He was being funny, late on last Thursday’s show, and he came up with this. “My favorite conspiracy theory is that this virus is the work of a bunch of lunatic billionaires who really believe that we are destroying the planet and they have discovered that we can’t get to Mars in time and we can’t colonize the moon so they have come up with a way to get rid of billions of people to make the world have a longer survivability potential.” I’ve been referring, recently, to Tom Clancy novels, but I had no plans to go anywhere near Rainbow Six.
As the novel involves precisely that kind of lunatic billionaire, as well as some clandestine work to shut down the plan and disappear the plotters, because of the risk of “a global panic when people realize what a biotech company can do if it wants,” though, well, perhaps there’s another story in it.
Regular readers of Tom Clancy know that the likelihood of a secret being blown is proportional to the square of the number of people in on it. The novel left a number of possible dots to connect to put together yet another story, one with the potential to topple governments. If I had any sort of novel-writing skills, I might essay such a thing, although it might be more productive to offer some of the dots, as if a mental exercise in quarantine, should anyone wish to essay such an effort.
There are almost enough dots to make a post as long as a Tom Clancy novel. They’re below the jump.
The principal architects of the plot are biotech executive John Brightling, who heads a company called Horizon, his former wife Carol Brightling (it is a divorce of convenience) who has been brought into the Jack Ryan administration as Science Advisor, and a former FBI man named William Henriksen, who runs a company called Global Security and he appears as a talking head on the morning news whenever there’s a hostage rescue or counterterrorism operation in progress or concluded. (The novel dates to the late 1990s: the jihad is not yet a thing, although there are still more than a few cranky Marxists and the like rattling around Europe.)
The proof of concept for the plan takes place in a facility in or near Binghamton, New York, and it might be disguised as a farm. The first human subjects are street people from New York City, fooled into boarding a van that looks like one of the charitable vans making evening rounds, then doped up and transported in a hired, Illinois-based box truck to Binghamton. The driver is not briefed in on anything. A second set of human subjects is new arrivals to New York City, picked up in a bar called the Turtle Inn by a doctoral student named Kirk Maclean whose “Where are you from” icebreakers serves as a sort of interview criterion. Two such out-of-towners are legal secretaries Anne Pretloe, originally from Des Moines, and Mary Eileen Bannister, from the Gary, Indiana, area. In addition, there are male subjects, presumably recruited by somebody else, as their presence at Binghamton enables the researchers to test for the sexual transmission of their project, something facilitated with a lot of Valium and some inhibition-reducing drugs in the food. That gives one of the male subjects, Chip Smitton, an opportunity to enjoy some female company in confinement.
There are medical researchers working in Binghamton, including Barbara Archer, M.D., described only as a “feminist;” John Killgore, also an M.D., with scholarly publications to his credit; a virologist only referred to as “Maggie” with no other particulars; Steve Berg, medical degree from Duke, with scholarly publications; and a night-shift doctor named Lani Palachek, characterized only as an “arrogant bitch.” (Feminist types don’t like Tom Clancy’s work, and perhaps they have cause.) In addition, there are unnamed orderlies who roll the corpses to the crematorium, as well as maintenance workers who might be restricted only to the computer and inventory side of the complex. The medical researchers have learned enough about the political reliability of their second cohort of subjects to use three of them, known only as M2, M3, and F9, for testing the vaccine that works.
Horizon have built a large complex somewhere in western Kansas, which is where the architects and their reliable employees will ride out the plague. A local contractor named Charlie Hollister brings in the project ahead of time and under budget. He’s obviously not briefed in, and quite possibly expendable once the outbreak starts.
William Henriksen’s role is to deliver the virus. The plan is for a trusted Global Security employee to introduce it into the fogging system at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, during the closing ceremony of the Olympics. In order to ensure that Australian special forces and police see the value of having additional help (particularly from a company with such a television presence) John Brightling engages the service of one Dmitry Arkadeyevich Popov, also known as Iosif Andreyevich Serov, the latter name being whimisical, a former KGB field spook who was let go after the Soviet Union restructured, in order to make the possibility of terrorist activity seem real and enhance Global’s chances of being tendered a contract. Comrade Popov is quite happy activating old useful idiots, whose motivation by money gets them killed, with the money winding up in Popov’s accounts. But in stirring up those plots, Popov discovers that Rainbow is around, and John Brightling pays Popov to arrange one more action, in order to distract Rainbow. That leads to more money in Popov’s accounts, and Brightling decides to keep Popov close, by bringing him to Kansas.
Nobody has briefed Popov in on what Horizon’s complex is all about, or why some of the people he meets are giving odd answers to his questions, but one of the security guys, Foster Hunnicutt, spills the beans about two things. Popov shoots Hunnicutt, bugs out, and sets up a meet with John Clark, and the world is saved.
But is the secret saved?
The head of Horizon disappears, and the company announces a new heart disease drug, all the same. Does anybody ask Jessica, the tycoon’s most recent arm candy, if she has any idea where he went?
The former Presidential Science Advisor (Chief of Staff Arnie Damm accepts her resignation) also disappears. I told you at the beginning it was a divorce of convenience. What might Kevin Mayflower, the president of the Sierra Club, be wondering, and can he make some inquiries?
The head of Global Security disappears. Doesn’t that leave a gap in the Rolodexes of more than a few morning news anchors? In addition, back in the day CNN and the Washington Post weren’t in the bad odor they currently are, and wouldn’t the Post‘s Bob Holtzman maybe engage John Clark on something?
Kirk Maclean disappears. That’s a problem to the FBI and New York police officers working the kidnapping case. There might be a puzzled doctoral advisor at Columbia as well, and that puzzlement might grow when a journal editor asks the advisor to review a paper, and when the advisor suggests John Killgore or Steve Berg (peer review means active scholars have a pretty good idea of who the other experts, whether as competitors or possible coauthors, are, the subspecialty rosters are relatively thin) and the editor says they’re not responding either, the common-room (well, even in 1998 it was online common rooms) gossip can be interesting.
John Killgore boarded a horse somewhere around Binghamton. The story makes no mention of a family, either left to their fate in Binghamton, or brought into Kansas. There is, however, a horse-boarder who is going to be, at a minimum, wondering whether to sell the horse for back rent or not. Not only that, with the research project wound down, won’t the propane delivery truck or the power company notice a change in consumption? And where, oh, where, have M2, M3, and F9 gone?
The New York missing persons investigation continues. Won’t that inquiry turn to the law firms, and a closer look at the letters of resignation from Mary Bannister and Anne Pretloe, and mightn’t the casual acquaintances from the Turtle Inn or around work get curious?
Now consider developments in Kansas. The man known as Serov shoots Hunnicutt and bugs out. Henriksen’s man in Sydney doesn’t check in, and another Global Security man, Tony Johnson, who may or may not have been briefed in, reports him missing. Johnson’s still in the wind in Australia. The leadership musters up the 53 key people and bugs out in four Gulfstreams. Where does that leave the several thousand Elect but not yet briefed in, who have come to Kansas, sometimes with their families? What does the conversation when they return home sound like? Strange research meeting, (corporate retreat, strategic planning, what-have-you) we all came in, then some Russian guy shot one of our guys, then the senior management and a few other people got on four Gulfstreams and we haven’t seen them again. And there’s nobody that doesn’t meet up with a kid back from the Air Force or a neighbor with Air Force connections and they get to talking and somebody says something about a strange Track-Ex?
Finally, news stories report that a “Russian entrepreneur” named Dmitri Popov reports a gold strike on land he bought from the estate of … Foster Hunnicutt. And there’s no homicide detective in Kansas isn’t going to start sniffing around about that? Maybe call in a favor with an FBI colleague who has drinking buddies in counterintelligence …
There is your outline, dear reader. Fill in the details.
(Update: 17 May. Welcome Insta Pundit readers.)