A/N: So begins my first chaptered fiction story. I hope no one is put off by the realistic threat of the subject matter. I loved biology in high school and it was one of my my majors in University. Thanks to MissAlex, author of Rebel Without a Cause, for being the Beta on this chapter. She prevented this chapter from being several very long paragraphs. Mr. Barry, my HS chemistry teacher at Balboa High, wherever you are, you started all of this. You made science fun, you honored students by never insulting our intelligence. I would also like to acknowledge The Fallout author OCDIndeed for her encouraging review of my one-shot, and for her tremendous forgiving spirit. She is a class act, and was absolutely hilarious yet inspiring at Twicon in Dallas.
Stephenie Meyer owns these characters. I just like to tweak the canon.
We were on the run, Bella on my back. I was running as fast as I could, trying to get to my cabin near Denali, in Alaska. I could feel Bella's breath on the left side of my neck, her head nuzzled against my shoulder. She had a knit cap covering her beautiful dark brown waves to protect against the cold damp early March winds. Factor in my running speed, and Bella dealt with a stiff cold head wind.
The CDC, Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, had made the entire states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, full quarantine restricted areas. Someone with an ebola-type virus had stepped on a plane in South China, and the pilot landed the plane in Seattle with an infected passenger roster of one hundred seventy-nine. Several crew members got away before the quarantine was issued. Now all humans were stuck where they were, be at home, at work, at recreation. No one moved.
Except my Bella.
She was not going to be placed at risk.
She was mine.
As soon as my family heard about the quarantine, we had sprung into action. Carlisle went to Seattle General Hospital immediately, to be of whatever help he could, triaging in the Emergency Room. If it truly was an ebola or Marburg-type virus, this crisis would run the full incubation period, three to twelve weeks. Fatalities would be a staggering fifty to ninety per cent. The very young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems would be the high-number fatalities. Carlisle knew he was in for the long haul.
I left for Bella's dorm room at UW, to rescue her from the hemorrhagic fever threat, using my speed as a vampire to carry her away from Seattle. She had not yet heard about the threat and initially balked, but I convinced her quickly with scare tactics: "Bella, do you want to die drowning in your own blood?"
She had stared at me with the most horrified look I had ever seen on that innocent nineteen year old face, her eyes unblinking. Emmett called our friends in the Denali Coven and they said they would have an SUV waiting in Vancouver. We just had to make it that far. Fortunately, I hunted less than twenty-four hours ago, so thirst would not be an issue for another five days or so. There was plenty of game in Alaska, even in March.
The National Guard from twenty-two states converged on the southern and eastern borders of Oregon and the perimeter of Idaho, effectively blocking egress from the three states. Canada prohibited travel from the forty-eight contiguous United States, by vehicle or by air. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) grounded aircraft in the three states within one hour of the contagion plane having set down in Seattle. The national air grid was thrown into near-chaos, air traffic controllers struggling to reroute all Sea-Tac, Boise and Portland-bound flights, as well as forcing down all private and chartered aircraft.
Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and Edwards AFB in California were scrambling F-16 fighters to persuade aircraft reluctant to turn back from the three states' airspace. NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), a mile deep below Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, was at DEFCON 2, anticipating a possible nuclear strike against the U.S., while America was in the midst of a bio-epidemic crisis.
Only DEFCON1 was a higher readiness status, signifying Actual Attack - Prepare to launch missiles. Sensing vulnerabilty, sabers were being rattled in Iran, North Korea and China. Tempers were short in nuclear India as well, which had a longstanding border dispute, over Kashmir, with western neighbor Pakistan. One itchy nuclear trigger finger, one miscommunication, and the world could be on fire, all because the U.S. was weakened by an internal crisis.
We were about seventy-five miles from Vancouver, in the center of old-growth forest, when Bella breathlessly said, "I need to rest, just a few minutes."
I stopped and she slid off my back, landing on the soft ground with a muted thud. She sighed tiredly as she stood up, wiping the moss and needles off the back of her jeans.
"I'm sorry, Edward," she said, a little breathy. "I just couldn't hold on much longer. The windburn from your running chaps my face."
I smiled slightly and leaned in to her, pressing my nose against the carotid artery on her neck. "Enjoying the bouquet while resisting the wine," I whispered, and she sighed as if frustrated. I ran my nose up the side of her face to the corner of her mouth, as if I was going to kiss her.
She smiled, sensing a "win", and opened her mouth to me. I pulled away and regarded her carefully, my hands remaining on the sides of her face. We stared intensely at one another for a few seconds.
"Are you rested up now? Can we continue?" I asked, grinning.
"Sure, of course," she replied. I crouched and she clambered onto my back, and crossed her arms around my neck. "It's like clinging to a cold rock," she giggled.
I turned my head to meet her eyes, narrowing mine in mock annoyance. "This 'rock' is getting you safely out of a quarantine zone." Smiling, I added, "Don't forget that, 'Little Human'."
"You know I appreciate it," she replied, kissing my neck. "It's just so sudden. No warning, no preparation. And I'm worried about Charlie..."
"Charlie is law enforcement. He will have a protocol he must follow. Emmett left a message at the station in Forks, that you were safe, headed for Alaska with me. Charlie will not worry about you now. We have to get out of here now, keep moving."
As I started running again in earnest, Bella molded herself to my back. Her body warmth was a reminder of just what was at stake. A microscopic virus could end her fragile human existence in less than ninety-six hours, if she were exposed. I could not conceive of an existence without Bella --- her scent, her warmth, the depth of her eyes, her fierce intellect.
If I was forced to make the choice, could I pierce her skin and inject her with my venom? If the virus jumped the Canadian border, should she become ill or physically threatened, could I change her? Could I make her an soulless immortal like myself?
The gut-wrenching answer was yes.
I couldn't bear the thought of watching her die from a hemorrhagic fever, something which could never harm an immortal. The pain of her imagined loss drove me to run even faster.
I was edging along the outskirts of Vancouver. As long as I was running full-speed I was just a blur, but to navigate accurately, I was forced to slow down, risking being seen. Bella would have to retrieve the vehicle. I could not risk being seen in daylight in a public place, and it was an unusually sunny day.
I sped through the Richmond area of Vancouver, and found a cluster of trees just outside the short-term parking lot.
"Bella?' I knelt and slipped her off my back onto her feet.
She took a deep breath, and glanced at me, "Vancouver airport?"
I smiled, "Yes, we are over the border. It's too sunny and too public. You'll have to get the SUV. It's in the last row, it's silver with tinted windows, a Cadillac Escalade. The keys are in a small magnetic box, lodged a few inches inside the tailpipe. Can you get it and drive back here and pick me up? You'll need to pay for a few hours parking." I reached into my pocket, "Here's ten dollars. "
"I think I can handle this mission, Edward," and she squeezed my hand, laughing softly. She launched herself across the street and strode down the rows of the parking lot. After a few moments, I heard her voice call, "Got it!"
I breathed a sigh of relief. Kate and Carmen had not let us down. I heard the Cadillac start up, and saw it head toward the exits. A minute later, the SUV with 22" truck tires pulled up to the clump of trees where I was hiding in the shade.
Pulling open the back seat door, I jumped in behind Bella, and vaulted into the cargo area, checking the luggage. Inside the black bag was $200,000 in hundreds, fifties and twenties. There was also thirty-thousand dollars Canadian, all smaller bills. The beige bag held clothing, all in Bella's size.
"Bella, turn right at the first light," I told her. "Head into the first self-serve gas station you see, preferably one with a mini-mart and fast food."
I saw her smiling reflection in the rearview mirror.
"I get to eat? I'm choosing carefully! We have a quarter tank left, Edward," she exclaimed.
"You're driving until it gets dark, so get something with a little caffeine."
She nodded. "Okay, as long as you navigate, I don't mind driving."
I handed her three fifty-dollar bills.
When she got out of the SUV, I punched up GNN satellite news on the radio inside. What I heard was the worst case scenario:
"GNN reports widespread illness in greater Seattle, as well as Tacoma, this afternoon. Fatalities in residents over age 70 are approximately ninety-five per cent. Children under the age of three are reportedly not surviving once exposed. Young healthy adults are reportedly dying at the rate of forty per cent once exposed. Total deaths so far are approximated at two hundred twenty-six, mostly elderly.
Investigative researchers from the CDC in Atlanta are attempting to isolate the strain of Marburg/ebola virus involved in the outbreak and ten representatives have arrived in Seattle wearing protective clothing and respirators, as panic continues to grow. Citizens inside the quarantined states have expressed fear of running out of basic supplies, such as water, canned food and baby formula. Hospitals inside Washington, Idaho and Oregon are running critically short of supplies needed to treat a hemorrhagic fever, such as gowns, gloves, masks, suction equipment and antiviral drugs.
The Army and Air Force are joining forces to plan strategic airdrops of basic supplies to the Seattle-Tacoma area. Drop Zones are most likely to include the Seattle-Tacoma Airport and Skagit Island, a small but relatively sparsely-populated island near Seattle. GNN will continue to keep our viewers apprised of the fever crisis in the Northwestern United States.
In the Middle east today..."
As the subject changed, I tuned out.
It was hard to believe. All this human misery in less than eight hours.
I did not want Bella to hear it yet. I changed the station to satellite Classical Music before turning it off completely. If Bella turned on the radio, she would hear Mozart or Debussy, not the horror story which was now the regional news.
Meanwhile, Bella had put the gas nozzle in the tank and locked the handle, heading into the mini-mart with a Subway inside. I watched as she spoke to the clerk and pointed to the Escalade. She roamed around the mini-mart like it was a grocery store. Bella had to look at everything! I saw her with some clothing draped over her arms as she ordered her Subway. She paid for her sandwich and then stepped to the main register. She paid for the gas and her other purchases, and returned to the Cadillac with a huge bag.
"What, did you buy them out?" I looked at her quizzically.
She threw a bunch of black fabric at me, "Put it on, Edward."
I knew not to argue with Bella over small things. It was a black hooded sweatshirt, very soft microfiber. I pulled it over my body and pulled the hood over my head. She handed me a pair of sunglasses, and I put them on.
I looked at her, cocking an eyebrow.
"Very much under the radar, is how you look. Not at all vampiric or sparkly," she smiled and then giggled.
I chuckled. "Actually black was a good choice. It absorbs the light. I might get by riding with you in the front seat after all."
Can I eat half of this sandwich first?" she asked.
She popped the top on a black can with blue lettering, playfully reciting the too-familiar name, "Monster! Mega caffeine, like three cups of coffee."
I closed my eyes and smiled slightly, thinking of Bella's sensitivity to caffeine, and how wired she might get. Then I thought, it doesn't matter. I got her out of Seattle before she saw chaos and terror and impending death. I felt grateful for her being here with me, safe. Who cared if she was drinking mega-caffeinated beverages?
I thought of how quickly her pulse would flutter after finishing her drink.
She ate her sandwich and drank her "Monster" as I began to contemplate some things. I needed to look more human if we were going to pull off this little Alaskan adventure.
"Bella, we need to do some quick shopping," I said decisively. "We both need heavy winter clothing -- thermals, fleece outer wear, jackets, hats, gloves, earmuffs for you, too."
We headed for Broadway and Alberta Streets using the GPS navigation system on the Escalade, and arrived at Taiga's well before the store closed. Taiga's had everything: Polartec outerwear, to cut the wind and deflect snow; Gore-Tex shells and "gaiters" for snow work, chopping wood.
I had to at least look human, and these clothes would fill the bill. I also duplicated everything for Bella, hats and gloves included, in case she wanted to venture out with me. I would have to hunt, and there is no reason why my prey could not provide meat protein for Bella.
I purchased appropriate hunting knives for cleaning and skinning deer and elk. I bought several axes as well, so I could chop kindling and wood for the stove and fireplace. I also picked out several sleeping bags. Although the frigid temps did not bother me, I needed something to keep her warm until the cabin's fireplace was stoked. I could not gauge how cold Bella might feel, and I did not want her immune system compromised by anything, even cold, so I stocked up. Our purchases totalled several thousand dollars Canadian. Money well spent, to be sure.
Our next stop was a drugstore, where I picked up a variety of first-aid supplies, vitamins, and pain relievers as well as insect repellants -- spring in Alaska was notorious for gnats and mosquitoes, and there was no telling how many months we might have to lay low in the Alaskan interior. I had given Bella several hundred dollars for shampoo and similar personal items. I watched her purchase magazines and paperback novels, and I winced.
She needed better reading material, so I took her for a quick stop at a Book Warehouse down the block and her face lit up, "Oh, Edward, you are so thoughtful!"
She selected a bargain copy of Jane Austen's Complete Works, as well as every book off the Employees' Reading List and every interesting New Novelist work. She picked up some puzzle books too: soduku, futoshiki, and fill-ins. She paused at the journal table and selected three two hundred page leather-bound ruled blank journals, and several four-packs of Pentel Liquid Gel Ink pens. She purchased forty-seven books total and I had to help her carry the three large shopping bags to the car.
We loaded the books in the back of the Escalade, and as I slammed the hatch, she turned and embraced me, murmuring, "You're so sensitive to me. You knew how much reading means to me. I love you for that, Edward."
I sighed, "While you were buying books, I was buying music CDs." I laughed. " So although I wanted you to pick out some good reading material, I had ulterior motives for taking you there. I even got an internet-only computer for three hundred dollars."
She laughed along with me and we hopped in the SUV.
The love of my life was happy and that's all that mattered. No matter how boring our cabin might be, she would have something interesting to read -- and journals, in which to write.
I consulted the GPS and we drove out of Vancouver, heading north, to Alaska.