Army Sergeant Bill Thomas works with hazardous materials at the Fort Detrick Army lab in Frederick, Maryland. One Saturday in 2014, he goes to work, expecting the day to be like any other. He's supposed to move vials of lab-manufactured Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever-a highly contagious and deadly disease. Little does he know he has been chosen to become patient zero for an engineered outbreak; he will soon bring about the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
At the same time, Joe Randal and his wife, Sarah, are preparing for a trip with their kids to their North Carolina lake house when rumors of a food poisoning epidemic spread. To the Randals, this is nothing to be concerned about-likely just a case of some bad meat. They decide to drive separately to their lake house, not realizing that the decision will become a life-or-death struggle to reunite as America falls apart around them.
As the illness spreads, the United States collapses in a well-planned coup that eliminates the entire government system. Joe and Sarah must depend on their intellects and survival skills to reunite them and protect their family. Rebel forces begin to form all across the country, and the Randals become a key part in the fight to regain control. Two questions remain for them: how fast will the deadly disease spread, and how will Joe and Sarah find each other in the chaos?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)|
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By Michael Chagnon
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Michael Chagnon
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWest Friendship Maryland, Monday morning 6 am, September 10, 2014.
The Randal household was typical of any other normal middle class American home. Four bedrooms, finished basement, two car garage in a cul-de-sac. Joseph and Sarah Randal purchased the house new in 1989. It was their second home they had lived in since they were married in 1982. They have three childrentwin girls and a boy.
In 1974 the two had met at summer camp in West Virginia when they were both fourteen years old. Seeing each other at camp every year was the only reason either of them liked to go. Best buddies from the start; once Joe got his driver's license they started dating. Sarah lived about forty miles north of him in Maryland, so they could only see each other on the weekends most of the time. Both born in 1960, and growing up with mostly the same experiences, they got along great.
Joe worked as a High Tension Lineman for the local power company, and Sarah is a registered nurse working in the shock trauma unit at a hospital in Baltimore. Working long hours was normal for both of them. They have gotten used to not being together in the evenings, so Sarah made it a point to have everyone gather for breakfast as often as they could. Today she was making everyone a nice meal before they all went to work.
"You know, babe," Joe said to Sarah, "I still love your French toast after all these years." Walking over to her standing at the stove, he playfully rubbed up against her.
"Stop that you dirty old man, the kids will be down soon!" Sarah laughed, swatting him with a spatula.
"So what?" Joe shrugged. "They're not kids anymore and are hardly even home much!"
Sarah knew this, but she still thought of them as children in her mind. Kids growing up meant they were getting old, and getting old was something Sarah didn't like thinking about. "Well," she said, "we wouldn't want them to see their father groping their mother at breakfast, or any other time, would you?"
Joe looked at her and laughed.
"Come on babe, I don't care, that's how they got here in the first place!"
She gave him a wink, "Sit down and eat your breakfast," Sarah sais playfully. "How was class last night?" She was trying to change the subject.
"Pretty good, Mark is really taking his black belt exam seriously. He's getting good enough to take me on soon." He said as he dug into his breakfast.
Their twenty one year old son Mark was taking karate lessons at the studio where Joe instructed classes at least two days a week. Joe had been practicing Tai Kwon Do for thirteen years and had risen to the level of third degree black belt.
"I give him another seven weeks, his mind is ready, but I think some fine tuning on his Kata's is needed. You know how hard the first black belt exam can be. He has great potential and my goodness his reflexes are exceptionally fast," he said proudly.
Pausing to take a few more bites, Joe changed the subject.
"You know Mark and I finished working on my truck Saturday; new brakes, tires, tune up, and an oil change." He said finishing his plate.
"That's great," Sarah told him. "All you have to do is load it up and the girls and I will leave for the lake tomorrow afternoon, if they can get off work early."
She was referring to the vacation home Joe and Sarah had built several years back, intending it to be their retirement home someday. It was located on a lake in North Carolina about four and a half hours from their home in Maryland.
"We will have it packed tonight." he said as he got up to take his empty plate to the sink.
"There are six, five-gallon gas containers with high octane gas to bring down to the lake for the Chaparral. I'll load two in Mark's truck and I'll load my truck with the others, you ok with that honey?"
"No problem Joe." She said continuing to make more toast.
She had driven with gasoline in the back of the truck before and didn't mind, knowing Joe would make sure the containers would be secured safely.
Just then Mark walked in the kitchen, dressed for work and sniffing the air.
"Oh mom, that smells good, can I have a big plate full please?"
"Sure thing, and good morning," she said, looking at him.
"Oh yea, sorry Mom, morning," he said, and gave his mom a peck on the check.
"Good morning son, "Joe said. continuing "Mark and I will come on down on Tuesday evening after work, if we get off on time," Joe said.
"The weather looks good right through the week Pops, so you think we can get the Chaparral out?" Mark asked, referring to the used boat they bought last fall.
"Sure, all we have to do is give her the once over and change the oil. Maybe Cliff can follow us out in his Pontoon boat while we shake her down."
Cliff Brown and his wife Mary have a house right behind Joe and Sarah's at the lake. They had retired there several years back and were good friends of Joe and Sarah's.
"Sounds good to me, are we taking my truck to work today or yours, Pop?" Mark asked, shoveling breakfast into his mouth finishing his meal quickly.
"Yours, if you don't mind," Joe answered pouring himself a cup of coffee.
Mark, an apprentice lineman, worked with Joe at the same power company.
"No problem, I'll go warm her up, and thanks mom!" Mark said as he swallowed his last bite and bolted for the door.
Sarah was finishing up packing her boys lunch and making Joe a thermos full of coffee. He got up and walked over to her.
"Thanks for the French toast, they were great as usual.," he said as he gave her a pat on the bottom and a kiss on the cheek. "Love you, babe see you later on tonight." He grabbed his thermos and walked out the back door.
She looked at him and winked. "Keep my baby boy safe out there, you hear?"
He waved back and said, "Of course I will. You know me, safety first!" He winked back as the door closed behind him.
Joe and Mark were both six foot two inches tall, Joe weighing in at around 190 lbs and Mark at 180 lbs, not an ounce of fat on either one. If it weren't for the exception of Joe's graying hair, they could pass for brothers.
Sarah watched the boys back the truck down the driveway and roll down the street slowly going out of sight and then heard the girls coming down the steps. Amber and Melissa are their fraternal twin daughters, twenty-three years old. Amber was in her fifth year at state college majoring in criminal psychology. Melissa followed her mother's footsteps as an emergency room nurse at a local community hospital not too far from their home. The twins had red hair and were three inches taller than their mother. Despite the height difference, the three of them looked just like sisters, all with the same build, slim and athletic.
"Morning," Sarah said, "Either of you want some French toast?"
The girls looked at each other and then looked at Sarah.
"Are you kidding?!" They said in unison.
Amber and Melissa grabbed plates and sat down to devour their breakfast.
"Think you girls can be ready Tomorrow around noon to leave for the lake?" Sarah asked.
"I don't have any classes Tuesday so I'm good," Amber said.
"After today I'm off until next Wednesday, but I want to get back on Sunday night, Steve has to work Monday," Melissa replied with a bite of French toast muffling her words a bit.
"If you want, Amber, you can ride back home Sunday night with Steve and me. Dad and Mark have off till the following Monday," Melissa said.
Steve Ducket is Melissa's fiancé and he too is a lineman at the same power company as Joe and Mark.
"Girl's, we will have dad's truck, and your father and Mark are driving in Mark's truck. I think Steve is following them down Tuesday evening in his new truck. Steve's truck was exactly like Mark's, only brand new, and it was the first new vehicle he had ever owned.
"Yeah, that's what he told me," Melissa said, finishing her last bite. "The boys are all working on the same job this week so hopefully they can all get off the same time."
"That's good," Sarah said. "It should be a fun, long weekend with lots of things to do. Dad and Mark have been dying to take out the boat and that means us girls have the jet skis all to ourselves."
"Hey, mom," Amber said, "Who's taking Penny, Us or Dad?" Penny was their three year old female Sheppard/Lab mix.
"Dad is," Sarah answered. "I don't want that nasty dog breath in the car with me for four hours!" She laughed and looked around and asked, "By the way, where is she?"
Mark had found Penny as a puppy at the lake; she was abandoned in the woods and was in bad shape, malnourished and in poor health. Mark took care of her and over the years they became inseparable. She adapted to her new family immediately, everyone loving her. She is about seventy pounds and very lovable, but can be intimidating to strangers and was extremely protective of the family.
Just then, Penny strolled in the kitchen, wagging her tail. She went to everyone for a pat on the head, stopping in front of mom, looking intently at the stove.
"You're a sneaky little girl," Melissa said to Penny. "You always seem to know when there's something left to eat especially when Marks not around." She wiggled a finger at Penny and then gave her half a piece of French toast; it was gone before you could blink an eye.
"You know Mom, if Mark knew you fed her people food, he wouldn't like it," Amber said.
"We girls have to stick together, she likes my French toast !" Sarah said, patting Penny on the snout. "What Mark doesn't know won't hurt him." She looked at both of them.'\
"You two going to be home tonight we might have everyone for dinner?"
"I'm ok with that," Amber said.
"Steve said he would come over this evening and help Dad and Mark load the trucks up, so I'm good too!" Melissa said, rubbing Penny between the ears.
"Alright girls," Sarah said "I cooked, so you two have the dishes. I have to leave for work."
"What?" they both said together and they all laughed.
Sarah grabbed her purse, said goodbye, and walked to the garage. Opening the big double door she looked over and saw Joe's pickup with its shiny black painta four door, 4 wheel drive brute with a big V8 engine and a cap on the back. Joe loved his truck and he kept it in top running order. The bed was already loaded halfway up with all kinds of stuff. Sarah shook her head looking in the back of the truck. "He thinks we are going for a month every time we go to the lake, and we always end up bringing most of it back," she thought to herself, shaking her head. Joe always said, "I always like to be prepared baby, you never know what you might need."
Sarah walked over to her new ride, a sporty little thing Joe bought her for her birthday last year, and started it up. The sound of the big V8 engine was invigorating. Joe liked big engines in their cars and he liked driving it also. She suspected that he bought it more for him than her. She smiled and pulled out of the garage, waved to the girls playing in the back yard with Penny.
Sarah was glad she only had to work eight hours today; usually she worked a twelve hour shift, three days a week. She had been working in the trauma unit for a long time and had become used to the fast pace and unusual injuries patients came in with. One year she flew on the Med Star helicopter, but it didn't last long because it was shift work and she didn't like doing that anymore. So when a eight hour day shift position opened up in trauma, she took it. She enjoyed her job but was looking forward to slowing down and spending more time with Joe. He felt the same way, too. He recently told her that once he felt comfortable with the way Mark did his job, and the girls got settled in their careers, that he would probably put his papers in and retire. He felt even better about it because Steve had turned out to be a top notch lineman himself and would look after Mark. They were all good friends; Steve would not let their crew at work to get into any trouble. He would be a fine husband for Melissa. Amber, on the other hand, didn't have a steady regular boyfriend. She wanted to go in law enforcement, and with her determination, Joe and Sarah new she would. "Moving on in their lives", Sarah contemplated as she drove down the street.
Joe and Sarah loved their lake house and had spent a lot of time, money and elbow grease making it the way they wanted. Joe could not get enough of the place and went down every chance he could, even by himself when Sarah worked weekends. He had made several friends there over the years and she had too. This had been particularly hard for "Yankees," as they had been referred to when they first moved in their summer home, but after a while they were accepted by the community and everything was working out great so far.
She cleared her mind and pulled onto the highway and gunned the engine." Love that sound, "she thought as the big V8 pushed the car effortlessly down the road.
Back at the house Amber and Penny were still outside in the back yard when Melissa walked out, ready to leave for the hospital.
"How many classes do you have today?" She asked Amber.
"Just one, so I'll be home early to let Penny out!" Amber replied.
"Ok, see you later then, I've got to go now," Melissa said as she jumped in her car and left for work.
Realizing that Mellissa had left her with the task of cleaning the breakfast dishes she yelled out. "Thanks allot!" as Mellissa backed out the driveway.
Amber played with Penny for a few minutes and then took her inside. She turned on the radio in the kitchen to listen to the news for traffic reports while finishing the dishes and packing her books for school. Penny was following her around as usual, looking for food. She was hardly paying attention when the announcer on the radio stated that twenty five people had been taken to hospitals around the region with what they thought was food poisoning. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) was investigating, and it had been rumored that is had possibly come from tainted food at Local Airport.
She continued her tasks and wasn't really listening because over the past few years, food poisoning outbreaks had become frighteningly common. She disregarded it and made a fresh bowl of water for Penny. A co worker was going to pick her up today so hearing her ride beep the horn in the driveway; she closed up the house and left for class.
It was a normal day for the Randal family and for most average American families across the United States of America.
* * *
A few Hours later on the other side of town, Joe, Mark, Steve and another lineman, Ben Appleton, were driving their utility bucket trucks to a site where a new shopping center was being built. Joe and Ben were in one truck, Mark and Steve in the other.
Ben had worked for the power company for a long time and taught Joe everything he knew about line work. Joe figured he owed Ben because he had literally saved him from getting killed on the job several times. They had been working together for twenty three years and were like brothers. Ben was sixty-seven years old with no family except the Randal's. They included him in everything, and he helped out with the family all the time. He lived alone in a one bedroom apartment about twelve miles from the Randal household.
Ben didn't have a car so Steve usually picked him up and brought him to work every day. Ben could retire anytime he wanted to, but he didn't have anything else to do and was a good worker. The power company managers let him stay on as long as he could be productive. Sometimes he drank a little too much but other than that he was a good man. They all worked well together and always got along.
After working steady the whole morning they broke for lunch. Ben turned on the news like he did every day, listening to conservative talk radio on the AM band. He and Ben would sometimes have heated discussions about political issues and elections both not always agreeing on the same thing. The midterm election cycle was heating up and there was the usual political banter back and forth between the radio show host and some callers. After a while Joe tuned it out and jumped out of the truck, lighting up a cigar. Joe could hear Mark and Steve listening to some strange rock music in the bucket truck they were eating lunch in.
Joe strolled over to a wooded area to relieve himself. "Too much damn coffee", he thought.
After he was done relieving himself he slowly walked back to the construction site, taking his time enjoying his cigar. When he got back to his work truck the boys yelled over to him.
"We working overtime or what?"
"No," said Joe, "Why?"
"Because it took you fifteen minutes to pee you old fart," Steve said as they both laughed.
Excerpted from America by Michael Chagnon Copyright © 2013 by Michael Chagnon. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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