When word leaked that the President had been taken to the Bethesda Naval Hospital for observation, panic set in. If the President of the United States wasn’t safe from the virus, no one was.
Scot Harvath swerved around the car in front of him and sped through the intersection as the light changed. The traffic was worsening. Quarantine rumors had sent people rushing to stores to stock up.
“We don’t need to do this,” the woman sitting next to him said.
What she meant was that he didn’t need to do this. He could leave, too. He didn’t have to stay behind in D.C.
“I’ve already talked to Jon and his wife,” he replied. “You’ll be safe there.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll be okay. I’ll join you as soon as I can.”
He was lying. It was a white lie, meant to make her feel better, but it was a lie nonetheless. They were already talking about shutting down air traffic. That’s why he needed to get her out tonight.
“What if we’re overreacting?” she asked.
Lara knew he was right. She had seen the projections. Even the “best case” numbers were devastating. The cities would be the hardest hit. Hospitals were already at surge capacity, and were being overrun by otherwise healthy people who had convinced themselves they were showing one or more of the virus’s symptoms. It was beginning to make it impossible for real emergencies like heart attacks and breathing problems brought on by severe asthma to be seen. And it was only going to get worse.
Cities, towns, and villages from coast to coast scrambled to figure out how they would continue to deliver essential services, in addition to dealing with the staggering number of bodies if the death toll reached even half of what was being predicted. In a word, they couldn’t.
As they succumbed to the virus or stayed home to protect their own families, fewer and fewer first responders would be available. Soon, 911 call centers would go down. After that, water treatment facilities and power plants. Hospitals, pharmacies, and grocery stores would cease operating—the majority of them looted and burned to the ground. Chaos and anarchy would reign.
The only people who might hope to survive were those who had exercised some degree of caution and had prepared in advance. But even then, there was still no guarantee. Riding in the wake of Death and his pale horse was another force that would prove just as devastating—those who planned to take advantage of the chaos.
Suddenly, two blue-and-white Department of Homeland Security Suburbans spun around the corner and came racing toward them, their lights and sirens blaring.
Harvath jerked his wheel hard to the right to get out of their way. Even then, he came within inches of being hit before the DHS vehicles swerved back into their lane.
Lara turned in her seat as they sped past. “Jesus!” she exclaimed. “Did you see that? They almost hit us.”
The chaos had officially started.
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