Countdown to Doomsday part II
It was a blistering hot June day in Atlanta, Georgia, as Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, swiped his badge to gain entry into the office complex that was the Center For Disease Control and Prevention. Director since 2009, he was greeted instantly by the secretary, who smiled and said, "Good morning, Dr. Frieden." Waving, he walked to the elevator and pressed the call button, waiting patiently for the doors to slide open. Inside, he selected the top floor, riding quietly to the top and stepping out. The office at the end of the hall was his, and he waved to some of the cleaning staff as they finished up their work for the night. Entering his office, he found his daily mail waiting for him, along with a copy of the Atlantic Journal-Constitution. Knowing it would be almost another hour before his secretary, or most of the 6,000 staff that worked in the CDC, arrived, Dr. Frieden sat down and checked his mail for anything important while glancing at the headlines.
The headlines, of course, told the same grim tale they always did. Since August of last year, when the Republicans had pulled out of a deal to increase the debt ceiling, the US economy had been dropping like a rock. Unemployment in some areas was reported as high as 25%, with rising figures across the country. The lack in employment meant people couldn't afford healthcare, and that would see a spike in diseases in most urban areas. To make matters worse, the government wanted to start slashing spending on everything, the CDC included, when it would need more money just to fight the new outbreaks of everything from STDs to tuberculosis to swine flu.
After spending almost half an hour reading the major stories of the day and sorting through his mail, Dr. Frieden pulled up his email on his desktop. The crisp blue background featured the CDC's seal in the center, slowly rotating as he clicked on his email inbox. Most of it was the same routine messages from doctors within the CDC, some were from others reporting dangerous cases of diseases on the Center's watch-list, and the rest was from people he knew or who were interested in a job. One, however, was red-flagged as important, and the address listed it as coming from Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General of the United States. The email was short and to the point. V. Admiral Benjamin wanted a minimum of five volunteers from the CDC to participate in a long-term operation for the government to serve as crisis management personnel for emergency situations. She also explained that because of the nature of the project, it was to remain a secret, but the President had asked for non-military personnel to be included.
Leaning back in his chair, Dr. Frieden pondered this. Something big... requiring a minimum of five doctors specifically from the CDC. He would need to carefully consider this before he sent a list back to Regina. No doubt she would be putting out feelers in other civilian foundations, as well as within the military. The military had some of the best trauma doctors in the world, so it would make sense to call upon them. But the five doctors from the CDC would probably be best put to use in disease management and containment. Quarantines and the like. He was already working on a list of possible candidates when his secretary arrived. He was almost done when she came in with a message, "Doctor? You've got a call coming in from Los Angeles. They say it's important."
Looking at his list, Dr. Frieden hmmed, then handed it to her, "Send that list to Vice Admiral Benjamin please. And transfer the call to my phone in here."
If ever there were a place hit hardest by the economic problems, Los Angeles was it. While certainly a focal point of culture and business even in such a dire economy, the City of Angels had certainly taken a hit. While the city itself contained over 3.7 million people, it's proximity to Long Beach and Riverside made it the second largest metropolitan area in the United States. With so many people of different backgrounds living in such proximity, it was easy for tempers to sometimes boil over, and with the economy spiraling down, riots were becoming all too commonplace.
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officer Joey Hernandez was on the front lines of the daily battle for control, as violence within the poorer districts broke free of the now almost common police checkpoints. Dirty, hungry, and often extremely pissed, each person Joey arrested ended up just like the others, stuffed in an overcrowded jail cell until either a place was found further along in the system or released because there was too little evidence. The ones that got released sometimes got arrested just because they got a free shower, bed and meal for the night, so they were becoming frequent customers. Eventually, they'd use up their free tickets and find themselves in prison for a long time.
They were on their way to another riot when the van suddenly veered out of traffic and stopped. Each officer started bitching, wondering what was going on, until they realized that the sound they heard was bullets pinging off the armor of their vehicle. And from the sound, there were multiple shooters. Spinning in their seats, each officer began looking out the armored windows to spot the shooters, only to see nothing but traffic. Whoever was shooting was concealed, probably with long-range rifles. From the confusion and screaming, it was getting hard to spot any small movements beyond the crowd.
More rounds pinged off the armor, and another officer, Pete Johnson, fired a short, concentrated burst from his MP5 towards a dark area across the street where he thought he'd seen movement through the slits in the armored van's armor. Nothing moved, but the shots continued, aiming for the glass and the slits, slowly zeroing in. "We're sitting ducks out here!" Joey called, "Get us out of here!"
The armored van lurched into motion, and the rounds started raining harder as the van crossed the street, attempting to get closer to the location of the shots. As they got nearer one of the apartments, fire slacked off, but didn't entirely end. Joey, as team leader, called out, "Get us to those apartments. The shooters might be inside." The driver obeyed, pulling as close as he could without backing up and putting the bulk of the van between the shooters and the doors. Throwing the doors open, Joey yelled, "MOVE MOVE MOVE! INTO THE BUILDING!" The eight person squad rushed in, one staggering as a round hit him, but he didn't go down. They ran inside and Joey ordered, "Search each room, find the shooters!"
Breaking into each room, the stunned occupants screamed and threw anything they could at the officers, causing confusion and mayhem as they searched. Joey joined, going floor to floor, most turning up dead ends. Joey was on point when he kicked in a door, yelling, "POLICE HANDS UP!" only to receive a .357 magnum straight to the chest. The Kevlar armor he wore, plus the metal shock plates, saved his life, but barely. He landed in the hallway just as automatic and shotgun fire poured into the room, shredding the interior. The shooter was dead before he hit the ground, the bolt action rifle he'd been holding landing beside him.
Joey was dazed as a hand reached down to help him up, along with a thickly accented, "You alright, Boss?"
Joey got up and winced, feeling a few broken ribs. Even with the shockplate, the kinetic energy from the round had shattered at least two ribs. "I'll be fine. Keep searching and everyone be careful." Joey had no idea that throughout the city, officers were responding to similar situations as the normal riots began to turn even more deadly. Even if he'd known, there was little he could do. He and his men were taking out armed gunmen who'd brazenly fired on officers in broad daylight, who'd chosen the wrong target. The driver was thankful the glass was armored, because if not, he reckoned he'd be dead.