The virus was not like COVID-19. COVID-25 was far more deadly. The infection rate and mode of transmission were no different, but the symptoms and the outcome were far worse. It was estimated that between 8% and 10% of those infected died, and within 6 weeks of the initial outbreak in South Korea, millions across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas had died. The race to find a vaccine had started as soon as the virus had been isolated and both China and the USA claimed they were on the brink of an early breakthrough. As with COVID-19 the global economy was thrown into chaos. The travel industry, the entertainment industry, catering and a host of smaller production businesses, many of whom had only just started to recover from the disaster of 2020, collapsed. Countries raced to close their borders and international commerce came to an overnight halt. Travel, both domestic and international stopped as social distancing and isolation restrictions were imposed in one country after another. Australia was no different, as states and even larger cities-imposed travel and movement restrictions. Fear strode hand in hand with ignorance and the economic crisis, as the regular TV death count updates stoked panic and global insecurity.
The USA, wanting to avoid a repeat of the massive economic and human disaster of the 2020 crisis pushed their vaccine development through at breakneck speed. Rumours began to circulate that some ‘bad’ science was being carried out, but the world was crying out for a solution as the body count mounted and it seemed that any solution was better than none. The USA’s continuing economic and political war with China and the rest of the world had been intensifying since the last virus and the world had been holding its breath for one or other super power to add nuclear war to the disasters that had plagued the world since 2020. Fierce fires raged across Australia, South America, the American West coast and Indonesia; drought continued in Australia and sub-Saharan Africa. In Europe, floods and cold blasts of arctic winds had frozen travel and put pressure on electricity and gas supplies. Food security protests in Russia and parts of South America had seen thousands killed as the military forces of a number of countries tried to halt the riots and force people into state-controlled ghettos. In Germany and the USA, neo-Nazis and white supremacists protested about the restrictions placed on their employment opportunities, travel options, civil liberties and against the influx of migrants who many saw as a drain on their economic stability or even as the source of the virus. Fear dominated all forms of the media, with social media creating and giving voice to a swathe of ‘origin’ and conspiracy theories that spread almost as quickly as the virus did.
When the USA announced that it had developed a vaccine, the World Health Organisation advised caution. They wanted to undertake human trials and to see conclusive results before sanctioning its wide scale use. The American federal government pushed all opposition aside. It claimed that their work on the human genome project and their earlier work on the COVID-19 vaccine had allowed it to move more rapidly than in previous attempts at vaccine development. In China, the head of the Communist Party suddenly became ill and the USA refused to send its vaccine research or any medical support to a desperate People’s Republic. China cut off all political, financial and communication links with the rest of the world. The bamboo curtain slammed shut. All across the USA science and pharmaceutical labs were given the right to start the process of mass producing the vaccine. American political forces used the vaccine as a hook to draw back lost allies or strengthen old alliances. Any countries who fell in behind the Americans received either supplies of the vaccine or permission to mass produce the vaccine, under licence from the American pharmaceutical company with the patent. They called the vaccine: Liberty VAX.
Within days of the vaccine being announced, millions of doses were sent to all parts of the world, except China and North Korea. American military personnel were the first to be vaccinated. Then all of American’s developed world allies took precedence for vaccine distribution. Canada, Australia, India, the UK and many parts of Europe were among the first to receive the vaccine. While in developing countries, riots and open civil conflict broke out as people fought to obtain the vaccine. In South Africa, at the site of a local production lab in Cape Town, hundreds died defending the nation’s vaccine stockpile. Hundreds more died trying to get their hands on it. Every day, thousands across the globe died from the initial COVID-25 virus. All over the world the Liberty VAX formula was sold for thousands of dollars on the black market or on the dark web. Worse; cheap, hastily reproduced copies of the vaccine were sold regardless of the drug’s purity or effectiveness. Millions had died from the virus, many hundreds of thousands from the riots and running street battles that occurred on almost every continent. Still, COVID-25 progressed and spread around the world at an alarming rate as the body count increased. Meanwhile, evidence about the vaccine’s ineffectiveness also mounted.
Within days of the first vaccines being released rumours started on social media of horrific side effects. The vaccine, the cure and the solution the world had looked for was not only reported to be not saving people’s lives, it was reported to be killing them. Indeed, the early social media reports from the USA, Germany, France and the UK suggested that death was only the first of the side effects that Liberty VAX seemed to be responsible for. The American president, safe in a secret underground bunker, reassured the world via a daily TV info-meeting, that their vaccine was, “The best vaccine ever,” and that, “The USA was humanity’s saviour.”
The world has turned. COVID-25 has created havoc and Cathy knows the key to survival is finding and keeping their home safe. ‘Ambos’ (their word for the ‘turned’) ravage the country while Cathy and Jack fight to build a community, all the while struggling to understand what lies beyond the trench that surrounds Ironbark Creek.
About the Author
David has been a nurse and midwife for over 40 years. He has taught and practiced nursing in rural and remote parts of Australia and internationally. He has an extensive academic publication history, although this is his first foray into action and adventure writing.