1. Story Statement
Every 100 years there is a global pandemic. This is the story of the next one.
Farrukh, love interest Micah and Timur are highly educated HD-12B visa recipients from Eastern Europe working at Fermi Labs. They lust for the wealth their research creates, but as non-citizens, that path is closed to them.
With visas soon expiring, they could use their knowledge and skills to create something the world may want, but deeper pockets in the US and Asia would likely create a better and cheaper version. Then Micah, the business brain in the trio comes up with the clever idea of creating something the rich countries of the world would pay them not to use.
Using their talents and funded by a high government official with links within the Russian government, military and security apparatus, they develop a machine enhanced virus which they can activate once it has quietly infected the population of a target city. Unless their ransom demands are satisfied.
3. Breakout Title
The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton’s sixth book, but first under his name, is about an extraterrestrial microorganism that imbeds itself in a satellite. Back upon earth, the satellite passes the organism onto those who come in contact. Hostage Earth also involves a microorganism, a virus, but this one is man-made, controllable, part machine and is designed to function as a weapon of extortion.
Do not confuse Andromeda Strain with The Andromeda Evolution, a “Michael Crichton” book written eleven years after he died, a talent I am hoping to master. It has nothing in common with Hostage Earth.
Contagion - This is a 2011 movie but could just as well be a book. A novel virus, meaning new to humanity, makes the jump from animal to human. While far more dangerous than Covid-19, the parallels of spread, public reaction and efforts of containment and treatment are prescient to the real world nine short years later. Like this movie, Hostage Earth contains a considerable amount of realistic science and engineering. The antagonists and protagonists, once clear opponents, are intertwined in finding a course of action once a portion of the virus unexpectedly mutates and escapes into the global population.
5. Hook Line
Andromeda meets Contagion. Three very bright, ambitious and ruthless researchers, Farrukh, Micah and Timur plot global blackmail extortion by engineering a machine based controllable viral weapon. When it unexpectedly mutates, the focus becomes global survival.
6. Protagonist - Inner Conflict
Out protagonist is the Director of the CIA. As a career CIA operative and now leader, her objectives and her mind are clear. She is not wracked by conflict. She is dealing with a disinterested president and politicians with their own agendas. Our Director also ends up in a key face to face meeting with a Russian woman of high rank who the Director knew from her days as Station Chief of the Moscow office ten years ago. As the worm turns, it becomes clear that the two need each other.
We open at Fermi Labs just outside of Chicago where our young future antagonists are discussion the cutting-edge research that they are part of, and contemplating their futures. Their HD-12B research visas are nearing expiration and opportunities back home do not provide a path for their creative and financial ambitions. The year is 2120. It is here, in Farrukh’s quick mind, Micah’s business brain and Timur’s newfound knowledge of Japanese biological research that saved their society fifty years ago, intersect on a path that will hold the earth hostage. That Timur has an eye for Micah, who is spending her nights in Farrukh’s bed, adds some seasoning to the mix.
We move to a lawless part of the world, Toshkent, in Uzbekistan, a city of two million and Farrukh’s home town. It is here where Farrukh renews political contacts, develops the outline of what he wants to create, secures funding from a well-connected former FSB person who is now Mayor, obtains via Mayor Sergey skilled technicians who are paid well and do not ask questions, and begins quietly gathering resources from around the world. The team avoids electronic communications so no electronic alarm bells are being triggered at the CIA or elsewhere.
Nevertheless, in Washington, D.C., a quiet alarm goes off. CIA Director Linda Lee is getting reports that technicians with a host of different skills are disappearing from Russia and various Eastern European countries. What sets off Director Lee’s alarm is that no one reported any of these people as missing. Something is afoot.
The scene shifts back to the main Toshkent laboratory where exposure to a test virus kills three people, including a nineteen-year-old girl who should not have been there. Micah is ordered by the Mayor, not someone to cross, to tell her parents about their only child’s death. Not going would greatly reduce Micah’s life expectancy.
We alternate between developing and testing the viral weapon, its control and delivery and the safety of the development team, and events unfolding in Washington as they try and piece together what is going on, whether some type of attack will come from this and if so, where are likely places.
The first attack is in Saywun, Yemen, chosen as a test city with limited security. It was also within their 2,500-mile operating range. Range was limited by the operational radius of the converted Beriev A-250 long range transport. The 50,000-pound laser based magnetic trigger is the tool that switches the virus on as it overflies a city.
The second attack took place in Warsaw, Poland. Warsaw paid the ransom, the virus was never triggered, yet some people died. This unexpected behavior raised big alarms amongst the antagonists, their team and their benefactors. The machine enhanced non-mutable virus, was mutating.
The third attack was in Mumbai, India. Missed communication, errors, happenstance and traitorous acts led to a disaster for greater Mumbai’s 50,000,000 residents. Our antagonists barely escape, but returning home would be fatal.
The story continues in Tehran, now a member of nations in good standing, Bagdad, Toshkent, much activity in Washington and eventually getting our team into the ultra-secure biohazard laboratory at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The good guys and the bad guys are now in the same place. The virus is loose and time is running out.
The epilogue takes place in French Guyana where the ingredients for a second book are found in the morgue.