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Pandora


JamesSavik

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Pandora

After clearing security and going down two different elevators, I guessed that I was at least 500 meters underground. The corridor had heavy steel blast doors with key card locks and bio-hazard signs every 50 meters. The deeper into the facility that we went, the higher the biohazard protection level of the labs that lined the corridors.

I asked the guard what the USAMARID needed from the Dept. of Homeland Security and he told me that answer was well above his pay grade.

We finally entered a lab marked BL-5 and I followed the guard inside. We had to strip and leave our clothes in a locker. We passed through a chemical shower and another steel door to a locker room where we put on surgical scrubs. We passed through a final airlock where a computer sat in front of the final door.

The guard told me to go log into the computer in the corner of the room. He then excused himself saying that this was as far as he goes. The computer asked me to input my name, rank and agency:

McGrath, Scott Special Agent Department of Homeland Security.

The computer then asked for me to to state my name, surname first. "McGrath, Scott."

The computer screen turned green and displayed: Voice Print ID verified. Agent McGrath clear for access to Pandora.

The big steel door popped open and I entered the lab.

A group of eleven men were waiting: two scientists and nine other agency representatives. As soon as I entered, the senior scientist said, "Good. Now that Homeland Security has arrived, we can begin."

"Gentlemen. Everything that you see here is above top-secret. The code word is Pandora and its very appropriate."

"Several years ago CIA and NSA received intel that there was a BL4 bio lab somewhere in the tribal areas of Pakistan just across the border from Afghanistan. They also found that over several years that appropriate equipment for such a lab from Germany, France and Russia had been diverted from legitimate projects and had ended up somewhere in Pakistan."

"We've been looking for that lab ever since. We finally found it two weeks ago. As soon as we located the lab, a joint team of SEALs and Delta Force operators were sent in on a covert raid to bag and tag it. What we found was horrifying. Please follow me."

As I looked around I saw a few familiar faces: Colonel Will James was a troubleshooter for the Joint Chiefs. SAC Gwen Heller was FBI's Senior Agent in Charge of the counter-terrorism desk. The imminent epidemiologist Dr. Tom Ross with CDC was looking very troubled. Most of the others I had never seen before but their very bearing screamed military or spook.

We entered a room with black boards and display monitors. The scientist continued the briefing: "We found that the lab was working on a number of weaponized pathogens. All of the familiar horrors like Anthrax, Marsburg and Smallpox and one that we've never seen before. It is a chimera virus that we have code named Pandora. It's why we're here and it may be the scariest damn thing I've ever seen in a bioweapon."

"Pandora began as a flavivirus called VEE or Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus. Through years of manipulation and gene splicing, it has become this."

The big monitor in the room came to life and showed an electron microscope image of a spherical virus.

The scientist said, "This little horror is a blood borne pathogen that attacks the brain. It causes fever and chills and then the victim falls into a coma. While the victim is in a coma the virus continues to attack the brain and eventually destroys the cerebellum while leaving the lower brain function essentially in tact. At this point about a third of the victims die. The rest wake up from the coma and attack the very first person that they see. They continue attacking everyone in site until they are killed."

"When we raided the lab, three of our guys got bitten and succumbed to the infection. This is what they look like now."

The scientist pressed a button that caused a panel to retract. Behind thick glass were three people that had once been elite special forces operators that had been transformed by the virus. As soon as the panel retracted and they saw us, they attacked the glass with such violence that the glass was smeared with their black blood. It was clear that anyone that those things got their hands on would be in very serious trouble.

The scientist caused the glass to retract and continued: "Bites spread the virus. That's how our three operators got infected. The infection runs its course from 24 to 36 hours. They are vulnerable to tasers and gun fire. They retreat from fire but attack pretty much everything else: people or animals. The virus leave the brain in a continuous state of rage that causes their hostility and the only thing that will stop them are kill shots. You can shoot them to pieces but unless you get their head or their heart they just keep coming."

"We brought you here to see it with your own eyes. This is no bullshit. Pandora is real and we know that the terrorist have it. It's only a matter of time before they use it. When they do, we had better be ready because the epidemiology of this thing is terrifying. Once this virus is established and starts spreading by secondary vectors like mosquitoes, there simply aren't enough bullets to stop it."

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