Chapter 1 : Vectors : Chemical Manila

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Engineer Alan Perez held the corked test tube on his hand and shook it in gentle circling motions. The water inside contained blue fluid that danced around, and then finally blended into colorlessness. The man breathed a sigh and placed the vial into the test tube rack, hands steady, but enervated. Just in front of his table was the standard company wall clock with the proud Manila Water Company logo. Six in the morning - not even break time yet. There was nothing much to do around the place, and for all the complexities of the processes in the water treatment plant, once you have gotten used to its peculiarities, life within the second Balara plant became filled with doldrums.

"Batch thirteen is clear from intermediate chlorination, recommending the release for post-disinfection, Sir," he said in a boilerplate manner while writing down on a blue ledger.

A man with a hardhat and an unshaven smug walked in. "Good, good. Let's keep up this pace so we'll be able to finish all of today's work this morning. Then we can take the afternoon off." The man was Supervisor Carlo Nuñez, a stubborn man who's said to have been around long before Manila had any potable water running on its pipes.

Alan's always hated his dry humor - even that day. Work never really ended in the water treatment plan, and the horribly inefficient redtape made work even twice as labor intensive. To top it off, nobody ever really paid attention to the work they're doing, despite the fact that it was them on the frontline of hygiene, making sure half of the city didn't die from some obscure water-borne disease just waiting to get into the lifeline of Manila. Oh no, not that, people would rather go over bonuses people were getting in sister companies than wonder whether or not that glass of water they were gulping down had its own share of life-sucking bonuses in it. Idiots. All of them.

To Alan and everybody there, they were practically unsung heroes.

"Oh yeah, Alan, the guys from the SIWI have the post-treatment package ready. I've asked the boys to start unloading from the vats for this batch," Carlo grumpily reported to Alan, "You can just send the pre-testing analysis to me later after lunch." Alan sneered secretly - Carlo never did have regard for his work and often did reckless things that drove Alan who was pathologically meticulous, insane.

Alan opened up the drawer and took out a small medicine bottle. The Swedish International Water Institute's logo had been emblazoned on it. Was it really okay to just dispense additional chemicals into the waterways without notifying the people in at the MWS head office? He was going to ask Carlo but it seemed that he had already taken off for an early and lengthy break. If the senate enquiries had to crucify somebody - he wouldn't really mind to volunteer Carlo. That b*stard.

The engineer shook his head and poured the chemical into a flask of water on his table. The water remained colorless, which Alan quickly found to be odd. Usually for test chemicals sent in by SIWI or any other water monitoring agency, it always had trace coloring to ensure that everybody working with the substance would know the water's experimental.

Lifting the flask, he walked towards his pet mice within the same office. He had always kept a pair of dagang costa as a quick measure for water safety, knowing that even for rats the particular species of white-haired rats were susceptible to strong chemical reactions in the water.

The mice drank hastily; it was a hot day after all.

Alan watched carefully. The mice seemed fine and he breathed a sigh. Maybe Carlo did have a point in cutting corners when it came to the procedural labyrinths of administering water treatment. The chemical's supposed to be just another supplementary compound - nothing outside routine.

And then the mice proved his thoughts wrong.

The mice convulsed started coughing. Not ordinary coughing, but coughing like it's in pain. Alan had never seen such a reaction before - at least nothing so quick and gut wrenching. Blood started spattering after every cough and within a few seconds, the mouse stopped moving. Alan moved closer to the cage. The rats still had their eyes open, and for some reason both of them looked like they were still breathing. "Is it poisoned?" Alan wondered.

Then one of the rats sprang to life, blood streaming from its eyes and started shrieking uncharacteristically. A rush of chills circulated in Alan's body as he watched with horror the rat systematically bashing the cage in an attempt to get to Alan. The rat's immaculately white fur soon turned red with its own blood.

Alan was thrown back in surprise.

"My God!"

He then remembered Carlo's words. The substance would be delivered to all the treatment plants that day, and theirs was already administered in the thirteenth batch of the day's supply. With a boost of adrenaline he darted out to halt the release.

"sh*t! sh*t! sh*t! sh*t!"

Alan saw Carlo ,still standing on top of the open-air treatment areas, and the fact that he's still there meant the water was still unreleased. Alan panted as he got closer, staring at the ground. "Jesus f*cking Christ. That chemical from SIWI is dangerous. Good thing you're still here Carlo, you motherfucker."

Carlo did not reply.

"Say something you son of a..." Alan stood up and stared at Carlo, face to face. Carlo was livid, his eyes bloodshot and his mouth slacked. Blood slowly came out of his eyes and nose and a steady, rising grunt came from his throat.

Alan felt the need to run, but Carlo's eyes were somewhat teasing him. This was just a joke, wasn't it? It just had to be. Alan laughed, manically. "Okay I get it, now let's just..."

Carlo lunged forward and took Alan down in one bodily thrust. His teeth sank into Alan's throat and the blood purged erupted violently into the rapidly decreasing water reservoir. With Carlo's big burly build, Alan could only vainly struggle and watch as his blood choked up his breathing, leaving him into a writhing man soon bereft of life.

Howls echoed all around the treatment plant, along with blood curdling screams,drowned by the gushing of water, and the empty drumming of the exhaust fans.

The vector has been delivered.

And so with this, the purge of Manila begins.

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