1st Place – November 2018

Vaccine

By

JJ Rushmore

 

“Madam President, we have a crisis.”
“What is it now, General?” The youngest president ever elected ignored me as she continued reading the file on her desk. “And where’s Consuela?”
“This news is for your ears only, Ma’am.”
She peered at me over her tortoise-shell glasses. “Why? You know I want my Chief of Staff present for all national security discussions.”
“It’s those blue bastards again. I told you not to trust them—Ma’am.”
President Madeline Foreman thrust out her chin. “That’s enough, General. I don’t care how many stars you have. I abhor that kind of talk. It’s racist. Now get to the point.” She waved me to a chair.
“You don’t pay me to be politically correct,” I said. The temptation to sit was strong, but I needed the psychological advantage of standing. “I know you campaigned on cooperating with them, and on curing cancer. That’s how you got elected. But they conned us.”
She pulled off her glasses and threw them on the desk. “What are you talking about? They eradicated cancer. They cured every case we identified. They inoculated every eight-year-old for six years running. There hasn’t been one reported diagnosis from those groups—not one! That’s worldwide.” The activist-turned-politician parroted one of her stump speeches.
“That’s the good news,” I said, “but we never fully understood the vaccine.”
“A complex mixture of antibodies—that’s what they told us. The different forms of cancer required a mixture.”
“They lied. They duped us with a bait-and-switch. They hoodwinked everyone—us, the Russians, the Chinese. The inoculation cocktail prevented cancer all right, but it contained something else. Something insidious.”
The President sighed. “I’m tired of your unfounded accusations, General. Do you have any proof, or is this like the last time?”
“Dr. Hodge is flying in from the Office of Infectious Disease. He has the data.”
“I know who he is. I’m a nurse, for Christ sake. What was so terrible in the vaccine?”
“A virus. A virus with a six-year incubation period.”
President Foreman held her palm up in a skeptical gesture.
“But we tested it—”
“—and they switched it,” I said.
“Are you sure about this? What are the symptoms?”
“A drop in the birthrate.”
She scoffed. “They warned us about that. They said it only affected adults. Most were too old to have children anyway. The Roswells said reduced fertility was a side effect of the cure.”
I cringed at the name. “Another lie. It’s not only the adults. The teen-age birthrate has dropped. It’s zero for fourteen-year-olds—meaning for any of the eight-year-olds they vaccinated six years ago. And the reduction is not a result of sex education, birth control, or abstinence. These kids are as sexually active as ever.”
She blinked. “You mean…”
“Complete sterility. Apparently everyone they treated either is or will be sterile.”
The President stood, and walked to the windows facing the Rose Garden. The Seymour grandfather clock filled the ensuing silence. The pungent scent of gardenias pervaded the Oval Office
“How many?” she whispered after a long minute, staring out the glass. “How many are affected?”
“Fifteen million adults. Twenty-five million children.”
“We must stop them,” she said in a strong voice. “Stop the vaccination program. We’ll thank the Roswells for their help, and tell them we’ve changed our minds.”
“I hate when you call them that. It makes them sound like next door neighbors, ‘the Roswells.’ That’s only a euphemism you invented for your election campaign. They’re space aliens, for God’s sake!” In ordinary circumstances I would never speak to her in that tone, even in private. She didn’t notice.
“It gets worse.”
She turned and faced me. “What could be worse?”
“When the teenagers go through puberty, the virus mutates.”
“Mutates how? Into what?”
“Into a contagious form of itself. An extremely contagious form.”
President Foreman wilted into her chair. Her eyes drifted about the room. She took a deep breath, staring into space. “How does it spread?”
“Dr. Hodge thinks it’s airborne, possibly a dust vector.” I sat down to give her time. It didn’t take long.
“Omigod!” she said. “I went to that middle school in June…”
I cleared my throat. “I’m sorry, Ma’am. I had the doctors at Walter Reed analyze the blood from your last check-up. You have the virus.”
“Am I—contagious?”
I nodded. “And you’ll be st… You’ll be incapable of having children in a month.”
“So I’m a Typhoid Mary?” Her eyes darted at me. “And you?”
I grimaced. “My eldest girl is fourteen, so…yes.”
“I’m so sorry, Tom.” She looked at her hands. “This is all my fault.”
She never called me Tom. “No Ma’am, it’s not. They would have succeeded without you. Remember they landed ships in every United Nations country. They deceived everyone.”
Her face turned ashen. “You aren’t suggesting this was intentional? That the Roswells—the aliens—did this on purpose? ”
“Of course it was intentional! The vaccine was a Trojan horse, a subterfuge to deliver the virus. As soon as we confronted them they left. Every last one of them.” I glanced at my watch. “An hour ago.”
President Foreman’s eyes widened. “They’re gone?” She shook her head. “But why? Why would they cure our most dreaded disease and then give us a virus?”
“These beings are ruthless, but apparently not violent. They think of us as vermin infesting the planet. The virus is their extermination method.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The alien life span is four hundred years. They’ve existed for a hundred millennia. They can afford to be patient. Six months from now we’ll all be infected, and in nine we’ll be sterile. In a hundred years all humans will have died from old age. They’ll return and colonize Earth once we’re gone, maybe sooner. We’ve damaged the planet, but they don’t seem to mind. They need more planets.”
“What do you mean, ‘maybe sooner?’”
“They may not wait a hundred years. We don’t know. Who knows what they’ll do if they return before then? Confine us in reservations like we did the Indians? Enslave us like we did the Africans? Eat us like livestock?”
The President’s face sagged. She appeared older than her forty-two years. Gradually she straightened her back and clenched her jaw.
“Those…” President Madeline Foreman pounded the desk with her fist. The blow produced a loud thump, but left no visible mark on the English oak.
“What I’ve been saying all along.”
The President composed herself. “Can’t we stop the virus? Find a cure?”
“Hodge thinks not. They’ve never seen anything like it, and it spreads like wildfire. Once the infection exceeded five percent of the population, we have an uncontrollable pandemic. He estimates we’re at twenty percent and rising.”
“So that’s it. We’re doomed.”
“Maybe not. We have a plan.”
“Who’s we? What plan?”
“In the fifties, Eisenhower created a ‘working group’ to study the UFO crash in Roswell. The group included military and civilian scientists and intelligence officials. They knew this day would arrive, and planned a response.”
“And their plan?”
“Is full of hard choices. Martial law—when this gets out there will be riots. A diaspora to colonize other planets. Selection of uninfected individuals to propagate the human race, which will cause more riots. A quarantine to protect those selected. Construction of starships to transport the colonists. A last-ditch defense strategy to combat the inevitable alien invasion. Ultimately we’ll lose the war, and we’ll lose Earth, but the human race should survive.”
The President stared at me. “Can we do this? Can we survive?”
“Maybe, but we need a charismatic leader. Someone like yourself.”
* * *
I charged into the Oval Office. “Mr. President. They’re here. Over a hundred ships.”
President Diego Hernandez raised his eyebrows and dropped his pen. “So soon? It’s only been twelve years.”
“Yes, sir. Apparently they’re not as patient as we had hoped.”
“Are we ready for them, General?”
“Ready as we’ll ever be, Mr. President. They’re in low earth orbit a thousand miles up. Our killer satellites are at twenty-two thousand miles. We’ve got them surrounded. We’ll nuke them from above and below.”
“What are our chances?”
“Realistically? Slim to none. We’ll try and disable their ships with radar from our communication satellites—that seems to confuse them. We think that’s why they crashed in Roswell in forty-seven. Even so, their technology is far superior. But we’ll go down fighting. We’ll make them pay.”
“And the ships? The diaspora?”
“An Israeli ship lifted off the dark side of the moon this morning. That makes thirteen in all. The other three under construction won’t make it. Still, we’ve got a baker’s dozen representing nine countries headed to nearby stars. Chances are good at least one group will survive.”
“Supreme Admiral Foreman did an outstanding job.”
“Yes sir, she did. Too bad she didn’t live to see it all work. It’s a tragedy her cancer appeared after the aliens left.”
“Very well, General. Let’s get those blue bastards.”

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