Valley Of Shadows – Snippet 18


Tom Smith strode into the CEO’s office, barely preceded by the startled admin’s announcement.

Bateman looked up from his desk and then did a double take. The bright morning sunlight streaming through the windows didn’t do Smith’s features any favors. He was clearly fatigued. Something else played across Smith’s face, as well.

“Well, you are already here, or I’d invite you in Tom. Why don’t you take a seat?” The CEO’s tone was wry.

Smith nodded, and sat. He leaned forward in his seat and placed a small glass vial on the large desk.

“Is that what I think it is?” Bateman asked.

“The pure quill,” Tom said, exhaling. “Ten doses of primer. The vaccine is administered in a two-part series. First, the primer, which dramatically increases resistance to the neurological pathogen. That’s followed by the booster, two weeks later. This is a quarter of our first production run. We acquired the raw materials yesterday afternoon.”

Bateman picked up the vial, turning it over in his hands. “Does it work?”

“I’ll know soon enough,” Smith said. “I had the primer already during a delightful session with our now resident mad scientist. I’ve also authorized the first course for the other two members of my asset acquisition team and for our physical security details that are maintaining perimeter security. But we’re going to need more. A lot more, I should think.”

Bateman carefully set the vial down, making a slight tapping sound.

“Is it safe?”

“Again, I’ll know soon enough,” Tom said with a shrug. “Curry’s already inoculated me. There are various possible sideeffects. Autoimmune reactions, immunological reactions including allergic reactions…all unknown. The live attenuated vaccine made by the big pharmaceutical companies under ideal and controlled conditions has an incidental infection rate well under one percent. You can’t, well, shouldn’t give it to kids though.”

“Why not?” The CEO looked up. “Dependent children are on the evac plan.”

“Attenuated virus vaccines aren’t approved for kids; different vaccines have different age limits,” Tom explained. “HPV vaccine is limited to nine-year-olds and up, for example. WHO and CDC recommend that kids under ten get inactivated virus vaccines until their immune systems are challenged enough to have a robust, adult style response. Curry also has the idea that since H7D3 attacks brain tissue, the fact that younger children and even young adults are still increasing the density of the myelin coat on their neurons is a risk factor. If or when the CDC gets inactivated virus vaccine to use we can protect the youngest evacuees. But as for adults, it’s safe. Mostly. It isn’t like we are spoiled for choice, Rich.”

Tom’s level look communicated fatalism, determination, but there was still something else.

“Who are you working with to get this?” It was plain that Bateman was thinking though the actual process.

“I’ve some trusted teammates,” Tom stated flatly. “Besides Curry, only two others who perform the actual collection are all the way in the know. They get vaccine and two seats out, plus hazardous duty pay. I hope that you’re comfortable with this arrangement because we’re behind the curve, and we’re going to need more help, soon.”

Smith wouldn’t ordinarily present his CEO with that many details in something like this, but Bateman didn’t seem offended. Just…tired. Tom felt the same way. He knew exactly what he was doing and did not care for it one bit. Needs must when the devil drives.

“I know that we didn’t move on Plan Zeus right away,” Bateman said. “However, in order to assure the number of staff that we must have to evacuate to even a single refuge, the early estimates on evacuees quintupled. I won’t be surprised if they go up again, which means more vaccine.”

“I know, Rich,” Smith said. He rolled his shoulder and grimaced. “I ran the numbers myself. How do you trust a pilot with an expensive and scarce helicopter if he’s worrying about his family? Even harder, how do you trust any critical staff person who has no familial anchor and effectively has nothing to lose? What keeps him from taking a better offer? We need support staff with something to live for–which means locating that ‘perfect pilot’ with a small family. We’ll host the dependents in the refuge and make the pilot’s best option the one where they keep flying in order to guarantee their share of vaccine. And…we very subtly keep the family under our thumb by ‘ensuring their protection.'”

He looked out the window.

“A little polite extortion isn’t new to this job,” Tom said. “But just because it works, doesn’t mean I have to like it any more than I have to like stripping spines out of infected people. But, we all took the money.”

Bateman tried to reassure Smith.

“Tom, I know tha–”

“No,” Smith said, cutting him off. “You don’t know, Boss. You can’t know. You’ve never even taken a life much less cut the head off of some poor woman just to strip out her spine. It’s horrific. And it’s necessary. Our only chance to survive is to dramatically accelerate collection and endure the horror now. It’s the only way we can avoid an even worse outcome. I’ll do it, and I’ll push the security staff to do it–and it will get done. Which brings me to why I am here.”

“Anything you need, we’ll get for you Tom–you know that.”

“Glad to hear it, sir,” Tom said, turning back to his boss with a slight, humorless grin. “The first thing is that Curry is going to need an assistant. For obvious reasons, it needs to be someone that we trust, can control, needs the vaccine and ultimately will agree with what we are doing.”

“I leave it to you, just make damned sure it’s someone we can trust,” Bateman replied.

Smith grinned for what felt like the first time in days. It felt good.

“Oh, I think I can promise that much,” Tom said. “We are also going to need more and heavier armament. I have a way to procure it, deniably. However, I’ll be breaking several state and fed–”

“Didn’t hear that one,” Bateman said, interrupting and waving his hands. “Keep it on a cash basis.”

Smith nodded again, this time with the ghost of a smile. New York had notoriously over the top antigun laws, at least for those below the millionaire class.

“The next thing is harder,” Tom said. He inclined his head at the shining vial that Bateman had set back on his desk. “That’s the most valuable substance in the city, maybe the entire country. We’re going to have to look ahead on how we organize and regulate the collection, processing and distribution or we are going to have anarchy. Every organization that hasn’t figured it out yet will do so in short order and start competing for, well, let’s call them, viral assets. Anarchy equals less time to make the vaccine, and maybe a cure. We are going to need help and regulation.”

“Who would have thought it–a banker calling for oversight and cooperation?” The CEO looked thoughtful. “Who do you have in mind to bring in?”

“We start with a few other banks,” Smith said. He smiled again, but this time it didn’t warm him. Quite. “Then we’re going to get unconventional.”

* * *

Tradittore looked composed. The unfiltered Camel that he smoked irritated Paul Rune.

“Joey, do you really have to blow that in my face?”

Tradittore, unruffled, turned his head and exhaled in the opposite direction, sending the smoke across Washington Square Park. An organic fruit vendor jerked his head up, annoyed.

“Sorry man. But it’s your dime. What do you need?”

Rune passed over a paper list, which Tradittore began to read.

“You guys certainly love your acronyms,” the Sicilian said, tapping his ash. “Okay, most of this I recognize and we can get pretty quickly. Rifles, shotguns and pistols are easy. Ammunition, same thing. The explosives and the suppressors are quite a bit harder, as you know. That kind of merchandise attracts an entirely different level of heat.”

He kept reading.

“Pneumatic auto-injector, reuseable?” he said, looking up. “What do you want that f– never mind. Don’t want to know. Let’s see. You also want eight sets of something called an A/N GP-NVG-18? That’s a new one.”