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Calendar >  The Virus Hunter -Thomas Calabrese

The Virus Hunter -Thomas Calabrese

By   /  February 23, 2020  /  14 Comments

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 Big Corona

A team of 40 Green Berets from the 3rd Special Forces Group, support soldiers and Nigerian partner forces were on a mission to capture an Islamic group leader in West Africa. The strike force’s sector of search was the Niger Mali border starting at Burkina Faso and from there they crossed the Niger River and proceeded eastward to Mata Lekya. Sergeant First Class Maximo ‘Max’ Corona was the senior enlisted communications and intelligence member of the team and had an impressive list of credentials and accomplishments. Max was a big man, not just in size, standing six foot five inches tall and weighing 235 pounds, but also in character and courage. He joined the Army in 2008 as an infantryman and had deployed numerous times to Iraq and Afghanistan and had received more than two dozen awards and decorations that included two Purple Hearts, Bronze Star and Silver Star. He spoke French, Arabic, and Hausa, the last of which is spoken in Niger. The group stopped to camp on a plateau at 1600 hours and had only been there two hours when they were attacked at sunset by a well-trained force that quickly surrounded them.  Twenty Green Berets stayed behind under the command of Sergeant Corona behind to provide cover for the rest of the force to make their escape down a steep rocky trail.

The plan was for both groups to rendezvous 600 meters due west of the plateau at sunrise. The Green Berets had high tech night vision goggles and this helped balance the odds against the heavily armed militants who could not see in the moonless night. Max expertly directed his men to fire at the enemy then move to another position and fire again. The purpose of this maneuver was to give the impression that there were more than two squads of men on the hill. The plan worked and at sunrise, Max and his men were still alive and ready to move out. When he looked at the dead militants, he could tell that something was wrong with them besides being dead of course. They all had bad rashes on their bodies and faces and a yellow substance was oozing from their noses and ears.

Corporal Ted Palicki shook his head in disgust as he looked down at the corpses. “What the hell is wrong with these guys?”

            “I’m guessing that they’re infected… I’d keep my distance,” Max said.

            “You don’t have to tell me twice.”

By the time the 20 Green Berets reached the rendezvous point, they were all extremely ill except for Sergeant Max Corona. They were vomiting and perspiring heavily, Max yelled to the rest of the team to keep their distance. It took almost 30 minutes before a bio hazmat team arrived by helicopter and the Green Berets were taken a battalion aid station. The men were diagnosed with the weaponized strain of the Crimean-Congo viral hemorrhagic virus and were placed in isolation and immediately given a course of aggressive treatment.

Captain Angela Brennan, medical doctor and infectious disease specialist wore a special hazmat suit when she approached Max as he sat alone in his isolation tent, “How are you feeling, Sergeant?”

            “Fine Ma’am,” Max replied, “How are the rest of team?”

            “They are all seriously ill, but we got it early and we have a proven course of treatment. It might take a couple of weeks, but they should all make a full recovery. The question that puzzled me is why you didn’t get sick so I ran an extra series of tests to find out why?”

            “What did you find out?” Max asked.

            “I’d like to ask you a couple questions first…did you get sick much as a child?” Captain Brennan asked.

            “I was always a pretty healthy kid.”

            “What about childhood diseases like measles, chicken pox, the flu…did you ever have any of those?” Captain Brennan inquired.

            “No, I don’t think so.”

            “What about injuries, like sprains, broken bones, things like that?” Captain Brennan continued her questioning.

            “I’ve never broken a bone, I’ve had my share of sprains and pulled muscles,” Max remembered.

            “I looked at your medical record and you’ve been shot twice and both times you returned to full duty much quicker than anybody else could have.”

            “I’ve always been a quick healer,” Max shrugged.

            “There is more to it than that. I could give you the technical breakdown of your blood, but it’s easier for you to understand if I tell you this. An alligator has an extremely strong immune system. Given how quickly viruses and bacteria can adapt and evolve, it’s a miracle that the gator species has survived as long as it has and its immune system is the reason why. The shark resistance to diseases and viruses is like an impenetrable firewall. Squalamine is the major contributing factor to sharks’ effective immune systems. You have an extreme version of both those immune systems and an abundance of Squalamine in your bloodstream. The current population of the world is somewhere around 7.5 billion people and I’d be willing to bet that there aren’t five people in that mass of humanity that have an immune system like yours.”

            “I’ve been in the army for over ten years, why is the first time I’ve heard about this?” Max asked.

            “There would be no reason for regular medical personnel to test for it. If it isn’t broke, why fix it. You were healthy and nobody much cared why,” Captain Brennan commented. “Most Army doctors don’t have the equipment or aren’t specialized in infectious diseases.”

Two months later, Max was at the Fort Irwin National Center in the Mojave Desert in northern San Bernardino County located in the Calico Mountains, doing HALO (high altitude, low opening parachute jumps)

Captain Brennan was waiting at the drop zone when Max touched down after a 15,000 foot jump where he waited until he was two thousand feet from the ground before opening his chute and landing in the center of a ten foot circle When he saw the medical doctor, Max rendered a crisp salute, “Good to see you again, Ma’am.”

            “Good to see you again, Sergeant.” Captain Brennan smiled, “I’d like to talk with you.”

            “Is it an emergency or can it wait until I put away my gear and take a shower?” Max asked.

            “It can wait. Why don’t we meet at the main gate at 1700 hours and we can discuss it over dinner.”

            “Roger that,” Max replied.

Sergeant Corona and Captain Brennan drove to the Black Bear Diner in Barstow, California. After ordering their food, Max asked, “What do you want to see me about, Ma’am?”

            “We’re off base and since it’s just the two of us, why don’t we keep things a little less formal. My first name is Angela, my friends call me Gee.”

            “Gee, they call me Max.”

Gee waited until the waitress set down their plates of food before continuing, “I’m putting together a quick response bio-counter-terrorism unit and I’d like you to be part of it.”

            “I don’t have any medical expertise.”

            “I’ve got all the doctors and technicians I need,” Gee said, “I need an operative that can go places that other men can’t.”

            “I’ve been in the Army long enough to know that if you needed me and went through the chain of command, they would just transfer me.”

            “So why am I asking?” Gee said.

            “Bio-terrorism is a strange creature with tentacles that can stretch from Big Pharma to radicalism and wrap itself around some corrupt politicians along the way. There’s big money in vaccines. Terrorists attack with a virus and then somebody comes up with a cure and they get rich. In my business I’ve learned to be very curious and extremely suspicious. Remember when I ran those tests on you?”

            “Yes,” Max answered.

            “I destroyed the results and didn’t tell anybody about you.”

            “So if I volunteered for your unit, I’ll be flying under the radar and you wouldn’t have to explain why you wanted me?”

            “Exactly,” Gee answered.

Max raised his glass of tea and proposed a toast, “I accept your offer.”

Over the next six months Max learned a lot about viruses and bio-weapons. He was used to working on a team, but quickly adapted to being a solo operative. He took down a ricin manufacturing facility in Brussels, Belgium. The terrorists were planning an attack against the American embassy. A dose of purified ricin powder the size of a few grains of table salt can kill an adult human. Max used an explosive device to breech the front door and entered, he was an imposing figure with his gas mask and weapons. Max shot three men and in the ensuing close quarter combat with several men. One of the chemists pulled off Max’s mask and doused him with ricin powder. It had no effect on him and Max pumped two shots into the man’s chest.

Doctor Tiu Qhiming was employed by Movatis, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company in the world at their London, England campus. He was an extremely brilliant scientist who was also high strung, paranoid and extremely possessive of his research. He created such a toxic work environment and alienated his co-workers to the point where management had no choice but to terminate him. Doctor Qhiming accused Movatis of professional jealousy and giving credit for his work to his less qualified scientists. “You’ll be sorry!” I’ll get all of you for this!” He screamed as he was led off the grounds by armed guards. Qhiming took his research to the Chinese embassy and offered to work for them. He was sent to Wuhan, China, home to 11 million people and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, located in the Jiangxia District. For two years he developed biological weapons for the Chinese military until his mental issues worsened. Qhiming became increasingly delusional and thought that his supervisors were planning to kill him so he set up a time delayed trap to release a toxic poison through the ventilation system of the institute while he was away at a convention. Everybody in the facility was killed.

The Chinese doctor quickly realized that his expertise was in great demand by terrorists and criminal organizations. With his new accumulated wealth he hired an army of mercenaries to carry out his nefarious deeds and protect him. Qhiming’s modus operandi was to infect entire businesses with one of viruses then sell them the antidote for millions. He eventually set up his base of operation near Ciudad Juarez Mexico, the so called ‘meeting point’ of drugs cartels, gangs and other illegal activities. He built a manufacturing plant for the drug fentanyl as a way to endear himself to the druglords. Qhiming soon became infamous as ‘Doctor Virus’. The world was constantly on edge knowing that at any given time, anyone could become the next victim. This fear was escalated when the Center of Disease Control determined that some of viruses did not need to be spread by human contact.  Qhiming found a way to spread disease by drones flying overhead and dropping their deadly cargo. The cruise ship Majesty of the Seas, was currently quarantined in the port of San Pedro with 2700 passengers aboard because the cruise line refused to pay a ransom.

All of Qhiming’s men were vaccinated against the viruses so anybody who attempted to attack him on his sprawling and expansive compound would have to wear a cumbersome hazmat suit, which would make them easily identifiable or risk certain death by coming in without the appropriate protection. It was the ultimate home security system. Only one man was capable of infiltrating the perimeter of the mad scientist and eliminating his reign of terror and that was Sergeant Max Corona, the ‘Virus Hunter’.

Max met with fifty highly trained special operatives from the Green Berets and Delta Force at Fort Irwin Army base. “You have been picked for this mission because at one time or another we’ve served together and I trust any one of you with my life. I know that is going to sound unusual, but I’ll be going in alone. On the need to know basis, this is above your pay grade.”

When the briefing was concluded the men filed out of the room and Gee walked up to Max, “You may be virus proof, but you’re not bulletproof. Qhiming and his crew are very dangerous.”

            “I’m aware of that…I will exercise appropriate caution,” Max promised.

            “Try to take him alive so I can interrogate him about his research. If that can’t be done, then don’t hesitate to put a bullet between his eyes.”

            “Roger that, ma’am.”

To avoid detection by roving patrols, the American special operatives did a night jump and landed one mile from the Qhiming’s compound. They put up camouflaged protective covering over their positions to hide from view and shield themselves from airborne viruses. They took out their starlight scopes and scouted the area and just before sunrise Max set out on his own. Satellite surveillance gave the special operative a very good idea of what kind of people he would encounter at the compound. Max wore the same type of apparel as the landscaping crew and kept his large straw hat pulled low over his face. For the next six hours, he kept his head down and his eyes open while slowly and inconspicuously working his way toward the back of the large house. There was a flower bed near the door and Max bent down and started working in it. When the guard at the entrance turned his back, Max came up behind him and snapped his neck, then dragged the limp body behind a large bush where it was hidden from sight.

Once inside the house, Max pulled out his Glock 17 with the noise suppressor and kept it hidden behind his back as he surveyed the interior. He saw two men approaching and spoke to them in fluent Spanish about doing some work. When they got closer, Max shot both of them and hid the bodies in a hall closet. Several more men met the same fate before Max finally found Qhiming in his private quarters. As soon as Max entered, the Chinese doctor sprayed him with one of viruses. When Max showed no ill effects other than a couple of sneezes, Qhiming suddenly grasped the reality of the situation, “I heard of a man that was impervious to infection. You must be the Virus Hunter.”

Without his viruses as a weapon, Qhiming was just a frail, weak and delusional man who was no match for the American special operative. When he tried to run, Max punched him in the stomach and he fell to his knees, gasping for breath. Max pulled a syringe out of his pocket, “You like infecting people, let’s see how you like it,” and injected the sleep agent into the bloodstream of the Chinese doctor, who passed out within seconds. Max pulled a sheet off the bed and wrapped the unconscious man in it and put him over his shoulder and exited the room.

Max noticed a truck parked outside and shot the driver. He placed Qhiming in the passenger seat, started the engine and pressed the accelerator to the floor. Max hit the gate at 60 miles per hour and shattered the wooden barrier. In less than a minute a dozen vehicles were in pursuit. Max led them right to where the other special operatives were waiting. Once he was in the clear, his comrades opened fire and left all the vehicles smoking and disabled along the road.

Upon their return to the United States, Qhiming was kept in protective custody and fully cooperated in manufacturing enough vaccines to stop a worldwide pandemic. Countries around the world decided that the best course of action was to tell the public that the virus had started from infected poultry in a remote province in China, but it was now contained and being eradicated.

 Captain Angela ‘Gee’ Brennan would remain vigilant for further threats to America and the world. She would also be the only other person that knew that Sergeant First Class Max ‘The Big’ Corona was the ‘The Virus Hunter.’

The End

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14 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    Another good read

  2. John michels says:

    Tom as of late it seems each of your stories get better week by week

  3. Tony says:

    Timely story if there was ever one, and with cause and effect solution. Mr. Calabrese is on top of the game of writing with his Sunday stories. As usual he has done his research and has enlightened his readers with an action story with a great finish.
    Just what the doctor ordered.

  4. Clyde says:

    Tom took a timely issue and put his own special brand of creativity to it…keep them coming. Great movie material.

  5. Bart says:

    Timely story. You tied it to everything except Corona beer. You sure Max wasn’t drinking that instead of tea. HA

  6. Cary says:

    The Virus Hunter…one more of Tom’s heroes that you don’t want to mess with!

  7. Jeremy says:

    Very interesting…you got me thinking.

  8. Guy says:

    I really enjoyed the story…the way I’m feeling today, I could use this kind of immune system.

  9. Carmen says:

    A good read and very creative. Didn’t know about the alligator immune system… found that fascinating. When I was reading the story, I was imagining it also as a movie. I think you can turn it into a screenplay.)

    .

  10. Steve says:

    As usual , I enjoyed the story…keep them coming.

  11. Mona says:

    Lots of action and very pertinent!

  12. wolf says:

    Another good one. Right on cue with current events.

  13. Dan says:

    Very current and entertaining.

  14. Terry Lutz says:

    I really like the way you played the current world condition into your story Tom!

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