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In July 1969, Dr Ian MacArthur, Director of the US Army Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA), appeared before the United States Congress (the Appropriations Committee of the House). He stated:
"Within a period of 5 to 10 years it would be possible to produce a synthetic biological agent, an agent that does not naturally exist and for which no natural immunity could have been acquired."
On the 26th June 1984, at exactly 12:09 AM, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was awakened by the shrill ringing of No.10 Downing Street's National Emergency Hotline phone. CCTV cameras caught the moment as, bleary eyed and confused, she hauled herself from bed and hurried down the stairs to end the high pitched alarm. 8 days before she had mirrored those steps, though at a more reasonable hour, in response to the seemingly ceaseless and shockingly brutal miner's strikes. She paused, hand on the phone, reflecting, all but certain she was to receive an Mi5 alert of yet more action. Wearily, with much resignation, she picked up the phone, expectant and downtrodden. The events of the next few minutes will be recorded for ever in the annals of human history...
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11:12 PM, 25th June
At 11:12 PM on the 25th June, sirens back to wail in Laboratory 9, MoD Porton Down. Security staff across the maximum security CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radio-logical, Nuclear) research centre in Wiltshire, England. The following is a transcript of the standardised intercom warning that it is believed was played during the events of that night.
"This is an evacuation warning. Please remain calm and use the nearest exit to vacate the premises. Do not run or take any possessions. Remember to seal all projects upon exit. This is an evacuation warning. Please remain calm and..."
The few CCTV camera tapes that survive have been pieced together to give an indication of what happened on that fateful night. Flashing red lights lit up the dark corridors, as armed guards arrived in Jeeps at Block C. The Hazmat wearing platoon of guardsmen rushed into the building, past the last security camera not destroyed during the next few minutes. What happened next is still unknown, but at 11:23 PM the hospital gown clad Victim 01, as he was later nicknamed by the media outlets of the world, staggered out of the Block C exit. At first, behavior seemed normal, until he sighted two guardsmen left by the Jeeps, approximately 30 meters from Block C. Immediately, a cruel howl burst from his throat, and Victim 01 began sprinting towards the soldiers. The black and white CCTV finally gave a glimpse of the dark stain covering his white gown, a stain identified by BBC news experts as blood.
The guardsmen, faced with a howling and enraged unidentified person, smeared from head to foot in panic, raised their rifles, shouting at the man to stay back. The warning was ignored, and at a range of 8 meters, the two soldiers opened fire. A total of 6 shots were fired with trained efficiency at the center of mass of the oncoming aggressor. The bullets ripped into the man, their sheer force pummeling the man backwards and to the ground, blood spouting from his left arm and chest. 6 seconds later, the crumpled figure stirred, and proceeded to stagger to his bare feet. Seemingly unaffected by the grievous wounds to his torso, he continued towards the troops. Their shock immobilised them, even as he tore through the flimsy material of the first man's hazmat suit, and ripped the gun from his grasp. In the confusion, a shot from the fought over weapon loosed a bullet that drove cleanly through the neck of the second man, killing him instantly.
Victim 01 and the soldier collapsed to the ground, wrestling furiously, as behind them the next victims began to emerge. A horde of them descended on the poor solder, beating him to death with bare blows, even as Victim 01 succumbed to his wounds. Experts and analysts say he died of blood loss from the awful wounds to his chest. The dead soldiers were pummeled by the angry crowd of gown clad patients, as the 20th and final victim of what is now called the First Wave emerged from the building. With complete lack of unity and communication, the blood drenched victims staggered apart, many crawling with their noses to the ground, searching for their next prey...
11:25 PM, 25th June
The guard unit of the nearby MoD Boscombe Down mobilised. 200 RAF Regiment personnel and local police forces surrounded the top secret Ministry of Defence research facility, sealing roads and access to the area, amid reports of an accident somewhere inside the military base. Ambulances and fire engines arrived due to the initial belief of a small fire in a research laboratory, but only a small number of scientists exit the complex. At 11:31 PM, two receptionist staggered out, their faces clawed and scratched, seemingly by fingernails. They were in a serious state of shock, and so were admitted immediately to an ambulance. Inside, in tones of awful horror, they described pandemonium and violence to the disbelieving and skeptical paramedics. They spoke of violent crowds of staff, turned murderous in an instant, rampaging through the base. Initially, their tale is put down to shock. But as more tales of brutal fear filter out from the gates with the shell shocked survivors, and the sounds of crazed, delirious yells drift from beyond the high brick walls, belief began to sway.
At 11:43 PM, Major Johnathon Harris of the RAF Regiment radioed MoD Boscombe Down for support, but the small guard unit stationed there is already almost fully deployed, so only a single Jeep is sent in re-enforcement. Harris deployed a small unit of 12 troops to enter the base and confirm reports first hand. They are told to return immediately if they are faced with combat. Four minutes later, the night air is shattered by a volley of semi-automatic rifle fire. At 12:00 AM they had not returned.
12:00 AM, 26th June
Following the disappearance of his reconnaissance unit, Harris radioed a red alert to his superiors.
"This is Major Harris, Unit Tango-Alpha, of the RAF Regiment, requesting immediate support. This is a RED alert, repeat RED alert. Troops are down, I repeat, troops are down. Pass to all emergency services; this is a major, repeat, major incident, at MoD Porton Down."
The name MoD Porton Down triggered internal alarms and panic: a major incident had been declared at Britain's most secretive military base, the world's leading research and development centre for CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radio-logical, Nuclear) warfare. Nine minutes later, the message had been passed up the chain of command, and Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, picked up the emergency line...
The UK Cabinet was immediately requested to assemble at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall. As the assorted Ministers scrambled from their beds, the Territorial Army, police units, and the 1st Armoured Infantry Brigade, from nearby Tidworth Camp, established a cordon around the area. Troops in Hazmat and CBRN suits surrounded the facility, establishing barricades at key positions. 5 Lynx helicopters of the Army Air Corp stationed at MoD Boscombe Down began their rotor warm up routines, as the pilots rushed to get their aircraft above the facility to provide an aerial view.
12:22 AM, 26th June
The Lynx helicopters arrived at the scene, 3 equipped with nose mounted cameras to provide aerial recon.
The feed was linked directly to Whitehall's COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) television monitors, transmitting a live visual to the assembled politicians. The scene was horrific. Small fires raged across the complex, as snarling, bloodstained figures ran rampant. Writhing piles marked the positions of corpses, as dozens of enraged ex-staff members fought violently with each other to tear into the bodies. Not a single level-headed soul could be seen across the complex. After a minute of silence, the shocked and horrified politicians burst as one into fear-fueled debate. "What could it-", "No never that!", "The only possible explanation is th-". Shouts filled the room, as cabinet members indulged their worst nightmares. Suddenly, Margaret Thatcher roared for silence. In the steely manner she was famed for across Britain, leading to her nickname of the Iron Lady, she called for order, and calmly, rationally tried to make sense of what they had all just witnessed. Experts were called, analysts brought in, but none could provide a satisfactory answer.
And then at 12:38 AM, Dr. Martin Eccot entered the room, at first appearing professionally composed. "Ladies and gentleman of the Cabinet, since the early 20th Century, Britain has been experimenting in the development of chemical and biological weapons. Mustard gas, chlorine gas, Ebola, anthrax; you know the list. In 1978, work began on a project, code named RAGE, that would enable the United Kingdom to release a destructive virus in a Cold War backdrop, either via suitcase or ICBM. In 1981, Project RAGE succeeded in creating Virus CVP-2, nicknamed RAGE, a super-virus capable of unleashing mass rage upon those infected. The virus is highly infective, extremely deadly, and highly efficient. This was a disease designed to wipe out the entire population of the USSR in a matter of months. This virus was stored indefinitely in a sealed vault, V587, in Laboratory 9, MoD Porton Down, inside weaponised containers designed to force the virus airborne for a period of up to 6 hours, enabling rapid spread once released. We now believe that one of the containment canisters must have developed a fault, but housed inside the Vault the virus could not have dispersed effectively. Until now. We believe a small electrical fire triggered the opening of Vault 587, exposing nearby test subjects for an experiment treating the common cold to the pathogen. They would have been infected immediately." The room turned deadly silent, as drops of perspiration tentacled down the scientist's face. Then, Lord Whitelaw, Lord Chabcellor, asked the question on everybody's minds: "How do we stop it?" his clipped accent cut through the air. "We can't." came the shaking reply of Dr. Eccot.
The room broke into disarray once more, respected and dignified peers yelling and banging on the table, manners and etiquette forgotten. This time there was no intervention; the Prime Minister sat slumped in her chair, the awful realization of what was happening etched across her stern features. Michael Hesseltine, Secretary for Defence, broke in. He appealed for reason: had they not forgotten the campus was encircled by soldiers in protective clothing? Dr Eccot was a scientist; the prowess of the British military would prove him wrong and the virus would be contained. The politicians latched on to his reasoning, needing a point of calm to focus their attention and so distract themselves from their panic. The order was given immediately: troops were to move in and shoot on sight. Nothing was to escape alive. Meanwhile, a state of emergency was to be declared under the Emergency Powers Act 1920, ensuring contingency plans were set in motion.
12:41 AM, 26th June
The following is the official invocation of the act by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
"Whereas by the Emergency Powers Act 1920, it is enacted that if it appears to Us that any action or incident has been taken or is immediately threatened by any persons or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as to be calculated, by interfering with the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, or light, or with the means of locomotion, to deprive the community
or any substantial portion of the community, of the essentials of life, We may, by Proclamation, declare that a state of emergency exists: And whereas the present immediate threat of serious viral infection does, in Our opinion, constitute a state of emergency within the meaning of the said Act: Now, therefore, in pursuance of the said Act, We do, by and with the advice of Our Privy Council, hereby declare that a state of emergency exists. Given at Our Court at Buckingham Palace, this Twenty-sixth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and eighty-four, and in the Thirty-first year of Our Reign."
The announcement was aired on BBC Radio across the nation, though few heard it due to the ungainly hour. Even as the clip was first broadcast, soldiers across the nation were mobilized to maintain order, but at MoD Porton Down, there was anything but. Troops hurried from their trucks to barricades and sniper posts, as sergeants and paramedics distributed gas masks, Hazmat suits and CBRN protective clothing. First aid posts were set up, covered by bright white tents marked with "NO ENTRY. QUARANTINE AREA". Riot police, with orders to maintain strict silence to any questions, blocked nearby streets from the onlookers awakened by the noise, shields, truncheons and whistles at the ready supported by equestrian units on horseback. The 5 Lynx helicopters had been joined by 2 Airbus Super Puma Helicopters carrying more reinforcements, now moved into formation to provide air support.
"All units, you are GO, repeat you are GO. Lethal force authorised. Let's aim for back to bed by morning. GO, GO, GO!"
312 troops, supported by five helicopters, each with its own heavy machine gun, rushed forward through the gates and previously cut points in the barbed wire security fence. The two remaining Lynx helicopters, equipped with cameras and high intensity spotlights, circled from above, lighting up the area and feeding video back to politicians and commanders alike. These same cameras caught the moment as the first platoons of troops were descended upon from all sides by the infected staff, numbering an estimated 1200. The horde burst from the shadows, taking many of the soldiers by surprise, leaping upon the armed men with no regard for their own lives. Semi-automatic rifles and shotguns taken from the guardsmen killed at Lab 9 shredded human flesh, as yet more Victims burst out of doorways and ground floor windows, burying the troops in a veritable mountain of the diseased. In the chaos, troop formation splintered and fragmented, platoons splitting up as each man ran to escape. The helicopter gunners above had no choice but to watch in startled horror: to shoot would be to fire not only at the infected but at their own.
But, using the chaos as a distraction, a team of heavily guarded scientists in protective suits reached laboratory 9, by now belching smoke from the untreated fire. But as they entered Vault 587, the lead analyst's face turned white. Dr Eccot had been wrong; a fault hadn't developed in one of the canisters. The electrical fire had spread through the piping of the ceiling, melting the steel casing of the entire stockpile. The entire facility would have been filled by the virus.
As the team radioed back to the Forward Operating Base established a short distance outside of Porton Down's gates, a universal retreat was ordered. The infected had descended so quickly, in such numbers, reaching the midst of the advancing troops in seconds, that it was all but impossible for the soldiers to discharge their weapons at their attackers without hitting a comrade in arms. As one they turned and evacuated back to the cordon, once more resuming positions to eliminate of the infected who attempted to emerge from the compound. The mission had all but failed, leaving 60 dead, 87 wounded, 21 more missing, and revealing horrific news.
For the next hour, the situation continued to deteriorate. Victims grew increasingly bold, and the more intelligent and functioning of the infected began to loose shots at exposed soldiers using the guns of the dead troops, going so far as to shoot one soldier through the eye, and seriously wounding two more. Efforts to break out from the compound steadily became more confident and effective, the infected massing at perceived weak points and fighting wars of attrition with the troops guarding holes in the fence, cut for the prior assault,
Back in Whitehall, the Cabinet were in a state of panic. The risk of wind dispersing the pathogen through the air grew with every passing second. There was no antidote, no cure, no miraculous spray that could destroy the aggressive pathogens. If nature played up and the wind began to blow, then England could be covered in the virus in a matter of a few hours.
1:33 AM, 26th June
At 33 minutes past 1, the Cabinet voted for a small scale nuclear warhead to be detonated at MoD Porton Down. The detonation would incinerate the virus, the most effective means of neutralizing biological weapons, at around 100,000,000°C, fives times the temperature of the Sun's interior. The blast would also destroy the severely contaminated plant, and prevent access for years to come. By 12:15 AM, the order was in motion. At the time, due to the Cold War, two Avro Vulcan 698 bombers of the V-Force were kept on permanent standby at the end of RAF Boscombe Down's runway, pilots ready to take off within 15 minutes of a scramble alarm. They were each armed with a single 10,000 lb nuclear bomb, designed with Moscow in mind.
But at 12:16 AM, when the "SCRAMBLE" alarm rang through the air crew's headsets, the target wasn't an urban area of the USSR, or a Cuban missile base. Instead, it was MoD Porton Down, a target on British soil. The strategic nuclear bomber was reloaded with a 0.1kT nuclear bomb, and take off began at 12:30 AM. Three minutes later, the munitions targeting system identified the Porton Down research facility in the plane's target finder. The strategic nuclear weapon detonated 100 meters above the ground, 14 seconds later.
The fireball inhaled the entire military base, razing and destroying all but the most sheltered of bricks. The entire area was flattened, the grass burnt away instantaneously. As the Lynx helicopters approached from their safe distance, the cameras revealed a large wasteland, scorched black and bare by the incredible heat. Every infected soul had disappeared, incinerated by the blast. The figures below and the corresponding map to the right were estimated by BBC News analysts over the coming days.
- Fireball radius: 30 m (3130 m²) -YELLOW
- Air blast radius (20 psi): 100 m (0.03 km²) -RED
- Air blast radius (5 psi): 210 m (0.14 km²) -GREY
- Thermal radiation radius (3rd degree burns): 230 m (0.17 km²) -ORANGE
- Radiation radius (500 rem): 0.56 km (0.98 km²) -GREEN
But meanwhile, over a mile from the site of the explosion, Victim 01 staggered on through the fields and pasture, his face and torso torn by the barbed wire fence he had climbed with no regard for pain or damage. The virus was far from contained...
6:42 AM, 26th June
Just before quarter to 7, Dispatch Sergeant Matt R. Jenkins of the Wiltshire Constabulary received a regular call on a patrol line to his desk in Devizes Police Station.
"This is the Wiltshire Emergency Response Operating Center. We have reports from multiple 999 calls of a disturbance, 10 miles from the hot-zone. Priority Level 1. Dispatch, you are go."
Casually finishing his cigar, the Sergeant issued an order to a unit in the vicinity; to investigate when convenient.
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