The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton Read Free Book Online

Book: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Crichton
Tags: Fiction, Suspense, Science-Fiction, Thrillers, High Tech
returning from the moon would be quarantined in the LRL for three weeks, until decontamination was complete. Further, the problems of “clean rooms” of industry, where dust and bacteria were kept at a minimum, and the “sterile chambers” under study at Bethesda, were also major. Aseptic environments, “life islands,” and sterile support systems seemed to have great future significance, and Stone’s appropriation was considered a good investment in all these fields.)
    Once money was funded, construction proceeded rapidly. The eventual result, the Wildfire Laboratory, was built in 1966 in Flatrock, Nevada. Design was awarded to the naval architects of the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, since GD had considerable experience designing living quarters on atomic submarines, where men had to live and work for prolonged periods.
    The plan consisted of a conical underground structure with five floors. Each floor was circular, with a central service core of wiring, plumbing, and elevators. Each floor was more sterile than the one above; the first floor was nonsterile, the second moderately sterile, the third stringently sterile, and so on. Passage from one floor to another was not free; personnel had to undergo decontamination and quarantine procedures in passing either up or down.
    Once the laboratory was finished, it only remained to select the Wildfire Alert team, the group of scientists who would study any new organism. After a number of studies of team composition, five men were selected, including Jeremy Stone himself. These five were prepared to mobilize immediately in the event of a biologic emergency.
    Barely two years after his letter to the President, Stone was satisfied that “this country has the capability to deal with an unknown biologic agent.” He professed himself pleased with the response of Washington and the speed with which his ideas had been implemented. But privately, he admitted to friends that it had been almost too easy, that Washington had agreed to his plans almost too readily.
    Stone could not have known the reasons behind Washington’s eagerness, or the very real concern many government officials had for the problem. For Stone knew nothing, until the night he left the party and drove off in the blue military sedan, of Project Scoop.
    “It was the fastest thing we could arrange, sir,” the Army man said.
    Stone stepped onto the airplane with a sense of absurdity. It was a Boeing 727, completely empty, the seats stretching back in long unbroken rows.
    “Sit first class, if you like,” the Army man said, with a slight smile. “It doesn’t matter.” A moment later he was gone. He was not replaced by a stewardess but by a stern MP with a pistol on his hip who stood by the door as the engines started, whining softly in the night.
    Stone sat back with the Scoop file in front of him and began to read. It made fascinating reading; he went through it quickly, so quickly that the MP thought his passenger must be merely glancing at the file. But Stone was reading every word.
    Scoop was the brainchild of Major General Thomas Sparks, head of the Army Medical Corps, Chemical and Biological Warfare Division. Sparks was responsible for the research of the CBW installations at Fort Detrick, Maryland, Harley, Indiana, and Dugway, Utah. Stone had met him once or twice, and remembered him as being mild-mannered and bespectacled. Not the sort of man to be expected in the job he held.
    Reading on, Stone learned that Project Scoop was contracted to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena in 1963. Its avowed aim was the collection of any organisms that might exist in “near space,” the upper atmosphere of the earth. Technically speaking, it was an Army project, but it was funded through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a supposedly civilian organization. In fact, NASA was a government agency with a heavy military commitment; 43 per

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