Flattening the Curve
Thomas Calabrese — Benjamin Westman was born on August 10, 1960 in the small California town of Oceanside, California. His father was a career Marine and a World War II combat veteran. Ben was the youngest of three boys and even as a child, he was a voracious reader with an insatiable curiosity about how things worked and the men who created the technology. His role models were Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver and Nicholas Tesla. These men were creative and innovative thinkers and whose inventions helped changed the world.
After graduating from Oceanside High School, Ben attended Stanford University where he had a double major in electrical and chemical engineering. After graduation he worked during the early days of the computer age and was a major contributor to the development of Silicon Valley. After working for Lockheed Aircraft for three years on their avionic systems, Ben decided to venture out on his own and became a consulting engineer. His reputation as a problem solver spread throughout the technology and aircraft sectors of the economy. Ben was often called upon where salaried engineers reached an impasse. By the time he was 60 years old, he had 47 patents and was a very wealthy man. He purchased a 50 acre parcel of land along Sleeping Indian Road between Oceanside and Fallbrook and built a three bedroom ranch style home with a detached workshop.
Ben began to focus his energy on one particular goal and used his considerable knowledge and skills in the pursuit of global environmental sustainability. His definition of sustainability was simple; the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. He developed powerful photovoltaic cells from a combination of monocrystalline, polycrystalline and crystalline silicon to absorb sunlight and convert it to electricity then constructed his own powerful version of a lithium-ion battery. Lithium is the lightest of all metals and has the greatest electrochemical potential and energy density per weight.
The dozen cage free hens had a large fenced in compound to roam and were fed a high protein diet that consisted of organic sunflower seeds, bananas, apple cores, carrots, broccoli, corn and wheat. The diet was so effective that the eggs they laid were the size of apples. There were also three goats who had their special diet and provided Ben with milk, which he used to make ice cream, pudding, milkshakes and other sweet treats.
Ben constructed four fast moving streams and waterfalls on the property as a means of water filtration and irrigation for the fruit trees, vegetable plants and animals including his six dogs. He had a 25,000 gallon water tank installed at the highest point of the property and purchased non-potable water and had it delivered by water tanker on a monthly basis. When it was needed the untreated water was released from the tank and flowed down over a special combination of various sized sandstone boulders, pebbles, silica sand, activated charcoal and coconut, then emptied into a large pond. It was six foot deep, thirty feet wide, fifty feet long and contained golden cannas, bulrushes, water lilies, Canadian pondweed and American wild celery.
Three solar powered pumps continuously circulated the water then pumped it back to the top where it flowed back down again. It was a vibrant living ecosystem and everything on the property including the water for his residence came from his elaborate invention. Ben also developed a computerized alkaline water system using his own recipe of Himalayan salt and organic lemon juice and was able to adjust the level of the alkalinity from the touch of a dial. Alkaline water has magnesium and calcium which is important for maintaining healthy bones. He worked on developing meat and fish substitutes from black beans, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, lupin protein and green spelt. He constructed two large green houses and grew various flowers and plants in a controlled environment. In cooperation with a beekeeper, Ben grew a garden filled with crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula and wild lilac so that the bees had a constant source of food. These flowers were irrigated from Ben’s special water system and they grew to ten times their normal size and in turn the bees produced a massive amount of high quality honey.
It was never about the money with Ben and as long as he had enough to live on and conduct his experiments, he was relatively content. His disposable income went to help his family or to various charities. He paid for his two nieces’ tuition during their college years because he liked the fact that one was studying to be a veterinarian and the other wanted to a lawyer. He bought his oldest brother, Tim and his wife a home in a Del Webb retirement community and paid off the mortgage for his other brother Seth. Ben offered to help his nephew Brock after he graduated high school, but Brock replied, “I appreciate the offer, but I’m going to join the military.”
“Are you sure?” Ben asked.
“I’m sure,” Brock responded and there was doubt in his mind, “Maybe someday I’ll be able to help you.”
Ten years passed and Brock was now a Navy SEAL and an experienced top tier operator. Ben was extremely proud of his nephew’s dedication, selfless devotion and willingness to go into harm’s way to protect the country. Although they didn’t see each other more than once or twice a year, the uncle and nephew made it a point to stay in touch by e-mail, phone or text. Ben never married and was currently seeing Melissa Denning, a biomedical engineer, employed at Gilead Sciences. Ben accepted the fact that his personal life suffered because of his dedication to his work. Not many women wanted to be around a man who was often pre-occupied with ideas or working in his laboratory. He considered himself lucky to have found Melissa. The fact that she was very independent and equally dedicated to her work had a lot to do with why they got along so well. They never took it personally when either of their mind’s drifted off.
Melissa was having dinner at Ben’s house and tasted the food on her plate, “This tastes just like lobster.”
“That was my intent, I’ve been working on that recipe for a while,” Ben smiled.
Afterward the couple sat on the deck and ate goat’s milk ice cream with a honey chocolate topping, “You should open up a restaurant. This is great!”
“What project are you working on right now?” Ben asked.
“Have you heard about coronavirus?”
“I have, they range in severity from the common cold to more severe diseases. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are part of the coronavirus family. They can sometimes be transmitted between animals and humans.” Ben answered.
“The new strain is called COVID-19 and is the seventh known to affect humans. It is thought to have originated in a seafood market in China where wildlife was sold illegally,” Melissa added. “My company is concerned that it might become a pandemic and spread throughout the world. A dozen research teams at my company have been assigned to find a vaccine. I imagine that biomedical companies all over the world are doing the same thing.”
“How far have you gotten?” Ben asked.
“We’re down at the level of the atoms that interact at the binding interface,” Melissa answered.
“You must have used cryoelectron microscopy to image the tiniest structures of biological molecules.”
“Exactly,” Melissa said.
“I’ve got some free time, why don’t you send me some of your research. I might be able to help out.” Ben offered, “It’s not like I got anything urgent going on right now.”
“Appreciate it, we need all the help we can get.”
Ben examined Melissa’s work with his keen analytical mind and did not believe that COVID-19 was the natural anomaly of a virus. It just didn’t make sense to him how quickly it could progress while also having the ability to remain dormant for weeks. He also did not believe that it could mutate without a man-made amplifier incorporated in its molecular structure. When Ben looked at the history of other pandemics, he became even more convinced that this virus was a biological weapon. He decided not share his suspicions with Melissa, since he was a scientist and did not have any hard evidence to support his feelings. Over the next week, Ben spent every waking hour looking at COVID-19. The key had to be somewhere in the atoms so he approached it from that direction.
Brock Westman called one evening while Ben was in his laboratory. He looked at the phone and even though it showed no caller I.D. he was pretty sure he knew who it was so he took a chance and answered, “Hey Brock.”
“I’m calling from a secure line so I’m not even going to ask how you knew it was me,” Brock said, “You doing alright, staying healthy, and maintaining your safe distance?”
“Most people don’t want to be around me anyway,” Ben joked, “I’d asked where you are and what you’re doing, but I know that you can’t tell me.”
“Yeah, sorry.” Brock said.
Ben decided to toss something out there to see what kind of response he received from his nephew, “Any luck on finding that biological weapon?”
There was a long silence before Brock stammered, “I…I don’t know what you mean?”
“I have to get back to work, I’ll call the next time I get a chance,” Brock promised.
When Brock hung up, one of his fellow SEALs saw the confused look on his face, “Everything alright?”
Brock sighed, “I’ve got this uncle who always to seem to know things that there is no way that he should know. It drives me crazy!”
“Get your head in the game, we’re going out tonight.”
“I’ll be ready,” Brock promised.
SEAL Team five did an insertion into North Korea and raided a secret facility located ten miles from the DMZ. They pumped sleeping gas into the ventilation system of the building and waited 90 seconds for it to take effect. They breeched the front entrance and systemically searched the area. They took computer hard drives and other pertinent information and were gone in under seven minutes.
By this time every country in the world had cases of COVID-19. Italy, Spain and France and Germany were in total lockdown. The global economy was in a downward spiral and the United States was having to change existing protocols to deal with the expanding virus. Ben was doing a battery of tests in his laboratory and was not coming up with any solutions. He dozed off in his chair and had a dream that was so real that when he awakened he felt compelled to try something. He had no expectations that it would work, but he thought it was worth the risks. Thomas Edison once said, ‘Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety nine per cent perspiration’. Ben already did the perspiration part and he was due for a little inspiration.
He injected himself with the COVID-19 virus, then took a sample of his blood and placed it under his high powered microscope. The virus quickly died and Ben realized that something in his body must be a powerful anti-oxidant. What could it be? After 35 different tests, Ben exposed the virus to water and it died instantaneously. He repeated the process a dozen more times and the results were always the same. Ben contacted Melissa, “I’d like to show you something. Could you stop by tonight?”
Melissa sighed, “I’ve been working non-stop and I can hardly keep my eyes open. I was planning on going home and getting some sleep.”
“I know how tough this has been on you, but I wouldn’t ask unless I thought it was important.”
“I’ll be there by seven,” Melissa replied.
When Melissa arrived, Ben had a tall glass of water and a tuna melt sandwich waiting for her. “Have a seat and I’ll tell you why I wanted you to come by.” He proceeded to explain his findings and when he was finished, “So what do you think?”
“I’ve learned never to underestimate you, but you don’t mind if I see it for myself?” Melissa asked.
“I would expect no less from a scientist like you. I’ve got everything ready for your examination.”
Despite her exhaustion, Melissa and Ben worked through the night during experiments. When the sun came the next morning, Melissa commented, “You know what you’ve accomplished…this discovery of yours is literally world changing.”
“What we’ve accomplished,” Ben corrected her.
“I had nothing to do with this,” Melissa disagreed.
“Your research set me on the right path.”
“I was only in the preliminary stages of my research. There was nothing in it that would lead you to this epic discovery.”
“We’ll have to agree to disagree on that,” Ben smiled. “I don’t want to proceed on this without you. That point is not open to dispute.”
One week later, President Trump arrived at Miramar Air Station in Air Force One with the entire Coronavirus task force. A demonstration was set up in one of the airplane hangars. When it was over, President Trump asked Vice President Pence, “How fast can we get FDA approval?”
“Excuse me, Mr. President,” Ben interrupted, “You don’t need FDA approval, this isn’t medicine, it is H2o. You can drink it, cook with it, even shower with it. The only real side effect is if you drown in it.” He then proceeded to pour a glass of water from one of a dozen pitchers on the table and drink it down. “Help yourself, ladies and gentlemen. Once the water enters your system, you are immune.”
“How do we get this out to the people in need?” President Trump asked.
Ben answered, “I can set up a temporary processing system and get you 15,000 gallons a day immediately. For increased production, I have a much bolder plan. A private and public venture to reconfigure the decommissioned San Onofre Power Plant into a desalinization and manufacturing plant.”
One of the men in the room interjected, “That is a contaminated site.”
“I’ve developed a formula to turn uranium into thorium. That is a radioactive ore whose natural decay is responsible for half of the world’s geothermal energy.” Ben said, “I offered this formula to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but they said they weren’t interested.”
“They are interested now!” President Trump promised, “What else do you need?”
“I need a good and reliable construction company, DPR is my first choice. I also would like the Army Corps of Engineers.” Ben said.
“You’ve got it. There will be no be red tape on this project. Delays are unacceptable, understood?” President Trump ordered those in attendance.
Dozens of construction trailers began arriving at the former nuclear power plant. Ben explained his formula about expedited decontamination to NRC officials then met with the civil engineers from DPR construction. While building several temporary water purification stations, major construction started on the permanent systems while the Army Corps of Engineers commenced work on a deep water pier. Melissa assumed the position of project manager and Ben became the consulting engineer. A triple sized modular trailer with a large fenced compound became the offices and living quarters for Ben and Melissa who often stayed overnight to oversee around the clock activities. Ben’s dogs were with him when he was on site. He said their presence helped keep him grounded. Nobody was going to argue the point. Since there was no risk of catching COVID-19, the crews did not need to maintain their safe distance and could work in close quarters without protective equipment. Signs were posted all over the site with the reminder, Stay Hydrated.
While sitting outside their trailer one evening and looking out over the Pacific Ocean with the sounds of construction in the background, Melissa asked, “Have you thought of a name for the water yet? Of course, you could go with Ben’s water.”
“Your daughter is in medical school. Why don’t we name it after her? How does Amber-19 sound?”
Melissa leaned over and gave Ben a big kiss. “I’m sure she’d like that .Always trying to divert attention away from yourself.”
Two things usually slow down a major construction project, budget restraints and the bureaucratic permit process. Those did not exist on the Amber-19 site. Getting the job done quickly and correctly was the one and only priority. Dome one became the desalinization chamber for the ocean water and dome two housed Ben’s purification process. The water would be transferred by two 48 inch pipes.
Ben became interested in Bill Gates’ safe nuclear project several years earlier so when the plant was almost fully operational, Terra Power was contacted to install several traveling wave reactors. These reactors would make use of the remaining depleted uranium and safely operate the energy system for decades. At full capacity the plant was currently making 5 million gallons a day. It wasn’t enough though!
The worldwide demand for the healing elixir was so intense that construction on five more systems was required. Production eventually reached 30 million gallons per day. Seagoing tankers lined up offshore and waited for their turn to pull up to the pier and load up with the water. Tanker trucks moved up and down Interstate Five all day and all night on their way to and from the site. They transported the water to facilities where it was bottled and distributed around the country.
Ben had two goals; defeat the virus and make the plant sustainable. He succeeded with both endeavors. There was an unlimited supply of ocean water and enough natural energy from the wave reactors to keep the plant operating indefinitely. The profits from the water were so immense that Ben and Melissa started the Amber-19 charity. Its sole purpose was to help those most deeply affected by the pandemic.
Once things were completed and things were going smoothly, Ben focused his attention on tracking down the origin of COVID-19. He was relentless in this pursuit and it took him over a year before he had the answer.He contacted President Trump, “I know who is behind this.” The Commander-in-Chief was extremely cautious with Ben’s information and only shared it with a very small circle of his most trusted advisors. Not knowing who was involved, he had to make sure there were no security breeches..
Brock Westman and other Navy SEALs, Force Reconnaissance Marines and Delta Force operatives took off in forty CH-53 helicopters in the pre- dawn hours from the deck of the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. They landed on a man-made island in the South China Sea, where they proceeded to engage and prevail in a hard fought battle with a group of highly paid mercenaries. Once they secured the compound, Ben arrived with his team. They found other viruses in various stages of development in the laboratory.
This international criminal syndicate’s intent was to destroy the global economy then come in with huge sums of capital and buy stocks in public held corporations and purchase private businesses at hugely discounted prices to increase their power and control in the world. When things were at the brink of total collapse, they would release the vaccine then reap the profits when things recovered.
Members of this cabal originated from every country and included politicians and powerful businessmen who believed in a new world order. Identifying these individuals would be the next order of business. Brock and his SEAL Team were indefinitely assigned to work with Ben to bring all the conspirators to justice…dead or alive.
Brock turned to his uncle and smiled, “It’s about time that I can finally do something for you.”
“Every time you went out on a mission to defend our county, you were doing something for me,” Ben extended his hand and his nephew extended his. Bound by blood, Bound by honor.
Ben Westman was not the kind of man who did anything for glory or accolades. But if he wanted to, he would have every right to add flattening the curve and the trillion dollar cure to his list of impressive accomplishments.
This is a work of fiction