Valley Of Shadows – Snippet 10

Saturday found her, like many in New York, working from the office. Her assistant buzzed in that she had a call from NYPD and Joanna picked up.

“Ms. Kohn, this is Captain Dominguez at One.” Dominguez’s tone was respectful. “Sorry to disturb you on a Saturday.”

Kohn tapped her fingers on her desk in a staccato rhythm. The silly self-reference to what was clearly the First Police Precinct of the NYPD was a typical affectation of the sort that cops, soldiers and other members of the patriarchy used to show their status. Yet, Dominguez was one of her more useful contacts in the police department. Best to see what he had to offer.

“Hello, Captain, it is always nice to hear from you, even on a Saturday,” she said, tapping her fingers on the desktop expectantly. “What can the OEM do for you?”

* * *

Intelligence was just one important part of his organization. Smith called a department head meeting spanning all the components of his Security and Emergency Response team.

One by one he received the updates from his lead sled dogs. Anti-Fraud was quiet. Per Bateman’s early direction, the Disaster Recovery plan for all trading operations had been flexed and critical connectivity double-checked. Crisis Management had updated all the nontrading communications information and run a test that measured the response time of every member of the bank to a simulated emergency message. Special Projects was tracking the costs of properties and assets comparable to the ones that comprised Plan Zeus. As expected, there was a significant uptick. The meeting moved along briskly until the last team reported in.

The Physical Security and Executive Protection director had a lengthy report to deliver. Phil Skorpio was another former military officer who had turned his hand to commercial security. After a few years as a military policeman, he transitioned to civilian law enforcement with the NYPD, and then into financial services. His groups were split between visitor management and building-perimeter security, as well as controlling access to sensitive internal rooms like the high-value asset vault.

Skyscraper office buildings are big. Even a medium sized building of fifty or fewer floors might still hold twenty thousand people. A really big office building, like the One World Trade building still under construction, might hold three or four times that number. In normal operation the bank’s security had to screen and pass those thousands through a perimeter security system at the rate of under one per second per entry and yet filter out one hundred percent of potential nonemployees. This was normally a simple matter of scanning bank issued credentials and maintaining a guard presence at the entry halls. Following the discovery of flu virus, that was clearly insufficient.

“Tom, it’s pretty straightforward,” Skorpio said. “Even if we keep half the staff at home, we’ve got to be up and running at the start of the market. That means screening twelve thousand people an hour, two hundred a minute and maintaining a zero error rate. My team is good, but they’re not doctors. Apart from obvious zombie symptoms, what do we look for?”

“Doctor, what does it take to develop a test or some sort?” Tom turned to Curry. “What does your conference hive mind have to say?”

Curry had been on the conference call nearly continuously since the emergency began. The bright conference room lights weren’t doing Curry’s now sallow complexion any favors.

“We’ve already established an initial RNA fingerprint for the virus, but it isn’t stable,” Curry replied thickly. “There is a fair bit of disagreement on why we can’t perform what should be a established procedure. However, eventually we’ll have it, and we can use a polymerase chain reaction to detect the viral DNA. Under ideal circumstances, that test can require hours, not minutes or seconds. Likewise, culturing a sample of possible virus would confirm its presence, but that method requires days. The best we can hope for is rapid antigen detection, but it will detect all of the members of the H7 family, not just our prime suspect. Since that would detect many ordinary flus, you are just as well off if you simply look for cold symptoms.”

“What about a thermal testing system?” one of the junior aides asked. “They used that for SARS.”

“This ain’t SARS, kid,” Curry said grumpily. “SARS was thermal specific from first period of infectivity. A-series influenza is asymptomatic infective for nearly a week, as I already told you…”

“Got it, Doc,” Smith said, sending a quelling look down the table. “But thermal will pick up those who are potentially infectious. That have gone beyond the asymptomatic period, right?”

“Yeah,” Curry said. “It will. Also it will tell you who in your building has been exposed to something that gives you a fever. Which amounts to just about every condition on earth including bacterial infections, nonepidemiological viral infections, autoimmune conditions, strep throat, the common cold and cancer. But go set up your thermal cameras if it makes you feel better.”

“When can we hope for an antigen-specific test, then?” Smith said delicately.

“I don’t know,” the virologist admitted tiredly. “We could just start testing for simple flu, but even though we can use a nasal swab for each specimen, each test requires a few moments. You aren’t going to get it to under a minute per person.”

The head of security for the bank glanced at his head of intel, sitting behind the virologist. Rune met his eyes but didn’t add anything. Tom looked back to Curry.

“Doctor, a lot of people have colds. Give me some options.”

“There isn’t anything yet,” the doctor responded. “I can start working on an antigen test right away, if you have the equipment. Might need help, though.”

“Everything stays in house.” Tom insisted. “Give Paul a list of what you need. We need a test as soon as possible.” Smith turned his attention back to Skorpio.

“Phil, in the meantime, anyone with obvious cold symptoms doesn’t come inside.” Tom went on firmly. “Anyone who recovers from flu symptoms stays at home for two weeks. If you need more people, tell me. We can temporarily move people from other teams.”

Smith held of a hand to forestall a caw of protest from his chief of Anti-Fraud.

“Keep going, Phil.”

“What about weapons, Tom?” Skorpio wasn’t done. “I saw the videos and I don’t want to tell my team that they have to arm wrestle with insensate cannibals who also have a high pain tolerance.”

The entire team had been watching videos drawn from security cam footage and bystanders at several dozen attacks. There was a real lack of enthusiasm to handle zombies hand-to-hand.

“Tasers, impact weapons, then pistols,” Smith said firmly. “Prep doubled up flex cuffs and some kind of antibiting masks and have them at the entry halls. In fact, you get to draft a proposed Rules of Engagement and a protocol for how we are going to deal with zombies. Bring me a draft by close of business. I’m staying late.”

Tom noted the skeptical look on Skorpio’s face but couldn’t muster any managerial outrage at the minor show of recalcitrance.

“Anything else? Right. Lets get to work.”

* * *

Smith’s next call was to his brother. Reaching his sister-in-law Stacey, he confirmed that they were executing a complete bug-out from Richmond to the Virginia coast and were attempting to purchase a motor-sailer. Remaining at sea would decrease the level of social interaction which could potentially expose the family to the as yet dimly understood but absurdly virulent disease.

Tom Smith had established a convenient and perfectly legal shell corporation. Based in the Caymans, the corporation was the parent of several smaller firms, including one that invested and managed real estate, another that brokered farm equipment and fertilizer and a third that ran a curio and relic firearms business. Provided that the firearms in question met certain age limits, they weren’t even legally classified as arms and could be imported and sold with more no more documentation than furniture.

The partnership also had set up “throw-away” or single use storefronts for future use. One such was the Aurelius Corporation. Smith planned to use it now to facilitate the acquisition of the boat. In the long run, say six months, it might prove sticky considering that they weren’t really in a cash position to buy a boat outright.

Still it got his brother’s family in the clear. What was it that his old sailing master Tris used to say, back when they were banging charter boats around the Solomons?

“Once the boat clears the dock, all debts are paid.”