February 7, 2012

A preview of the Apocalypse

80,000 words in 8 months and Welcome to the Apocalypse is finished. Well, there's editing, and the cover, formatting, etc, but the first novel in a new apocalyptic series is written. I'd like to offer up a wee nugget from the first chapter to display what you're in for . . .

Phillipe was on his satellite phone with the director of Doctors Without Borders-Afghanistan, headquartered in Kabul. “Everything’s ruined, everyone’s hurt: broken bones, lacerations, malnutrition, infection, pneumonia, dysentery, gangrene, scurvy . . . yes, scurvy. . . I don’t know how much we can help with what little we have.”
Sergeant Jason Warner was a few feet away, monitoring the electric generator, satellite feed, computer server, and wi-fi transmitter. Having adjusted various settings on the machines, he consulted his smart pad. It was done. All communications beamed out from the system were blind copied to every link in their own chain of command from Task Force 134 up to the Pentagon, National Security, and Central Intelligence.
They were situated among the wrecked tombs looking down on the remains of Bozai Gumbaz, the mission site, and the confluence where the waters from Chaqmaqtin and Wakhjir merged into the Wakhan Darya. When the doctor finished and disconnected, Warner asked, “How was the signal, sir?”
“Very good, as if we were in the same room,” Baptiste lit a cigarette and pulled the collar up on his pea coat, “Snow in May. Where I’m from the girls are in sundresses.”
“Where is that, sir?” Warner wondered.
“Carcassone, a town in the south of France, I haven’t been home in over three years.” Baptiste looked up at the white peaks barricading them, graying the dusk. “Oh, what I’d give for a peak of sundress right now.”
Doctor Jorge Garzia came rushing up, sliding in the snow.
“Hey, careful around the equipment!” Warner stepped between the Brazilian and the system.
Garzia gripped Baptiste’s arm, “Phillipe, you need to see this, now.”
The urgency in the Brazilian’s eyes and firmness of his fingers easily convinced Phillipe. They rushed for the medical tents without a word.
“No problem,” Warner waved at their backs, “I’ll cover this all up and secure it by myself. Wait, that’s my job, damnit.”
As the two doctors made their way to the medical tents, Sergeants Sultana Philby and Ilkhan Snowden were sharing cups of chai with Rahman, adult son of Chaga Khan. They were huddled in the center of a circle of yurts not far from the mission site; Khan’s family cooking up a long overdue feast for their people straggling in.
“No,” Sultana shook her head as they conversed in Dari, “My mother’s Uzbek. I have family in Samarkand. How long has your family been here?”
“Oh, many generations,” Rahman shrugged. “My grandfather refused to leave when the Russians invaded. Father says if we can survive the Russians we can survive anything.”
Ilkhan broke a cashew bar in half and offered a piece to Rahman, “Here, it’s good with chai.”
Rahman eyed the rectangular conglomeration of cereals, nuts, and paste then dunked it in his tea like Ilkhan. He moaned at the luxury of it melting in his mouth, then gave the rest to his wife.
Sergeant Isaiah Bristow walked by the outskirts of the Khan’s ordu with Rahman’s brother, Samir. They were escorting another group of families towards the medical tents. Rahman got up and greeted the family elder, collected sad news, and offered them supper once they were settled. Upon returning, he pointed in the direction of the family.
“They’re from this side of the lake, walked all day when they heard helicopters. The grandmother didn’t make it.”
“That’s terrible,” Sultana said a prayer to Allah for the old woman.
Ilkhan and Rahman finished the familiar prayer with her, then the khan’s son commented, “Allah called to her, and she flew to him. It could have been worse.”
An uncomfortable silence stretched like a chasm, then Rahman asked Ilkhan, “Your friend, what people is he from?”
“Bristow? I’m not sure, Americans are a mixed lot.” Ilkhan replied, “Why do you ask?”
Rahman lit a recently provided cigarette and swayed as the buzz comfortably numbed him, “The only other dark people we’ve ever seen are Doctor Mubumba, who says he’s a Kongo, and another who says he’s Sudani. Are there as many dark peoples as there are Turks?”
“Yes,” Ilkhan explained, cutting a quick glance at Sultana, “They are Africans, but many have . . . roamed, much like the Turks; sometimes not always by choice, like Bristow’s ancestors.”
“He does not look so much like the others.” Rahman pointed out, “He looks like a dark Ahmed Shah Massoud.”
His wife laughed then unleashed a slurry of Kyrgyz.
“She say’s it’s the Chitrali cap, his smile and beard,” Rahman puffed on his cigarette.
Sultana stood and thanked Rahman’s wife for the meal. “I should go help Bristow. Rahman, this Sudanese you mentioned, does he work for one of the charities? Might we expect him to come help?”
Meanwhile, Phillipe and Jorge made it into the medical tent, barely noticing the boy huddled outside the flaps. Eugene Sampson stood from the microscope he was peering through and walked over to the patient on the table.
“Her temperature’s 104.”
Eugene removed the blanket covering her. She was strapped to the table and her ragged robes were pulled down to her waist. There were smooth bulbous lumps around her armpits and neck, and pinkish swirls amidst graying flesh. Blood was congealing around her ears, nose, and lips. She was sweating profusely, delirious in agony, twitching and jerking violently.
“God,” Baptiste muttered.
“Wait,” Eugene waved to the microscope and Phillipe took a look.
“We’ve given her a maximum dose of ibuprofen and pumped her full of doxycycline,” Garzia didn’t sound confident.
“Was she like this upon arrival?” Baptiste turned once again to the patient. Her fingers and toes were blackly necrotic.
Sampson shook his head, offering his smart pad, “fever, migraine, body aches, and tenderness in the nodes upon arrival. Did you amplify the slide? Take a close look at the cellular makeup.”
Baptiste returned to the microscope and zoomed in. When the autofocus cleared, he was stunned. “Is that what I think it is? It doesn’t look quite right. I mean it does, but it’s almost as if . . . as if. . .”
“As if the bubonic plague is infected,” Eugene speculated.