Dr. Jaime Jones, an executive at Cleanetics Biomedical Research and her former Harvard classmate and good friend, distinguished virologist Dr. Shing Shen, battle for not only their lives but those of every human on the planet as they seek answers to this seemingly unstoppable threat.
From the concrete jungles of southern California to an ancient Shao Lin monastery in northern China and from the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest ultimately to the warmth and lushness of Hawaii, the fate of humankind is revealed.
Both the richness and the depravity of the human spirit are exposed as our species engages in the ultimate fight, the fight to survive.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)|
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THE LOCUST EVENT
By GENE BRYANT
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2013 Gene Bryant
All rights reserved.
The music was deep and rich as it flowed across the Mayflower Hotels main ballroom, the sweetness of the string section slowly fading as the orchestra leader brought another classic to a close. He had always enjoyed live orchestral music and even though the acoustics here were somewhat spotty, it did bring him back to the many nights he had spent at the Teatro Dell'Opera in Rome. Sensing a presence beside him, he started to turn around.
"Pirates ... really?" she sneered with as much disdain as possible while trying not to laugh.
Shing Shen, better known as Slinky, looked up at what was truly the most stunning woman he had ever seen. Rising from his chair they gave each other a crushing hug. "It's so nice to see you Jaime, you look fantastic," he said as he held her at arm's length.
"Thank you sweetie," she replied, dropping into the empty chair beside him. "I have to sit down, my feet are killing me." She raised a foot to show him her new Brian Atwood designed heels. They were the most expensive shoes she had ever bought but like most things, you get what you pay for and with shoes, unless they are broken in, you pay for it big time.
"Well, that's a first, I've never seen you in shoes like that or a dress like that either." Looking at her as not only a close and trusted friend but as any man would look at such a remarkably attractive woman, Slinky had always had somewhat of a crush on Jaime but it was as much intellectual as physical. He could only imagine how many in the room were looking at them. The men and especially the women were all taking sideways glances, trying not to notice her, but being drawn to her nonetheless. He had seen it many times before. Slinky had learned to appreciate her beauty and elegance as normal, whether she was in the lab, library or out on the town.
Jaime propped her hand on her hip and slightly cocked her head and said, "Well Dr. Shen, you clean up pretty good too, so I guess we just need to get out more." Her smile was as bright and infectious as always. "What does a girl need to do to get a drink around here?" Her dark eyes sparkled in the low level lighting of the cavernous ballroom.
Slinky slowly stood, grinning and shaking his head. "I'll be right back."
"I know," was the mocking reply.
Jaime wasn't sure if she would enjoy tonight. She knew Slinky would be here and had always enjoyed his company but she didn't really like getting all dressed up and having to spend half an hour on her hair and makeup. Most days, she didn't even wear makeup, but that was because she knew she didn't have to. When she first walked into the ballroom, she saw the reactions and the number of heads that turned her way. She knew it also wasn't just because of her new heels, which caused her to tower over almost everyone in the room. Coming to grips with her beauty during her senior year in high school had been difficult, but she had never let what she knew was just a genetic fluke get in the way of her accomplishing her goals. Her good looks had actually been a detriment throughout much of her adult life, a good problem to have as one of her friends used to say.
By the time Slinky returned, Jaime was surrounded by a group of fawning men, he recognized one of them as Luke Adams, a former Harvard classmate and basketball player. As he stood there with a wine glass in each hand, Jaime rose from her chair, actually welcoming the interruption. Taking the offered glass from Slinky she quickly said, "Luke, you remember Dr. Shing Shen from school?"
Luke took a step back, looking Slinky up and down, somewhat disturbed that his conversation with Jaime had been interrupted. "Yes, yes I do." Extending his hand, he looked over at Jaime for a reaction. "What did we call you back then, wasn't it Stinky?"
"It was Slinky actually." The response controlled but the handshake became firmer as he continued, "But most people now call me Dr. Shen." That was a purposeful shot at Luke's flunking out of medical school, or as his Facebook page stated 'leaving school to pursue my lifelong dream of playing professional basketball in Europe'. The frosty stares were broken only when Jaime slid between the two tall athletic men and grabbing Slinky's arm she escorted him to the dance floor.
As they both came from privileged backgrounds, they were excellent dancers and that did nothing except increase the attention that they were receiving from the other guests. They made safe, comfortable small talk as another waltz began and they reminisced about their time in college.
Slinky recalled his first few semesters at Harvard and how they were filled with awkwardness and frustration until he met Jaime. He had no friends and stood out like a sore thumb and for good reason. Firstly, there were not a lot of Chinese guys that stood a little over six and a half feet tall and in a school known for over achievers; he had received nearly perfect marks in every class he took. Barely nineteen, he had not yet really grown into his body, especially his legs which comically to everyone except him, seemed to sometimes have a mind of their own. No matter how hard he tried he still had that bouncing rhythmic gait, especially when he was walking down the stairs. One day, a group of his biology peers were watching him and one of the comments was that he looked like a slinky going down the stairs. The name stuck and to everyone except his family, Shing Wei Shen became Slinky.
"I have never seen so many people out at a National Geographic fundraiser," Jaime said. "There must be over a thousand people here. The Mayflower always does such a good job with these things."
"It is a good turn out for them and I'm glad to see some of the diplomatic core here. My father says that it has become one of the go to events here in Washington. The politicians are encouraged to come but are not allowed to speak, so that's probably why it's so popular." Slinky noticed for the first time that Jaime was almost as tall as him in her heels and as they effortlessly made their way around the dance floor they made for an imposing couple. His tuxedo was a rental and it fit him perfectly. The shoes, also rentals, were another matter and he could already feel the blisters forming.
It had been some time since Jaime and Slinky had been able to spend any time together as he was now back in Beijing and she was working with her father in San Diego. They regularly emailed and occasionally chatted on the phone but hadn't had any face time since they were able to grab a lunch together while they both waited for connecting flights out of LAX almost six months ago.
"You didn't laugh like you usually do when I mentioned your pirate story." Jaime couldn't stifle a huge grin as the music came to a close and the orchestra took another break.
"I tried but your never ending beauty left me speechless." Grabbing her hand, he kissed it and made a little bow.
Jaime actually felt a little colour rising in her cheeks. Wow that hasn't happened in a long time she thought to herself.
"I think it will always be our private little joke," Slinky said, taking her arm and leading her back to the table as he recalled the first time they had met.
They had been in a second year class at Harvard when the entire class was randomly matched up in pairs to complete an assignment. Jaime was the star soccer player, a straight A student, drop dead gorgeous and very popular. Slinky, or Shing as he was known then, was just the abnormally tall Chinese guy. To the chagrin of every male classmate, Slinky was paired together with Jaime and that was the beginning of their friendship.
"When we were first matched up, I remember how I said to myself I hope he speaks English," Jaime snorted, a story Slinky had heard many times. "Boy was I surprised, how many languages did you speak then?"
"The same as now, only six," he replied with a smile. His father was not only a high ranking official in the communist party but a career Chinese government diplomat. Slinky had spent considerable time in Geneva, Rome and New York when he was growing up, always attending the best schools while receiving additional tutoring at the Chinese consulate. Slinky was identified early as having an extremely high IQ so he was someone that the communist party took an immediate interest in.
That first assignment that they did together consisted of performing an interview and writing a paper about the others family ancestry. Slinky went first and had Jaime recount her family history. Interestingly enough one of her ancestors had served as ships doctor for Captain George Vancouver, the British explorer. They laughed at the memories of Slinky furiously questioning her on Captain Vancouver's explorations of the South Pacific and North American west coast. When it was Jaime's turn, she heard Slinky's story of his ancestors who had been one of the ruling families of what is now Fujian Province on the southern coast of China. They had been forced out of Macau by the Portuguese when they had taken over and Slinky was also descended from a famous explorer, although of a slightly different kind. Dao Shen was a thorn in the side of China's ruling class as he controlled the South China Sea with an iron fist. His fleet of large trading ships and huge war junks dwarfed the Chinese Emperors naval fleet and he had free rein to ply his trade throughout the region. They both doubled over in laughter as they remembered Slinky trying to convince Jaime that his famous ancestor, Dao Shen, had discovered the south pacific long before the Europeans did and that he was essentially a pirate.
Jaime was as quick as always, her smart aleck comments rolling off her tongue as they laughed at length about how they had met and how their friendship had blossomed and continued to grow since they had graduated almost ten years ago. She always felt so happy, and safe, when they were together.
The laughter was broken when Jaime's father found them. "I've been looking all over for you." Giving Jaime a big hug he held her at arm's length. "You are quite the hit tonight honey—any marriage proposals?"
"Just a few dad, nothing to get excited about."
"Nice to see you again Dr. Shen, I see you are keeping my girl laughing as usual." Riley Jones, founder, president and chairman of the board of Cleanetics Biomedical Research reached over and shook Slinky's hand. "You know I am still holding that job for you at Cleanetics."
"Nice to see you as well Dr. Jones, thank you, always a pleasure."
As Slinky was once again forming the words to graciously decline Dr. Jones offer, he looked over Dr. Jones' shoulder and could see two Chinese men in dark ill-fitting suits rapidly approaching through the crowd. He didn't recognize them but they had all the trappings of Chinese consulate attaches.
Without even an excuse me, the smaller of the two men grabbed Slinky's elbow and started to lead him away, all the time speaking to him in rapid fire Mandarin.
Slinky's shoulders noticeably sagged and then he broke free and returned to Jaime and her father.
"My mother is very ill. I have to go." All the good humour had drained from his face which was now painfully serious.
Jaime had never seen him look that way; he was always happy and carefree even when they used to cram for exams. While Jaime had been completely freaking out, Slinky was always calm and cool, never flustered. Suddenly nervous, she felt his pain, deep inside her, as she remembered her own feelings when she was told her mother was dying. Almost feeling feint, she stood there like a statue, looking at him.
As he turned to leave, Jaime reached out and grabbed his arm. Turning him around she reached up and put her arms around his neck. "I hope that everything will be OK," she whispered. She then kissed him, for the first time on the lips, and it lasted long enough to raise her father's eyebrows.
Slinky couldn't even muster a goodbye as he was quickly ushered out of the room. Neither of them knew it at the time but both their worlds were about to change forever. Actually, everyone's world was about to change.CHAPTER 2
Jaime just couldn't shake the image of Slinky's face and it haunted her for the entire flight home to San Diego. She had never seen Slinky look that way and for some reason, it bothered her tremendously. He looked so hurt, so vulnerable, but it was nothing she hadn't seen on hundreds of other faces before. Why was this different? Why did it bother her? She was an analytical thinker but the answer was not coming to her. Even the flight attendant noticed that Jaime was at the very least pre-occupied and at the worst very distraught.
"Is everything all right Ms. Jones, would you like something from the bar?"
"No, no thank you. Actually, if I could, just an ice water please, thanks." Jaime made eye contact with Riley across the aisle.
"Hi honey, lots on your mind?" He had noticed how restless and unsettled Jaime appeared.
"Ya, I just keep seeing that look on Slinky's face, he looked absolutely devastated when he was told his mother was sick. He looked so hurt, I just don't have a very good feeling about it." Feeling the emotion rising in her throat she said, "I guess I'm just worried for him."
Riley hadn't planned on bringing it up but, after all, he was her father and that familial attachment always takes precedence over logic. "Well, I did notice how close you both have become and if you guys are now a couple, I think that's great."
Jaime looked over at him and shook her head slightly and then, without warning, a single tear rolled down her cheek and dropped onto her sleeve. "It's not like that Dad. I don't know, it just upset me for some reason, I'll be fine."
"I know you will honey," he replied, thinking back to the times when Jaime was a pre-teen, struggling with first crushes and that whole girl-boy thing. Smiling he remembered his attempts at trying to be both mother and father and how truly hopeless he was in dealing with the typical young girls angst. Her teen age years went surprisingly smoothly even as she matured into a beautiful woman long before she should have. He did occasionally wonder how she had been able to stay single so long and hoped it wasn't somehow his fault. Thinking back to that meathead hockey player that she had dated at university, he could sure do far worse for a son in law than Dr. Shing Shen.
After arriving they made their way through the terminal and as they waited for their luggage they chatted about Cleanetics and the upcoming special board meeting. Riley had founded the biomedical research company fifteen years ago and it grew from a three person shop to one of the world leaders in medical research. The company had recently gone public which had made Riley extremely company public was happening. Powerful shareholders and mutual fund managers were pressuring the Cleanetics board to drop some unprofitable programs and concentrate on quick wins and easy profits. That went against how Riley and Jaime thought the direction of the company should be and there was a deepening division within the board of directors.
As a surgeon, Riley had seen the need to try and heal people earlier in the process. Tired of trying to fix something that was already damaged, his vision was to not only understand how diseases worked but where they came from. He hoped to eventually be able to answer the question 'why me?' and identify and cure the disease before it manifested itself, wanting to take positive actions before the pain and suffering that he knew all too well had taken hold.
Following a long standing family tradition of medical service, Jaime was hooked at an early age, captivated by her father's zeal in what he saw even then as the future of medicine. Like everything she does, Jaime threw herself into medicine and science with a controlled fury. She had become one of the world's leading microbiologists by the age of thirty, which had earned her a seat on the board of Cleanetics. Her very rapid rise to prominence was well documented which had led her to receive considerable criticism as she had to deal with the constant accusations of nepotism. Jaime didn't care as she could hold her own with anyone in her field, in the laboratory, on the lecture circuit or in the board room.
Excerpted from THE LOCUST EVENT by GENE BRYANT. Copyright © 2013 Gene Bryant. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
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