug Craddock took a seat at the conference table in the administrative building of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. He nodded to the others present and smiled across the table at Amelia Foster. He had been with the scientist-physician once before on a mission, to the Congo where a pesky, previously unknown virus had popped up, then disappeared just as suddenly. Amelia's presence meant they must have a puzzle on their hands. She was CDC's top specialist in infectious diseases; they didn't send her just anywhere. He also knew Robert Handley, the man in charge of logistics and a good friend. The other person was new to him, a small attractive woman with light brown hair who looked to be in her thirties.

Amelia saw him looking and realized her oversight. "Doug, I'm sorry. This is June Spencer. She'll be head nurse on this little jaunt. June, Doug Craddock, in charge of our security detail. It was becoming almost routine for the CDC to send a security contingent along with the scientists and health workers when it was called on to investigate disease hotspots these days. There was even a new building going up next to the CDC complex, to be devoted to security.

"Hi," Doug said, smiling at her. The nurse gave a very slight nod in return, without a smile. He diagnosed her problem almost immediately. Another one who thinks the world would be better off without guns--until the bullets start flying in their direction, then we're the first ones they call for.

Amelia tapped her fingernails on the table to get everyone's attention again. "There's coffee and tea for those who want it. Now that everyone's here, let's get started."

Doug had been the last one to arrive. He poured coffee for himself while Amelia played with the keyboard at her place. The wall screen swam into focus. It showed a map of a large part of western Africa.

"Here's where we'll be going." An arrow moved over the map. It stopped at Port Harcourt, Nigeria. "As you can see, we'll be in Nigeria, near the coast. Port Harcourt is a relatively modern city so facilities should be adequate.

"And here's what we're investigating." The next image showed the body of a pale black man. His skin had a peculiar hue, as if some of the color had been scrubbed off with a rough cloth. Other than that, there were no signs of illness--yet he was obviously dead.

"What is it?" June asked.

"Good question. We don't know; that's why we're being sent. The disease starts with a tingling felt over the whole body and progresses over a period of weeks to extreme myalgia, neuralgia, intractable pain and death. The good news is that it doesn't appear to be contagious through airborne droplets, as diseases like the flu are. The bad news is that it's spreading anyway and the medical people don't know why."

Doug rubbed his chin where a five o'clock shadow was forming. He had a beard that showed more gray than did his wavy, dark brown hair, though his hair was beginning to be shot with white threads, too. To him, the new disease already sounded ominous, but then these days any unexplained phenomenon that caused death worried him. Damned terrorists.

Amelia continued. "We've already received specimens from some of the afflicted. So far, we haven't turned up what's causing the illness, though we're beginning to suspect a peculiar little enterovirus that resembles the poliovirus species."

"Polio? I thought we had wiped it out," Doug said.

"I didn't say it was the polio virus; just that it resembles it in certain ways. We'll have to wait and see what the virologists say. In the meantime, our job is to go there and assist in finding and identifying the vector."

"Any clues yet?" June Spencer asked. She and her team would be the ones having the most direct contact with patients. She played with a pendant at her neck, an odd arrangement of diamonds and gold, rolling it between thumb and fingers.

Amelia hesitated, as if reluctant to speak. "Well...possibly. For some reason, it's only people of color that have become ill. That's rather peculiar considering what a cosmopolitan city Port Harcourt is."

The other three people in the room couldn't help it. Their eyes turned toward Bob Handley, whose skin was a rich brown color, bordering on black.

He ignored the stares. "Maybe it only strikes those carrying the genes for Sickle Cell," Handley shrugged. "Or maybe it's an all black neighborhood where the vector popped up."

"It doesn't matter right now," Amelia said. She brushed a tress of her blond hair away from her forehead.

Doug smiled inwardly, remembering a dream he had of running his fingers through that same tumble of blond hair. Amelia was a few years older than he and had an appealing, rather than pretty face. He had thought idly about asking her out now that he was getting over Doris' death, but doubted he would. There was no real spark there. They were fast friends, though she was nominally his superior.

"How many of us should I plan on supplies for?" Bob asked, holding his stylus ready. His PDA was on the table in front of him.

Amelia thought. "Four infectious disease specialists, two doctors, June's gang and I think all of Doug's squad."

Doug sat up straighter. Amelia must be worried to want the whole squad. These teams usually took less than a half dozen security specialists. "You want my whole squad? Is there something I don't know?"

"Doug, I'm not sure of anything at this point. Call it a hunch, but I've got a feeling about this one. It's new, the symptoms are unlike anything we've seen before and despite Bob's disclaimer, I don't like that thing about it affecting only blacks. No, let me take that back. Right before I came from the office, I saw where a couple of Indians from Calcutta had come down with it, so it probably isn't confined to people of African descent, just those who happen to have dark skin."

"How dark were they?" Bob twiddled with his PDA, obviously somewhat uncomfortable with the subject matter.

"I have no idea. Anyway, that's about it, so far as facts that we're sure of."

"How many so far?" June asked.

Doug liked the way her voice sounded. It had a pleasant, melodic tone to it. She was pretty, too. Too bad she didn't seem to take to him.

"It's gone from a dozen or so a week ago to over three hundred hospitalized now and many more beginning to show symptoms. The clinics have long lines in front of them. A few dozen deaths so far, but according to my sources, none of the sick are showing any signs of recovery; on the contrary, they're getting worse. We'll be wanting to take level one precautions until we know more." Amelia had decided not to bring up what the virology laboratory director had told her; that there was a possibility the virus could have been tinkered with. She wanted to wait until they knew for certain, one way or another. No sense in letting unfounded rumors get started.

The other three groaned at the mention of level one precautions. In the tropics, the protective suits were burdensome and hot and very uncomfortable, especially when worn for long periods.

"We'll be leaving as quickly as we can, so get your people briefed and check with Bob for anything extra in the way of supplies you think you might need. Plan on the day after tomorrow at the latest. I know this is kind of rushed, but that's what we're here for. Any questions?" She scanned the three faces. No one responded. "All right, same time tomorrow morning we'll meet again and see where we are."

Doug rose from his seat. He gave Amelia a mock half-salute and strode quickly away, his mind already in overdrive, mentally running down his checklist of the things he would need to do to get his squad ready. There weren't many items on the list. Most of the squad were retired military, all professionals, all trained by him personally to be ready to go at an instant's notice. Two days? Hell, they could be ready in two hours if they had to. Something else was on his mind, too; Bob Handley. Before they parted, Handley stopped him with a touch.

"Doug--for some reason this scares me, the thought that only blacks are falling ill. If I buy the farm, will you see to the family?"

"Of course, but don't worry; just make sure you wear your biosuit and you'll be okay."

Handley's earnest black face held a graver expression than Doug had ever seen; ordinarily, he was cheerful almost to a fault. And he was such a good friend that they could honestly discuss race relationships and cultural attitudes with none of the intellectual posturing so common when the subject usually came up.

Doug remembered very plainly when he first became aware of racial differences. He was five years old and not yet in the first grade when he stumbled while racing along the sidewalk near his home. He fell and skinned his knees. The old black man who did yard work for the neighborhood helped him up while Doug tried to hold back the tears. Big boys don't cry! He remembered his Dad's admonishment but sometimes it was hard to keep the tears inside.

"You okay, little man?" The white haired old man asked, while brushing him off.

Doug nodded, unable to speak. His chin was quivering.

"You a big boy," the old man said, his smile showing a gold tooth.

Doug nodded again, feeling better. It really didn't hurt that much.

From out of the blue came another question that he didn't understand at first. "What you rather be, a black man or a white man?"

For the first time, Doug really looked at the old dark skinned gardener. His shoes were split and taped. A much used leather belt held up equally worn and patched jeans. His shirt was stained and wet with the pungent odor of dried sweat and his cap was a shapeless mass. But what Doug noticed most was his color and the way his face held a reservoir of old sadness that was never absent. He didn't laugh and sing and wear nice clothes like the black men he saw on television. He was very dark, almost black, and Doug remembered now that a lot of other people were dark, too, like the woman who came to clean house every week or two. He thought of his playmates and how they were all white. He thought of his parents and their friends. None of them worked outside all day in the yards or mopped floors. He hung his head, ashamed, somehow, but his child's mind had no idea why. Yet he knew the answer to the black man's question. From hundreds of overheard jokes and conversations a cultural bias had already soaked into his little mind. He didn't really want to say anything but his parents had taught him to always answer when an adult spoke to him.

"White, I guess," he muttered, looking up at the old man.

"Me, too," the black gardener replied in a soft voice. He seemed to be looking at something far beyond them, something out of sight. "You go home now, get them knees doctored."

Doug thought he had never seen anyone look as sad as the old man, even when he smiled. "Yes, sir," he said as he nodded his head and turned back toward home. In a moment he was running again, but not from excitement or playfulness. He was running to escape an unknown menace, something he didn't understand but knew was threatening.

He never forgot that episode, and even as a child, he began observing how blacks and whites treated each other and by the time he turned thirteen, he knew that blacks were considered an inferior race. He didn't know why, but he didn't agree with the prevailing attitude of his white friends and his parents. He didn't speak out openly very often, being shy and reclusive. He was considered a bookworm by many of his peers. It wasn't until he was grown and in the army that he began voicing his opinions at times and places he thought were appropriate, but it seemed as if he had always known it was an unfair situation for black people and even as a child always tried to treat blacks as politely and with as much consideration as any one else.

Bob Handley was the only person other than Doris he had ever told that story to. Remembering it, he patted Handley's shoulder, but was unsure of what else he could or should say.

Handley finally smiled at him. "You're a good man, Doug. I hope you come out of this okay, too."

"We will," Doug assured him again. But now he began to worry.

***

June lingered after Bob Handley and Doug Craddock had hurried away. This would be her first mission after returning from her extended leave of absence.

Amelia smiled warmly at her. "I'm really glad to have you back, June. I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to talk to you before now. How are you doing?"

"I'm okay, Amelia. It just took a while for me to get over it. I guess no woman really expects to become a widow when she's barely in her thirties and..."

Amelia nodded sympathetically. "Yes, but--June, I saw the way you reacted to Doug. Please don't take it out on him just because he was a soldier. He's a good man and I'm glad he's going to be with us."

"I'm sorry. I know I was rude, but when he walked into the room, just the way he acted...so...so..."

"Soldierly?"

June granted Amelia a small chuckle. "I guess so. And I guess I'm still a little resentful that it wasn't the professionals who took so many of the casualties; it was the National Guard troops." She fingered her pendant, a nervous habit she wasn't even aware of. It was made from her wedding and engagement rings, cut down and set on a small flat oval made of yellow gold. "Anyway, is there anything special I need to know? Anything that's changed since I've been gone? I didn't want to ask while the others were here."

Amelia shook her head. "The only thing that's changed is that the world has become an even more dangerous place since you took your leave. I guess you know that, though."

June smiled and Amelia thought how engaging and cheerful a simple smile made her look. She was glad that June had decided to return. Moping wouldn't bring her husband back and Amelia was a firm believer in work. Perhaps staying busy would help dispel the last remnants of sorrow she still carried inside her.

"Oh yes, I have kept up with the news," June said. "The terrorists are getting worse all the time, aren't they?"

"Yes, they are. That's not our problem, though. We just want to identify this new bug and find a cure or a vaccine, if that's possible. At the very least, we need to find the vector."

"Well, if there's nothing else, I'm going to go brief my gang. Thanks for taking me back, Amelia. I really do appreciate it."

Amelia Foster watched the younger woman leave the conference room. It's good to have her back, she thought. June was an excellent infection control nurse.

In another part of the building, Amelia's superior sat at her desk in the CDC Director's office and rubbed her eyes. There were never enough hours in the day or enough money in the budget to cover everything that needed doing. Mary Hedgrade had to take the time for the next task though. Just in case. She punched a button on the console that held three phones, a speaker phone and a teleconference line connected to the big flatscreen on the wall behind her desk.

"Yes ma'am?" Her assistant's voice came from the adjoining office of the CDC Director's suite.

"Tammy, get Mr. Tomlin on line one for me, please. As quickly as you can arrange it."

Sometimes the wait to speak to Edgar Tomlin, Homeland Security Director, was a long one. Mary tried to review the latest morbidity reports, but couldn't keep her mind on the papers in front of her. Shuffling papers ate up an administrator's time, but there was no help for it; it sometimes seemed to her that the more advanced computers became, the more they generated a need for hard copies. While she was waiting, her mind wandered, but always came back to the subject of her call--that new illness in Nigeria. The last update from the initial small team sent a few days ago prompted her to make it. Doctor visits in Port Harcourt were far above normal, as were hospital admissions. Patients almost all had the same symptoms, a tingling sensation that advanced to pain and weakness. In itself, such a disease wouldn't have prompted her to notify Homeland Security, but the new report confirmed the earlier findings. Only people with dark skin were falling prey to whatever it was. More deaths had been reported, and even more ominous, still not a single person had recovered. There weren't that many bacteria or viruses so target specific--and so universally deadly.

Mary's assistant broke into her reverie. "Ms. Hedgrade, Mr. Tomlin is ready for you."

Mary picked up the secure phone. She barely knew Edgar Tomlin, but what little she knew of him struck her positively. He wasn't simply an out-of-work politician appointed to fill the National Security Director's seat temporarily until a new Director was nominated and confirmed; he was a career official and the former undersecretary, and CIA Director before that. His predecessor had died of a heart attack two weeks ago.

"Mr. Tomlin, I have some news for you. A new disease, a bad one, has poked its head up in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. It appears to infect only blacks and other very dark skinned persons."

"Good God! Won't that cause a run of paranoia! But why tell me?" He sounded impatient. Mary imagined his workload probably outweighed hers.

"There's a possibility that the original virus could have been deliberately altered to produce just that effect, Mr. Tomlin."

Dead silence reigned at the other end of the line for a long moment. Finally Tomlin spoke. He no longer sounded as if he wanted to hurry. "But you're not sure yet. Is that it?"

"Yes, sir. But we should know within a few days. I just wanted to give you fair warning. This could be a bombshell."

"Damn right it could! Bombshell is an understatement. What are your people doing about it?"

"I sent one small team initially. Within forty eight hours I'll have a complete contingent over there. I would appreciate it if you would have the Secretary of State pave the way for them. And I suppose you need to start your wheels rolling just in case?" Her last sentence was framed as a question.

Another silence, then he said "Yes, I'll start some preliminary work but...uh, Mary is it?"

"Yes."

"Mary, I'm going to put a clamp on this. Tell your people not to talk about it, especially the part about it affecting only blacks. Good God, what would--wait! Is there any possibility it could spread to here? Is it contagious?"

"Mr. Tomlin, that's what we're going to find out. We have no idea yet how it spreads, nor exactly how fast; only that it's doing it, and doing it very rapidly." She didn't finish with the implication. Whether or not Tomlin knew it, Port Harcourt was a metropolitan city, the hub of both air and sea travel into and out of Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa. If it could be spread by human to human contact, as apparently it could in some way, then it was already present in nearly every country in the world. Including the United States of America. Globalization and universal air travel would have seen to that.

***

Edgar Tomlin put down the phone and stared into space, reviewing the conversation in his mind. Had he responded properly? Been appropriately concerned? Finally he nodded to himself. Yes. He had said just what he should have.

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Rafe Smith grinned gleefully at his companions and clenched his fingers into a fist, shaking it in the air. "We did it!"

There were five of them, all looking much alike; faces seamed with wrinkles burned into the skin by long exposure to the sun. They were dressed in jeans and snap button shirts and battered tennis shoes or heavy, lace up work boots. There were two cases of beer stacked in the kitchen of the old farmhouse, with more cooling in the refrigerator. It had been a long time coming and now they were celebrating.

"You reckon we'll get all the niggers?" Eddie Dunstop, Rafe's second in command, asked. He tipped a beer can to his mouth and swallowed. It went down easy and cold, a proper reward for a working man after a day outside at the construction site.

"Hell, yes," Rafe answered. "That crazy Swede said Africa's just the start. Before long there won't be a nigger left alive."

"Hallelujah!" Another of the men exclaimed. "Goddamned black apes, it's about time." He wiped his mouth after tipping a beer to his mouth and continued, "I still think we should of killed the Swede after we got the stuff from him. What if he gets caught and blabs?"

Rafe shook his head. "No, the big boss said we might need him later. Niggers ain't the only ones in the world causin' us trouble. There's the Chinks and Spics, too."

"How 'bout the Ragheads? Those crazy fucks are bad as niggers."

Rafe chuckled and stretched his long thin legs out on the patched ottoman in the living room. "We got it started, good buddy. Let's let this play out first. Which reminds, me, better stock up on ammo before it hits here. This is gonna to drive the niggers batshit."

Eddie stood up and stretched, then sat back down. His puzzled expression focused on Rafe, their leader and the one who was the primary contact with the Swede--as well as the one who received and dispensed the funds coming from the head man. "How they gonna do anything to us? Won't they just die off real quick like?"

"Naw, Eddie. It spreads kinda like the flu. You know, like it may go on for months before they're all dead."

"But Rafe, the flu don't never get ever'body! What if it don't kill all of 'em?"

"The Swede said it would, but it might take some time. Now relax and enjoy yourself. We've worked for this day a long time. From now on whites are in charge of the world."

"Except for the Spics and Chinks."

"Relax, man, relax. We'll get them, too, eventually. The Swede said he might could figure something out if he had some more time and money. I know, I talked to him good right before we split up."

Eddie nodded agreement. A new world was coming, one more to his liking. Like Rafe always told them, everything would be great when there were no more niggers or spiks or chinks. The whole world would be ruled by whites, like God intended it to be. He took another swig of beer and tried to visualize the future, but his imagination was limited. What he mostly thought about was how that goddamned black ape of a foreman who told him he was lazy would be dead, deader than last week's road kill. He wiped his mouth and grinned.

***

The security contingent for the CDC teams was housed in a huge converted factory building located just outside the eastern city limits of Atlanta. From the bits of lint and strings of colored cloth that still turned up sticking to clothing and gear, Doug suspected it had once been a textile mill. Those days are gone, he thought. China and Bangladesh and other low-pay countries manufactured almost all the mass produced clothing now. Still, the building was sufficient for their purposes. There was enough room to house several hundred troops, as well as a mess hall and lounge. A smaller building adjacent to it served adequately as a supply and arms depot. It was always under guard by a contract security firm. Those who were married or had some other arrangements were allowed to live away from the headquarters unless they were on the go team. That duty rotated and Doug considered himself lucky to have caught this assignment. He liked seeing new places and had never been to Nigeria.

The security building held a briefing and conference room, which was where Doug and his squad were now. He had just told them where they were headed.

"Nigeria!" One of the troops exclaimed. "That's Africa, huh?"

Doug was always astounded by questions like that. He was well aware of the fact that geography was no longer considered part of a well-rounded school curriculum, but damn, didn't people even read these days? Or watch something besides sports and cartoons? It was a pet peeve of his. He controlled his irritation at the man's lack of knowledge, even though Nigeria had been in the news for years with its perennial religious and tribal conflicts between Muslims, Christians and Animists over control of the country's oil supply and government.

"Yes," Doug acknowledged. "Nigeria is in western Africa. It's a big oil producer when they're not on strike or banging away at each other over religious issues. We're going to Port Harcourt on the coast. Be sure and go over the briefing packet I gave you, especially the street maps of the area around the hospital and clinics. All of them. I know you don't have much time but that's what the go team is for; a quick deployment."

"Can we expect any action?" Buddy Hawkins, a former Marine, asked. He had somehow missed the Gulf wars and the latest dustup in South America. Doug thought of the circumstances, the fact that only blacks and other dark skinned people were being affected by the disease. "I can't tell you officially, but personally? Yeah, I think there's a good chance of it this time." He didn't try to tell the young man that combat was hard, dirty, frightening and crazy, and nothing at all like the storybooks. If it came, he would find out the hard way, like every soldier in history had.

"Terrorists?" Martha Myers questioned. She was a short, dark-haired former army medic who had applied for and made the cut when the infantry began accepting females who could pass the strength and endurance tests. He liked her; she was calm and knowledgeable in her field, and well-read besides.

"No terrorism that I know of, but there's a factor here that's sure as hell going to get a lot of folks agitated, so we're taking our full load, machine guns and all." He told them as much as he knew and saw their faces lose the happy smiles over getting ready to go somewhere. The three blacks and two Hispanics in his twelve man squad exchanged glances and tightened their lips.

"Any more questions? No? All right, we're confined to quarters for the duration. We'll meet at nine in the morning after you've gone over your packets, and I'll find out in the meantime where we're likely to go to first and whatever else I can. We may have another day here, or we may not. Be completely ready to leave before you go to bed tonight. Comprende?"

Nods and muttered assents told him they were probably already geared up. There wasn't much he needed to worry about there. He had the best squad in the contingent and his men knew it. His had been one of the first units put together by Gene Bradley, the Security Director, a special forces colonel who had lost his left arm in action, though no one knew exactly where or when it had happened.

Just as Doug turned to leave, Bradley appeared. He wagged his finger and Doug hurried over to the doorway.

"Hi Colonel. What can we do for you?"

Bradley put his arm around Doug's shoulders and walked him back into the room. His squad members pushed out of their chairs and rose to their feet. It wasn't required, but military manners were hard to shake.

"I just got a call from Homeland Security," Bradley announced. "You now have orders not to talk about your mission, and there's to be absolutely no leaks about how this disease in Nigeria is affecting only people of color." His gaze roved the room, making eye contact with each of them.

"But sir--isn't it already public knowledge?" One of the older men asked.

"The disease is. Whom it infects isn't. And I've been informed there's a possibility of terrorism involved."

"Jesus Christ!" Martha Myers exclaimed. "Who would do a thing like that?"

"I have no idea. Just remember--no talking, even when you call your families. It's all right to tell them where you're going, since that's already been announced, but no details. Clear?"

"There won't be any leaks from this squad, sir. But I really doubt it'll stay secret for long."

"Yes, I realize that and I'm sure the people higher up do as well. They just want a chance to get a handle on what's really happening before speaking up. No sense in causing unwarranted panic. And we'll all be safer if it's not something being bandied about by the public just yet."

Doug nodded. America was becoming so ethnically and racially divisive that the least suspicion of action deleterious to a particular group was likely to cause anything from riots to political and physical retaliation against the other party. The former colonel turned and left as abruptly as he had come. There was never any waste motion with him. Doug knew his boss was just carrying out orders, but personally he thought it was a futile effort. The information net was ubiquitous and hardly anything stayed under cover for long.

***

Manfred Morrison felt a chill steal over him as he read the update from the CDC just handed to him by his administrative assistant. He hadn't paid that much attention to the first notification about the new disease in Nigeria; new bugs seemed to pop up almost monthly these days, a result he thought came from continuing excursions into previously neglected habitats. The world was just growing too fast. But this...This could be horrible, and not just because of the disease, but the repercussions from it. Natural or man made, the appearance of a new virus that infected only dark skinned humans would be explosive. Hardly anyone would believe it wasn't deliberately set loose.

The update held the attention of Manfred like nothing else had since his appointment to the post of Presidential Science Advisor. His eyes were fixed on it so avidly one might have thought he held a winning lottery ticket in his hand. The CDC scientists now believed the virus was related to the one causing polio, but thought it had been altered by methods that could only happen through deliberate manipulation in a laboratory. They still didn't know why it was so lethal nor how it spread, and hadn't even begun to study the possibility of a vaccine. The update also confirmed his fears. The first cases were now being reported in other countries besides Nigeria, among them South Africa, Ethiopia, India and... England? Then he remembered, England had a fair percentage of blacks in its population now. Manfred took a deep breath and continued reading. Houston, Texas was reporting several possible cases. And New York and Seattle hospitals thought they had some. Mexico City. He scanned on down.

Still no cure, not so soon, and still no one recovering. The president would be coming to him soon for recommendations. There hadn't been an inordinate number of deaths yet, but the way the thing was spreading and the way it affected only very dark skinned persons...that was the biggest threat. Manny reached for his phone, intending to punch the number for a direct connection to CDC headquarters in Atlanta and see if any more information was available before requesting an appointment with the president. Instead he paused and stared at the skin of his own dark brown arm. His hand was trembling when he finally managed to look away and make the call.

***

"Hello, Mr. Craddock," June said to Doug. He had gone to the forward part of the passenger compartment of the big military cargo plane to get another cup of coffee. He was surprised that her voice didn't sound nearly as frosty when addressing him as it had at their last meeting, even though he had hoped to have a few words with the new nurse. If nothing else, he wanted to find out if his original analysis of her attitude had been correct.

"Hello, Ms. Spencer. Do we have to be so formal, though?"

"I...no, I guess not." No sense blaming him for Charlie's death, she thought.

"Good. I'm Doug, in case you don't remember. And it's June, right?"

"Yes. Douglas?"

He laughed, showing an even row of white teeth that appeared to have been capped but hadn't. "No, just plain Doug. My parents liked the short version, I guess. I'm wondering why we haven't met before now. Are you new?"

"I took an extended leave after my husband was killed in a helicopter crash."

Doug's smile disappeared. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."

"No reason you should have. I don't know why I brought it up."

"Nevertheless, losing a spouse is rough on anyone. I know."

June halted in the act of turning to leave. "You lost your wife?"

"It's been a while. The Mall Terrorists."

"Oh God! How terrible."

"It doesn't much matter how she died, June. Dead is dead. I loved her, but after a while you have to go on."

"Well...maybe. Anyway, I'd rather not talk about it."

"Same here. What brought you to the CDC?"

"My husband worked for them in administration. It just seemed natural to take a job with them myself when they had an opening. My folks tried to get me to go back to Houston and start over there after Charlie died. I did for a while, but once I decided to go back to work, I found I could come back here in more or less the same position I'd held before, so I did." June suddenly realized she was chatting with a former military man as if she felt no bitterness against the army.

"I guess we both must be idealists."

June had again turned to go but that remark stopped her as quickly as the former one had. "Why do you say that?"

Doug sipped at his coffee. "Anyone who volunteers for this kind of assignment has to be either an idealist or a closet martyr. You don't strike me as a martyr."

June hadn't ever considered herself an idealist. "More like being born with itchy feet. I like doing different things and going to different places." She was startled when Doug burst out laughing.

"Sorry," he apologized. "It's just that you used the exact term to describe my whole family. It's sort of a joke with us. We've always had problems settling down. I guess that's one reason I went into the military."

"You don't look old enough to be retired. Why did you get out?"

"Thanks, but I am retired. Five years ago, but I went in when I was seventeen. Like most teenagers, I didn't have good sense. I thought fighting a war would be fun and glorious. Couldn't wait for one to happen. Then when it did and I saw a few bodies, I realized how dumb I'd been." Doug didn't mention that his retirement was because of a leg wound that left him unable to march long distances and forced him out of the infantry.

"So why did you stay in?" June found that she was interested despite her vow to have nothing to do with anyone associated with the military from now on.

Doug poured more coffee. "I guess I'm an idealist in the purest sense. Being human, I suppose we'll always have wars and fighting. As long as it has to happen, why leave it to the ones who enjoy such things? I think the military ought to be made up of soldiers who hate to fight--but who, if it comes to it, do it well." His gaze wandered away from the present to events existing only in his memory. "It turned out that I was good at my job." He blinked and realized he was talking too much. "Sorry. Sometimes I keep talking after my mind says to stop."

June wondered if she should tell him that her husband had been in the National Guard--and died when called to active duty. No, he probably wouldn't be interested in how she felt about that. In fact, he would probably resent her attitude. Suddenly she felt nervous in his presence. "I'd better be getting back to my gang, We're still looking over the packets we were given. This was all done in such a hurry, there was no time before we left."

"Same here, and I'd better be getting back, too. Some of my guys aren't very well versed in geography. I keep telling them Port Harcourt is in Nigeria, not New England but I'm not sure they believe me. Nice talking to you." He walked back toward his seat, glad that he had apparently been wrong about her unfriendliness. She was easy to talk to.

June chuckled to herself as she followed Doug back down the narrow aisle between the trucks and jeep and their stacked and tied hand luggage. She had the same problem, too. One of her young male nurses had thought their only stop, Hawaii, was in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a brief one, just enough time for a maintenance check and refueling, then they were back in the air. She had checked her map distances and wondered why they were taking this route, but supposed the military had a reason. They always had a reason, even if it didn't make sense. Like that helicopter flight...no! Stop it, she told herself. Like the man said, dead is dead. Keep him in a special place in your memory and move on.

***

The temperature and humidity were stultifying. The atmosphere hit Doug like a wall of heated fog as soon as he stepped off the big cargo plane. Whew! He thought, wearing biosuits in this place will sap our strength quicker than a sauna. "Stay close, guys," he told his squad as he looked around for their transportation.

Amelia was already talking with the head of the welcoming committee--an-all military one, from the looks of things. As he watched she turned in his direction. "Doug!" she called. "Over here!" He hurried toward her.

"This is Major Mustafa. He'll be our liaison with the government."

Doug shook hands with the man. His skin was a rich black color. "Major," he said.

"And this is Captain Presley. He's in charge of the military detachment at the hospital. You'll be reporting to him."

"Captain, glad to meet you." His new commander nodded amiably. Surprisingly, he was Caucasian. Strands of bright red hair peeking from beneath the bill of his cap contrasted with the gray at his temples.

The major pointed. "Your transportation is arriving now. Quarters have been arranged near the hospital, or you may erect tents on the grounds. You will be given every assistance. The situation is rapidly becoming serious. I shall see you again once you've been quartered." He waved a hand as if including everyone in the statement and ran back to his jeep. The driver raced off as soon as he was seated.

In a pinch, they could all have crowded into their jeep or the trucks with their supplies, but using the two buses that the major had pointed to would be far more comfortable. It ferried most of them and their hand baggage to an old two story building only a couple of hundred yards or so from the big hospital, which Doug had learned was the only hospital in Port Harcourt. To be a manufacturing and transportation hub, the city had a surprisingly small population. He rode with Captain Presley in his jeep while Amelia and June rode in their own, driven by Amelia. Bob Handley had been assigned half of Doug's men to help with unloading and to stay with the trucks at the hospital. Bob would see that the arms and supplies didn't wander off, he knew. For the time being he and the other men carried only their light weapons.

One thing Doug noticed on their way was that traffic was light; there were few pedestrians and every intersection sported several soldiers and at least one military vehicle, either a jeep, SUV or armored personnel carrier. Had the situation deteriorated that quickly? He hoped not, but then why was the hospital being guarded--or was it just to keep order from too many patients wanting to get inside?

It was the latter, he learned quickly. "See," Captain Presley said as they neared the area and pedestrians increased in number. "More're becoming ill every day. Th're's only so much room. We're clearing out the building next t' your digs for auxiliary wards but t'ey aren't ready yet." His accent was a strange mixture of Nigerian, Australian and Scot.

There were also guards around their quarters. Doug wondered whether he should ask for more help from back home. No, it wouldn't do any good. Once they were airborne after the stop in Hawaii, Amelia had quietly gathered him, June and Bob and told them that she had received an encrypted call from home. The disease was cropping up in other countries. They would be needing security, too. This fact had already made Doug decide to keep all his men at the hospital during the day and stay with the health workers when they came back to their quarters to sleep. No tents would be erected; he didn't want to take the time or trouble.

***

Over the next week, Doug established a routine. When in a foreign country by invitation, the local authorities, both military and civilian had to be deferred to. His squad was there mainly to repel or ideally to prevent spontaneous attacks on the hospital infection disease specialists while they carried out their duties, much like marine guards at embassies around the world. There was little that could be done to resist masses of people if they were determined to overrun a place. And he personally was responsible for deciding at what point security and safety for the "Civilians" as they were called privately, could no longer be maintained. That frequently threw him into the company of Captain Presley, who attended the morning department head briefings held by Amelia for Bob Handley, June and himself. Privately, he conferred with Captain Presley more often.

Doug had his men on two shifts a day, noon until midnight and from then until noon the next day. It was wearing, but already he didn't like the signs he was seeing: the way black patients looked at him and the others as they were admitted, and particularly the increasingly surly--and fearful--attitude he noticed among the black soldiers guarding the approaches to the hospital and those assigned to the grounds and entrances. He mentioned it to Captain Presley.

Presley's ancestors were from Scotland. He was red headed, short and swarthy, with a tanned, freckled face. He wiped sweat from his brow as he made the rounds with Doug. "Can't say as I blame t' chaps, having t' wear those suits in t' heat. They can't take it more than an hour'r so at a stretch."

Amelia had allowed all their crew except the blacks and three others with dark skins to dispense with the biohazard suits as it became increasingly evident that Caucasians were immune to the disease--which was becoming known popularly as "The needles" after the pain symptoms. Officially, it was classified as Enterovirus harcourtii, named after the city where it was first discovered. The professionals referred to it as simply "The Harcourt Virus".

"Five of my own men are still in the suits, Captain, although I keep rotating them. And I don't think it's just the suits making the soldiers nervous and surly. Rumors are rife that it was started deliberately by white supremacists."

Presley shrugged. "Could be, old man. I dare say th're's them as 'ud do it 'f given a chance. Though given my druthers, I'd of rather seen 'em go after t' ragheads if they were of a mind t' kill off some 'un. Blasted retards, suiciders and all that. Don't give a bloody damn who t'y kill so long's it's Americans or Europeans."

"Funny place for it to start, though, Nigeria," Doug commented after pausing with Presley to speak to Buddy Hawkins and the three Nigerian soldiers guarding the main entrance, and to see whether or not they were having any problems. None so far, though if looks could kill, one of the black soldiers would have laid him out.

"Have to agree there. South Africa would've been a more likely bet. Or maybe your country. Lots of hard feelings both places, don't y'know? Even back home, lots of bad feelings. Bloody damned politicians, t'cause of t'all. How're your boffins doing? Any luck so far?"

Doug had to think a moment before remembering what the term meant. In England, scientists were sometimes referred to as boffins. "You heard Amelia this morning same as I did. We can't establish a vector. Hell, not even any clues yet."

Presley took out a pack of cigarettes and shook one free. He tucked it between his lips and offered the pack to Doug. Without thinking, he took one and accepted a light. As soon as the smoke hit his lungs, he felt the familiar satisfying sensation--and a sudden dizziness at his first breath of nicotine in months. It happened every time. War and smoking seemed to go together in his mind. There had been no shooting yet, but he was beginning to doubt they would get out of Nigeria without fighting.

"Same's back home t'way I hear it over t' radio. Our boffins say it's a virus, but 's peculiar. Seems to be spread by family sometimes, but not always. Blasted strange, eh?"

They paused again at the back entrance to the hospital. There, a gathering crowd was pressing forward toward rolls of barbed wire that had been hastily emplaced around the hospital grounds two days before, a worrisome sign in itself. All of the crowd were black. Many were yelling and shaking their fists, but others appeared barely able to stand and were being supported by what he supposed were family members.

Abruptly, an irregular volley of rifle shots rode above the crowd noise and silenced it for a moment. Doug scanned the scene quickly and saw that it hadn't turned violent yet; the Nigerian soldiers had fired over the heads of the crowd. It was a portent, though. He pulled out his military phone and thumbed it on to let the troops in front know what was happening. He had to wait a moment while a voice amplified by a bull horn warned the crowd to stay in line or to go to the new hospital just opened.

"Heads up, guys," he said, then after giving both the front and back guards time to recognize the incoming message signal, continued. "Those were warning shots, but stay alert. Remember, you're not authorized to use force unless it's the last resort--but don't hesitate if any of our people are threatened."

In the meantime, Presley was busy conveying information to his troops. When he saw that part of the throng had begun to troop off toward the newly rigged hospital, he spoke to Presley. "How much longer, do you think, Captain?"

Presley's normally nonchalant countenance had sobered. He shook his head negatively, knowing exactly what Doug was asking. "If 'twas my lookout, I'd be telling my chaps to start packing, old man. I rather doubt whites'll be popular 'round here in another day or two--not that we're very popular right now, eh?" His grin returned momentarily, then vanished again as his phone rang.

While he was talking, Doug was thinking. It would be nice if the scientists could stay long enough to discover the vector for the "prickles", another designation for the disease here, but their safety was his primary concern. Local news was already being censored, but Amelia had told him yesterday that the newly commissioned U.S.S. Andrew Jackson, one of their finest aircraft carriers, had arrived offshore with attendant ships, including part of a Marine Expeditionary force. Americans who wanted to leave would be evacuated. When that news got out here, as it inevitably would, the type of mild uproar he had just witnessed would be the least of their worries. Abruptly, he made his decision.

"Captain Presley, I'm going inside to tell our folks to get ready to leave. After that, I'm bringing all my troops and the medical people back here. I'm thinking we'd better call for a lift and get to the airport as soon as possible."

"I rather agree, old boy. Any chance of going with you?"

"You'll desert?"

"Call it what you like, old man, but I've kept my ear rather close t' the ground. It's sticky now, but within a fortnight, I'm willing t' bet white skins'll be hunted through t' streets like bloody foxes. I'd rather like to avoid that 'f I can."

"I can get you aboard a flight, Captain, but I can't guarantee what the customs and immigration folks back home will have to say about it."

"Better a lockdown than a coffin, eh?"

Doug couldn't argue with that. He waved one of his guards over, then sent him hurrying to drive one of the big trucks back to the quarters and bring everyone to the hospital.

 

 

The Melanin Apocalypse Copyright 2005. Darrell Bain. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

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Author Bio

Darrell Bain is the author of more than three dozen books, in many genres, running the gamut from humor to mystery and science fiction to humorous non-fiction. For the last several years he has concentrated on humor and science fiction, both short fiction, and suspense thrillers.

Darrell served thirteen years in the military as a medic and his two years in Vietnam formed the basis for his first published novel, Medics Wild. Darrell has been writing off and on all his life but really got serious about it only after the advent of computers. He purchased his first one in 1989 and has been writing furiously ever since.

While Darrell was working as a lab manager at a hospital in Texas, he met his wife Betty. He trapped her under a mistletoe sprig and they were married a year later. Darrell and Betty owned and operated a Christmas tree farm in East Texas for many years. It became the subject and backdrop for some of his humorous stories and books.

TTB titles:
Alien Infection
Doggie Biscuit!
Hotline to Heaven
Laughing All the Way
Life on Santa Claus Lane
Savage Survival
Shadow Worlds with Barbara M. Hodges
Strange Valley
The Focus Factor with Gerald Mills
The Melanin Apocalypse
Warp Point

Series
Human By Choice with Travis 'Doc' Taylor. Book 1 Cresperian series.
The Y Factor with Stephanie Osborn. Book 2 Cresperian series
The Cresperian Alliance with Stephanie Osborn. Book 3 Cresperian series.

Medics Wild - Prequel to the Williard Bros. Series
Post War Dinosaur Blues - Book 1 of the Williard Bros. Series
Bigfoot Crazy - Book 2 of the Williard Bros. Series

Author web site.

 

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  Reviews

"Darrell Bain has given us another winner. The science fiction community is lucky to have him. I say read this book."

Travis S. "Doc" Taylor, author of The Tau Ceti Agenda.
 



They never thought it would happen, but it has. A man-made genetically altered virus has started spreading from Africa, a virus that attacks the melanin cells, killing only those with dark skin, mostly black people but those of Hispanic descent too.

Soon the African nations are descending into chaos, with those blacks still remaining attacking whites. The virus spreads throughout the world, economies are collapsing all over, the US instigates Martial Law and Doug Craddock is an ex-soldier pulled in on protection detail at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, where scientists are working hard for a cure.

And then another virus turns up, this time killing those people of Middle Eastern descent.

When the CDC is beseiged by the militant Church of Blacks, it is up to Doug to try and negotiate terms, even knowing that because he is white, he is now a suitable target....

This is one roller coaster ride that just didn't stop to enable you to get your breath back. Things happen fast and furious, going from one scene to another and you have no choice but to read on to see what is going to happen next. I read it one morning, I just had to see where it was going to lead.

At first I wasn't sure whether I was going to like this book, from the description, it sounded like it was going to be a bit too violent for my tastes, and yes there is violence in it, but not in a gratitious way. The author doesn't hover too much on a scene's blood and gore, but more about the effects the violence has on the people caught in the middle of it.

The characters are realistic and the love interest in the story added to the action, rather than detracted from it. The romance and thrilling aspects of the book were blended seamlessly and I think it would have been weaker if it hadn't been there.

The book isn't horror, but it is frightening in the respect that the scenarios the author describes could very well happen in the near future. A book that certainly makes you think.

Excellent read.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby, author of Shadows of the Rose and Drowning Rapunzel.
 



A tale that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand, a tale that will keep you in a state of nervous have-to-know-what-happens-next. This is a story that strikes close to home in how we treat each other and perceive ourselves.

Using humanity's tainted past and self-soiling present, talented Darrell Bain has composed a theoretical future for mankind that sounds warning against letting hate have a say. It is also a message of hope.

Someone has loosed a viral agent that kills only people with darker skins. The very foundation of civilization is threatened as Doug Craddock and people from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, work to find a cure or prevention. At the same time, race hatred in the hearts of dark-skinned people the world over is rising to kill. Riots, lynchings, mob attacks, -- fed by rhetoric from self-proclaimed relidious leaders lead the way.

I'd rate this as a satirical commentary on a par with Jonathan Swift's work, by a very able writer who sees clearly what fate can await mankind if hate is allowed to breed hate. A flag being raised to warn of danger ahead.

Highly recommended for any reader. This is a tale to enjoy, one to remember and one that will make you think as it forces us to face our biases. Well worth the time, a must read for any serious thinker.

Reviewed by Anne K. Edwards, author of Death on Delivery.
 



 

 

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