A Sci-fi novel about a pandemic. The result of a government cull of human beings.
I first mapped this novel out in 1996. It was originally called ‘Ebola in Eden’.
At the time Ebola was a virus that had already been around for twenty years. The first recorded outbreaks were in 1976 in Zaire and Sudan. The disease probably originated in primates, including chimpanzees and gorillas, and is also transmitted by bats.
It is quite likely that the first cases in humans were contracted from the butchering of ‘bush-meat’ by hunters who were killing chimpanzees and gorillas. The logging companies were opening up the interior and putting roads in to extract the timber. The hunters were using these roads to reach deeper into the jungles. They were encountering animal groups that had previously been isolated.
I was looking for a virus for my book that might possibly be used in the way described in this novel. I had a number of contenders but was attracted to Ebola because of the description of its horrific symptoms. A doctor performing an autopsy at the time described the organs of the victim as having ‘melted’.
The destruction of the natural environment, the massacre of wildlife, and the continuing destruction of our forests due to the increasing overpopulation of the planet is a source of great sadness to me.
I write in the hope that the worst may never happen.
Ron Forsythe 5.11.2014
If I had been writing it today I probably would have used the Corona Virus as my weaponised virus.
CHAPTER 1 – Painting the scene
The United Nations building rises up like a great glass slab alongside the East River in Manhattan. From a distance it is fanciful to imagine it resembling the monolith that Arthur C Clarke summoned up in 2001 A Space Odyssey. It too represents the hope for mankind’s future.
This is the organisation that spawned the magnificent document ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in which the optimistic dreams of the world were enshrined. This was the world community’s apotheosis, and all that was required was the funding, power and will to put it into operation.
Unfortunately those ideals were never realised.
Within this building the General Assembly, representing all nations of the planet, meets regularly to discuss the issues and crises that threaten us. Within this building the Security Council also meets regularly. Their brief is to ensure peace throughout the world. They look for non-violent means for addressing conflicts and settling disputes.
It is not difficult to see that the United Nations has limited success when it comes to creating peace and resolving crises. The world has never been more fraught.
Unbeknown even to those members of the General Assembly and Security Council there is another body which also meets at regular intervals. The Strategic Planning Committee – the SPC – has no official standing. It is not recorded in any documentation, reports to no-one and to all intents and purposes does not exist. Yet this body, made up of members of the G7, has a huge remit and great powers. It operates to its own brief – to look for alternative methods for dealing with global issues. It is not subject to the same strictures, operates through clandestine facilities and can deploy a huge budget. It operates under military jurisdiction and protocol.
There are not even rumours of its existence. Yet it exists.
Beneath the United Nations building there is a committee room. It is reached by means of a number of circuitous routes all carefully protected, guarded and sealed, culminating in a single entrance by way of an elevator.
The room itself is extremely ordinary. The round circular walls look dour but conceal the largest array of devices ever assembled. The surfaces are polymer screens for projecting information. The screening devices are exceptional and updated by the hour. Even the seemingly austere mahogany-look table is really an array of extremely high tech facilities but they are only visible when required. The furnishings are almost non-existent, consisting of the single round table of standard dark polymer, with seven comfortable chairs. The purpose of the venue is discussion.
This is where the clandestine decisions that affect the whole world are really made. Above them in the chambers the business is relatively mundane compared to this. In the bubble of their national governments these seven people carry out the day to day intrigues of parochial politics but they all know that the global perspective is decided here. And their instructions come from another higher source.
The group is presided over by President Paul Shank of the USA and consists of the seven Heads of what used to be known as the G7. This assembly was created long ago and shaped by a group of extremely rich and influential figures who have always pulled the strings behind the various governments of the world. They operate globally and utilise their power group to manipulate events and markets. History is largely the result of their various interventions. The fact that the G7 expanded to incorporate Russia, China, India and Brazil to become the G11 has had no impact on this select group. They, or rather their instigators, did not feel the need to expand. Neither is it likely to respond to circumstances should the Arab and African countries succeed in their pressure to be included in the G11. The SPC has a historical basis and is happy to keep it that way. They have no wish to become big and unwieldy and descend into a talking shop like the other bodies. They have no desire to include the others in their deliberations. Especially those they have never trusted. Seven is big enough. Here they can speak honestly and openly without fear of repercussions. Rather ironically they informally called themselves ‘The Synod’ fully aware of the significance of the word. There was nothing religious about them but they made the decisions that shook the planet.
They have the strongest power in the world behind them.
The current discussion had been focussed on the burgeoning world population with the horrific implications now being predicted. The natural world had already been decimated; the last tigers, rhinos and elephants had disappeared from the wild years ago. The chimps and gorillas were only hanging on by a thread through the extreme actions of a dedicated group of environmentalists backed up by the military. The frantic ravaging of the land continued apace. It was a rearguard action that was doomed to fail but that was a side issue. Not that this group cared about such things. They were only concerned with the issues that impacted on world markets, profits or their lifestyle and status.
There were plenty of those. They were busy studying the latest reports, modelling and conclusions.
The figures made for dismal reading. The predictions for the scarcity of essential resources, pollution levels and climate change were looking dire. The economic figures were also on a disaster level. The inevitable conflicts were already getting out of control.
If that was not bad enough, the population was still on course to continue its upward projection. None of the actions so far taken had slowed it down.
The seven of them flicked through the data, graphs and projections delivered to each of them on the polymer screen from the table in front of them.
George Handley was a small man with longish grey hair swept back from his receding hairline and bushy side-burns. His immaculate pin-stripe suit and Etonian tie were anachronistic by any standards but he wore it with pride and considered it set the tone. It provided him with a bearing of historical gravitas, or at least that was how he liked to see it. His voice was measured and conveyed the same message with its cultured tones and paced delivery. It made him sound aloof and superior.
George grimaced with an expression which suggested he was sucking on something vile. ‘There are just too many of them,’ he noted disdainfully as if he was talking about an invasion of cockroaches. ‘Too many by far.’
Paul Shank allowed himself a reproachful smile. The arrogance of George Handley always amused him. The man certainly had a high opinion of himself. It was all a result of his background and class. Paul himself came from good old American farming stock. His family were wealthy but had none of the pretensions that George Handley projected. His folks were much more down to earth. But that did not prevent him from feeling completely at ease in all company. He was used to rubbing shoulders with the greatest men and women from all walks of life. Nothing fazed him. He would not be in this position if it had.
‘Come now George,’ Paul chided with a light easy manner. ‘Surely we have to have an expanding base? The economy cannot grow without expansion.’
George glowered down at the charts on his screen and flicked it off. He’d seen enough. There was no amusement or lightness of tone in his voice. ‘They are not contributing,’ he pointed out. ‘They serve no purpose. You are all missing the point. You cannot even go downtown without a respirator. Things are desperate.’
‘So what are you suggesting George?’ Pascal Bosco enquired. His dark eyes flashed mischievously. His modern one-piece suit was stylish and comfortable and set the tone for his personality. He was forward looking. He knew how George’s mind worked and liked to bring things out into the open. ‘That we do away with them all?’
‘They serve no purpose,’ George repeated as if this was sufficient in itself. It amply conveyed his opinion. ‘They do not work or contribute to the global economy. They are merely a drain on the financial system. They are unproductive. Their consumption is causing the problem. They do not earn and so are not able to contribute. Not only that, but their very presence is destructive. They are creating the problems we are having to face up to and try to solve. Let’s deal with the root cause.’
Pascal sat back in his chair, laced his fingers and raised his eyebrows, unwilling to take that step despite the fact that he knew it was inevitable. He felt a sinking inside but persisted futilely in focussing on the economic aspect even though he knew it had moved well beyond that. ‘Perhaps consumption is sufficient to stimulate the economy. They provide a need.’
‘They are a canker on the face of the planet,’ George stated bluntly.
‘Come now George,’ Mya Jannot said, reacting to the harshness of his words. ‘There is a trickle down. They, in their own way, are contributing to the global economy. They are consuming.’
‘Not so you would notice,’ George replied huffily. ‘They are parasites. They require eradication. Besides this is no longer an economic issue. You’ve seen the data on climate and the latest pollution figures. It’s unsustainable.’
The room fell into silence as all seven of them reflected on the latest data. The population was spiralling out of control. Drastic action was needed.
‘It is true that we have to do something,’ Mya admitted with a frown. Her hair was unfashionably grey and bobbed. It fitted with the rather unflattering costume she insisted on wearing. ‘The natural environment is all but destroyed and we’re running short of every possible resource. There are mounting food and water issues plus the dire situation with the unrenewables. We cannot keep pace. It we do not take action now we can say goodbye to the last of our wild fauna.’
‘I do not care about the damn fauna,’ Virginie Chauvin stated with Gallic frankness. Virginie was a power dresser with shoulders squared and padded. It set the tone. Everything about her was bold and angular. Her make-up and jewellery was expensive, severe and precise. She was a woman who was used to being listened to. People normally took notice. ‘I care more about the looming conflict. We are already at each others throats. It cannot go on much longer. China, Russia and Brazil are all vying with each other and the Arab bloc is getting involved. Before long it will erupt. There is not enough resources to go round.’ Virginie surveyed the room with a magisterial gaze. ‘I agree with George. ‘They are surplus to requirements. They need removing.’
These were the thoughts that were normally suppressed in most people and certainly not aired in public assemblies but it was the remit of this group to think the unthinkable.
‘I am not so sure,’ Paul mused. ‘Every social model requires a wide base. It provides incentive for everyone. It is there as a warning. It makes people aware of why they are working so hard. That desperate poverty is something to be avoided. Just having it there is an incentive to all those who work, that they need to work harder so that they do not end up in that misery. They serve a purpose. Perhaps we just need to focus our attentions on the problems the population is creating.’
‘Surely the size of the market has to be the guiding principle,’ Hans Schultz said also reluctant to step into the arena that he knew they must eventually address. The sturdy German had an acute mind when it was applied to the economic considerations. His round face was a little pasty looking and his eyes appeared small and insignificant, his clothing nondescript and bland, but his mind was shrewd. He was happiest looking at the situation in economic terms. ‘We need growth. It is the size of the market that determines growth and productivity. That’s what or friends upstairs want. They want a good return. Having a large body in reserve to call on is a reservoir of cheap labour. It keeps wages down, reduces prices and maximises profits.’
‘But that model breaks down when there is a looming battle over resources,’ Virginie Chauvin pointed out in exasperation. All this beating about the bush was a waste of time. They all knew it. They were going to have to grasp the nettle and the sooner the better. All this circling around the topic was a waste of time. ‘The dwindling resources create a different scenario. George is right. We have moved a long way from economics. This is a global catastrophe.’
They could all see the ramifications
‘It’s more complicated that just the size of the market,’ George stated belligerently emphasising his argument. He saw it as more than the mere market and profits. They had become a side issue. This was spiralling out of control. ‘There is the population’s productivity and wealth to take into account.’ He scowled round at them. ‘It is related to their purchasing power. If they cannot afford to purchase goods then they are of limited value. If their tastes and proclivities are basic they are next to useless. One has to assess their aspirations, determination and willingness to strive for what they wish to procure. I do not see it. It is limited. Their needs are basically just to survive. They are causing a huge emigration problem. Then there is the terrorism. The pollution and climate are becoming apocalyptic. They are out of control. We must deal with them.’
‘Surely we can manipulate that?’ Paul remarked reasonably. ‘It all depends on marketing and propaganda. The scientists can deal with the environment.’
‘Not when it is a battle for such severely depleted resources,’ Virginie Chauvin interjected.
‘Marketing cannot touch the have-nots, don’t-wants or can’t-gets,’ George remarked morosely. ‘I reiterate: there are huge numbers of them out there, billions, who are simply surplus to requirements. They are not consuming and they are not contributing. All they do is generate huge problems and the rest of us suffer because of them. They are responsible for the crisis. That is my point. We are better off without them.’
‘So how are they surviving then?’ Mya Jannot enquired with a petulant tone. She found George’s callous approach hard to take. ‘They must be consuming something.’ Mya knew that in the end it would come down to the economics. That is what upstairs always cared about.
‘They are scavenging,’ George Handley replied with an air of disgust. ‘Living off our detritus. They are not part of any chain of consumption. They serve no useful purpose. They are surplus to requirements.’
George’s phrase echoed round the chamber and set the minds racing. Was it as simple as that? They all knew what George was referring to. He was proposing the extermination of a good percentage of the world’s population. Surely there had to be a reasonable alternative. It was incontrovertible that the population was now raging out of control. The environment was teetering on the brink of catastrophe. They were in the last chance saloon. They had to do something.
‘So what are you suggesting George?’ Mya Jannot asked, looking at ways to address the issue. ‘A huge welfare programme to bring them into the frame so they can be consumers?’ She knew that was not the solution. Indeed it would only make matters worse. If they all started consuming at even a small percentage of the most affluent the resources would be exhausted and the world would be plunged into conflict. ‘A benefits scheme? A massive work programme?’ Even as she voiced it she could see the preposterous nature of the idea. ‘Or are you looking at enforced contraception? Sterilisation? Education for females? Because they all seem to have failed. So what are you actually suggesting?’
The whole room focussed on George Handley. It was quite clear what was on the table but they wanted to hear it from him.
George pouted and tapped his fingers on the table. ‘I am simply pointing out that we have a large rump that is proving a drain on wealth creation,’ George replied, ducking the question. ‘There are billions who are surplus to requirements and of no use to anyone. They are a drain on our resources and serve no purpose. They are having a catastrophic effect that is costing us dearly and will only get a lot worse. We are having to pick up the bill for the mess they are creating. If we do not do something drastic now we will end up paying far more later. I cannot imagine that is what our friends upstairs would want. We have to be decisive.’
They all knew what he was getting at. They had to face it.
‘We could stoke up a few more wars,’ Pascal Bosco proposed. ‘That is always a good way of reducing numbers plus it has the added benefit of stimulating productivity. There’s nothing like a good bit of arms trading to stimulate the economy. There are plenty of fanatics out there in the hinterlands and there’s nothing like religion or survival to focus the mind.’
‘One thing is certain,’ Virginie Chauvin remarked pointedly. ‘Natural processes do not seem to be working as well as they used to.’ She glowered round at them as if it was their fault. ‘Every time we have a natural catastrophe we get the Aid groups wading in. They pull at everyone’s heart-strings and the money pours in. There are too many do-gooders. They rush in and mop up before the natural processes have a chance to work their normal attrition.’
‘Technology has certainly taken the sting out of natural disasters,’ Hans Shultz agreed. ‘There is a rapid deployment of resources and so much more that can be done. Disasters do not reach the same proportions as they used to.’
‘There you are,’ Pascal Bosco remarked triumphantly. ‘That’s where technology comes in. War is more efficient than ever. We can take out millions.’
‘But it’s so indiscriminate,’ Paul Shank argued. ‘It doesn’t just get rid of the ones you’d like to eliminate. It just……’
‘It is too limited in scope,’ George asserted, interrupting Paul in mid-flow. ‘War is too restricted. We need something on a bigger scale and something more general. We have scroungers everywhere now. They’ve become universal. We should cut out the cancer once and for all.’
It brought everyone back down to earth. They had viewed the latest figures and knew a few million here and there was going to do little to rectify the position. They did not like to admit it but George was right. They needed to get rid of a few billion at least.
‘Besides,’ Virginie Chauvin stated fiercely. ‘Those damn weapons keep getting in the wrong hands and you get them coming straight back at you. We have damn terrorists holding everyone to ransom, blowing things up and destroying the economic base. It gets in the way and slows things down. War is no good. You cannot control it well enough.’
‘You could always go for the nuclear option, I suppose,’ Pascal Bosco piped in brightly. ‘Not much chance of missiles getting into the wrong hands.’
‘I wouldn’t be too sure of that,’ Virginie Chauvin muttered.
‘It would get rid of millions as well as stimulating the markets,’ Pascal continued eagerly without pause. ‘Just imagine all those jobs in reclamation and rebuilding. What a boost that would be.’
‘But Pascal,’ Paul protested. ‘That’s so messy. It would make things so unpleasant and as George has pointed out; it would not go far enough to solve the problem. We need something more universally effective. Besides, it would add to the massive pollution problem. Not at all what we need.’
George was heartened by what Paul had said. It wasn’t often that the man sided with him. ‘Something drastic has to be done,’ he tapped hard on the table in emphasis. ‘Our growth is stagnating. Upstairs is not happy. We cannot go on like this. It is becoming desperate. There are far too many, billions too many. They are like leeches sucking our industrial blood. Something has to be done!’
‘We need some way of removing the ones we do not require,’ Teruo Yamada stated softly. He had remained quiet and thoughtful. Now he was ready to speak. He had worked it all out in his head before saying a word. He knew exactly what was needed.
‘We cannot go rounding up millions of people,’ Paul remonstrated allowing his mind to ruminate on the solution they were all talking about. ‘Hitler and Stalin have tried that. Imagine the scale of the operation. We would need to eradicate billions. Selecting them and rounding them up would be a night-mare. Think of the logistics. You could not keep an operation on that scale secret.’
‘Oh I wasn’t thinking of anything so pedestrian,’ Teruo Yamada said chidingly. ‘There would be no covert secret police or crude archaic methodology. We have the means to be much more clandestine, effective and subtle than that.’
There was silence in the room. The polymer screens shut down and the table resumed its former mahogany appearance. The blank walls had no focus for the eyes and nobody wanted to meet anyone else’s. They were all looking down at their hands.
Seven ageing individuals speaking a language developed in an obscure Northern European archipelago, were about to determine the future of mankind. This was the way things had been done since the dawn of civilisation.
Without speaking they were already in agreement.